Reader: I was never a good cook, until I discovered cooking shows

Categories: Cafe Society

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Mark Manger
Welcome to So Perfect Eats.
"Food programming has come a long way since Julia Child cooked her way into our hearts," Gretchen Kurtz wrote earlier this week. "For all her affability, Child was trying to do one thing: demystify fine cooking for an audience dependent on canned soup and casseroles."

But did Child, and all the food celebrities who followed, actually make it tougher for home cooks? Can a home-cooked meal -- or a meal at a cafe started by a woman with only an artisanal baking class under her belt -- ever measure up?

That's the question Kurtz set out to answer when she reviewed So Perfect Eats this week.

See also:
- With so much culinary perfection on TV, can a home-cooked meal measure up?
- So Perfect Eats is the perfect place to take a break from shopping.

- Slide Show: a closer look at So Perfect Eats

But readers have other questions about the influence of food TV. Says rusprincess:

I agree there is an overload of cooking shows these days, some of which demolish the original concept Julia Child had in mind -- a clear example of which would be Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking. Nevertheless, I believe many of these shows may be a progression of what Julia Child started. Some had to be tailored to incorporate current trends, such as reality TV and competition. This is where the network makes the money and the audience gets the delight of drama.

It is truly up to the viewer to make a choice which shows to select. The hope here is that the viewer is listening to the message competitors are trying to send on shows such as Top Chef. They often tell their individual story as to how and why they developed a passion for food and with that a viewer can learn where to gain extra knowledge. I myself was never a good cook, and once someone made a joke of it: "You know what you can make well? Reservations!" So once upon a time when I stumbled upon Food Network I watched numerous episodes of Barefoot Contessa and later bought her cooking books. I started with baking and moved up to other dishes. I did not watch Top Chef until Season 4, but I enjoyed Iron Chef -- even the original version.

I believe cooking shows and specifically the variety of them can be very inspiring to people. I imagine it starts with people reaching out for a notepad and a pen, taking notes, which then slowly transforms into them standing by their hot stoves dripping in sweat, trying to replicate a recipe of parmesan garlic mashed potatoes. I don't think the amount of cooking and food shows we currently have would make people want to run out to a restaurant and if someone does, I sure hope they end up at Z Cuisine and watch Julia Child cook away magically.

Do you watch cooking shows? What affect do you think they've had on restaurants -- and customers?

Location Info

Z Cuisine

2239 W. 30th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

The only Food Network Chef I follow is Ina Garten.  I'm a better cook than most of the rest.  The real stars Bobby, Emeril, Mario, Alton have all moved on.  I do enjoy the PBS shows though.  Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich, Marianne Esposito, Ming Tsai, Jacques Pepin, Martha Stewart and Hubert Keller - all class acts.   Following Lidia has really bumped up my Italian repertoire and I always learn something from Martha but I'm not going to spend three days in the kitchen to prepare some of her dishes.  She has a new show that focuses on kitchen basics though.  It would be very useful to beginners (and a good refresher for some of us who've developed some sloppy techniques over the years).


Food programming these days has its positives and negatives, much like in the old days. Each viewer gets what they want out of the shows.

For me, I never enjoyed the "cooking shows" much because they went to fast for me to follow and the recipes never came out the same. Growing up with a mother who was one step below a gourmet (at least in my memory!), this was disheartening. So after college, I stayed away from the kitchen.

Then came Emeril, Bobby Flay, Iron Chef, and Top Chef. I still watch Top Chef to see who the up-and-comers are, and who I should visit when I travel. But what these shows taught me is that precision in preparation is FAR more important than precision in ingredients. Don't have shallots? Use an onion. Experiment with spices; keep what you like, don't use the others. The QuickFire Challenges on Top Chef go so far as to say "Mix-n-Match what's in your pantry -- in the kitchen, anything goes". BUT, they all stress to learn your knife skills, learn your heating temps, learn how to test meat for doneness. My biggest fear in the kitchen was making sure everything was plate-ready at the same time. No longer. I've learned that pulling food off just a tad early and letting it rest in the oven is perfectly fine. I've learned to time my cooking better. And I've learned to relax in front of the grill --- because if everything isn't absolutely perfect, no one is really going to complain. We're not all Top Chefs, but we're also not being asked topack our knives and go home.

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