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NBC, Combs get cooking

Reality TV gets 'Cooking' in April

HOLLYWOOD — Sean “Diddy” Combs and Ben Silverman are in the kitchen together for “Celebrity Cooking Showdown,” a five-night reality miniseries being fast-tracked by NBC for an April debut.

Blending elements of Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” skein will pair superstar chefs with celebs in a weeklong cooking competition. Culinary titans Wolfgang Puck, Cat Cora (Food Network’s “Kitchen Accomplished”) and Govind cq Armstrong (exec chef at Table 8 in L.A.) have signed on to help tutor celebs in preparation for culinary battle.

Several celebs are close to finalizing deals to take part in the show, but as of late Sunday, pacts were not ready to be announced, Silverman said.

Reveille’s Silverman (“Biggest Loser,” “The Restaurant”) and Combs will exec produce along with David A. Hurwitz (“Fear Factor”).

Silverman said he and his Reveille colleagues have been working on a cooking-centric idea for more than a year, convinced the arena – already a moneymaker for Food Network – could yield big ratings in the broadcast space.

“We’ve been desperate to do cooking in primetime,” Silverman told Daily Variety. “And who’s more primetime than Diddy?”

Exec said he approached the hip-hop impresario because he thought he’d make “a great partner to help lock in talent, to promote the show and to help with the creative aspects.”

Combs is also no stranger to TV production, having quietly set up three cable shows in recent years: HBO’s “The Bad Boys of Comedy” and MTV’s “Making the Band” and “Run’s House.”

What’s more, Combs is the owner of two restaurants, so “Celebrity Cooking Showdown” is something that’s “not out of my space,” Combs said.

“The sexiest trend going on right now is young men learning how to cook,” Combs said. “There’s nothing more sensual than a man cooking for his woman. We wanted to do something that fit that trend in the marketplace.” From a production point of view, a food competition also offers plenty of potential drama.

“Cooking is a lot of pressure,” Combs Diddy said, noting a chef risks complete disaster “if you cook something one second too long or measure something one millimeter of a spoonful too much.”

Silverman said he’s been “working on this in secrets for months now,” with NBC giving the show a greenlight only recently.

Peacock will strip “Celebrity Cooking” over five nights starting Monday, April 17. Net used a similar strategy in December to launch successfully the gameshow “Deal or No Deal.”

“It gives the show an event status,” said NBC reality topper Craig Plestis. “It’s must-see television when you have to be there for a week, with a lot of a noise, a lot of bang. And if it’s successful, you can bring it back as a regular series.”

First three episodes of the series will feature each of the three chefs tutoring a celeb and training them for their moment in the spotlight. Celebs will then face off against each other in a timed competition to create a three-course meal.

Judges will determine one celeb winner from each night, with the three finalists squaring off for a Thursday finale. Winner, determined by a mix of judges and viewer votes, will be revealed on Friday.

As with “Biggest Loser,” Silverman plans to offer a service component to “Celebrity Cooking,” with chefs offering viewers ways to improve their cooking techniques.

“You can practice what you see on TV the next day in your kitchen,” Silverman said.

There’s plenty of ratings evidence to suggest auds are hungry for food-themed skeins.

In addition to the success of Food Network, Fox generated solid ratings last summer with its “The Apprentice”-style chef series “Hell’s Kitchen.” And this fall, ubiquitous foodie Rachael Ray will launch a daily syndie strip with a boost from Oprah Winfrey.

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