A new plant-based cooking competition show is on its way, thanks to the founders of vegan search platform vKind. The food show, called Peeled, came about after a standalone episode on vKind’s YouTube channel was met with raving reviews.
Drawing inspiration from other reality cooking competitions, such as MasterChef and Beat Bobby Flay, Peeled aims to provide vegans with more representation.
“As a vegan and a foodie, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with cooking shows,” said Star Simmons, vKind founder and Peeled creator.
“Peeled allows vegans and vegetarians to enjoy cooking shows again, and gives plant-based culinary arts a platform to be taken seriously.”
Panel of all-vegan judges
Each episode will feature classically trained chefs competing against each other in front of a panel of all-vegan judges.
The season one contestants – chefs Sandra Hurtault, Jaena Moynihan, Nicole Derseweh, and Donald Lemperle – will complete different culinary challenges in a bid to be named the “Hottest Vegan Chef.”
Each episode, the chef with the lowest scores will be “peeled off,” or eliminated, leaving the remaining contestants to progress in the competition. The final winner will be awarded a large cash prize to be donated to a charity of their choosing.
The Peeled squad
A team of well-renowned vegan professionals have been confirmed as judges, including chefs Chris Tucker, who appeared on season four of The Great American Baking Show, and Josie Clemens, who was a contestant in season 20 of Hell’s Kitchen.
“Competing in Hell’s Kitchen was a great experience, but not at all hospitable for a vegan chef like me, who would otherwise never opt to cook anything that wasn’t entirely plant-based,” said Clemens, who is now a co-creator of Peeled.
“I was thrilled to learn that vKind would be producing an all-vegan cooking competition. Signing on as co-creator was a no-brainer for me.”
Other judges include Sophie’s Kitchen CEO Dr Miles Woodruff, and CEO of VegTech Invest Elysabeth Alfano.
Meanwhile, chef and motivational speaker Babette Davis, along with journalist and fitness professor Dr Shabnam Islam, will host Peeled’s first season.
The growing ‘VegEconomy’
Peeled is also an opportunity to promote vegan businesses, Simmons explained. “We’re especially excited to provide vegan brands a new platform to showcase their products in front of an audience hungry for vegan alternatives,” they said.
“We roll out the green carpet for businesses of all sizes contributing to the VegEconomy.”
Peeled is being filmed in Las Vegas, at the Vegas Vegan Culinary School and Eatery – said to be the nation’s first completely plant-based cooking school. The show will debut on September 24 with a red carpet remiere at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles.
Peeled will launch 24 hours post-premiere on Unchained TV, which is available for free on Amazon Fire, Roku, and Apple TV.
Like its YouTube debut, the upcoming series has been met with excitement from much of the vegan community.
Its announcement did receive some criticism, however. Early advertisements of Peeled marketed the program as the world’s first vegan cooking competition show. (In fact, VegChef Brazil has been airing a similar project online since last year).
New York-based chef Charlise Rookwood, founder of Vegan Soulicious and host of The Black Vegan Kitchen, told Plant Based News (PBN) that the claims made by Peeled “saddened” her.
Such marketing “seems rather disingenuous,” Rookwood said, noting that all four of the program’s contestants are white.
“[Peeled’s] lack of diversity is one of the main reasons I refused to promote it,” Rookwood said.
Especially “considering Tabitha Brown’s new vegan cooking competition will be featured on a mainstream media channel in August, a full month before Peeled,” she added.
Indeed, on August 11, a new cooking competition show featuring only plant-based meals aired on Food Network. Called It’s CompliPlated, the new series is hosted by Brown and sees chefs creating dishes that cater to various dietary restrictions.
“This show is about to change the way we all see food,” Brown shared on Instagram. “It’s for everyone and I can’t wait to take you all on the journey with me.”
‘Peeled’ responds to criticism
Following conversation on social media about the program’s diversity and its claims of being the world’s first vegan cooking competition show, Peeled issued a statement on the matter.
“Upon reflection and consideration of valid concerns about the accurate representation of which project was ‘the first’ were brought directly to the attention of vKind by individuals not affiliated with Food Network who had seen our initial marketing, we were able to take a step back [and] recognize our error,” reads the statement, which was sent to PBN.
Consequently, the vKind team “elected to rebrand Peeled as ‘The Ultimate All-Vegan Cooking Competition Show,’ in an effort to keep the conversation accurate and centered on ending animal exploitation.”
Speaking on Peeled’s representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, creator Simmons said: “We set high standards when casting to ensure we had the best competing chefs we could find, given our constraints.”
“Being a grassroots campaign with limited resources, looming deadlines, and challenges presented by COVID-19, we made every attempt to create a richly diverse production, resulting in over 60 percent of the cast and crew being members of marginalized communities,” they added.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishment; our only regret was not being able to showcase BIPOC vegan excellence the way we had hoped with the original casting. Should the production of Peeled continue under our care, we commit to doing so at each opportunity moving forward,” Simmons said.
This article was originally published on March 16, 2022. It was updated on August 1, 2022 to rectify the false claim that Peeled will be the world’s first vegan cooking competition show, and to include comments made about the program’s lack of diversity. It was updated again on August 17, 2022, to include statements issued by Peeled in response.