Family drama meets sharp utensils on Food Network’s ‘Family Restaurant Rivals’

‘Family Restaurant Rivals’ – All in the culinary family

Valerie Bertinelli

It’s the family dynamic in action – and all that implies.

In each episode of “Family Restaurant Rivals,” premiering Monday, Aug. 19, on Food Network, family relationships are front and center as three restaurant-owning clans square off in a series of challenges that require them to overcome obstacles and surprise twists as they take on tasks such as elevating childhood classics, putting their own spin on meat and potatoes and whipping up sinful desserts. A panel of judges including Alex Guarnaschelli, Robert Irvine, Antonia Lofaso, Simon Majumdar, Courtney Rada and Jet Tila determine who goes home with the $10,000 grand prize.

Of course, this is family and co-workers who know one another sometimes too well. And yes, while there may be tensions and less-than-genial body language at times, there is also something else at play that Valerie Bertinelli, the show’s host, enjoyed watching.

“The bond and the camaraderie is really full of love and yet so interesting and volatile and everything it could be, everything it is at Thanksgiving dinner,” she says. “And to put those families against each other, vying for their restaurants and for their families, I found it fascinating. I mean, it was so much fun to watch these families. They’re so full of love and they’re so competitive and they so want to do well. And watching them cook together in the kitchen is super-fun because that’s how I grew up. You know, everybody’s in the kitchen cooking.”

The types of restaurants the contestants are from run the gamut, Bertinelli says, from low end to high and everything from Italian to Asian. And the dishes they’re tasked with creating are wide-ranging.

On Monday’s opener, the families must cope with surprise twists to create an impressive noodle dish.

“Just think about the different kind of noodles there are all around the world,” Bertinelli says, “and then you ask an Italian family to cook with a different type of noodle, ask an Asian family to cook with a different type of noodle and it’s fun to watch. And they’re so inventive and they’re so creative, and all of these dishes from what the judges tell me were absolutely delicious and there was not a dud dish at all.”

“We do want to learn about the family through their cuisine,” she continues, “and what makes this dish speak to who they are as a family. … When you think about ingredients around the world, I mean basically every nationality has a noodle dish. You know, we all have like a skewered dish. So you think about it and it’s just about the different ingredients that come from the environment that they grew up in, that we grew up in and the ingredients that you’re familiar with. And then to switch up ingredients with them is really fun to watch them try to work through that.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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