Discussion Post #1- “TWO COOKS ENTER, ONE COOK LEAVES!”

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!
Today I figured I’d introduce something a little more interesting than my usual posts- I want to put a question to you, and find out what YOU think! Every now and again, I’ll set up a conversation and ask all of you to tell me what you think in the comments. I won’t put in too much, but I will be reading, so no matter what STAY CLASSY and keep it respectful, alright?

Let’s start with an easy one….

     Afternoon, all! Have you seen the latest episode of Chopped? How about Master Chef? Hell’s Kitchen? Top Chef? The Great British Baking Challenge?

     Neither have I, and I don’t intend to.
No judgement on you if you do, of course- you do you. To my mind, though, they just do not interest me, or represent the culinary world as I like to see it.

     When I was a kid, the only cooking competition show I ever watched with any fervor was the original Iron Chef, dubbed for American audiences from the Japanese. I loved seeing the crazy ideas that a genius could whip up under pressure, given the barest hints of what the secret ingredient would be, a team of cooks and stocked pantry to make it happen.

     Since becoming a professional cook though- and even while I was a student, when you think someone in my position would be watching religiously and taking notes- shows that have tried to follow in its footsteps simply don’t impress or thrill me anymore. While I allow there is still something exciting about watching cooks MacGuyver fine food under pressure, to me it feels like these shows take something I love and think about often and turn it in to a gladiatorial bloodsport.

In January of last year, acclaimed chefs Alice Waters and Jacques Pepin- the latter of whom has a unique place in the history of food television- echoed my sentiments very well.

“That’s not what’s cooking is all about,” Pepin told reporters at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. “Cooking is about being together, about love and sharing … That kind of confrontation that you have there is not really how you learn to cook, or how you understand food.”
Waters is in total agreement.
“We’re teaching fast-food values of our country in those competition cooking shows,” she said. “Cooking really is something that can be very meditative. It’s never about competition. It’s about the pleasure of dealing with real food and learning about yourself. … It can be empowering. To put that in competition really takes away from the essence of cooking.”

Do you watch any of these cooking competition shows? 
If so, which ones and why? 
Do you think they have value beyond just being spectacle?
Do you think they are a boon, or a burden, to the culinary world?Other famous personalities in food, like Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Flay, also have less-than-salutory thoughts on the subject. At one point, Bobby Flay decried some of his experiences doing his one-on-one competition show “Throwdown,” saying that he “…didn’t exactly enjoy showing up in the yard of someone’s grandma and acting like he could make a better meatloaf than her.” 

While I appreciate how much of it is spectacle- that competitors are chosen as much for how they’ll seem on camera as how they might do in competition, that judges are encouraged to be simultaneous honest and brutal to elicit as much drama as possible, and Gordon Ramsay’s shrieking sailor’s mouth is just an act- I feel like it’s all unnecessary and even degrading. Are we as a culture so competition-happy, so victory-drunk, that we need to see people sweat and bleed and possibly be humiliated over FOOD- for our amusement?

Discuss:
Do you watch any of these cooking competition shows?
If so, which ones and why?
Do you think they have value beyond just being spectacle?
Do you think they are a boon, or a burden, to the culinary world? Why?

Stay Classy,