PBS searches for ‘The Great American Recipe’ in eight-part series



'Great American Recipe' - A melting pot of stories and ideas


Alejandra Ramos

It may be titled “The Great American Recipe,” but what an upcoming PBS series serves up is actually multiculturalism.

Indeed, in the eight-part cooking competition that premieres Friday, June 24 (check local listings), home cooks from around the U.S. get the chance to showcase their signature dishes and compete to win a national search for the — well, see the title — which will then grace the cover of “The Great American Recipe Cookbook.”

And these dishes are reflective of the melting pot that is this country. From family favorites that have been passed down through the generations to recipes with international and regional influences, the series blends camaraderie with competition to reveal the personal stories and inspirations behind the dishes. In the end, the contestants are tasked with creating an entire meal so that the judging panel of celebrity chefs Leah Cohen (“Top Chef“), Tiffany Derry (“Bar Rescue”) and Graham Elliot (“MasterChef”) can render their final decision. “Today” food contributor Alejandra Ramos is the host.

The recipes range from the relatively simple like tacos and mac and cheese to more esoteric fare such as a Vietnamese beef salad and are judged on the basis of taste, execution and presentation. Viewers can follow along as the chefs make them and may even find themselves inspired to give them a try — provided they can find the ingredients.

“I feel there was nothing technique-wise that was so out of left field that no one’s going to be able to recreate it at home if they wanted,” Elliot explains. “Hopefully every viewer is going to see that with so many different cultures being represented, ingredients that they use and have in their pantry are probably different than what everybody has at home. So hopefully this will encourage them to go out and try some new things and experiment with those ingredients …and then hopefully as you understand the flavors more, you can almost get inspired and take it in your own direction from there as well.”

But the series is about more than just food. In the opening episode’s first challenge, the cooks are tasked with creating a dish that has “every single flavor that defines who you are.” Personal stories ensue.

“You have to have people who not only understand food and are great cooks,” Derry says, “but they’re also great storytellers. So that would be cast. …

“Truthfully, honestly, this was a fantastic group,” she continues. “I mean, obviously, first thing I’m crying, you know. I mean, that just sounds about right. As I’m watching, I’m like, ‘Oh, it was so good.’ So it just takes very special people to do what we just did.”

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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