Ciao House Kicks Off The Series With Bizarre Elimination Controversy

"Ciao House" is the Food Network's hottest new culinary competition taking place in Tuscany, Italy, one of the top food meccas on the planet. Ten talented chefs are battling for the ultimate prize of learning from renowned Italian master chefs, and strive to be named the "capo de casa," or "head of the house," in the first episode. Celebrity chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Gabe Bertaccini serve as hosts and judges on the show. The first episode, "Welcome to Ciao House!," left viewers abuzz about a surprise elimination controversy. New fans of the show were flabbergasted when contestant Jess Mahoney served raw scallops as scallop crudo during a 45-minute-long challenge and managed to beat out Justin Robinson, who was overambitious and served a slightly overcooked lamb to judges.

Guarnaschelli tweeted after the episode aired, "The chefs really come into their own as soon as next week. Sometimes the most novice cook is at the forefront, and sometimes the most experience one takes over." Contestants on the show were critical of Mahoney's lack of effort, considering the importance of the location and the competitive nature of the show. When Mahoney was asked what she was cooking in the chef battle, she replied with a grin, "I'm not cooking!" One contestant, Trenica Johnson, criticized Mahoney off-camera for making what "looks like sushi" in Tuscany. Johnson went on to be one of the top winners of the food competition in the episode with a jambalaya arancini.

Does cooking matter?

"Ciao House" judges came hard down on contestant Jess Mahoney, wondering what she did with all the time allotted to her in the first challenge. Judge Gabe Bertaccini mentioned that her dish could be completed in 15 minutes and not 45 minutes. Despite their misgivings, Mahoney was given a pass when judges eliminated Justin Robinson. His crime was not focusing on one dish, but putting two incompatible and incomplete dishes together. The first episode's battle was intended to introduce the competitors to the judges and draw on their backgrounds, but their balancing effort seemed more vital.

One viewer commented on Twitter, "You sent him home for overcooked lamb and let her stay when she didn't cook anything." Several other users agreed with the sentiment. Some disagreed with the judgment, and compared Mahoney to a "sushi chef." It's true that scallops can be served raw, provided that they are properly cleaned. Mahoney was also not the only candidate who took the easy way out on the first challenge, with several other competitors using pre-made pasta or simple dishes to survive the first round.

The end of the episode gave viewers yet another twist. The two top candidates will be creating teams to compete against each other, while also being forced to eliminate each other in the next round. Most of the chefs have a background in cooking solo and found the change in rules to be concerning. Time will tell who will survive in the Ciao House.