Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chefs Talk About Food TV

Chefs talk about FoodTV

Hey Everybody,

This was, in part, an interview that I was given this week with some
replies from a couple of my chef friends.

I have since passed some of the interview questions to some of my other
friends so this may come to be a series of articles offering different
perspectives about culinary programming, and our industry as a whole.
Stay tuned and please feel free to forward this to people that you think
may find subjects such as these interesting.

When was the last time you watched Food TV?
Am watching it now.

When was the last time you learned something off of a TV chef?
Last week, I learned that the smoking of meats was initially done
because it kept the flies away from the product and then they discovered
that it preserved the food as well.

What was it and on what program?
Alton Brown's "Good Eats"

What impact do you feel that programs like Great Chef's, local PBS
Cooking Shows and FoodTV programming has made on our profession?

I have had this conversation several times with different walks of
life, both personally and professionally.

Personally, I do not watch cooking show programs too often, although I
do find myself, at times, listening to a cooking program while working
on the computer. I feel that it sometimes makes for provocative
thoughts and ideas.

As far as the impact that I feel that the culinary programming has made
on the industry, I feel that the impact has been an immense one.

People that frequently watch this genre of television shows have found
their own reasons for watching cooking programs. Some for education,
some for new ideas, yet others for principally the entertainment value of
the programming. Aside of this, it has brought to showcase finer foods
that 20 years ago you could hardly find if you were not an epicurean or

Celebrity Chefs like Emeril, Wolfgang, Mario, Alton Brown among all
the others have taken the simplicity of food and shared it with the
world, bringing a new realization to the general public of what our
profession is all about. The cooking shows of the past 15-20 years have made
personalities such as these household names, placing these celebrity
chefs into the limelight and for the first time in history placing them
into the Fortune500.

As a culinary professional, I sometimes find these programs of little
use in the workplace, but as Nancy, a friend and distinguished Chef in
NYC stated, she often watches culinary programming just to see if she
can catch that idea that makes us go “Duh!!! Why didn’t I think of

In reference to this, I believe one of the greatest things of being a
culinary professional is being our own worse enemy. Being able to take
an idea, a method, a recipe, a situation and take it to the next level
to make ourselves better chefs, cooks, managers, humans which
eventually leads us to professionally host our customers ultimately by
providing the best experience, staff, and product the market has to offer.

Do I think FoodTV has made an impact? Heck, yeah!!

Chef Kevin a cyber buddy from Canada replies:

Hey Mike!

As to FoodTV, I don't have much time to watch it these days, but I used
to quite a bit. I'd say it's been 6 months since I've turned it on.

Last time I learned something from a TV chef.... gotta go back into the
recesses of foggy memories.... I'd have to say either some tidbits from
Christine Cushing on her show (up here in Canada anyway), or something
from Emeril, which I like to watch 'cause I like his personality and
style. I also like Alton Brown because he really delves into the why's
and wherefore's of food... really an informative half hour.

Like I said, it's been a long time since I've actually sat back and
watched FoodTV. When I do, I'm always on the lookout for some little thing
to inspire me... more so than teach me. We all need some idea to get us
"outside the box" on occasion, and what better place to find it than
watching professionals in action.

I've always been of the opinion that anything to get people interested
in food is good, even if it's not a good show. I once watched Emeril do
a show on beer and beer making, which I've done quite a bit of. I
thought his shaking of the carboy, and watching it foam everywhere, was
hilarious because I would never do such a thing. Doesn't mean I would never
watch him again, just made me think "He's never made beer before!"
Everybody's human, even a superstar, and they're allowed to screw up, too.

I tell people, especially those who come to my classes and demos, that
the past 10 years or so has been very good for the cooking/chef
business due to things like FoodTV, TV chefs, and of course... the internet.
Information is now everywhere for anyone to see, and as a result,
products that were never available in places like little ol' Nova Scotia, can
now be found pretty easily.

Also, it has influenced cooking techniques everywhere, and I mean
everywhere. I'm certain there's "fusion" in every country as people learn
about other cultures, and their individual techniques. I know I haven't
had the opportunity to travel and "Chef my way around the world", so
I've learned a lot from watching & researching via TV, cookbooks and the
internet. Learn when and where you can, I always say, as long as you're

What all of this has done is begin to remove that mysterious line
between us (the professional chefs), and the home cooks, giving them the
confidence to grow personally. That's all good! That's my biggest purpose
for teaching, getting rid of the mystery in cooking, and making it
easier for people. I think it is for nearly everyone on FoodTV, too.

Chef Kevin

Chef Kevin made some valuable points that I thought I would touch base
on before we get on to Chef LouAnne’s reply.

LEARN!!!! No matter what the source, be it FoodTV, a cookbook or
searching something up on the internet, no one knows everything. The success
of our industry is based on the Chef, the sommelier, the manager, the
line cook that never stops learning and never thinks that he has reached
his ultimate plateau. Always think outside of the box!!!! ( or being that I am a chef maybe I should say “Think outside the pot”
The ultimate plateau is the one that is just beyond our grasp at all times.

As a professional, I often have found myself criticizing the
programming versus accepting and analyzing what I just experienced. Chef Kevin
here makes a valid point. No one is infallible, whether we are in a
kitchen or in front of a television camera. Emeril is a case in point. I
have often found myself laughing at something ridiculous that has
happened, but being humble, he makes a joke out of his mistakes, which often
makes the mistake turn into a learning experience for both himself and
the viewer. Things such as this add to the entertainment value of the

In the words of Wolfgang Puck “…when you have made as many mistakes as
I have, then you will be as good as me…”

And just for the record Alton Brown is the only show I will sometimes
go out of my way to watch

OK next….

This is an excerpt from my friend and Pastry Chef, LouAnne who works
for Bon Appetit Management Company in Missouri. Her reply in its entirety
can be viewed at

“Well I have many loves as well as dislikes to be honest. I like to
watch Great Chefs, but have you ever really watched them? Close up of
hands? Band-Aids on fingers and such, with no gloves?
.....arghhhhhh.....and the hoopla we take for such actions.

I watched a show the other day something about Carmen Electra’s shower
and the guy was licking his fingers...this infuriated me!!! How many
food safety and sanitation videos have I had to
watch?...OMG, I do not wish to remember!!! Didn’t these professionals
have to watch the same set of HAACP and ServSafe videos?

I like iron chef notably because of the time limit or reality as I see
it. I dont know if they get any sort of clue of what they will be
cooking but in my book those are the real pros....the ones that can
pull my ole"rabbit outta the hat trick"...ha

Acting on knowledge not formulas and recipes

But I guess my favorite individual is Julia. She has the best demos I
think. More casual atmostphere, kinda gives that cooking at home feeling

All in all, I prefer to really see the chef doing the work....not all
the product created by
the people in the background put on show by the chef persona..."

Chef LouAnne made some very valid points, which we can discuss all day
long, especially her food safety and sanitation issues. How many times
have you watched a program and the host was wearing gloves? In today’s
kitchen it is pretty much mandatory, why not on this type of
programming? How often have they cleaned their hands during the programming? How
many times have they wiped their hands on their aprons and then
continued food handling? Just a couple things to make you go

Well, I hope you enjoyed the long overdue newsletter�feel free to email
me any rebuttals, I have already started on the next one and am looking
for some other points and points of view�

Cheffy instigates yet another one�

May Serenity find its way into your day today and everyday�


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