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Are Cooking Television Shows Too Unrealistic?

In his blog on the New York Times, food journalist Mark Bittman makes the claim that food television — particularly cooking shows that teach a viewer how to make something — are too unrealistic. Unlike the real world, the chefs never make mistakes and each dish always comes out perfectly. He says:

When you watch most celebrity chefs go to work on TV it is a) baffling and intimidating, and b) a charade. Baffling and intimidating because nearly every ingredient is usually prepared in advance, and what isn’t is selected so that the chef can show off his (almost never “her”) knife skills, which are bound to intimidate nearly all of us who can never aspire (and why would we, really?) to chopping an onion with our eyes closed.

While I understand how the lack of miscalculation may isolate a viewer, I disagree with Bittman. I enjoy the Barefoot Contessa because her world is an escape from my reality: In her sunny Hampton house the food is consistently delicious. Rather than feel intimidated, I feel inspired! What's your take on Bittman's perspective?


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jessy777 jessy777 7 years
I love the Food Network. I will spend almost all Saturday watching cooking shows. Most of the "cooks" on the show are trained chefs or trained in the industry. I've tried many dishes and while mine may not come together as quickly or look as pretty, it tastes good and expands my abilities. I have the unfortunate of being born into a family of cooks and restaurateurs without the natural ability to cook myself but I am getting better.
i think this is a case of a writer with nothig to write about
bengalspice bengalspice 7 years
I always feel inspired by Guy and Giada.
hausfrau hausfrau 7 years
Why does it have to be hard to be "real cooking"?
hausfrau hausfrau 7 years
Ugh I hate foodie snobs.
Meike Meike 7 years
No, not intimidating at all. I fail to see what good it would do for a chef to make errors on a show. I want to know how something is made and done correctly so I can emulate the chef's behavior and procedures. If I set higher standards for myself and learn from people who cook better than me, then my cooking will improve.
cupcake345 cupcake345 7 years
No one has mentioned Emeril's new show on "Planet Green" - it may take place at Whole Paycheck, but it's most accessible cooking show so far - I love it!!
tuscanstellina tuscanstellina 7 years
Oh wow, I totally disagree. While I could never make it on Iron Chef, the other shows do not intimidate me. I find most of the shows that i like to watch to be inspiring.
girlwparasol girlwparasol 7 years
they don't intimidate me, but i find them to be useless. i'm not going to learn a technique by watching someone do it for 5.3 seconds. cooking shows just aren't long enough to be detailed. if i want to learn to do something, i either pull out a great cookbook, or youtube it these days. as far as the dishes they prepare, i find them inspiring - sometimes. but again, i can be just as inspired by well-written cookbook. i'm obviously so much more a book person than a tv person ;p but i as i was telling my bf the other day, i prefer to learn my cooking from non-celebrity cooks and chefs. they aren't pressured to perform, so they're often more relaxed and detailed in their explanations. (and yes, i really appreciate when they explain screw-ups that can happen, and how to fix them.)
courtneyd courtneyd 7 years
Just because they edit out the mistakes on TV doesn't mean I don't know they happen. Are they supposed to eat into commercial-time to show that they burnt a steak on an obviously scripted show? And while sometimes they do cut an onion at lightning-fast speed, sometimes they save a veggie or meat to prepare on camera to show a technique. Either way, the show would be quite boring if I had to watch the host chop all the veggies, or if every last thing came prepared. Just because food presentation doesn't affect the taste, it's a huge part of how I perceive a meal, and I love to learn new ideas in this realm. I agree with most of the comments here -- watching the shows inspires me. Sure, I need the recipe at the end of the show to make something, but sometimes I watch just to learn different techniques or interesting flavor combinations I might not have thought of before. I am growing tired of the new Food Network programming that focuses on reality TV and dumbed-down shows that seem to be targeted toward the "normal" person (I'm not sure when the norm in America became people who can't boil water). I love Giada, Martha, Alton, Mario, Emeril, Paula, Rachel, Bobby... some for the techniques I learn, some for the recipes they have, and I love No Reservations to see different ingredients from around the world and Iron Chef for its food presentation ideas. Hmmm, wasn't that just 4 women and 4 men I listed?
bluepuppybites bluepuppybites 7 years
