Yo ho ho, children…Wait, sorry, wrong job. WHY HELLO THERE, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, where your definitely-not-a-pirate-for-children’s-birthdays-host Jon O’Guin does not-pirate things. Today, we’re reviewing a series available on Youtube, as well as on several streaming platforms, from a somewhat unlikely source. This is Making Perfect, a Bon Appetit production.
Few People Really Try to Eat Ape-tit These Days
Bon Appetit, if you’re unaware, is a cooking magazine/multi-media platform, as most magazines are these days. (“Multi-media platform”, in case you’re not hip to the trendy business lingo, is a way of saying “sure, we make a magazine, but we also have a website, and make Youtube videos! We’re still cool!”) In fact, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s my go-to cooking magazine. It is the ONLY cooking magazine that I, PERSONALLY, am subscribed to, and I have been for some time. This is because, as I’ve noted before, the publication really hits me where I live, it’s a New York based food publication that spends a lot of time learning about food trends, and trying dishes from different cultures, it’s more than a little bougie, and it’s constantly churning out new things because, well, you have to if you wanna make it in “the biz”.
Tex Mex Lasagna is not the next new thing. Stop trying to make it a thing, Picture Jon.
Now, today’s topic is a recently launched series that I personally feel Bon Appetit made in order to really sell their “multi-media company” credentials, as it is, in some ways, the Avengers of their online videos. Because over the years, they’ve assembled a team of fan-favorite employees, and are uniting them to a common goal: to make perfect. What are they making perfect? Good question. But first, let’s meet the team. And, since I claimed these people were the Avengers of their field, OF COURSE I’ve already assigned them their positions on the team.
Claire Saffitz is CAPTAIN AMERICA
She’s even holding her Invisible Shield, which she is known for, as the halfway point between Cap and Wonder Woman that she is.
Claire Saffitz is a pastry chef by trade, and has the Bon Appetit show I watch most frequently: Gourmet Makes, where she, as a gourmet chef, attempts to create an upscale version of some mass-produced food, often encountering difficulties as the technology available to such industries is beyond her, as she struggles to do things the right way, even if they’re hard. Can’t remember why I picked her as the Captain America of the team. Also, she has a stripe of grey in the front of her hair, which really locks in the “Woman out of Time” appeal. Hardworking, full of heart, and in her second series, she faces the difficulties of reconciling government surveillance with chocolate tempering.
Brad Leone is THOR
“And then I caught Mjolnir right before it hit me, like EHHN”
Brad is the Test Kitchen Manager, and host of It’s Alive, which is the Thor Ragnarok of the Bon Appetit series. Jokes, often at Brad’s expense, are lobbied at a near-constant rate. His series also focuses on fermentation, representing how he went from a okay start, to a weird middle, to a Fantastic finish, just like the Thor movies. When he’s in other peoples’ series, it’s to lend them a hand due to his arcane knowledge or massive size (he’s the tallest of the team). We’ve actually referenced Brad before, in last month’s Soba Noodle post, so if you didn’t check it out last month, maybe you’ll do it now. But I can’t make you, so whatever.
Chris Morocco is IRON MAN
This look of disappointed surprise is a very common Chris reaction to things.
Of all of them, this one is the biggest stretch, if only because Chris has more of the attitude of a Pepper Potts than Tony Stark. Chris (who we’ve ALSO referenced before, as the author of our Garlic Broth recipe from last December) is the ironclad master of taste of the team. His is “the palette”. If Chris thinks a dish is off, it IS off. In a somewhat Tony Stark-esque move, Chris actually has a rather well-protected personal life, including a wife and children, that is almost NEVER mentioned in videos he does with other people.
Andy Baraghani is BRUCE BANNER/THE HULK
“Yeah, I lifted 6 whole hams, no big deal.”
Where Brad may be the tallest of the team, Andy is clearly the fittest. To the point where he is jokingly insulted as “gym rat” in one of the episodes (by Brad, in fact!) He also gets very frustrated with Brad as the two work together, which really reinforces the themes of Thor Ragnarok. he also, though this is a somewhat facile comparison, has a lovely article about growing to accept the parts of his identity that he had tried to distance himself from through cooking, which somewhat reflects the dichotomous existence of Banner and the Hulk. I haven’t watched as much of his stuff as the first three, but he seems a cool guy, and does roughly the same kind of videos that Chris does (like how Bruce and Tony both do the science!)
