Sunday, July 01, 2012

Burnt Offerings

I’ll admit it; I love cooking shows. And while I profess to hate reality TV, I’ve gotten rather addicted to watching reality cooking shows. Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Next Food Network Star, Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef; yep, I like them all.

I do watch other food related shows as well. I loved ‘Good Eats’ and was a little sad when I found out that Alton Brown had decided to stop doing it. Watching actual cooking shows, where the host shares a recipe and technique is great. It gives me ideas for new things to try instead of just the same old standards all the time.

The “reality” shows, though, do provide entertainment. Each week trying to figure out out who gets cut from the competition, or can [insert celebrity chef here] turn around that restaurant and get it back on track or will it fail despite [celebrity chef]’s efforts?

The “reality” model seems to be seeping into cooking shows more and more. There’s already Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ on BBC America. Not to be outdone, the Food Network has ‘Restaurant Impossible’ with Robert Irvine, which is, frankly, a ripoff of Ramsay’s show with the slight twist of a limited budget ($10k) and limited amount of time (only 2 days). I’ve also seen advertisements for a couple of new Food Network shows that follow the “save a struggling restaurant” model, one in which Bobby Flay has only three days to help a new restaurant prepare for opening night, and another one with Anne Burrell auditioning candidates to become the new head chef for an existing restaurant. Does that mean I won’t watch them? No. I’ll still probably watch them even if they aren’t completely original.

The problem with the reality cooking shows though is that they tend to get away from the cooking and focus too much, sometimes, on drama. Sure it’s fun to watch Gordon Ramsay or Robert Irvine get into an argument with the clueless head chef or restaurateur, but you find yourself asking, “what really happened?” Let’s be honest here; we don’t get to see everything that was filmed. These guys spend anywhere from two days to a week at a location helping them change things, but all we get to see is what’s been edited down to a one hour television program.

What would be really fun to watch, in my opinion, if we’re really going to keep running with the reality motif, would be to pit Gordon Ramsay vs. Robert Irvine in a ‘Kitchen Nightmares vs. Restaurant Impossible’ battle. Would be interesting anyway. But really, at some point, I just want to see good cooks sharing great recipes and cooking techniques or shows like ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ that feature great food from around the country. That’s what a cooking show should really be about - the food, not the drama.

~ JC
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