From judges to judged

Eyal Shani and Yonatan Roshfeld embark on a cooking duel across Italy

Chef Eyal Shani
Israelis who love food TV have seen this before: renowned chefs Eyal Shani and Yonathan Roshfeld bickering, laughing – and cooking.
But this time the pair have transformed from those doing the judging – on the hit show Master Chef – to those being judged, in their new show Battle of the Chefs. In this four-episode miniseries, Shani and Roshfeld, who are behind some of the most acclaimed restaurants in Israel, cook in a series of battles across Italy to see who will be crowned the better chef.
The verbose Shani and the portly Roshfeld – who has slimmed down considerably since the filming of the series – take on four intensive culinary challenges each episode. The first episode centered on Naples – with the chefs having to cook pizza, bake the Italian pastry sfogliatelle and guess the ingredients in sartu di riso, a dish of rice baked in a cake pan filled with ground beef and cheese (the identification challenge lifted right from Master Chef).
And all that was just in the first half of the show. The second half showcased the final challenge of Naples: cooking a three-course meal for a panel of discerning – and decorated – Neapolitan chefs. All this makes for a very long show – an hour and 40 minutes live on air. There’s much to like in Battle of the Chefs – but you have to have a considerable attention span. Plus, unless you happen to be fluent in Italian, you’ll need to keep your eye on the Hebrew subtitles.
While there was much to view in the extended episode, from the markets to the pizzerias, bakeries and kitchens of Naples, there was one thing I would have liked to see more of: women. Every chef, baker and judge the pair encountered along the way was male, a trend I hope doesn’t continue over the series.
There’s certainly a feeling of glee – perhaps more so among past Master Chef participants – at watching the hyper-critical chefs absorb critiques themselves. When the Italian baker tossed out all but one of Shani’s pastries; or the judges told Roshfeld his choice of pasta in a fish stock had been “a big mistake,” there’s a certain schadenfreude in seeing the mighty humbled.
While the two joke, laugh and compliment each other like the old friends they are – the egos of successful chefs are not to be underestimated, and the pair are sure to battle it out fiercely in the next three episodes.
The show can be seen Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Channel 2 or on