New BBC America cooking show combines travel and adventure

It was only a matter of time before all the eating of rats and scorpions on “Survivor” grew tiresome. Perhaps that’s why producer Kevin Greene and “Chopped” producer Chachi Senior created a new cooking series for BBC America that combines exotic locales with dodgy outdoor adventures. There’s just one little catch: there’s no kitchen.

No Kitchen Required” takes 2008 Food & Wine “Best New Chef” Michael Psilakis of New York’s FISHTAG and Kefi, private executive chef Kayne Raymond (aka the resident beefcake), and former “Chopped” champ Madison Cowan, and drops them into ten remote locations to perform some serious hunting and gathering.

After being plunked down in Dominica; Belize; New Zealand; Fiji; Thailand; Hawaii; New Mexico; Louisiana, and Florida, each chef is handed a knife (“Pack your knives and go,” is not a sentence you’ll hear uttered on this series) and a few key ingredients. They’re then left to fish, hunt, forage, and otherwise scrounge up the remaining ingredients to “create a locally-inspired meal that will be judged by the community.”

Despite the gimmicky and somewhat contrived nature of the challenges, there’s a lot to love about this show. It’s fun, innovative, and despite my raging addiction to “Top Chef,” I’m happy to see a cooking show that finally requires the use of local/seasonal ingredients (let’s hope there’s no blow-darting of endangered monkeys or serving of shark fin). Weaving the regional and cultural element into the concept is genius. Braised nutria, anyone?

The series premieres April 3rd.

[Photo credit: © Gilles Mingasson for BBC AMERICA]

Hawaii travel still suffering

While it may indeed be safe traveling to Hawaii, not as many people are, at least from Japan. Last month’s earthquake in Japan turned tsunami that damaged or destroyed shops and attractions in Hawaii has taken it’s toll on tourism.

Before the disaster hit, tourism numbers were up with February spending clocked at $1.013 billion, an increase of 18.7 percent over the previous year. Airline seats sold to Hawaii from Japan were on the rise too, up 2.4 percent.

Now, the number of Japanese visitors to the Aloha State has fallen 25 percent since the March 11 quake, compared with a year ago, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority reports the Wall Street Journal. Hotels are reporting cancellations of future bookings as high as 45 percent too.
The tsunami that struck the Big Island of Hawaii spared lives and no serious injuries or deaths were reported but caused an estimated $30 million in damages. Big players in the Hawaii hotel business the Four Seasons and Kona Village Resort both closed. The Four Seasons is scheduled to open at the end of the month. Kona Village still has not set a reopening date.

The Japanese, a critical ingredient in Hawaii’s tourism success story, typically do not go far from home during a crisis and the crisis in Japan is far from over. Hawaii tourism officials are hesitant to predict when it will be business-as-usual again.

“This is more than dollars and cents, it’s a relationship we have with them,” Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority told the Wall Street Journal. To help tourism, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has authorized $3 million in emergency funds for pitching Hawaii to markets other than Japan.

That might be working too. Today, the Hawaii Tourism Authority revised it’s projections to reflect an 18 percent decline in arrivals from Japan for the month of March, less than the authority’s initial 25 percent estimate.

But while tourism may be down, low air price to Hawaii have fueled higher prices at hotels. tracks price increases and reports a 25 percent hike in hotel prices. “Everyone’s favorite island getaway, Hawaii, jumps one spot to the top of the list this month. Leisure travelers are taking advantage of recent airfare sales to Honolulu, driving hotel demand and increasing rates.” but concludes “The good news is that lying on the beach and swimming in the warm Pacific Ocean are still free!”

Flickr photo by Madmarv00