By Jeremy Medina
Updated March 12, 2009 at 07:50 PM EDT
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Allow me to call a spade a spade: NBC’s latest reality show, Chopping Block, is essentially Top Chef mixed with The Apprentice, with a dash of The Amazing Race for good measure. Once I made peace with that recipe, I somewhat enjoyed during its season premiere last night. And that can solely be attributed to the sheer (and I’m guessing unintentional) hilarity of the show’s resident Tom Colicchio/Donald Trump, renowned British chef Marco Pierre White (pictured). No doubt about it, homeboy was made for television (and actually was the host of Hell’s Kitchen in Britain).

But let me rewind for a bit. Chopping Block should have immediately felt familiar for anyone who is a fan of Top Chef — not just because of the culinary theme, but because the show’s premise seems to be exactly like an extended episode of Restaurant Wars. Eight couples (there’s the dash of The Amazing Race I mentioned) were split into two teams and given all of seven hours to construct a menu, assemble a presentable-looking front-of-the-house, and withstand all of the inevitable mishaps and personality clashes along the way. Mishaps included leaving the price tag on a plate (seriously, how does that happen?!) and the breaking of several dishes, glasses and even an oven door.

Brothers Zan and Than (those are their real names, I swear) clashed with the loose-lipped spitfire Angie. Both found themselves on the losing team this week, due mostly to Than’s bloody, uncooked chicken — something that should have sent him home. But the gods of good television intervened, and the brothers were saved by confrontation-weary cousins Khoa and Denise, who took one look at the drama and excessive dropping of f-bombs and decided the show was not for them.

Chopping Block‘s saving grace is obviously White, with hisworld-weary face, super-serious ‘tude, and propensity to spoutinspiring nuggets like “to reach great heights, you have to find greatdepth within yourself.” His brutal — if a bit nonsensical — honestyhad all of the contestants on their toes (I especially enjoyed when hetold Khoa to put his “balls on the table.”) In turn, people treated himlike some sort of mythological figure. Kelsey, the personal chef whohas cooked for Madonna (yes, the Madonna, as she put it) went so far as to say, “It’s like he invented food!” Riiiight.

I’m having trouble remembering most of the contestants names — nota good sign considering these shows live and die by the colorfulcharacters they cast. I’m not really buying the couples idea, either.One half of the team cooks, while the other serves. Fine, but watchingthe servers schmooze customers does not make for compelling television.Let’s hope producers vary the competitons from here on out. As itstands, Chopping Block reeks so much of another “me-too”reality show that I probably will not be tuning in again. I will say,however, if the show doesn’t pan out, White could have a side career inself-help. That man has never met a pseudo-profound platitude he didn’tlike. What about you, PopWatchers? Did you watch? What did you think ofMarco Pierre White? And why are scallops always a chef’s go-to dish?