With so much culinary perfection on TV, can a home-cooked meal measure up?

lynda campbell.jpg
Mark Manger
Lynda Campbell in the kitchen of So Perfect Eats.
Food programming has come a long way since Julia Child cooked her way into our hearts, boning chickens, flipping potato pancakes and never missing a beat when the occasional pan dropped on the floor. For all her affability, Child was trying to do one thing: demystify fine cooking for an audience dependent on canned soup and casseroles.

So I can't help but wonder what she would think of today's characters mincing and whisking as if their lives -- or at least their reputations and marketability profiles -- depended on it. My hunch is that she would laugh along with some of the antics in this season's Top Chef (shout out to Tyler Wiard and Eliza Gavin, the last two Colorado chefs standing), but she'd probably be horrified at the overall evolution of food TV.

See also:

- Tyler Wiard meets Tom Colicchio, his "celebrity chef who needs to shut up," on Top Chef tonight
- Five reasons why Guy Fieri should drive to Douchebagistan and never come back
- So Perfect Eats makes a splash in Cherry Creek

For all the thousands of hours of techniques and recipes shared over the airwaves, I wager that the last decade of celebrity chefdom has done more to mystify cooking than ever before.

Having seen so much culinary perfection on TV and in restaurants, how can a home-cooked meal ever live up? (It can, but until you get in the kitchen and, yes, drop a few pans on the floor, how will you ever know that?) Anxiety now creeps in when it's time for dinner, and instead of peeling carrots and browning chicken, more and more folks -- not just college kids, but people with advanced degrees who are smart enough to figure out this whole cooking thing -- are either eating out or turning to prepared foods from upscale markets.

So I appreciate that Lynda Campbell, chef-owner of So Perfect Eats, followed the road less traveled. Leaving a career in fashion to start her café in Cherry Creek North with only an artisanal baking class under her belt, she launched the restaurant as an eminently capable home cook. Which might be why the food tastes like what we'd make at home -- if only more of us were home to make it.

Find out just how good her soups, sandwiches, salads and baked goods are when my review is posted here tomorrow.

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I agree there is an overload of cooking shows these days some of which demolishthe original concept Julia Child had in mind. A clear example of which would beSandra Lee’s “Semi-Homemade Cooking”. Nevertheless, I believe many of these showswe currently may be a progression of what Julia Child started. Some had to be tailoredto incorporate current trends such as reality TV and competition. This is wherethe Network makes the money and audience gets the delight of drama. It is trulyup to the viewer to make a choice which shows to select. The hope here is that theviewer is listening to the message competitors are trying to send on shows suchas Top Chef.  They often tell theirindividual story as to how and why they developed a passion for food and withthat a viewer can learn where to gain extra knowledge. I myself was never agood cook and once someone made a joke of it: “You what you can make well?Reservations!”So once upon a time when I stumbled upon Food Network I watched numerousepisodes of “Barefoot Contessa” and later bought her cooking books. I startedwith baking and moved up to other dishes. I did not watch Top Chef until Season4 but I enjoyed Iron Chef even the original version. I believe cooking showsand specifically the variety of them can be very inspiring to people. I imagineit starts with people reaching out for a notepad and a pen, taking notes whichthen slowly transforms into them standing by their hot stoves dripping in sweattrying to replicate a recipe of parmesan garlic mashed potatoes. I don’t thinkthe amount of cooking and food shows we currently have would want people to runout to a restaurant and if someone does I sure hope they end up at Z Cuisineand watch Julia Child cook away magically.

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