Inside Move: Nets double recipe for celeb cookoffs

Food Network starts a 'Fight'

Turns out NBC isn’t the only network that thinks teaching celebs how to cook may make for interesting television.

On Tuesday, Al Roker Prods. – the “Today” weatherman’s production shingle – taped “Celebrity Food Fight,” a backdoor pilot for Food Network that bears an uncanny resemblance to NBC’s just-announced “Celebrity Cooking Showdown” (Daily Variety, March 13). Despite some key differences in format, both shows have the same basic recipe: Superstar chefs give semi-famous faces a crash course in cooking, then step back while the celebs try to outcook each other.

Roker’s “Food Fight” sports two big-shot East Coast food titans: Daniel Boulud and Todd English. Morgan Fairchild and Mario Cantone are the two celebs featured in the pilot.

Roker said his company, headed by Lisa Sharkey, has “been simmering this show in our creative culinary crockpot for more than a year now.” Ben Silverman, who’s producing the Peacock project with Sean “Diddy” Combs, said last week that he’s been thinking about the celeb cookoff idea for many months as well.

Given past issues with reality ripoffs – think “The Contender” (NBC) vs. “The Next Great Champ” (Fox) – it’s not much of a jump to assume either NBC or Roker might be peeved about the other’s project. So far, however, there’s been no sniping.

“Two people came up with similar ideas,” Roker said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s any scandal.” Still, he added, “I think I can say we had the idea first. I’m sure there’s room in the kitchen for more than one show.”

He also declined to say whether he pitched his show to NBC.

Roker produces a slew of food-related programs for various nets, and he says the fact that his special taped Tuesday indicates he “didn’t just slap this thing together.”

NBC and Silverman did not respond to requests for comment.

Peacock plans to air its show the week of April 17. There’s no word yet on when Food Network will air “Food Fight,” but Roker said the show could be ready in a week if need be.