Every once in awhile a reality show comes along that actually has something important to say. In 1995 it was The Farmer's Wife. In 2001 it was 1940s House. In 2002 it was To Be and to Have. And now on the unlikely little Food Network spinoff network the Cooking Channel, it's The Freshman Class.
This six-episode documentary follows a small group of students who have one thing in common: they want to be chefs. The students face various challenges. One woman is in her 40's, has raised children her whole adult life, and now dreams of having a real "career" before it's too late. Her goals, however, clash with what her husband wants. Another is a 22-year-old single mother who wants to stop pole dancing and do something her four-year-old daughter can be proud of. Another, Jared, is an Iraq veteran who was made nearly deaf in an explosion. And lost his best friend.
Jared's story is perhaps the most moving. After seeing so much death and destruction, he vowed he would just do something he loved when he got home, and that was cooking. Jared wants to open his own restaurant. The name of the place? Purple Hearts. (Watch this deleted scene where Jared talks about the explosion that took his hearing, and his best friend.) There are plenty of documentaries about war, but few that explore the aftermath of a soldier coming home. We're rooting for Jared. This is a must see.
The Freshman Class airs Mondays on the Cooking Channel. Watch the first episode here.