Skip to main content

The Daily Beast: "Sweet Genius: Ron Ben-Israel is the Scariest Man on Television"

Ron Ben-Israel may be a renowned pastry chef in real life, but as the host of Food Network’s cooking show Sweet Genius, he terrifies me.

At The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "The Creepiest Man on Television," in which I discuss just why Ben-Israel freaks me out and review his Food Network show, Sweet Genius, a bizarre and often head-scratching mishmash of styles, tones, and freaky weirdness.

The scariest man on television is obsessed with cakes.

Ron Ben-Israel, the host of Food Network’s bizarre culinary competition series Sweet Genius, absolutely terrifies me. Watching the show reduces me to cold sweat, imagining that Ben-Israel has forced me into the Saw-like confines of the Sweet Genius set, where I must bake a gĂ©noise while he cackles eagerly at my misery before murdering me.

Sweet Genius is a variation on the network’s highly successful Chopped: Four chefs—pastry chefs and confectionary makers in this case—must cook three courses from pre-selected mystery ingredients, and one chef gets eliminated each round, leading to a final showdown between the last two competitors. This is hardly a novel conceit (in fact the entire show seems to be a direct reaction to Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts), but here the courses—or “tests” to borrow the Sweet Genius parlance—are composed of chocolate, candy, and cake rounds, and the judge may cause you to wet your pants in fright, even if you’re not appearing on the show.

Overseeing the action from a thronelike place of power on a raised dais, Ben-Israel seems to be a cross between Fringe’s Observers—chromelike baldpates whose alienlike eyes skim over the action but never quite connect with it—and Austin Powers’s Bond-villain spoof Dr. Evil, given their similar physical appearances, fondness for wearing purple-blue and self-serious natures.

It’s the last element that’s the most troubling. While there’s clearly an overt aura of enforced theatricality to the proceedings, Ben-Israel takes his persona a little too far. There’s the spine-chilling way in which he tastes elements of the contestants’ dishes with an insane amount of fastidiousness, as though he were solving a complex differential equation or dissecting a victim rather than, well, eating candy. Adding to this sense of unease is the way with which Ben-Israel speaks, an exaggerated blend of winking coyness and thunderous voice of evil, announcing the inspiration for the dish (Ballerinas! Live baby chicks! A ventriloquist dummy!) and the way in which he slams his hand down on the large, overtly cake-shaped button that controls the show’s conveyer belt.

Continue reading at The Daily Beast...


Anonymous said…
I see a lot of food network programs. Specially I like the competitions. Yesterday I watched two of the sweet genius. The judge I felt was biased. I would like some one neutral in the judging panel. I never felt like this in any other programs of FN.

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BuzzFeed: "The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now"

The CBS legal drama, now in its sixth season, continually shakes up its narrative foundations and proves itself fearless in the process. Spoilers ahead, if you’re not up to date on the show. At BuzzFeed, you can read my latest feature, " The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now," in which I praise CBS' The Good Wife and, well, hail it as the best show currently on television. (Yes, you read that right.) There is no need to be delicate here: If you’re not watching The Good Wife, you are missing out on the best show on television. I won’t qualify that statement in the least — I’m not talking about the best show currently airing on broadcast television or outside of cable or on premium or however you want to sandbox this remarkable show. No, the legal drama is the best thing currently airing on any channel on television. That The Good Wife is this perfect in its sixth season is reason to truly celebrate. Few shows embrace complexity and risk-taking in t