No Kitchen Required reps itself as a new and entertaining take on the kitchen competition show. This is welcome news for reality show audiences who are growing tired of the same studio-kitchen blah with swooping, insert-drama-here soundtracks informing viewers as to what to feel about an otherwise innocuous occurrence. NKR takes three chefs—one New York restaurateur, one Jamaican-British Chopped grand champion, and one Australian or Kiwi private chef/adventure junkie—and drops them into various location-based situations with ‘only a chef’s knife and one ingredient that will help them along the way.’ The set up provides room for an interesting show to exist somewhere in there, or for a number of OK shows to be re-mixed (Major Lazered?) into a pleasant product.
Episode 1 – Dominica sets the tone for the reality adventure cooking travel show, with the three contestants (who are loosely competitive, but also pleasant to one another) rappelling down a cliff face into a Survivor-esque yam gathering competition to determine who will be able to use the starch in their three course menu to be prepared for a panel of (native) judges toward the end of the show. There are stereotypically annoying reality show trademarks in No Kitchen Required, like the suggestive background music and kitschy hourglass timer used during the food preparation segment, but the scene takes place on a beautiful beach with torrential rainstorms to come—and none of the chefs are wearing shoes. There are also borderline patronizing travel show elements of the show, i.e. the native Kalinago dancing around in their ceremonial garb, who are later awarded gifts of children’s books for their help and gracious-hostness, but this is arguably balanced out by native guides taking a contestant spearfishing in the ocean, or hunting down a giant rat in the jungle with another.
Though No Kitchen Required is part travel and adventure show, at its core it is a reality cooking show, albeit considerably more entertaining and pleasant to look at than other similar shows due to these added elements. The island of Dominica provides a beautiful backdrop for episode one, and the hunting/gathering segment add an interesting step to the process of preparing final menus. All in all, the show is def worth checking out. Catch the next episode Tuesday @10 on BBC America.