Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is a titan of cooking competitions. A regular on ‘Chopped’ and ‘Guy’s Grocery Games’ and host of ‘Supermarket Stakeout’, Guarnaschelli also beat Bobby Flay and conquered Kitchen Stadium to become an Iron Chef. And now that she’s put her name to her own cooking competition show, you better believe every episode is a reversal. In fact, one Season 2 episode literally turned bloody when the chef suffered a frightening injury in the kitchen – and in Guarnaschelli fashion, refused to give up anyway.
With “Alex vs. America,” Guarnaschelli welcomes talented chefs from across the country as they try to beat the Food Network star at his own game. Hosted by Eric Adjepong, each episode finds Guarnachelli battling three chefs, each expert in a new episodic theme, which ranges from “Chocolate” to “Spicy” to “Brunch”. And anyone can go home at any turn, including Guarnaschelli.
It was the “Brunch” episode that proved to be a surprisingly tough – and “make or break” – match for the celebrity chef, who sliced off her fingertip while using a mandolin to slice Jerusalem artichokes. When asked how his finger has been recovering since then, Guarnaschelli told TheWrap: “Well, my finger isn’t round anymore at the end – it’s not like you can fake that, you know? “
“You watched it, that’s really what happened!” I didn’t even think, ‘You’re on camera right now,'” she continued. “When I came to myself for a second, in my out of body state, I think I said, ‘Don’t film me bleeding.’ Like, thinking to myself, ‘Who wants to see me bleed?’ “
“It’s hard for that to happen. It’s hard to be filmed. And it is difficult to then broadcast it on national television. These are honestly all risks, because you don’t know how the viewer is going to react. You don’t know,” Guarnaschelli said.
“Could we have edited around that and not even shown it? Sure. You know what? We could have. These are deliberate choices. But have you ever made a bunch of choices and then shut down your computer or, you know, disconnected a Zoom and just thought, ‘Oh, my God, should I go back? To undo what I just did? We all have this moment in our line of work. And I would say for me, you know, this is a watershed moment for me.
This behind-the-scenes access to the highs and lows of cooking competitions isn’t limited to dramatic television, it’s representative of Guarnaschelli’s overall creative approach to “Alex vs. America.”
As a Food Network mainstay, who also happens to be an avid consumer of cooking contests in her off hours, Guarnaschelli wanted the series to “explore a bit of the fall of that fourth wall and take a look at the inside and really have the kind of viewership in the experience with us. That creative instinct is everywhere “Alex versus America,” extra-wide action shots that reveal all the cameramen rushing to follow the chefs to the interviews frankly put competitors in the open air of a backlot tent.
“I think what we’re learning and trying to do with ‘Alex vs. America’ is harnessing both sides of the genre at the same time,” she said. “First, there is a competition. There is a winner. There are people who don’t [win], when the food is delicious. The ingredients and the context are exciting and dynamic. And then there’s the other aspect, which is, what does it really take to put something like this together?
She continued: “I think in many sports competitions, for example, we see a lot of different aspects. The coaches, you know, can kind of be the emotional barometer of the team, the players watching on the bench, the players playing, the crowd. We wanted to kind of represent all of these different emotional states, but with a cooking contest. I really felt for a long time that the viewer was really curious to lift the rock a bit and look under it, while still believing in the narrative and I think that’s what “Alex vs. ‘America”. “
Looking ahead, Guarnaschelli sees even more opportunities in light of the recent merger between legacy Hollywood studio Warner Bros. and Discovery Inc. (which owns Food Network). In particular, the leader is enthusiastic about the possibilities of “an opening up of platforms and opportunities”.
“I see a lot of very excited internal dialogues about forms and genres and, you know, different people, programs, kind of visiting with each other and sharing ideas,” Guarnaschelli told TheWrap. “I think just as the business has gotten a lot bigger and opened up in size, so has the scope of what talent is capable of.”
“Honestly, so far it’s been nothing but exciting,” she said. “It obviously has all the aspects, doesn’t it? You know, not everything is rosy, but honestly I think it’s just exciting. I feel like I’m riding a motorbike and I was thinking of driving across town and I’m actually going all the way to Arizona with this thing.
New episodes of “Alex vs. America” air Sundays on Food Network.