Secret Chef Is Like Love Is Blind For Cooking Shows

It's been a while since we've seen much innovation in the cooking competition reality show market, but a new show for Hulu called "Secret Chef" is a bold attempt to shake up the genre. In a landscape where shows are mostly defined by where their hosting style lies on the spectrum between happy Mary Berry to angry Gordon Ramsay, "Secret Chef" has no host and no judges. The contestants are assigned tasks by an animated, talking chef's hat, and go to their own individual kitchen pods to do all of the cooking, tasting, and judging, solo. By sequestering the competitors — who are drawn from a mix of professional chefs, social media foodies, and home cooks — they are kept impartial, and therefore able to judge the efforts of their fellow contestants.

Seeing individuals going through challenging moments in isolation has been earning glowing comparisons to Netflix's smash-hit dating show "Love is Blind." In the latter series, strangers try to forge romantic bonds with each other and even propose marriage. But in a similar twist, these chapters of a potential love storie play out without the partners meeting each other first. "Secret Chef" contestant Stephenie Simmons told The Seattle Times that the show seems like a cross between "Love is Blind" and "Top Chef," but in the end, is so much more. "You'll see from the first episode that what happens is not really what you expect. It was a game game."

So it's a cooking show with a new gimmick — why should I care?

Two words. David. Chang. The impresario behind the Momofuku empire, Netflix's "Ugly Delicious," and the guy most people blame/thank for rehabilitating the Brussels Sprout, is an Executive Producer on "Secret Chef." The consistently kitsch, yet tense feel and aesthetic of the show speaks to the work of a large team of creatives over at Vox Media, but there are some names in every industry that cause people to take notice, and Chang's is that for food.

Whether it's innovating instant ramen into gnocchi, serving fried chicken at his Michelin-starred restaurants (sometimes cold, sometimes with caviar), or being a longtime advocate for MSG and microwave-friendly cooking at home, Chang doesn't care for culinary orthodoxy. But each seemingly maverick move has paid off because it is done thoughtfully and with purpose.

The same instinct can be seen in "Secret Chef." Episodes still challenge the contestants in new and entertaining ways. But the central intrigue of secrecy, the 'labyrinth' setting, and the inevitability of the contestants beginning to speculate about matching identities to cooking styles is what makes it stand out. We're all used to sitting on the sofa saying how badly the chefs or bakers are doing at this week's recipe, and "Secret Chef" has plenty of that. But what we really watch reality TV for is the stories, and "Secret Chef" opens up whole new worlds of potential cooking strategies and deceptions. It could be a game-changer.