Sweet Genius Is Pretty Much the Most Ridiculous Thing on the Food Network

Categories: Food on TV

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Each week we take a quick, cautious look at what is going on with televised cooking. This week: Sweet Genius, a one-hour show about lollipops and death, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.

Oh, hell. It's come to this.

The Food Network sees pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel with his evil bald head and crafts a show around it. The premise is solid: An evil genius on a spaceship orbiting Phobos forces chefs to make desserts using surprise ingredients secreted by a caged Gorgon; the losers are ejected into deep space to quietly asphyxiate while the winner receives one million dollars and is fed to the Gorgon. YOUR MOVE MICHAEL CHIARELLO.

Unfortunately, the Food Network was only able to afford one big, evil button and then, for the winner, something like ten bucks. But, what a button. That button saves the show. It's as big as a cake and lights up like a three-layer Stick N' Click.

But Sweet Genius is not just about what the button looks like but what it does when the evil genius Ben-Israel leans over, giggling at what a fun turn his career seems to have taken, and presses it, setting into motion a conveyor belt that conveys the surprise ingredients.

A conveyor belt on a cooking show is like a big sign that screams, QUALITY SHOW RIGHT HERE. On the conveyor belt are curious things, like Otter Pops or streptococcus for the "ingredients" and bowling balls and toilet assemblies for the "theme," seemingly picked on the fly by an intern that morning during an elevator ride at Food Network HQ. Actually, that's exactly how they are picked.

The chef-prisoners then incorporate the stuff into their deserts, usually at the last minute, via liquid nitrogen, hot oil, or hammer. Unfortunately, monomaniacal Ben-Israel is also monosyllabic. Walking around the spaceship, he says things like, "You are cooking something" and "This is sugar" and "chocolate."

The producers would like the contestants to be scared shitless by Ben-Israel, but they just look weirded out. During judging, Ben-Israel says nondescript things like, "Rich. Sweet. Hello. Warm," which seem neither good nor bad, leaving the chefs to pantomime "What the fuck is it with this show?" to producers in the wings.

The sad fact is that Ben-Israel -- despite such promising visuals as a severely bald head, reptilian smile, black eyeliner (?!), and the almost childlike joy he takes in depressing the button -- does not do much of anything interesting. He doesn't scream like Ramsey, scoff like Colicchio, cry like DiSpirito, mope like Oliver, or quietly seethe like De Laurentiis.

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The main problem is that he is not nearly evil enough. In the episode "Fiery Genius," one chef baked a cake in the microwave. Why not, you know what I mean? He had a good reason for microwaving a cake, saying, "I want to make it warm." That guy is a genius.

But Ben-Israel hadn't heard of this microwaving-a-cake method ("The cooking cake microwave I was aware not I," he said, more or less), and while the contestant swore up and down that nuking a cake was Michelin-approved, that chef failed to notice that the cake resembled a tuna casserole.

Chef Ramsey would have politely escorted him out back and shot him, but not Ben-Israel. He practically thanked the chef who, given 50 minutes to bake, played Hackey Sack for 49 minutes and microwaved a bowl of cake in the last 35 seconds. Ben-Israel merely sent him home with his odd tagline, something like, "You were not the one with the microwave cake who was the sweet genius," and after the contestants huddled up to figure out who exactly got kicked off -- Ben-Israel's diction seems to be an ongoing but eminently interesting issue -- he got sucked towards toward Neptune.

Sweet Genius will likely continue, unless the Food Network stops to think about it for a moment, so one hopes that Ben-Israel starts to string some better words together and get angry. I for one would enjoy seeing someone regularly getting mad at desserts. If someone is spreading cheese doodles and corn death fungus on a cake, then all hell should be breaking loose, not putting me to sleep.

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71 comments
RShaw
RShaw

Sounds like you watched this show with your own agenda in mind, and then you were disappointed when the two didn't match up. Where did the "evil" come from? Why should it be about people "getting mad at desserts" other than you would find that funny? This is about seeing how creative one can get and how one deals with being thrown odd challenges - yeah, in the real world one might not need to make candy based on a frog, but real world challenges can be just as odd. It's not about being silly and angry. This article read like someone trying way too hard to be cutesy and funny - it was neither. How can I get a job writing these articles? At least I'd put more thought into it.

mickslimslide
mickslimslide

Ron can give great comments for improvement to the chefs whose desserts he samples, and lets nothing escape his tongue even if they try and cover or omit. He is really out there for his taste/tasty buds. But I differ with the critic's comment regarding "Otter Pop" (Pup): I never thought of Ron in that sense much less a Bear: more of a smooth, white chocolate full of surprise.

peterfny
peterfny

You're out of your mind...I love this show. Ron Ben-Israel is a freaking riot. Of all the silly competition shows on Food Network, besides Chopped, this is the most interesting to watch (I mean really, how many times can you watch Cupcake Wars and see the same thing over and over again...?). Maybe in the words of the immortal Sgt. Hulka, you should lighten up, Francis.

