With all the television programs to watch these days via Netflix, Amazon Prime and streaming on the internet, I proudly admit to the world that I am a cooking show junkie.
My favourite cooking program is MasterChef Australia. I love the talent and positive attitudes of amateur cooks. By the end of the show, they are quickly preparing dishes that are refined. Though it is sometimes a struggle to appreciate the contestants’ Aussie enthusiasm for bugs (like a wide crayfish), a pipi (like a mussel or cockle), barramundi, vegemite or lamingtons, the recipes they prepare look amazing.
My second favourite is any show featuring Chef Jamie Oliver. I discovered his Naked Chef programs when I lived in Germany 15 years ago and now I catch episodes of his many other shows online. He teaches viewers to make tasty dishes with inexpensive foods, explains his ingredients and demonstrates practical kitchen techniques.
My next preferences are Iron Chef America, Bake Off: The Professionals and Siba’s Table.
I enjoy watching MasterChef with Gordon Ramsey, MasterChef Canada, Cake Boss, and Chopped (though I dislike their last three seasons), Cake Wars (the host is annoying) and Sugar Rush (weirdly, their guest judges are not bakers). However, I only watch these when my preferred shows are on hiatus.
The über-competitive and mean-spirited competition shows where contestants are encouraged to say nasty things about one another and brag about their supposed abilities is a turn-off for me. Their negative babble is contrived and has nothing to do with kitchen skills – when I deign to watch these types of cooking shows, I shout at the screen, “Just shut it and cook!”
Most definitely, it is a treat to watch Gordon Ramsey prepare food – he is instructive. His curse word-filled tirades (“he flames people” as my son says) at contestants’ poor choices in the kitchen (i.e., Hell’s Kitchen) are entertaining. Nevertheless, I believe that cooking competitions should be mostly about who can make the tastiest food according to the competition rules, any side drama should be minimized.
Hearing the two judges in Bake-Off: The Professionals, tell the hotel pastry chef team contestants that their beautiful preparations (in my view) “taste terrible,” or “this is the sloppiest thing I have ever seen,” or your dessert “turns my stomach,” is harsh, but as professionals, these aspirants for the trophy should be held to a tougher standard.
As a kid, when I came home from primary school, I watched the French Chef with Julia Child and Graham Kerr’s Galloping Gourmet when I could. Even though I was too young to understand a lot of what they said, these programs launched my attraction to cooking/baking shows.
As the youngest of four kids, my mom didn’t press me to cook meals. She was a full-time primary school teacher who also taught summer school and weekend classes. Therefore, my older sisters had to help with meal preparations and I usually laid the table. My big sisters are now superb cooks, whereas my specialty somehow became baking (biscuits, cookies, cakes, brownies, pies, and quiche) which I copied from cooking shows.
These days, I work long hours and can only fiddle with recipes and techniques learned from cooking shows on the weekends when I happily overdose on various kitchen competition episodes. During the week, I rely on fast recipes just to have something to eat. However, when there is time, (thanks to cooking shows) I can get down with the pots, pans, and Pyrex.
Cooking shows are prime time television draws. There is even a ‘Food Channel’ because such shows are so popular. Get hooked on cooking and lift your spirits by creating great stuff in the kitchen.