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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Donatella Project: All We Can Say for Sure after Watching Is That This Awful Show Exists

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM

click to enlarge Donatella has a show.
  • Donatella has a show.

Each week we take a quick,

cautious look at what's going on with televised cooking. This week:

The Donatella Project, a new Dirk Balthazar novel by the

Hugo-award winning author of the Sigma Protocol and the Prometheus

Deception, on March 10 and 11 on the Cooking Channel.

What's the Donatella Project? Ask three

different people and you'll get three different answers.

What's the Donatella Project? I can't

answer that. Nobody can answer that. Nobody knows what all the parts

are. Nobody has seen the whole thing.

What's the Donatella Project? It is

everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can

see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your

television. Wait, that's the Matrix.

What's the Donatella Project? It's

Kitchen Nightmares, it's Chef Hunter, it's every show

that's ever visited a sausage factory, it's the service plan for a

yellow Lamborghini, it's Color Splash, it's Sheer Genius,

it's a cautionary tale about Rocco DiSpirito, it's the world that has

been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth (sorry,

Matrix), it's a trial balloon sent up to float free in the

deep-channel airwaves and whisper, "What I do best? Do I do any of

this best?"

What is the Donatella Project? It's

whatever the hell she wants.

She is Donatella Arpaia, restaurateur,

former lawyer, and judge on Iron Chef. Her project looks

great at first, billed as such a complete rip-off of Kitchen

Nightmares I expect Chef Ramsay to knock on my door and demand to

know what the fuck I am watching donkey. The promos claim that

Donatella and her yellow Lamborghini are opening a restaurant

consulting business and will be traveling around laughing at dumps.

Fair enough. That's a tidy project. Let's see someone take on Ramsay

head on.

But on her first job, she just has to

help a New Jersey restaurant choose a new chef, so she stages a

cooking competition among the four candidates, Chef Hunter-style,

with all the "Your time starts now!" kill-me-now

host-deathspeak. It's a show within a show, with her playing the

radiant judge. Then she's gone, the winning chef picked, the

consulting finished. That's not consulting, by the way.

Next we're in the yellow Lamborghini

speeding to Florida to find a real dump, like on CSI. Wait,

no. We're in a cab heading to her own Italian restaurant in

Manhattan, which she just opened under her own name (she's opened

nine restaurants in less than ten years) (NINE) (9) (Donatella Arpaia

has opened nine goddamn restaurants) and suddenly we're in the

Restaurant, the sorely missed network show of 2003-4 starring

Rocco DiSpirito, who has been such a letdown to everyone since (You

did this, Chodorow!). Donatella has her mother and father eat at her

own restaurant and review it, on camera. Their advice: Pictures of

Naples and more tentacles, Daughter.

Next, Project returns to

restaurant consulting at another Italian restaurant, in which

Donatella diagnoses the problem as the proprietress's hair. She also

hates the floor. Imagine Color Splash and Extreme Makeover

mashed together for a three-minute Webisode. Donatella meets the

husband-and-wife owners, who are half a million in debt, and gives

the woman a salon makeover and the restaurant new paint and a wood

floor. Poof, that half million in debt is just gone.

Then we cab back to her titular

restaurant so she can get another ten minutes of ill-gotten,

nefarious free advertising under the guise of serving dinner to some

hotshot critics and chefs. (That's at Donatella, 184 8th Ave, New

York, 212-493-5150. Try the sea urchin.) It's like the judges' table

of every cooking show that has the pull to get Jeffrey Steingarten,

because this table has Jeffrey Steingarten. That's quite a get. The

food editor of Vogue doesn't do just any show. Wait, he does,

doesn't he?

Curiously, we don't hear the "judges"

talk much about the food, though, because what is real? How do you

define real? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can

smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical

signals interpreted by your brain. (Morpheus.)

Finally, four hours into the one-hour

show, Donatella gets into the Kitchen Nightmares territory

promised in the promos, at a bad place in New Rochelle. It's a

legitimate dump. It serves wraps. The guy who writes the menu spells

"turkey" with other letters. She strides into the walk-in

freezer for the big reveal, and it's beautiful. It's disgusting.

Rotten food, a sheepish owner admitting to serving frozen food, and a

terrible business that needs serious help. Let's go, bitches.

She takes to the owner to a sausage


And suddenly it's every food show that

visits a sausage factory. I can think of eight. Sausage, fabricated.

She suggests that I don't know, maybe the restaurant could not serve

frozen food? She takes the chef to another restaurant she's opened

(one of the nine -- the NINE) and makes her hotshot cooks teach this

sad guy how to cook, and he learns how to cook. That's a new show

right there, anybody.

And that's it. She's done. She's done

consulting. The consulting is finished. We're supposed to think this

New Rochelle dump is now a fancy place.

The Donatella Project is no

Kitchen Nightmares. It's not sure what it is. It's like a show

by committee. It's like an audition tape for everything. That's what

a yellow Lambo does to you.

Previously, Michael Leaverton watched:

The Sandwich King
The Worst Cooks in America

Food Hoarders

Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off

The Ice-Carving Show that the Food Network Somehow Ruins

The Show Paula Deen's Kid Was Given Because His Mom Makes Terrible Food

Bama Glama, the show all Alabama loves to fight over in comment threads

Guy Fieri's Weird Man Fort

Mystery Diners

Food Jammers

Have Cake, Will Travel

Chef Hunter

Baron Ambrosia

Sweet Genius

Best Thing I Ever Made

Sandra Lee's Hard-Drinkin' Halloween Special of Madness

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Michael Leaverton


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