This image is from the official trailer for “The Big Brunch,” distributed by HBO Max.

As the temperature starts dropping and trees lose their leaves to make way for winter, “The Big Brunch” takes you back to fall with its comforting, warm and homey feelings.  Hosted by Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Hulu’s latest reality cooking competition show takes on the increasingly beloved meal of the day: brunch. As arguably the most versatile meal, brunch offers contestants the freedom to create all kinds of dishes, both sweet and savory. Sohla El-Waylly (a New York Times cooking contributor and one of TIME 100’s next innovators) and Will Guidara (former co-owner of three-Michelin-star-winning and #1 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Eleven Madison Park) join Levy on the judging panel. Levy helped pick out the contestants on “The Big Brunch,” allowing for more personal relationships between him and the chefs. While he isn’t a culinary expert like the other judges, his humor and personality make for a welcome addition to the show. 

“The Big Brunch” aims to celebrate 10 chefs who are changing their communities, whether it be by searching for more sustainable and environmentally conscious ways to consume our food or teaching cooking classes for young children to learn more about the food and culture of their ancestors. So far we have seen contestants share stories about their inspirations and the importance they feel their cooking has in their communities, making it much easier to empathize with and support the chefs. In this age of increasing discourse about online recipes being co-opted without credit to their cultures, it’s refreshing to see conversations about the personal experiences of chefs from a variety of backgrounds. 

In each episode, contestants are given a theme to follow while creating two courses (a starter and a main) for each of the three judges. The theme in the first episode was “You”; contestants were tasked with creating dishes inspired by what motivates them as chefs and what inspired them to pursue the culinary field. One contestant, Danielle Sepsy, made scones and biscuits from a recipe she created when she was 14, which fueled her love for baking. Another contestant, J Chong, made Cantonese dishes inspired by her heritage, which she also serves in her pop-up restaurants. In every episode, one contestant is eliminated and is no longer in the running for the $300,000 prize.

On other cooking competition shows, like “Master Chef Junior,” the winner of each episode is given an advantage: Maybe they’ll decide what kind of meat each contestant will cook, get extra time added to their clock or choose which judge they get to dunk in pasta sauce. However, “The Big Brunch” offers the winner of each episode a different … prize? Granted, I’m no culinary mastermind, but it just seemed like somebody forgot to come up with an actual reward, as the “prize” for winning each week’s challenge is the advantage of having your food tasted first during the next week’s competition. Going early definitely can make a difference in the quality of the food, but from an audience perspective, it’s probably one of the least interesting prizes to award and very underwhelming to watch.

The show’s organization doesn’t always flow, resulting in confusing and slightly distracting “brunch and drinks” gimmicks. At every tasting, a bartender comes out to crack some jokes and banter with the judges while delivering them drinks, which seems both unnecessary and out of place. The whole encounter also gets a noticeable amount of screen time as the scene is replayed multiple times. Truly, I have no idea why. Perhaps the bit was meant to humanize the judges more, but it was more perplexing than anything else.

Critiques aside, “The Big Brunch” hones in on the cozy feelings for a feel-good watch that is reminiscent of “The Great British Bake Off.” Unlike many other cooking competition shows, contestants on “The Big Brunch” help each other bring food up to the judges and constantly support each other after critiques. Every member of the cast has a compelling story about why they pursued the culinary industry and why they view food as the ultimate community-connecting tool. The wholesomeness of Chong especially stood out: She became very emotional and teary-eyed after a glowing review from the judges, taking great pride in her Cantonese culture and passion for cooking. The enthusiasm each contestant has for what they do and for supporting others gives off warmth through the screen, which is certainly enough to forgive the silly gimmicks.

With a wholesome cast of individuals who love what they do and a cute concept, “The Big Brunch” is the perfect cozy watch as winter settles in.

Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at jjaehnig@umich.edu.