French-born and currently residing in London, Chef Novelli – along with his executive chef, Steven Kitchen, and pregnant fiancée, Michelle – comes to Los Angeles to establish his first American based culinary academy, which is renowned across Europe. The first order of business is for Chef Novelli and Mr. Kitchen to interview and screen potential students. As part of the admissions process, the hopeful students are asked to perform a simple, yet surprisingly nerve-racking task: cook an egg, any way they want.
Ultimately, nine students are chosen to participate in Chef Novelli's prestigious American culinary venture, and on the first day of class they are asked to create what they would consider their "signature dish." While this is only the first practice test for the students, Chef Novelli reminds everyone that failing three of the tests is grounds for automatic dismissal from his academy.
As an introduction into the culinary world, each of Chef Novelli's students is presented with the honor of their very own embroidered chef jacket. Chef Novelli then gets down to business, teaching his students their first lesson on desserts. For their test, the students must recreate one of the desserts demonstrated by Chef Novelli. If the student passes, they are granted permission to attend the open house party at the academy. If they fail, they are asked to leave and only have two more chances to hold their spot at the esteemed Novelli Academy.
Chef Novelli also takes his students to a local farmer's market to inspire them on the fine art of purchasing fresh produce.
After a few days together in the kitchen, the students begin to get to know one another and obvious friendships are formed. At the same time, one student's hidden past is revealed and it shocks his fellow classmates.
With lessons in full swing, Chef Novelli teaches his students how to make the perfect risotto accompanied by his grandmother's famous tomato sauce. Fashionista Suzanne decides to call in a tailor to alter her chef's coat. Not surprisingly, Chef Novelli is irritated that she is disrupting his lesson and he asks her to leave his school for the rest of the day.
For their end of week test, the students are asked to recreate the Chef's risotto and tomato sauce dish under strict time constraints. While three greatly exceed expectations and are invited to join Chef Novelli, Steve, and Michelle at a Malibu red carpet party, the other students are left waiting to hear the results of their test until after the weekend.
This week, Chef Novelli's lesson for his culinary students is on the ancient craft of bread baking. After the lesson, the students are given time to practice their newly acquired baking skills.
With the imminent arrival of Chef Novelli's new baby, Suzanne decides to throw his fiancé, Michelle, a baby shower at her home in Mission Viejo. She ropes her fellow students into helping with the shower, and together they create food for the party.
After the baby shower, it is yet again test time for Chef Novelli's students, who are asked to bake bread as they were taught a few days earlier. After completing their cooking test, one student is named "leader of the class."
Tensions arise as one student begins to get on everyone's nerves. Well into their studies at the Novelli Academy, tight alliances are forming between the students. Further testing these relationships, one of the students is awarded dinner cooked by Chef Novelli and is granted permission to invite two other students to join her. Groveling at such a treasured opportunity, the students begin to battle for her attention.
In their weekly test, the students are asked to recreate three vegetarian dishes. The students are divided into three teams of three, and must pass or fail as a team. Due to a low passing rate, Chef Novelli gives the two failing teams a chance to redeem themselves by competing to create a marzipan flower.
Chef Novelli arranges for the students to take a field trip to Long Beach to go out on a fishing boat and learn how to catch fresh fish. Unbeknownst to Novelli, two of the students have issues with boats, and one refuses to go on the trip in exchange for cleaning and performing undesirable tasks back at the Academy. The remaining students enjoy a day in the sun and are treated to a lesson in fresh caught seafood preparation and cooking aboard the boat.
After returning to the Academy, the students are given a lesson in other seafood dishes such as scallops and squid. However, more drama is on the horizon when one of the students discovers she is allergic to squid and has to have a doctor called into to combat the allergic reaction. The students are then split into three groups, each group preparing the same dish (fish casserole, scallops, or squid) and the best dish of the group is named Chef Du Jour. Some of the students are walking a fine line with at least two fails already under their belt.
It's Meat Week at the Novelli Academy! Students are taught to prepare chicken, lamb, and pork all in eclectic ways. While this may be the most anticipated lesson to date, it also ends up being the most challenging for many of the students.
With only two weeks to go until graduation, Chef Novelli decides to put the students to their hardest test to date. Not only are the students asked to make one of the three meat dishes, they are challenged to make one of the fifteen dishes learned earlier in the class. The problem? Two dishes means two opportunities to pass or fail. Some narrowly escaped elimination last week, but now others are on the line to be expelled from the Novelli Academy.
The mood at the Novelli Academy is somber in the aftermath of one student leaving after failing three tests. But there is no time to dwell because Chef Novelli has announced that as their final, the students will collectively prepare a gala dinner for local esteemed chefs and other VIPs. Chef Novelli chooses one of his students to be the head chef for the gala dinner.
In an attempt to complete some of the more arduous tasks prior to the dinner, the students gather the night before the gala for prep work. However, two students have a problem with their assigned dish thus the entire class falls behind. With graduation at stake, tensions arise between two students in particular, and everyone is worried about the final outcome of the dinner, especially the head chef. The result of this meal will determine who graduates, and who does not.
The gala dinner has finally arrived and the students are scrambling to finish their dishes. In a classic Chef Novelli move, he announces that he will be standing at the end of the assembly with a trash bin tasting the food prior to it leaving the kitchen. Which dishes will measure up, and which will end up in the trash? The pressure is intense as the students present their dish to their esteemed guests, and wonder if Chef Novelli will allow them to finally graduate.