I've been watching the food network for like 10 years and those early years the recipes and techniques were somewhat more complicated (though I was younger and never really cooked before) but I was impressed with the way they worked and have been addicted ever since. I am still watching the food network and can now understand the techniques and lingo now that I have cooked myself and tried adventurous things inspired from what I saw.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 7 years
Most cooking shows on Food Network have "cooks" not "chefs" My old roommate was a foodie snob and said that Rachel Ray doesn't teach cooking, she shows people how to be a housewife. Ouch. That's a little much, but I do tend to agree. Amazing chefs, like Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert or Grant Achatz would never make a meal in 30 minutes. We've got the French Laundry cookbook and the Tartine cookbook and both are far beyond my skills. So basically, food network "personalities", no not intimidating at all. But I wouldn't consider them real chefs. Bobby Flay, maybe, but I don't consider him human.
elainemak1 elainemak1 7 years
I learn a lot from cooking shows, and they don't intimidate me at all. Mark Bittman's food on his video blog is usually pretty inconsistent. Sometimes it looks good, other times, it looks gross - like the "Chinese" noodle soup broth he made a few weeks ago with soy sauce, ketchup, and chili mixed with water. No Asian person I know would ever eat that.
Rancher'sGirl Rancher'sGirl 7 years
Some of the shows are frustrating for me. Gordon Ramsay's F Word series in particular. He just does this, this, and that, and as he says, "done." It is a bit more complicated in my world. ;) Now Paula Deen and Emeril on the other hand...fairly basic but you can "gussy it up" if you want or need to. That I like. :)
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I don't think most cooking shows are intimidating at all. I agree with everyone else about how most of the chefs are very flexible and the recipes are usually pretty simple. Of course a lot of the shows are going to have all the mise-en-place done and have swap-outs because they only have about 23 minutes to show everything. I swear, Paula Deen cooks EXACTLY how my grandma cooks (my grandma's from Alabama) and a lot of her recipes are "stupid-easy", LOL. I've also tried a lot of Ina Garten's recipes and they always turn out great...basic, but tasty. I think the only shows that are unrealistic are shows like Iron Chef...that kind of on-the-spot skill would probably be totally unrealistic for any mere mortal chef.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 7 years
I love Ina Garten, but that's about it. I also like Bobby Flay.
aimeeb aimeeb 7 years
Julia Child rocked my world.
xxstardust xxstardust 7 years
The only thing that lets Rachael Ray do things so quickly is that her kitchen is *very* organized - the herbs she needs are kept RIGHT where she needs them to grab without searching in each episode. The individual recipes she does are really doable in half an hour, though - I love how quick they are and have made a lot of thing she's done on the show. I also love Paula Deen, Giada, etc. I've never found Mario Batali intimidating, but Bobby Flay? UGHHH I hate him. He's so mean and conceited ...
chancleta chancleta 7 years
no! cooking shows rock!
starangel82 starangel82 7 years
Depends on the chef. I've never tried actually cooking while watching though. I'm not that coordinated. I have to watch, look it up online, then cook. Still... I love Rachael Ray, Giada, and the Barefoot Contessa. I'm not really a fan of Guy, but I will say he is pretty easy to follow. But please don't get me started on Paula! :)
KadBunny KadBunny 7 years
Agreed, it depends on the chef. I love watching Paula; she's the southern American grandma I never had haha. :) Obviously the likes of Mario Batali are waay beyond me, and I know that. But as far as the way the shows are run: obviously ingredients are prepared in advance. They have no time to rummage through their stuff and cut the herbs separately in what, a 30 minute time frame? (well except for Ms. Ray who claims to be able to do it all in real time but I don't think so..) Besides the recipes are online :) Do people even really watch them to actually learn dishes? I just enjoy watching their techniques and picking up random tips but I never expect to learn a full dish just by watching. Maybe it's just me.
mswender mswender 7 years
Also, Jamie Oliver seems to make everything right then and not have things pre-prepared. His pod casts last as long as it takes to make the dish, very quick recipes, I have actually watched them while cooking.
mswender mswender 7 years
Also, Jamie Oliver seems to make everything right then and not have things pre-prepared. His pod casts last as long as it takes to make the dish, very quick recipes, I have actually watched them while cooking.
Dana18 Dana18 7 years
I disagree also. I never feel like they intimidate me. I learn a lot of techniques that I would have never learned unless I went to culinary school. And there are a lot of women chefs and cooks on TV, like Giada, Rachael Ray, Paula Dean, etc. He is underestimating his readers and believes we can not relate.
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