My rejected TV pilot Chef Unleashed

June 26, 2011 on 10:10 am | In Blog, Videos | Comments
A lot of you have been asking me if “Chefs vs City’ was coming back and the answer is no! I have been trying to find a show that makes senses for me. This is a pilot project that I completed a few months ago that has been turned down,  I am proud of this show check it out.
People pitch me TV ideas all the time.  Some are good, some not so good.  Having done my fair share of TV, I’ve gotten to a place where I’m particular about the projects I choose to do.  I’ve also watched how our celebrity-driven culture has infiltrated the food world, with some alarming side-effects.  But I’m getting off-topic.
Last year, a couple of guys approached me about doing a food/adventure show called Chef Unleashed.  One of them had written about me a couple of times in food magazines and the other was known for directing music videos and concert movies.  I was intrigued.  The approach they suggested was fresh and honest and, as it would turn out, envelope-pushing:  They actually wanted to do a show that would challenge and excite me, a chef, and, in so doing, challenge and excite viewers.
The impulse behind the show was simple:  Everybody onboard loves food, is fascinated by where it comes from, and is not squeamish about how to get it, whether it might be game hunted on open terrain or tuna hand-gaffed by blood-soaked Sicilian fisherman, a tradition that goes back 1,000 years.  As the guys wrote in their proposal, “Chef Unleashed invites the viewer on a global eating exploration.  It’s a new kind of reality show, about where good food really comes from—when it’s done right.”
I appreciated the directness and honesty, along with the prospect of traveling the world to explore how the very best food is raised, butchered, or farmed in its native habitat:  Chef Unleashed would have me put on waders, pick up a rifle, wear a hardhat, don overalls, whatever it might take.  Real stuff.  Challenging and yet totally entertaining.  No oohing and aahing studio audience.  No eating of 40-pound omelettes or 9-foot hoagies.  No races or contests.
We went to the Texas Hill Country in January and shot a pilot with one of my favorite purveyors:  Broken Arrow Ranch.  They’re the go-to guys for wild game in the US.  We had a blast.  I learned how to “field harvest” deer alongside their sharpshooters and, in turn, I taught them how to use the whole animal, including the heart, the kidneys, the liver.  We had a huge feast at the end, outside, with the moon rising.  Some of the ranch guys were pretty skeptical about a.) my hunting ability (well, honestly, I was skeptical about my hunting ability, too), and b.) my approach to cooking.  But when it was all over, everyone was fast friends.  We learned a ton from each other and it was, I have to say, one of the very best days I’ve ever experienced as a chef and easily my best experience doing TV.
The guys working on the show captured it all brilliantly:  my excitement, my apprehension, my eyes opening – and my hosts’ too — to new ways of doing food.  I have no doubt that the pilot will open more eyes, right down to the very frank, honest, and totally riveting footage of Texas deer – majestic, gorgeous animals — being hunted (and butchered) to provide food for our dinner tables.
Oops.  Mistake.  Yes, we were pretty aware that we were, to repeat the phrase, pushing the envelope with this.  And I admit, it was pretty gory stuff.  If you watch, you’ll see my very real reaction to it.
But this was not – at all – about shock value.  This was all about getting down to the very source of the very best food and showing where it comes from.  People who know me know I’ve been waging war against our Styrofoam-wrapped, hormone-pumped supermarket culture my entire career.  Chef Unleashed allows me to continue that by other means, along with cracking some jokes, making new friends, and preparing some great food.  But I suspect that some squeamishness – both the kind that I encounter occasionally in diners at Incanto, but, seriously, more often in TV executives who like to say they’re always looking for the next “new” thing, but in reality are pretty terrified when they ever really see anything new – got in the way of our show:  The program made its way around the network that paid for it.  And then just kind of petered out.  Whatever.  These things happen all the time and I refuse to take it personally.  I’ve done other projects that didn’t get above the ground floor.  Fair enough.
But this one is different.  I think it’s a great opportunity for viewers and for a network game enough to break the boundaries of where food TV is right now.  I’ve said way too much and yet I don’t think I’ve even given the best picture of what I think this show could become — something, I believe, that can inspire a lot of people in their own kitchens, in their own journeys.  It’s part travel show, part cooking show, and total adventure.  It’s a food and travel show that looks and feels like no other.  I love it and, even in this roughed-out pilot form, I think you might, too.
Thanks for checking it out.

34 Responses to “My rejected TV pilot Chef Unleashed”

  1. Matt M. says:

    I’ve been waiting for you to find a way to showcase your abilities & share your enthusiasm for real food. This pilot was outstanding & I hope you find a taker for the project or one very much like it. Well done by everyone involved.

  2. Adrian says:

    This is good, Chris. Really good. Don’t give up finding a channel to get it out.