Anonymous
Anonymous

1) The producers told him to act like that on purpose to scare the chefls, especially in the first season.  They realized that just the ingredients themselves scared the chefs, so he toned it down in the second. 2) The chefs VOLUNTEER to be on the show.  They know what they're going to be doing. 3) This is just my belief.  I am not trying to force it into anyone or call anyone sinful while I'm perfect.  'Cause I'm not.  But it is actually sinful for someone to WANT to watch a show where the hosts are screaming at the contestants or something like that.  And then to hate a show where the host is actually nice and kind to the chefs.  Our own sinful desires are what makes us think like that.  And it's wrong. 4) I actually REALLY like the fact that he's actually nice.  A lot of the people on Food Network are.  5) I really don't see how people think Ron is creepy.  That's just my opinion. and 6) He just has fun with his job.  If I was given free reign over how I act while I host, I would have tons of fun doing it.  Especially if the producers wanted me to act all crazy and weird.

Mamahet
Mamahet

i prefer Ron's voice.....not the computerized voice. he is more interesting to listen to.

Animallover1678
Animallover1678

He looks like the guy from Austin Powers Goldmember.

Kaela_lee
Kaela_lee

This article was so ridiculously funny and spot on! Just watched the show and was wondering if I was the only one creeped out by the host!

Suzydame
Suzydame

Sweet genius is the worst show I ave ever seen! Foodetwork is going down hill!

Butterflystrokes
Butterflystrokes

I LIKE THE SHOW. IT IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM ALL THE REST.THOSE THAT DONT CONSIDER HIM A SWEET GENUIS, SHOULD GOON HIS SHOW AND PROVE HIM WRONG. IF A PERSON CRITICIZES SOMEONE THEN THAT SHOULD MEAN THEY CAN DO BETTER...STOPTHE HATE

guest
guest

This is the dumbest review of a show I've ever seen, it doesn't even make sense! What spaceship are they on?!?

Lori
Lori

wow! Michael sure does love to hear himself talk! Having watched Ramsey screaming at people for four seasons, the Chairman yelling the secret ingredients in a completely fake Asian accent (did you seeing him on Dancing with the Stars...no accent), and De Laurentiis scaring me with that toothy, gaping hole in her face that I liken to one of those little monsters from the movie "Critter", it is an absolute joy to watch a person that has the ability to intimidate chefs just by looking at them and saying......nothing. What a power he has! I love Sweet Genius and will continue to watch every new episode.

Mferullo
Mferullo

This show sucks. Back to chopped please. These hosts ruin the shows... ie: Cupcake Wars

Nia Love39
Nia Love39

I love your show and your a real genius 

Zetaclear reviews
Zetaclear reviews

I always feel good after I watch it and found myself very engaged in it and extremely Zetaclear reviews happy it was all over and done with in 1 episode! RB brings a very unique flavor that is practically given to satire.

Mjpstar1
Mjpstar1

I love the show!!! I enjoy watching it and hope it continues. Some people have their own opinions but  I don't have to agree with them and in this case I don't! If you don't like it, don't watch it.

markit8dude
markit8dude

What a presumptuous a sshole this person, blog truly is.

Dollars to donuts, Mr. Leaverton you're the adult young man referenced by Aerosmith in their song, 'Walk This Way'.  Except you don't have cheerleaders giving you the green light and it's safe to assume it wasn't 'til your ~ mid-20's a sober person found your shtick appealing.

FYI: This Ron Israel dude has LIVED.  

He'd been in the IDF, retired dancer and barely into his 40's is and continues to be a respected baker/ owner.

As for the show's format.  I'd rather take his playfulness on desserts and interesting inspirations than that of the doldrums of, 'Chopped'.  

Chopped, though I dig Tim Allen, unfortunately he's always accompanied by judges who are more times than not, the epitome of blowhards or d-bags.

Chopped is ONLY about the judge's opinion and inane human interest backdrop of each participant.  The food is a distant second.

Belittling and making snide, pompous comments on the sidelines.  Oh, that is unless a respectable chef and/or 'All-Stars' episode(s) airs (where the final dessert ingredients are ALWAYS milk of some sort, flour and sugar..  'What will they decide to make'?  Enquiring minds and all)

Or a program with some porker with frosted, spiky hair playing the good ol' boy and eating ribs.  Diners, Drive-Ins.. whatever.  'Greeeat'.

