Now in its third year, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is expanding its “OWN For The Holidays” annual tradition with the addition of a fast-paced and exciting holiday-themed cooking competition series hosted by Kym Whitley, “The Big Holiday Food Fight.” The new five-episode series will air Tuesday nights and began on November 16, leading up to this season’s original Christmas movies, which will debut on consecutive Tuesdays beginning November 30.
True to OWN’s annual holiday movie theme, each original movie celebrates and honors the deeper meaning of the season—giving to others and putting friends and family first. The movies will also air concurrently on discovery+.
I was able to sit in on a panel of OWN principals discussing this slate. Here is a digest and a few trailers for some of them.
“The Big Holiday Food Fight” – Tuesdays 8:00 p.m. ET/PT time slot.
It’s ‘knives out’ (but in a good way) when “The Big Holiday Food Fight” continues the competition on OWN this December. Hosted by Kym Whitley, this exciting holiday-themed cooking competition series from SallyAnn Salsano and 495 Productions (“Peace of Mind with Taraji,” “The Real,” “Jersey Shore” and “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Party Challenge”) celebrates the holidays with traditions, family recipes and a side order of fierce competition. In each episode, we crown a new King or Queen of the holiday table and put a little jingle in their pocket with enough cash to tackle some fierce Christmas shopping.
Three home cooks will bust out their most beloved holiday family recipes and ‘jingle bell rock’ the kitchen in a multi-stage cook-off that will leave only one home chef standing at the end of each episode—and the winner of a $5,000 stocking stuffed with cash. Appetizers, side dishes and desserts take center stage each week as our cooks are challenged to whip up their best family-favorite recipes to wow our accomplished judges, Gina Neely, Darnell ‘SuperChef’ Ferguson and James Wright Chanel. At the end of each round, our panel of judges will decide who stays for the next round and who gets booted out in the cold.
First Look: “The Big Holiday Food Fight”
Tuesday, December 7 (9 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET/PT) Episode: The Gloves Are On
It’s a battle of Hometown pride when an LA-based therapist tests her culinary skills against two younger competitors—a Detroiter full of Motor City pride and a true Southern gent in a crazy Christmas sweater. Battle lines are drawn in the kitchen, but the gloves DON’T come off when an early advantage for one chef has their competitors cooking in holiday mittens.
Gina Neely, one of the judges, said during the panel: “People are looking for a way to be happy.” Darnell ‘SuperChef’ Ferguson added: “The competition is fun to see, people are cooking food that I can relate to.” And social media darling of a few years ago, James Wright Chanel, said: “It’s amazing to be on the panel [of judges]. It reminds me of home, my grandmother didn’t need to measure.”
When this celebrity panel was asked which celebs’ homes they would like to visit for the holidays, Kym Whitley said she would love to hang out with Patti LaBelle or actress Tamela Jones. Chanel chimed in that he would also love to hang out at LaBelle’s house; Neely said, “Patti. We know it’s going to be awesome food and great singing.” And Ferguson said: “I’m going to Oprah’s house; I know she has some layout.”
“A Chestnut Family Christmas” premieres Tuesday, November 30, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
Starring Meagan Holder (“Nina Chestnut”) and Brad James (“Malcolm Butler”)
When a talented pastry chef, currently working as a live-in cook, accidentally commits to hosting her family for the holidays, she poses as the wealthy homeowner in order to impress them and to remove the “black sheep” burden she has been carrying her whole life. All seems to be going well, until everyone’s secrets are exposed and relationships begin to unravel.
First Look: “A Chestnut Family Christmas”
“A Sisterly Christmas” premieres Tuesday, December 7, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
Starring Deborah Joy Winans (“Kristina Marshall”) and Kendrick Cross (“Keith Fisher”)
Two sisters, one who loves Christmas and everything that comes with it and the other who can be the scroogiest of Scrooges, receive an early Christmas gift: an inheritance that takes them on a once-in-a-lifetime luxury holiday vacation. Their Christmas proves to be more than they bargained for when they run into their childhood rival, now a Broadway star who digs in on these sisters, testing their resolve as women and their bonds of sisterhood.
I adored this movie, as the sisters started out in a strained relationship, and the generosity of their aunt gave them the chance to renew their relationship—although the rebirth was initially aimed at besting a former ally of theirs.
They come together and Winans’ character learns to cool out a bit and find peace and love in her heart, as well. The film also stars Lisa Michelle Cornelius as Vicky Marshall, Kristina’s sister. Winans, who announced that she was expecting a boy last August, talked about her life and how her family celebrates the holidays. “Christmas music starts in October, and it gets you going. My grandmother’s sweet potato pies, macaroni and cheese and honey baked pies.”
Kendrick Cross, who plays love interest Keith Fisher, said: “I go with the flow, and a good snow lets me know that it is Christmas time. The Donny Hathaway song ‘This Christmas’ sets it off for me.”
First Look: “A Sisterly Christmas Trailer”
“A Christmas Stray” premieres Tuesday, December 14, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
Starring Andra Fuller (“Ethan”) and Rhyon Nicole Brown (“Foster”)
A tightly-wound corporate executive finds himself hopelessly stranded in a small mountain town on Christmas Eve, unable to shake the adorable stray dog who ran him off the road, and irresistibly drawn to the free-spirited, local veterinarian who is sorely in need of some Christmas magic herself.
First Look: “A Christmas Stray”
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (lulu.com) or email: [email protected].