Stay Tuned: Food, crime and everything in between on ‘Feed the Beast’
I’ve learned two things from watching Gordon Ramsay on “Master Chef.” The first is how to say “wow” to express disappointment instead of to exclaim wonder. The second is that sometimes the difference between a good meal and a mediocre one is too many ingredients on the plate. AMC’s new series “Feed the Beast” is a too many ingredients kind of show. It’s about the high stakes, fast paced world of fine dining, the pleasures of haute cuisine, the passion of a certain breed of “bad boy” chef, grief, parenting, addiction, friendship, romance, racism and the mob.
Tommy Moran (David Schwimmer) and Dion Patras (Jime Sturgess) are childhood friends who are reunited when Dion, a talented chef with a cocaine addiction, is released early from prison.
Dion was arrested for burning down the restaurant where he and Tommy worked. When we meet Tommy, almost a year after the events, he is still deeply mourning his wife Rie (who was also a chef at the restaurant), drinking too much and struggling to connect with his 10-year-old son who has not spoken since Rie died in a hit and run.
The restaurant Dion burned down belonged to dangerous criminal Patrick Woijchik, (Michael Gladis) nicknamed the “tooth fairy” for his favorite method of persuasion, who wants Dion’s sizable debt repaid. To appease the tooth fairy, Dion convinces Tommy, a skilled sommelier, to open a restaurant under the guise of rebuilding the dream venture the two planned with Rie before everything fell apart.
Schwimmer plays Tommy’s grief with a sad sack type of despair that would be more compelling with a little edge and more anger while Sturgess gives Dion a jittery, reckless energy that grows tiresome scene after scene. They are believable as friends, even if the dialogue rarely rises above eye-rolling lines. Trying to overcome Tommy’s reluctance to open the restaurant without Rie, Dion says: “She will live through this restaurant.”
Dialogue problems aside, the show’s tone is all over the place. In one scene, it’s a love letter to food with close-ups of Dion’s beautifully presented plates. In another, it’s a crime drama with Dion stuck between the mob and the cop who forces him to be an informant. Then it’s a family drama with a moment of tenderness between Tommy and his emotionally traumatized son.
Then it’s a workplace drama emphasizing the camaraderie and fast-paced action of a restaurant. There’s also a romantic interest in the form of a woman named Pilar (Lorenza Izzo), Tommy’s unapologetically racist father Aidan (John Doman) and flashbacks to Rie (Christine Adams).
Eliminating some of those story elements would quickly improve the series. As it stands, they pull focus from what the show does best, which is food. The cooking scenes are visually appealing and edited with a solid pace. Tommy’s relationship with his son is also interesting but it gets lost. The mob storyline is just silly. The tooth fairy rides around in a plush office chair in the back of a black van. As Ramsay might say, “Wow.”
“Feed the Beast” is on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.