How about some snotty, over the hill, waaay past-middle-aged but don't tell this 'hipster' geriatric as such.  With the 'cool' earring to complete his midlife crisis of yesterdecade ensemble.  Heck I was hoping Bourdain would have a skullet to match his flaccid persona.  

Bourdain's smoking only intensifies the dude's indifference to food but where TFN is sending this self-important b oob next.

I traveled a great deal to Eastern Europe, specifically Czech Republic for work and the ONLY time I endured an entire episode of this guy was his visiting Prague, coincidentally.  

His giving ridiculous praise to a schnitzel vendor was idiotic-gold.  No s hit!  Even Bourdain's escort was making faces between Bourdain's, 'Oohs' and 'Ahhs'.  Putz.

What about, 'Man vs. Food' - yeah that's real intriguing, eh?  Up there with frosted tips.

I can go on regarding Paula Deen, 'Heat Seekers' (Mr. Sanchez, please 'teach' us more via Chopped how to say Spanish-themed foods with an over-the-top roll of your tongue.  Geez, I don't hear ANY of the Italian judges doing any of that grandstanding s hit.  I'm 2nd generation American with Italian lineage and KNOW it's due to the program being about the contestants.  Something lost or unimportant to Mr. Sanchez)   the phony, creepy-looking Giada.. there's not enough time to go into Bobby Flay, Mexican Made Easy (is there any other Mexican-type food?  Come on..) and a handful of others.

I think I've proven my sanctimony is irritating, though I barely touched on the program's I don't enjoy.  You dedicated an opus to your animosity.

Like others, I too dig, 'Sweet Genius'.  Whereas were only hearing from ONE judge whose walked the walk and has something unlike most FN shows.Something lost on most of the Chopped judges.  I've seen many of the aforementioned judges compete on, 'Next Iron Chef' and they either choked early and often or were next-to-last in mediocrity.  And I see from TFN site is, 'Iron Chef: Redemption' because 'everyone' wants to watch retreads..Though I do give props to Zakarian, Symon etc.,

I'm a cynic with a mix of sardonic for personality but your blog entry was juvenile.  I hope I didn't offend any 14-17 year olds with that comment.  

Like the-late John Lennon sang, 'Whatever gets you through the night...'.

  

Doug
Doug

Just saw this show last night, Ben-Isreal was like Willy Wonka mixed with that German guy from Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark...or sprockets from SNL.  Take your pick.  He didn't have a monkey to pet though, so Indiana Jones it is. 

Anyways, I liked the show, it made me hungry.  It was refreshing that the host wasn't an overbearing ego maniac and that he wasn't British.  I'm growing tired of British hosts.  Give us more playful Germans as hosts.

Clootz
Clootz

 Hey, I LIKE Sweet Genius!

Moo
Moo

I love Sweet Genius and Ben-Israel.

loyal fan
loyal fan

I find this show to be whimsical, magical, and sometimes funny but always enjoyable.  this is TV  not theater and remember it's a cooking channel at that. I feel the show has done well with the top of dessert as the theme, what do you want them to do make it a boring show that is exactly like another show that is already on the air? I love it just the way it is and if you don't then just don't watch. One thing I do miss this season is the computerized female voice that the show used to have for giving the information about the ingredients. What happened did they feel Ron needed to do more on the show?

Azpastrygirl
Azpastrygirl

I am a pastry chef & I love the show. It's refreshing to see a cooking show where the contestants and the host act professional. Trying to combine savory & bizarre with sweet is not easy especially on the fly. It has some campiness but I watch for inspiration on ways to think outside of the box. However - if you're not a creative person or have limited professional kitchen experience I don't blame you for not liking it. The chefs I know are blown away by the shear "I'm going to keep on figuring out a way to make this craziness work!" attitude.

Mmgalloc3
Mmgalloc3

Yesterday episode where the secret ingredient was a live lobster was a complete turn off. With so many fruits, vegetable and herbs, this was a extremely poor choice. Animals should be treated with respect. Needless to say I will no longer watch this program. What will be next a live cow????

Jenstroker
Jenstroker

well i for one find it charming to see someone who enjoys what they do and is unafraid to totally embrace eccentricity in creativity. The occasional ridiculousness of it all makes me giggle, and it is entertainment after all, but it also makes me want to bake. Food network wins.

Bluto
Bluto

But the bottom line is - people actually volunteer to be on this show.

1234
1234

there is only one way to describe the show... RIDICULOUS... i stopped watching after a few minutes.   these is one way to describe the host... SHMUCK

Ashley Valencia
Ashley Valencia

This is the pretty much the most ridiculous review I've ever read in my entire life and I read Cracked articles. 