  3. Don Pullum says:

    Really nice pilot. Lot’s of hunters/fishermen around the US that would enjoy it. Surprised the folks at Broken Arrow were unaccustomed to cooking the offals. Your show might get hunters to use more of the animals they harvest. Broken Arrow has great products that we use at Sandstone Cellars Winery wine bar.

    Only had blood sausage in tubular form in England, Spain, and sometimes in the US. All of them had copious amounts of pureed onion. Your simple prep looks tasty.

    Best with your pilot.


  4. ChuckEats says:

    there’s never been an easier time in the history of the world to do this yourself. you’ve got a fanbase – internet gives you distribution – so you can keep control. if you need money, kickstarter might be a great way to raise funds from your fans. there are a lot of possibilities – great pilot!

  5. Kevin says:

    Man, this is excellent. It’s real, it’s visceral, and it is probably too much for most “food network” or “cooking channel” fans to watch – which is a shame. The disconnection between what we eat and where it comes from is real and palpable. Chris – I hope you find a home for this show. More folks need to see it.

  6. Laura Shapiro says:

    This is a great show, Chris, and I’m sorry it didn’t get picked up. I am particularly impressed to see how moved you were when you acknowledged the death of the deer. That kind of respect for the animals we eat is too rare, but it always shines through in your food.

    Can’t wait for my next meal at Incanto! It’s been too long.

  7. sundevilpeg says:

    That’s a dirty damn shame, Chris. You should try other avenues with this – perhaps PBS, the Travel Channel, Versus. . . it’s too good to let die. KEEP AT IT!

    See you in September, Chef. Keep the faith.

  8. aq says:

    i would definitely watch this show. hope you can find a home for it.

  9. Chris,
    This is what I want to see. That was brilliant. Have you thought of pitching it to one of the outdoor channels? I would love to see more food TV like this.

  10. Shaun says:

    how the hell did this get rejected?! After only 12 minutes I was ready to see another episode. Honestly, I can’t see where it would have fitted in on the Food network. Particularly because it’s too true and not filled with BS like most of the shows on there. Perfect fit for Travel Ch, Disc, etc

    Btw, I’m gonna try that bloodcake recipe this fall!

  11. Owen Mudge says:

    Hey Chris. I know this wasn’t necessarily the point, but, DAMN, that dinner looked sick! Good luck getting the show televised. I’d be happy to watch a show about food that’s not dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. All I can say is don’t compromise on this one. If you need to get back on the tube for other reasons, that’s cool, but it seems like this kind of idea is one you need to take all the way … or not at all.

  12. ron p. says:

    Definitely, good luck.

    It’s like Eric Ripert’s show on PBS but with cajones!

    Never could square you with that show on the “food” network. I hope this gets picked up.

  13. Hi Chris, I am a huge fan of yours and offal. I hope that you continue to look for and will find someone that will allow you to make this program a reality. I would definitely watch this show! From the beginning to the end, the broadcast is awesome!

  14. Eric M says:

    That was a great show! My wife, daughter and I watched it and thought it was very nicely done. Not to mention the fact that the food you cooked looked really tasty. Living in Los Angeles and being hunters, we understand that most folks around here don’t understand where their food comes from. It was nice seeing a top notch chef head out into the field and experience the full spectrum of the meal he cooked.

    I hope it gets picked up by one of the other channels out there! Good luck!

  15. Brandon Whittle says:

    Loved it – definitely a show I’d watch. I’ll for sure try some of these things after my next deer hunt – as I always feel a bit wasteful leaving that big mound of protein in the field. Please consider posting recipe tips for these techniques!

    Thank you and good luck!

  16. Chris – Spectacular pilot and concept for a show. This is the kind of food TV I’m interested in and sadly it there aren’t many programs delivering the type compelling content you’ve captured in your pilot. Stories of people producing high quality food on a small artisan scale really helps educate me as a viewer, home cook, and consumer on what’s out there and on where the bar can be set. Seeing what goes into producing quality products makes it easy to understand the value and the higher prices that come along with the quality. I’d love to see more of this kind of food television. It’s interesting, relevant, informative and personal. Bravo on creating exactly what I’ve been craving. I hope a network is smart enough to pick it up. I also hope you filled your suitcase with those juniper berries before heading home. How fantastic to cook with a wild spice.

  17. Inka says:

    That was great – I really enjoyed your narrative voice too, engaging ,enthusiastic, personal and honest without trying to manufacture excitement. I would love to see more episodes! Really hope someone picks it up.

    And yeah, that dinner did look amazing. If I visit SF anytime soon I am coming straight to Incanto, until then I will just have to continue to prepare some of the things I’ve learned from you at home, which have become family faves.

