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Some people say that TV chefs are like greasy pizza: all flashy marketing and bad food.

Their criticism bemoans the end of good cooking, when quieter though slightly snobbier culinary masters prefered to speak through their dishes.

Of course, there are chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay who are excellent chefs and earned the right to dispense cooking advice to others. But what do you say about Rachael Ray or Paula Deen, who have no formal training and restaurant experience? Or the tendency of today’s TV shows to emphasize performance rather than kitchen knowhow? (Classic example: Iron Chef.) Comments welcome!

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Askmen.com has made its list of the 6 most influential celebrity chefs. They’ve shaped public opinion, and even changed the culinary community.

1. Jamie Oliver
2. Anthony Bourdain
3. Mario Batali
4. Bobby Flay
5. Gordon Ramsay
6. Paul Bocuse

Read the reason for their selection — and post here why you agree or disagree with their list. Who would you have included?

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Food and WIne magazine recently released the list of the best new chefs in the United States. These are the next generation chefs, in their mid-20s, and yet already showcasing brilliant talent and drive. Watch out for them!

Alton Brown

Time to write Santa, “Good Eats” fans! Alton Brown has just released a 27-disc DVD collection of some of his most popular episodes. With titles that include “Wake up Little Sushi” and “Your Pad Thai or Mine”, you can tell why this TV show has such a strong following. He presents interesting and useful kitchen tips in a crazy, humorous way. You laugh, you have fun, and you cook better too. What’s not to love?

The DVD set is sold at Food Network for $235.95. Makes a great holiday gift!

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If there is one celebrity chef who is getting major media exposure, it is Rachael Ray. This non-traditional (read not a professional chef or trained in a culinary school) cook went from teaching shoppers a few basic recipes in a cooking demo class to having multiple shows on the Food Network, books and Magazine. You can literally spend everyday with Rachael Ray though it isn’t likely to be in person through these sources.

Her magazine, Everyday With Rachael Ray, is a very useful resource. The recipes included aren’t just a list of ingredients and instructions. Each one has pictures as well so that you know what your finished product is supposed to look like. There are recipes for kids, 30 minute meals, meals for cooking once a month with friends and easy to prepare meals. Just a little something for everybody.

The magazine and its contents are just like Ray herself. It is fun, easy to read and understand. The recipes are easy to follow and result in delicious meals that don’t take forever to make or any major cooking skills.

Anthony Bourdain has been guest blogging on Ruhlman.com and recently wrote about the celebrity chefs on Food Network. Yes, he admits to watching the Food Network and laments at what it has become.

He praises Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Giada de Laurentiis even as he mourns their truly awful shows. He points out that these chefs are successful business people, restaurateurs and chefs. They can all cook but the network does not make the most of their talent.

The chefs he does not praise are Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen. As he points out, Rachael Ray announces that she can’t really cook and yet she beat out Giada de Laurentiis who truly can cook and indeed makes great meals. What is the network coming to?

He ends his entry with his dream Iron Chef match ups. The one I agree I would like to see is Marco Pierre White vs. Gordon Ramsey.

Check out his blog entry for yourself and see if you agree with his opinion.

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If you are looking for something light to read, check out Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Written by New York Chef Anthony Bourdain, the book was a bestseller when it first came out in 2000 and it is still an interesting read now. Originally written as an expose of what really goes on in the restaurant business, the book is funny and entertaining. If you’re expecting a cookbook, this isn’t the book to read.

There are some fascinating and quite important tips included in the book. For example, do not order the fish on Mondays since this usually isn’t fresh but 4 day old stock. He also mentions that some establishments do recycle their unused bread.

Kitchen Confidential though also talks about something that most people forget. Professional cooking isn’t an easy task. It is work, and sometimes hard work at that. The book talks about what the life of a cook is really like – not the glamorized version we see on TV. This book reminds us that there are many people behind the scenes who put together the meals we all love.

This book is better than any reality TV cooking show if you want entertainment and learn something about the restaurant business. It is now available in paperback in stores.

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Frank Bruni, the New York Times’ renowned food critic visited Gordon Ramsay’s first New York restaurant, The London. Sadly, the rating came to a mere two stars out of a possible four. In his critique, Bruni wrote that he found the place “unexciting” and the food “predictable and lacking in inspiration”.

The rating was a surprise. Gordon Ramsay’s other establishments have had much better ratings. The fiery chef’s food is normally able to command better reviews. To be fair though, Bruni did note that some dishes did earn his “compliments to the chef”.

Bruni also noted that the decor was unimaginative, with the exit sign the most eyecatching object. He wrote that he felt he was “in a space capsule floating through a supra-national limbo” while eating in The London. Not exactly the most appealing of settings.

While a two star rating from the New York Times may mean very good but it falls far short of expectations for a restaurant of Ramsay’s. Looks like some adjustments in the kitchen will be happening to add more “excitement” as Bruni suggested.

When I saw this book written by 30-minute-meal-maker Rachael Ray, I immediately thought of those travel guides used by backpackers. When I lived in London in my college days, backpacking friends would pass through the city and stay at my flat, and every single time they came with a copy of “Europe on $20 a Day”.

So back to Rachael’s $40 take, which is less of a travel guide and more of a companion to her tv show of the same name. In the show, Rachael packs her bags and bids goodbye to her sunny kitchens at the Food Network and travels in search of the best eats for $40 a day.

Although Rachael travels the world in search of gourmet meals on a tight budget, most of the venues are in the southern Atlantic coast and Northeastern parts of the US. Abroad, she does visit obvious foodie countries like France and Italy.
There are a few recipes of pretty basic recipes (think clam chowder and french toast), and although the book does not have an index (my other bone of contention with her “30 Minute Meals” cookbook), the restaurants are grouped geographically which makes things somewhat simpler.

In general, this book picked up mixed reviews. Most of the people who bought it were fans of the show (or of Rachael) anyway and thought the tips and photos to be great – but if you were expecting a recipe-worthy cookbook or a concise travel guide to restaurants, you’d probably be disappointed.