The dazed, hedonistic ’70s were probably the last time a cooking show actively tried to be funny as much as it wanted to stimulate your appetite.
The reeling, mugging antics of Graham Kerr’s bibulous Galloping Gourmet were as calculated for belly laughs as tummy grumbles, but Montreal’s Nadia Giosia, who wasn’t even born when Kerr quaffed wine while risking life and limb with unsteady flambés, is hoping to bring the funny back to food television with her show Bitchin’ Kitchen.
A veteran of skit comedy and improv, Giosia created her alter ego, Nadia G, out of her own Italian-Canadian upbringing, and surrounded her with a garish kitchen set, an eye-popping wardrobe, and a supporting cast of equally strident comic caricatures, most of whom (Panos the Greek butcher and fishmonger and the Spice Merchant, an Israeli with an unpronounceable name) also ardently mine a rich vein of ethnic humour.
“It’s not even worth calling them characters,” Giosia says over the phone from Montreal, “because we’re about one glass of chardonnay away from the real person. When we were casting for this show, friends recommended other friends to come, and we built our characters based on Panos and Yeres, uh, Yiris — whatever his name is.
“I’m really close to my onscreen character. I write all this stuff and you always want to write about what you know. I’m not constantly prancing around in three-inch heels in my own home, but when I’m on I’m on.”
Originally pitched as a TV series, Bitchin’ Kitchen took a detour onto cellphones and the web, winning acclaim and awards for its short, fast mobile phone episodes before attracting the attention of a U.S. publisher for a cookbook and Canada’s Food Network for a full-length version.
“The TV series is so much fun because you have a bigger budget to work with and you can create skits and songs and really expand on the theme.”
The themes – breakups, poverty, hangovers, family meals — are riffed on mercilessly, but the recipes always work, and often come from Giosia’s home life, which was filled with food.