  18. Alan says:

    It pains me that the canned TV we are subjected to will recreate murder, child abuse, rape and every other violent endeavor humans can inflict on other humans but they cannot accept the reality of an everyday part of a carnivores life.
    Your pilot is a great way to get people on the edge more enthusiastic about where food comes from. A great combination on many levels. Great job!! Keep rolling on!

  19. Michael Stauber says:

    This is the kind of show EVERYONE should watch! We all need to remember where our food really comes from, not just in it’s little styrofoam tray! I hope some network will have the fortitude to air what I feel would be an amazing show! Good luck Chef Chris! Mahalo!

  20. Josie says:

    There is a club for very wealthy hunters called Safari Club International (SCI). Arrange to do a couple of workshops on offal at their convention in January and you will have a handfull of sponsors to choose from who will bankroll the entire show themselves. You will be pretty much able to pick your ow network at that point.

  21. Jen says:

    I am not a hunter and would not describe myself as a foodie (I barely cook!), but I would watch the hell out of that show!

  22. Pat D says:

    My husband and I would have loved to watch a show like this one. We did enjoy Chef v City but only because you seemed to be very knowledgeable about so many things and very quick on the uptake. Also we didn’t like the parts where you had to eat weird and hot food, to us that was just weird and seemed kinda unhealthy really.
    We would SO watch a show like the one you wanted to do. Keep shopping it around maybe on TLC I mean it seems like today the Food Network is copying others. Tough Cookies seems loosely based on The Cake Boss, and Restaurant Impossible is not so loosely based on Kitchen Nightmares. Keep punching I bet you can make it work, don’t take no for an answer, You don’t seem like the taking no for an answer kind of guy. Come on it’s a reality show based would out there now and the time has come for a show like this… keep at it

  23. Erik says:

    I guess I’m a foodie. I watch a lot of cooking shows, and love food. I haven’t seen a whole lot of the Food network in the last year, but I’ve been a fan of yours since you went to the Pit House in Baltimore for The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I’m a fan of anyone who cures their own prosciutto. Visiting your restaurants in SF is on my bucket list (unless you open one in Chicago… please). I recognize that most people don’t want to see their food die on tv, or think about their food being alive at any point in time, but you showed a great respect for your vocation and passion for food in that episode. I would definitely be part of your loyal audience.

  24. Erik says:

    To correct my last comment: it was the TBTYEA episode where you were talking about the pork rinds at the Publican in Chicago. :)

  25. Big Chris says:

    I loved it!!! I’d like to see more of you showing more in depth Recipes.

  26. Debra Krause says:

    Try getting aired on Travel or OLN.
    this is something I’ve been dieing to see on tv and I really want it to happen.
    Go Chris!

  27. Jared says:

    couldn’t agree more with Erik. This was a great looking show by Chris. If people embrace the source of their food more it may be unpleasant at first but ends up being far far more rewarding. The uneducated may think this shoes cruelty to animals when in fact it des the opposite…it shows respect. too bad, let’s hope the guts and odd cuts can get published.

  28. Mike Powers says:

    I would watch the show. Most of the garbage on Food Network unwatchable. Cupcake-based shows really? There is an entire Paleo/Primal Community that would watch the show too. We eat the offal with enthusiasm. Keep up the good work and people will come around. Although, I will be pissed when my grass-fed beef hearts triple in price some day.

  29. Chris Cross says:

    Great pilot it should have never been shot down … i have been a cook for many years and have been wishing i could do a show myself showing the wild foods growing all around us … glad you used the juniper berries

  30. Ava Romero says:

    chef chris, its a good pilot, i know this sounds nerous, but i saw on the food news that you decided to leave Tv, why would you? you are great on Tv, you do respresent the city of SF ok, if i were you, get some Food network tv shooting advice from your old friend Aaron sanchez, he knows a lot about it, so does Giada de laurentiis she has a lot of advice for you, she was very nerous because she never wanted to be on tv, but now she loves it because of her grandfather ok, so the show sounds cool! you can do it ok

  31. Alan Wright says:

    You Tube Channel it! I know it costs money to make it, and you won’t get that money back on you tube, but you will generate fans and attention. Execs will be forced to treat this concept seriously, its a great one!

  32. [...] of super-spicy food. Back in May, Cosentino told the Food Republic about how he gave up on a show he was making (Chef Unleashed): I put a show out there for the world to see. It was called Chef Unleashed and [...]

  33. Terry says:

    Excellent, excellent pilot. Chris – I would watch this show every day. I sincerely hope you are able to find a broadcaster with the intestinal fortitude (ha ha) to pick this up and run with it. Please keep trying to get this on the air. Even if on PPV!

  34. Love offal. When would you have time to do a tv show? Would you give up cooking? Hope not.

    See ya at Incanto Oct. 20th. Cannot wait.

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