Celebrity chefs traded in their spatulas for a stage and a microphone and veteran comedians handed over their mics for kitchen knives and frying pans as the two sets of professionals traded occupations for the filming of “Comedy Kitchen” at a Calistoga winery last month.
The show, of which four episodes were filmed, will be seen on the JLTV network during the third week of September. The network has about 55 million viewers, according to comedian Craig Shoemaker, the host of the show.
The idea for the show started about three years ago, when Shoemaker and Chef Tony Luke Jr. made a pilot episode for BBC. He’s hoping the show will be picked up by Netflix.
“It was about me teaching Tony comedy and him teaching me about food. And then we got together with Mike Davis (of Davis Estates) and we said ‘let’s do it here (in Napa),’” Shoemaker said.
Davis and Shoemaker have been friends for about 20 years. The Davis’ winery in Calistoga opened in 2016. The comedy performances took place on a stage in the renovated barn.
“We were having dinner at Bottega (in Yountville) and I said ‘You guys have to come up here and see the winery,’” Davis said, to which Shoemaker retorted, ‘What, you don’t love the show?’ To which Davis said, “You have to come up and see how it works. They came up and said, “This works.”
Shoemaker joked that when Luke landed in Napa he found himself a little out of his element. Luke lives “on the corner of crack and homeless,” he said.
On stage in front of an audience of wine drinkers, Luke took command of the microphone and explained his first experience in the Napa Valley. He said he was surprised at the remote location of the house in a vineyard. He called Shoemaker exclaiming, “Where did you bring me? There are no curtains on the windows or locks on the doors!”
He also removed all the knives from the house in case “someone came in the middle of the night and tried to kill me.”
Luke admitted going from working with food to tackling comedy was a little scary.
“The number one fear for a lot of people is speaking in public. Put making people laugh on top of that,” Shoemaker said.
Other chefs taking a turn in front of the crowd included Gina Neely from Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys,” Joey Ciolli of Grimaldi’s Pizza; “Culinerdy Cruzer” Keith Breedlove (“Cutthroat Kitchen”); and chef Todd Stein (The Bristol, in Chicago) who is known for beating chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America.”
The line-up of the comedians in the kitchen include host, author and stand-up comedian DL Hughley; comedian John Henson (ABC’s “Wipeout”); “The Pitbull of Comedy” Bobby Slatyon; Bill Bellamy (“Def Comedy Jam”); and stand-up comedian and writer Heather McDonald (“Chelsea Lately”).
In each episode a celebrity panel of judges will decide which one of them created the more inspired experience. The winner receives a $10,000 dollar check to their favorite charity.