There is little doubt to anyone that knows me how I feel about cooking/baking shows on TV and the “Chefs” that present them. The content of many of these shows is vapid at best and the presenters/participants are merely fame seekers desperate to be noticed by someone…anyone. I say all this as a TV Chef myself but more about that later.
Designed to entertain rather than educate viewers about food, such shows regularly portray those that work in kitchens as little more than bullies, sadists, morons and backstabbing wannabes; people you sooner avoid at all costs than sit and listen to (however many hundreds and thousands listen to and watched them.) I’ve yet to understand the fascination of such shows but then again I’ve yet to understand the fascination with Celine Dion, binge drinking, jumping into frozen lakes in wintertime and Everton Football Club.
The interest in TV shows about food, cooking and baking has grown exponentially over the last few years, and at the same time people are cooking less and eating out more often.
As a side note (and a chance to name drop outrageously), my very good friend Roland Mesnier, Executive Pastry Chef to five Presidents of the USA at the White House has often remarked that people don’t go out to dine anymore; they go out to eat and there is a huge difference.
What’s become apparent is that many of these new TV shows aren’t really anything to do with food but are about (supposedly) entertaining by placing obstreperous people at odds with each other and then sitting back to watch the results. It’s all about conflict and nothing to do with food. It appears we don’t really want to learn about food we just want to see people arguing about who can cook/bake better than whom.
Food shows are watched by the masses and those same masses often believe that, as we all eat, many of us should consider ourselves (on some level) to be judges of good food. Unfortunately that’s like saying “because I breathe I’m an expert on the respiratory system of humans”. It’s simply not true.
So what’s to be done? Is it possible to turn back the clock and enjoy watching Julia Child or Lidia Bastianich? I’d like to think so but I’m in a minority it seems. These two iconic cooks had/have a connection with food few can come close to. It was a passion not to become the best at the expense of everyone else but to learn and respect not only their teachers but the food they used to make it the best it could be.
People have often asked me if I’d be interested in appearing on the new style of TV shows and my answer is always the same; a resounding “No”. As a follow up, I’m then usually asked why I appear on a TV show if I hate them so much. My local PBS station, WGBY, asked me if I’d be interested in participating in local based show about food. As soon as I realized the program truly was about food, cooking and baking; that it was about highlighting quality Chefs that care about the ingredients they use and source them locally; that it was about local food producers and farmers that are invested in the land and that truly care about the food they are connected with, I jumped at the chance. I saw it as an opportunity to educate and to have a bit of fun as well. Fun it most certainly is (I’ve had the chance to work with the amazing professionals at WGBY) but I’ve learned a great deal also. The abundance of quality ingredients and passionate people of the Pioneer Valley that bring it to us are a great TV story we should all feel good about.
Then again, what would I know? I’m just a sadistic bully that can’t wait to stab you in the back!