Some cooking shows are all about the stress of turning out 200 plates for food personalities, prestigious chefs, and diners like our own Vince Mancini. Others see beloved chefs enter a culinary Thunderdome to cook under high-pressure time constraints. It’s rare to get a cooking competition that’s simply about having fun.
That’s why truTV’s Fast Foodies, which airs Thursdays at 10:30 eastern (and streams on Hulu), feels like a breath of fresh air. A win isn’t going to make some upstart chef’s career or get them a corporate catering gig. The show’s highest ambition is for you to say, “That looks tasty! And everyone is having so much fun!”
Because sometimes that’s enough. Also, getting an audience to say that is a higher bar than you might think. And Fast Foodies is great at clearing it.
The show stars Top Chef alums Kristen Kish, Jeremy Ford, and Justin Sutherland. While Kish is basically the host, all three work together to keep the vibe extremely chill while also acting as competitors, recreating iconic fast food dishes. It’s all very bingeable, but in the “watch one more episode on autoplay” way, not the “Oh my god, what happens next???” way.
As for the food itself, we all pretty much know the dishes in play — KFC buckets, sausage breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs... basically the same stuff we cook in our own chef competition series. In the process of highlighting those items, the show manages to explore how fast-food has shaped the eating habits of so many Americans. Then it asks, “What can we do with those flavors that feels a little more natural, cleaner, less-rushed, more high-end, etc.?”
These questions are investigated in two parts — with a segment focused on the three chefs doing a copycat recreation and another that has them reinterpreting the featured flavors for a high-end presentation. The final results are creative, inspiring (for the ambitious home cook), and super easy to imagine. Because face it, we mostly all know what the baseline dishes taste like, providing a solid frame of reference.
Each episode is co-hosted and judged by a different celebrity guest. But it’s all very breezy. Drinks are poured, helping hands are given, the shit is shot, and a winner is crowned. No one gets their feelings hurt.
That’s not to say that there’s no deeper theme to be taken away here. Without ever seeming like it takes tremendous effort (it shouldn’t!), Fast Foodies does a great job feeling representative of our diverse nation. Everyone making the show obviously cares about unique voices and experiences, and they prove that in the simplest and most straightforward way possible: by reflecting it through the people appearing on screen.
While this sounds like a no-brainer, it’s not some happy accident. When I reached out to Michael Rucker, the Fast Foodies showrunner, he said: “We didn’t want a tired series that felt one-note but something that reflected the real world, the amazing spectrum of voices in the culinary world, and was the type of kitchen that you’d actually want to hang out in.”
That’s obviously not rocket science, but it sure has taken a long time for folks to figure the concept out. Kudos to Fast Foodies for actually doing the damn thing and making the process so much so fun to watch. As a result, the show ends up feeling “American” in the most authentic sense — not in its focus on the fried sandwiches we gorge ourselves on but in how it highlights people of different backgrounds enjoying one another while sharing a meal.
It’s laid-back-yet-engaging and welcoming to all. Not a bad recipe, by any means.