Carla Music is BLACK WIDOW
Even she’s skeptical of my casting here.
Of all the connections, this one is the most entertaining to me. Carla doesn’t show up in a TON of videos (or maybe I just haven’t watched enough of them), but whenever she DOES, it’s as someone who knows what’s going on, has some suggestions, and is surprisingly connected with other team-members. She’s personal friends with Saimin Nosrat, whose show we covered several months ago, and who appeared on Brad’s show. She’s an accomplished cookbook author, with one currently sitting rather prominently on the shelves when I swing by my local Barnes and Noble (like how many of Widow’s accomplishments are achieved off-screen)
Molly Baz is HAWKEYE
If this looks like I picked a silly pic for her, I assure you, it’s representative of the energy she brings to the group.
Second best connection of the team. Molly, to my knowledge, appears in the least videos as a host, but makes cameos for taste-testing in several, like Hawkeye’s cameo in the original Thor movie. (which YOU might have forgotten, but I didn’t. Because, fun fact: Hawkeye was my favorite avenger as a kid. Which should hopefully make up a little for using the silly picture for Molly, that I gave her my childhood favorite.) She adds, paradoxically, a rather silly and emotional set of reactions, as well as a more grounded sense of presence, with sassy quips to boot, just like Hawkeye does. (Sure, that’s a little more Age of Ultron, but that’s still AN Avengers movie) She may not have the same video pedigree of the others, but tons of people have enjoyed her screen time.
These are the Test-Kitchen’s mightiest heroes. What enemy have they gathered to face? Who will stand in as their “Chitauri”?
Gettin’ A Piece of the Pie
Pizza. The first season is about making the perfect Pizza. Specifically, it’s almost 3 hours over 5 episodes, with the team splitting up to tackle separate levels of the process. Claire makes the dough, Brad and Andy make the Sauce, Carla and Molly (Black Widow and Hawkeye team-up, natch) make the cheese, Chris and Andy make the toppings, and then they all come together to assemble the unified parts into a cohesive whole, and determine the best Pizza out of the options that Chris and Andy put together.
Sidenote: this show is RIFE with Flowcharts, for all you flowchart Stans out there.
And personally, I recommend it. It’s a cute little show, about a team of professional food people working together to pin down and create what a “perfect pizza” is. There’s some controversial choices, of course. (I mean, there’s just so many varieties of pizza, you can’t eliminate options without pissing off someone) As noted, the whole program runs right around 3 hours, making it a really easy show to complete at the minute.
There’s some fun callbacks (In the first episode, Claire is taught that “the dough can smell fear”, and this mantra is passed from each team to the next as they struggle to get their pizzas into the oven), some nice friendly rivalry/opposition (one host in an episode will be a big fan of component X, or ingredient Y, and be outvoted, or vindicated, when they dispute with the others.) and it’s short enough that you can “binge” the whole series in about the length of time of Avengers Endgame.
I also think it gives a nice insight into the process of a Test Kitchen like BA runs (a process you can also see performed in Claire’s Gourmet Makes show): you start the recipe with a focus on an ingredient, or a basic idea, you try the recipe, it doesn’t taste perfect, so you change one or two things, then try again, and repeat steps 2 and 3 until success. Watching, for instance, Chris and Andy try something like 6 different types of meat, all on the same dough, same sauce, same cheese, really gives you an idea of the effort involved, and how much goes into the recipes you see in the magazines.
This is from Making Perfect, actually. It’s from Claire’s attempts to reproduce Doritos. Think about that. 24 different attempts to make chips.
I spent a lot of time on that extended “each member of the cast as Avengers”, and there’s really not a TON to talk about without spoiling, to a certain extent, the twists and turns of the episodes themselves, so I guess that’s all for the day. Now I kinda want some pizza.
MONDAY: BEANS WITH THE BOYS, IN A SAUCE FOR A SALAD, IN A QUICK, COOL SALAD THAT’S NOT CONNECTED TO ROME.
THURSDAY: I KINDA WANNA TALK ABOUT PIZZAS, BUT I FEEL I SHOULD WAIT UNTIL I MAKE A PIZZA, SO I DON’T KNOW.