Some people enjoy ASMR audio and videos to help soothe them, but anything food-related is what I’ve turned to for years. From Instagram videos of a cooking demonstration to TV shows that highlight cuisines from around the world, I find something so comforting about seeing food that others or I myself could enjoy. Being cooped up in quarantine, I turned to my own trusty form of ASMR to not only provide some calming presence amidst all this uncertainty, but also (virtually) take me beyond my own four walls to places I could hope to visit. The restaurant-geared reality TV series, “Restaurants on the Edge,” which was released on Netflix at the end of last month, combines aspects of what I enjoy watching for comfort – food, interior design, beautiful scenery, etc. – with the formulaic parts of reality TV that make it easy to watch, albeit a little dramatic if you don’t normally enjoy the genre — emotional backstories, climatic reveals and sometimes annoying hosts.
I started watching the series with a different kind of premise in mind. I thought the show just featured unique restaurants with impressive views and delicious food: On the edge, meaning on a scenic cliff or something. However, the show actually is a hodgepodge of various lifestyle shows, like “Fixer Upper,” “Queer Eye” and travel food series with Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern. The hosts — chef Dennis Prescott, designer Karin Bohn and restaurateur Nick Liberato — travel to restaurants with magnificent views, but with food that leaves something to be desired. Yes, the pun here is that the restaurants are on the edge of failing! Oops.
From locations like Malta on the Mediterrean Sea to a fishing village in Hong Kong to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, this series covers a lot of bases, geography-wise. However, despite the diversity in culture, a lot of the restaurants have similar problems, which makes it a little less exciting to watch. Most, if not all, of the places suffer from too large, unfocused menus that focus on international cuisine that they can only prepare with lackluster imitation. With excessive import costs and less foot traffic, the hosts try to steer the owners in the same direction of sourcing produce and ingredients from the surrounding area, and revamp the menu to feature the local culture.
This is where the slight pretentiousness of the hosts kind of grated on my viewing experience. Honestly, it wasn’t even all of them. Bohn was the most charming, studying up on the country’s architecture and culture and employing local artisans and experts, while still incorporating the owners’ personal preferences. Liberato mostly just offered business advice and made signature drinks, so this doesn’t really apply to him either. However, Prescott was just too awkward and at times, arrogant about his supposed knowledge about cuisine. Yet, he can’t pronounce “herbs” correctly or know to just use the word “tropical” instead of “palm tree-inspired” (if you know, you know). Because of his demeanor not feeling authentic, there was something disconcerting about a white man telling local restaurant owners to cater their menus to their own culture, and then going out into their own cities to create dishes inspired by that culture.
At the end of the episode and the hosts’ week at the restaurant, they reveal the renovated restaurant with business tips, a revamped menu and three dishes prepared and curated by Prescott that he had added to the menu. I feel like at least for that last aspect, if he had cooperated with the owners more on the food he had added — the heart of the restaurant, and the owners’ most personal part — and they had more say, then perhaps, that would help add to their future success. But honestly, these gripes are soothed over by the show’s overall appreciation for the episode’s culture, and Bohn’s cute excursions for cool pieces for the restaurants.
Sure, the premise is basic and the episodes follow the same formulaic structure, but with diverse geographic settings, cultures and people, “Restaurants on the Edge” is worth turning on if you want to take a break from watching “The Office” for the fourth time and still want something that’s easy to watch (It’s watch-while-mindlessly-scrolling-on-your-phone-friendly, if that’s what you’re wondering). With breathtaking landscapes, a healthy appreciation of local culture and of course, an appropriate focus on some drool-worthy dishes, “Restaurants on the Edge” offers just the right amount of escapism and comfort during this time, and even if we weren’t, you know, stuck in our homes. Tune out Prescott and appreciate the food and scenery, and you’ll be gold.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.