Launching this week on SBS, The Chefs' Line will quickly prove to be the most surprising cooking competition show on the air. Not only are amateur enthusiast chefs able to compete against the professional teams at some of Australia's best restaurants, but its done with a love for the cuisine and not just the competition.
Episodes of the show air Monday to Friday, with the show's contestants facing off each night against professional chefs. Working up the chefs’ line, night by night, the home cooks will be challenged first by the apprentice, and then the station, sous and head chefs of some of Australia's best restaurants.
The Chefs' Line judges Dan Hong, Melissa Leong and Mark Olive will pick a winner weeknights from Monday to Thursday, but once the competition ends on Thursday nights, Friday night episodes take a more relaxing excursion away from The Chefs' Line set and into the kitchen of that week's featured restaurant where host Maeve O'Meara will uncover the culinary secrets to their chosen cuisine.
On a recent visit to the set of The Chefs' Line, SBS The Guide met with Chris Culvenor, the Co-CEO of production company Eureka Productions who produced the series with SBS. The building used to film The Chefs' Line is an unassuming property in the Sydney inner-city suburb Alexandria, an eclectic area filled with residential apartments and industrial buildings.
"This building used to be an old metal foundry," Culvenor explained when asked about how they chose the filming location. "We walked in and it is the bones of something beautiful and old. Our set designer was in tears as it was exactly what he was hoping for. It looks like a unique, high-end pop-up restaurant."
The fact that the building looks so unique and interesting fits along with the nature of the show itself. There's really nothing else like it on TV. When you watch Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules, the competition and the broad personalities of the contestants is on full display. Here, on The Chefs' Line, the show is a lot more down-to-earth with what feels like accessible, everyday people given the opportunity to prove their skills and passion in the kitchen.
It seems impossible that a home chef could beat a professional from one of Australia's best restaurants, but Culvenor insisted that viewers are in for a surprise if they think they know how the competition will play out every night.
"It was important to us that contestants couldn't have any professional experience at all. But some apprentice chefs might be one year into cooking, while a home chef may have been cooking for thirty years. It's good to see that mix," Culvenor said.
"We've had some instances where there's been a clear sweep of the restaurants winning every night, but others where the head chef loses. The great thing about the format we're seeing a significant number of home cooks beating the apprentice. Then it gets harder and harder. Beating the Station Chef and Sous Chef is rare. It is possible to beat the Head Chef. There are some heartwarming episodes where the challenge has been so hard fought that the Head Chef turned around and asked the contestant to work for them in their restaurant. We give them a trophy if they win, but this is about the love of the cuisine".