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Take a Culinary Journey Through the Heart of America on ‘No Passport Required’

Plus, a travel show, a cooking competition, and more TV recommendations for the weekend

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No Passport Required/PBS

This post originally appeared on July 13, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome back to Friday. It’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to watch this weekend, and thankfully, there’s a lot of good stuff out there, including a new culinary travel show that Eater — yes, the publication that produces this newsletter! — launched with PBS this week. Here, now, are three things to consider watching, along with a roundup of the week’s entertainment news.

Marcus Samuelsson eats his way through Middle Eastern Michigan

No Passport Required, a new travel series from Eater and PBS, looks at the role that food plays in immigrant communities across America. The host of this series, Marcus Samuelsson, is a chef who understands what it’s like to call more than one place home. He was born in Ethiopia and adopted at a young age by a Swedish family. After growing up in Gothenburg and working through some of the great kitchens of Europe, Samuelsson landed in New York, where he’s lived for the last three decades.

In the ‘90s, Marcus turned heads by serving foie gras pudding with garam masala ice cream at the heralded New York City Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit. His mid-aughts foray Merkato 55 was an ambitious (if ultimately ill-fated) mixture of African cuisine and Meatpacking District sizzle. And at his Harlem flagship Red Rooster, the chef serves fried yardbird alongside Swedish meatballs.

Samuelsson shot to stardom by creating menus that reflected his own life story. And now, on No Passport Required, he’s learning about how other immigrant chefs have used the foods of their homelands to build new lives for themselves in America.

The first episode finds Samuelsson in the Middle Eastern community of Dearborn, Michigan, just a short drive from Detroit. His eating agenda includes Iraqi falafel at Naba Brick Oven Bakery, high-end Lebanese fare at Phoenicia Restaurant, forward-thinking dessert at local hot spot Selden Standard, and a wedding feast at the sprawling Byblos Banquet Center. Along the way, Samuelsson also eats maqlooba with a family of Syrian refugees who recently came to America, and he makes lamb tarts with Selden Standard’s pastry chef Lena Sareini and her grandma.

Although he clearly has a deep knowledge of the world’s cuisines, Samuelsson doesn’t assume the position of a culinary know-it-all, so much as someone who really loves cooking and eating with other people. And like the late Anthony Bourdain — a colleague who’s referenced at the end of the episode — Marcus has a knack for zeroing in on just why, exactly, a dish or a moment in a meal is so special.

As an Eater editor, I’m really proud of all the work that my colleagues have done to bring this program to life. And as an avid watcher of culinary travel shows, I’m thrilled to see someone who exhibits such admirable levels of both expertise and empathy in front of the camera. The first episode of No Passport Required is now available to stream on PBS and right here on Eater. New episodes will continue to roll out on PBS and Eater on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. throughout the summer.

Streaming selections du jour

Sugar Rush/Netflix

Sugar Rush

Watch it on: Netflix

The gist: Earlier this year, Netflix jumped into the world of cooking competitions with the launch of the tongue-in-cheek series Nailed It! and the weed-tastic romp Cooking on High. But now, the streaming giant is debuting its first-ever totally serious culinary challenge, and judging by the first episode, it looks like Netflix might have another hit on its hands.

Sugar Rush is a baking challenge where four teams of two compete in a series of timed, increasingly difficult challenges for the chance to win $10,000. In an inspired bit of gameplay, the contestants can bank extra time for the final challenge by finishing one of the first competitions with minutes to spare. The premiere installment features a bunch of over-the-top desserts like red wine-chocolate cupcakes topped with prosciutto-caramel cream, and a pineapple pound cake that resembles an egg-topped avocado toast. They’re all showy pastries, but it’s fun to see how they come together.

The desserts are judged by Australian celebrity baker Adriano Zumbo and American cupcake tycoon Candace Nelson, as well as a rotating special guest — in the pilot it’s pizza/gelato master Nancy Silverton of LA’s Mozza restaurant empire (and Eater’s 2017 TV Chef of the Year). In terms of tone, the judgements are a bit tougher than what you find on the Great British Bake -Off, but not as dramatic as Top Chef.

The show definitely has enough tension to keep you engaged for a full hour. All eight episodes are now streaming on Netflix.

Girl Meets Farm, “Farm Brunch Anniversary”

Watch it on: Amazon Video, iTunes

The gist: This new cooking show is basically the Pioneer Woman but with a younger, hipper aesthetic — and yet, somehow, it doesn’t feel derivative due largely to the fact that host Molly Yeh is so charming. In the pilot, the food blogger-turned-Food-Network-star prepares an anniversary brunch for her framer husband and their extended family that includes artisanal Pop-Tarts, cast-iron shakshuka, bacon’d-up Brussels sprouts, and a mayonnaise-y riff on patatas bravas. All of the dishes look easy and fun to make, and the recipe segments are broken up by amusing excursions outside the kitchen to visit friends and family. If you’re into cozy cooking shows, Girl Meets Farm is one to put in your queue.

In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something hearty and a bit spicy to make between now and Monday, consider whipping up Deuki Hong’s kimchi pancakes.