"Time Machine Chefs" Is Bill And Ted’s Excellent Menu

photo_1011_20060203-450x300Bill and Ted? They used a phone booth. Doctor Who uses a TARDIS, a device that looks like a British Police Call Box. Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled in style with a DeLorean. The Flash and Superman can just run fast enough or fly around the Earth to do it. Captain Kirk did it by slingshotting around the sun.

What are they doing? Traveling through time, of course. That’s what you do when you want to give a twist to the traditionally formatted cooking show.

ABC has revealed the trailer for Time Machine Chefs, the standard cooking competition show with a twist; the combatants are whisked away back in time (via a time-traveling refrigerator crafted last year, apparently) to period pieces and locales, tasking the contestants to make due with period ingredients and cookware.

The pilot appears to be set in the Ming Dynasty, and the chefs are to make dishes with available ingredients and techniques of the time. It’s not a stretch to imagine some of the locations and time periods they’ll travel to, presuming the series is renewed past the first season. 1930′s Depression-Era soup kitchens? Revolutionary War battlefronts? The 2011 house of the person who came up with this absurd concept? Julia Child’s home in France with a bad Julia Child impersonator (we’ll take Dan Aykroyd over Meryl Streep in any situation). The sets seem staffed with out-of-work re-enactors or extras to add to the ambiance, or to distract both the viewers from the cooking (and the chefs from their tasks).

While shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America throw unique ingredients at the combatants, Time Machine Chefs seems to have the inverse challenge; while they may or may not know how to use the ingredients (as they’re likely still in use nowadays, albeit in different forms), they have a completely different set of tools to cook with. For example, in the Tudor dynasty, they don’t have access to a mechanically-operated rotisserie, but they do have access to dogs running in hamster wheels that can turn the spikes. Another challenge, shown in the promo, is that the chefs have to craft a cockatrice. Whether this is purely for aesthetically reasons, or if they have to actually make a dish consisting of the parts of a cockatrice (an apparent two-legged dragon with a rooster head) will be unveiled with the episode. I’d love to see them travel to the distant year of 2015 and cook a pizza in a Food Hydrator from Back To The Future, but people may be distracted by the hover boards (ha ha) .

The overarching narrative of the show; three chefs are trapped in time, with the winning fourth chef returning to his own time period. Judged on taste, presentation, and “historical creativity”, there appears to be no prize other than being declared “The Greatest Chef In History”. Naturally, while the concept of the show leaves three chefs stranded back in time, they’ll really just leave the set with their heads lowered in shame.

The series premieres Thursday, August 16th at 9PM and runs for an hour. It’s not ABC’s first venture into food-based programming; The Chew has been on the air for nearly a year, and is a slightly-more-palatable version of The View, with more diverse hosts and cooking as a primary focus. The four time-traveling chefs are Art Smith, Chris Consentino, Ilan Hall, and Jill Davie..

Will it be a hit? Prime time has had it’s fair share of cooking shows on the schedule and they usually have some twist on Gordon Ramsay yelling. Can Time Machine Chefs survive against Person of Interest, Beauty and the Beast, The Office, and Parks & Recreation?

Time Machine Chefs seems to be the perfect show to watch until Parks & Recreation comes on at 9:30.

You can watch the preview at Eater.com.