I like the show, it's not TV gold and not the Food Network's best show, however, the things these chefs manage to come up with on the spot while being given very unusual last minute ingredients (like marrow bones) is quite impressive to watch, especially when you throw in these weird "inspirations" (and actually that is my greatest point of contention with the show - none of the contestants ever seem to really nail the inspiration but I think that's mainly due to a lack of explanation - they need to narrow down what they're looking for a bit more, tighten up the definition a little). My opinion notwithstanding, this review read like a whiny little twelve year old bitching about how the villain isn't bad ass enough...which is actually pretty much what it is. There are tons of things wrong with the show but all you could come up with is that Ben-Israel isn't like every other competition host - which frankly I like because that what makes the show stand out and be unique in that it isn't a carbon copy of all the other shows. I don't want to watch the same thing - I want to watch something new. Which is what the Food Network has given us here. 

Ron
Ron

WRONG! Sweet Genius IS tv gold.  It IS the best show on Food Network.  It might be the best show on tv.  Ron Ben Israel is a STAR!!!

GM
GM

 I agree it is the stupidest show I have ever seen ! Takes up to much time on the Food Network for something not so fricken weird The guys a freak !

me
me

Stupidest show on the food network they should be embarrased!! The host is a freak!!! To say the least...GET RID OF THE SHOW!!!!!

Vpapp
Vpapp

it is far better than Cupcake Wars. That's like Groundhog Day in a strip mall bakery.

Testarossa
Testarossa

I really like watching Food Network shows, saw a few minutes of Sweet Genius last night for the first time until switching the channel, because I got annoyed by Ron Ben-Israel's attitude towards the competitors. the chefs on all other shows can be a lot more intense and harsh but I never felt this type of attitude questioning personality, character but not the skills. Watching the other shows no matter how intense and extreme, it is still exciting the watch unlike this show. Anyway, this is only my opinion and everyone has their own preference.

Gregorio
Gregorio

This ghastly excuse of a show is back for more. Just saw a commercial for upcoming episodes. Bleck.

Lindsay
Lindsay

This article seems way too opinionated for my taste. I love the show and find the host sensible and creative.

april
april

hope the show continues. i like it a lot.  if anything, they need better writers for the show, not a better host. he's great!!!!!!!!!!! and just in case anyone thinks this show is making Ben-Israel's career, it's the other way around......it's Ben-Israel that is actually keeping this show going. 

Sulu
Sulu

The show is fucking hysterical...I hope they're making more...gotta watch new ones stoned... Could be dangerous!!

Francine Prevost
Francine Prevost

I'm enjoying this program, better than half the programs out there on other networks, better than Jersey Shore

Jmdossett
Jmdossett

I just wanted to say that I like the show very much and hope it continues.

Gay
Gay

you are a total moron go back to writing fortune cookies

Nia Love39
Nia Love39

your a moron. your just mad because your not on TV. so don't take it out on the genius.

Missmegumi
Missmegumi

I LOVE the show & that guy..is...COOL!

Student
Student

You should also know that he is not a trained pastry chef.  His cakes from his bakery are all box mixed cakes. His fame and desperation for money are taking over him, why would he think it's a bad show?

Gretchen
Gretchen

-You baked me a cake in a MICROWAVE?? *looks frazzled*

Poop
Poop

HAHAHA!!!! This is sooooo funnyyyy :)

Martin Stone Hennessee
Martin Stone Hennessee

Thank you for this very entertaining review of a deliciously silly show.  My friends and I have already started intoning things like "fruity...syrupy...cocktail-y" when trying a new dish.

I would note that his actual critiques usually seem spot-on, and I like that he always praises the elements that worked in a dish...before he banishes the hapless from his world of desserts.

Anyway, I find the show kitschy fun and hope it runs a good long while - though nothing will ever match the treat of seeing the initial contestants giving each other sideways "is this guy for real?" glances in response to Ben-Israel's gnomic pronouncements.  

Can't wait for it to return in January!

Arielrosepdx
Arielrosepdx

I like it! I think Ron Ben Israel is quite endearing. The show is kitsch and I think even the show kind of realizes the "over the top" nature of itself! I always feel good after I watch it and found myself very engaged in it and extremely happy it was all over and done with in 1 episode! RB brings a very unique flavor that is practically given to satire. He gives his best compliment always followed by the sinking, "however" but you know his heart is in the right place. He is a bit of a neurotic perfectionist and honestly that gives him is caricature-like appeal. This one is the bubble gum you watch at the gym on the Precor Elliptical with delight. 

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