Will 'Cooking Under Fire' get an audience anywhere near that of 'The French Chef'? Plus: Mother's Day musts.

Reality Cooking

Those of us of a certain age got our first taste of food television watching episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child, brought to us in grainy black-and-white splendor by the Boston PBS affiliate WGBH. The newest cooking show from the venerable New England station couldn't be more different. In Cooking Under Fire, Julia's innate charm is replaced with the fast-paced, nerve-jangling rattle of pots and pans as 12 finalists vie for the title of America's Hottest New Chef. Presiding over the competition are TVFN chef/personality Ming Tsai, award-winning cookbook author Michael Ruhlman, and celebrity chef/restaurateur Todd English. Many potential contestants had live auditions in major cities around the country, while others submitted videotapes for consideration. Twelve finalists were chosen, and they are competing for the position of executive chef at one of English's New York City restaurants. Each week, the aspiring chefs are faced with a variety of tasks and cooking challenges as the judges decide who gets eighty-sixed and who moves forward – think American Idol with knives and skillets. The first two episodes debuted at 7pm on Wednesday, April 27, and the remainder will air on Wednesdays at 7:30. The first episode set up the premise, revealing some of the contestant auditions and introducing the finalists. The second show threw the contestants into the heat of a Los Angeles restaurant kitchen, and the first casualty was identified by his response to adversity. For more information on Cooking Under Fire, go to At this point, I haven't identified a favorite candidate, and I'll have to admit, I'm really more curious about whether the reality/competition cooking show will draw much of an audience. I'd love to hear what readers think about this program. And for those who like their cooking reality shows with a distinct British flavor, deliciously profane English celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is back with Beyond Boiling Point, the BBC's inside look at the workings of a busy London restaurant kitchen. For more info about Ramsay's schedule, go to

Event Menu: May 5-12

Hello, Birdie! is a major fundraiser thrown by the folks at Big Red Sun (1102 E. Cesar Chavez, 480-0688) for the Sustainable Food Center (236-0074, with two very popular components. The first night offers a benefit gala and silent birdhouse auction hosted by Kinky Friedman with food, cocktails, live music, and an auction featuring birdhouses designed by local Austin artists and celebrities. Tickets for the gala are $50. The second event is a Family Festival with a day of children's birdhouse building, face painting, a petting zoo, plenty of refreshments, and live entertainment all day long. Tickets for the festival are $10 for adults, with kids younger than 12 getting in free. Gala and auction, 7-10pm, Thursday, May 5; Family Festival, noon-7pm, Saturday, May 7.

• The TDS Exotic Game Ranch and Pavilion is the site of the sixth annual Wine Tasting and Auction benefiting Mobile Loaves and Fishes (, 328-7299), a social outreach ministry that provides food and clothing to Austin's homeless and working poor. The event features samples of wines from around the world, food catered by Don Strange of San Antonio, live music, and auction items such as vacation packages, fishing trips, sports memorabilia, and theme baskets. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. Tickets to the general event as well as a special vintage tasting in one of the Ranch private lodges are $200. For more information, contact Melanie Harris at 241-0016; 7-10pm, Saturday, May 7.

• Perhaps Mom would enjoy a classic romantic comedy and a great Italian meal to celebrate her special day. In that case, there might still be time to make reservations to take her to see Roman Holiday at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar, this Sunday. Share a champagne toast with Mom before a delicious three-course Italian meal while Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck evade the paparazzi in Roma. Reservations are $28; 1:30pm and 6:30pm, Sunday, May 8.

Ed and Madeleine Manigold, owners of Spicewood Vineyards (830/693-5328, suggest you bring Mom for lunch at the vineyard, catered by Beth Pav of Austin's Cooking by Design. The luncheon will include a delightful three-course spring menu designed by Pav paired with a glass of Spicewood's award-winning wines for $30. Reservations are necessary, and a $10 children's menu is available; 1pm, Sunday, May 8.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle