REVIEW: ‘Best Leftovers Ever!’ Is Well Enough Worth Saving

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Best Leftovers Ever!

Best Leftovers Ever! is a Netflix Original cooking reality competition show where contestants must take yesterday’s leftovers and transform them into new, exciting dishes and win $10,000. Hosted by Jackie Tohn and co-judged by herself alongside David So and Rosemary Shrager, the short-form series takes a similar vein to Nailed It or Crazy Delicious, where three chefs of varying experience compete in two rounds of challenges per episode.

Best Leftovers Ever! is split into two challenges per episode. The first challenge sees competitors tasked with using as many parts of four leftover dishes as possible to create something entirely new. The second challenge has Tohn bring her refrigerator on set to reveal her “personal leftovers.” They’re always themed, such as dinner date or fast food, and must be turned again into something aligned with an entirely separate theme. There are three possible but random dishes each contestant can be given, and they must make their masterpiece in an hour. The format is nice and simple and fits nicely into less than a half-hour per episode.

I have recently grown to appreciate short-form reality competition shows, where different folks compete on each episode. It takes powerful hosts and judges to hold such a show when the contestants rotate every 25 minutes. But Best Leftovers Ever! certainly has what it takes. At first, I have to admit, I was a bit turned off. Tohn is absolutely odd, so they came off at first as an annoying influencer, and Shrager struck me as a stiff Brit. But I was totally wrong. Tohn’s awkwardness is absolutely endearing, and So and Shrager are equally hilarious in their own separate ways.

But not only are their personalities swell, their tips for cooking with leftovers, or just cooking in general, are actually really helpful. Everybody has leftovers from time to time. And we live in a country where, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, between 30-40% of all food in the U.S. is thrown away every year. Don’t get me wrong. Eating your leftovers will absolutely not solve food waste problems. No personal consumer choices could ever change such a systemic issue. Nonetheless, I believe that personal consumer choices can be a gateway to more deeply understanding an issue, and Best Leftovers Ever! can certainly be a piece of that gateway.

I absolutely wish the show straight up pointed out food waste issues and some of its causes, but the creative concept behind the show is definitely motivating. I don’t love that the first episode is about “healthy foods” and “comfort foods.” Still, overall, the way that the contestants can take some of the most barebones or unappealing of leftovers and turn them into culinary delights is excellent. They are often dishes that truly anybody can try in their own kitchen with surplus foods they don’t otherwise think they’ll eat.

Sometimes they get a little too fancy. It almost feels like they adulterate the leftover so hard that it’s barely present anymore. But the judges are quick to criticize that behavior. And some of the specific challenges inherent in leftovers make things totally unique in Best Leftovers Ever!, like the greasiness of french fries or the dehydrated nature of certain cooked meats.

The set is a bit bare, I think. There’s a really fun giant Chinese takeout box, but it’s basically just used as the spot that folks go not to overhear the judges’ deliberation. And besides that and the polka dots, that’s kind of it. The camera angels make up for it, often just zooming in on the contestants or the judges or their food. But there are some angles where it’s clear they’re in a giant empty room, which gets a tad awkward. The ingredients contestants are described as having at their disposal for their creations are minimal dry goods and some kitchen staples. But, it’s a bit odd to me that it never feels like anybody was ever constrained by what would otherwise sound like it should be a restriction.

The music design is quite good, though, and the contestants themselves are generally pleasant. I don’t know why only one person per episode always has such a sad story. It seems like it can’t have been on purpose, given how much time there likely was between casting and filming, but the number of folks with sad stories started getting to be a bit much when it was always one per episode and rather intense.

Best Leftovers Ever! is a perfectly entertaining new cooking competition show. Its creative premise is quite fun, and while it grinds some of my gears as somebody whose full-time job pertains to food waste, it’s a generally positive portrayal of what unexpected fun you can have with leftover food.

Best Leftovers Ever! is streaming now on Netflix

Best Leftovers Ever!
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Best Leftovers Ever! is a perfectly entertaining new cooking competition show. Its creative premise is quite fun, and while it grinds some of my gears as somebody whose full-time job pertains to food waste, it’s a generally positive portrayal of what unexpected fun you can have with leftover food.