Star cooks whip up some history on ‘Time Machine Chefs’

Who wants Tudor-era Frankenmeat for dinner?

Sorry, no Vita-Preps allowed.

What do time travel, expert chefs and a terrifying olde English dish called the cockentrice have in common? They’re all part of Time Machine Chefs, a show co-created and produced by local writer and comedian Jason Harris (under the name Jason Leinwand) whose pilot is airing Thursday, August 16 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

The show is what it sounds like—if you’ve allowed your brain to break free from the moulds of popular foodie entertainment and wander into a dark place where the nation’s best cooks are asked to work without all the fancy toys they usually rely on. That means no Vita-Prep, no convection oven, no sous vide machine with precise temperature controls. And yea, no dry ice, either.

“I’ve been pitching TV for a decade,” says Harris. “Everything got caught up in bullsh*t.”

Four or five years ago, he says, everyone just wanted normal concepts. He and writing partner Matthew Kaplan decided to head the opposite direction. “We just say, let’s create the weirdest, strangest things possible.” The result? A vaguely Mad Men-inspired, history-focused cooking show.

The pilot features chefs like Art Smith and Chris Cosentino taking on two culinary challenges set in different time periods. The first brings the chefs to Ancient China, where they have to start their own fires and cook meals using only the technology available at the time, aka almost nothing. The second challenge is set in Tudor England and features the aforementioned cockentrice—a twisted creation of edible animal husbandry that combines different animals for a sort of meaty Frankendish. How do you cook such a beast? You’ll have to watch and find out.

Should Time Machine Chefs get picked up for more episodes, Harris says he has plenty of ideas for cooking challenges set in the past. “I could name 100 of them: Viking ship, the first Thanksgiving, ’60s housewife, the future …”

May we also suggest the Civil War, the Oregon Trail, ancient Rome, the French Revolution, pre-Columbian Mexico …

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