Tastemaking: Reality Bites: Andy Husbands: Ken Oringer: Michael Schlow
With so many reality cooking shows gobbling up prime time these days, the prospect of seeing a top local chef on the small screen is becoming an everyday thing. That sounds like great news for Boston’s food scene, yet the results haven’t done much to boost its culinary cred. Radius and Via Matta’s Michael Schlow was ousted from this summer’s Top Chef Masters on the first episode, based in part on his poor microwave skills. Tremont 647′s Andy Husbands tried his hand at Hell’s Kitchen this year and made it just past the halfway point, but not without having to endure several of host Gordon Ramsay’s diatribes. "It’s like having the worst day of your life filmed," Husbands says.
The only chef to go on-air and come out on top is Ken Oringer of Clio, Toro, et al., who beat Cat Cora on Iron Chef America last year (his challenge: cook with coffee). And he’s happy to stop there. "[Host] Tom Colicchio asked me if I was interested in Top Chef Masters, but I really have nothing to prove," he explains. "Those shows want drama. It doesn’t matter how good you are—they’re going to turn some kind of mishap into a drama."
Consequently, many Hub chefs won’t touch reality TV with a pair of 10-foot tongs. "I’ve done television—the Today show, Ming Tsai’s show," says Tony Maws of Craigie on Main. "But the rock-and-roll, celebrity-gossip aspect of reality TV? No, I’ve got a little restaurant in Cambridge. I’m happy."
So why have others chosen to put their knife skills on display? "Television is incredibly powerful," says Schlow. "People see you on a show like that and it gives you a strange credibility, even though you lost." Neither he nor Husbands has regrets—at least none they’ll admit—and both report that business remains good following their flops. "So I lost," Schlow says. "Big deal. A little humility for chefs is not the worst thing in the world."