Hell's Kitchen, being screamed at by Chef Gordon Ramsay? "You call this Boeuf Bourguignon? It is swill, you stupid donkey."
Or Julia Child on Chopped, trying to make a soufflé using Velveeta, paprika, bay leaves and gummy bears?
Today would have been the 99th birthday for Julia Child, an influential and colorful chef, author and TV personality with strong local roots. She helped to demystify French cooking, as well as encourage cooking in general. Cooking shows have certainly changed since Julia Child debuted on The French Chef on February 11, 1963. Her show was one of the first cooking shows, and was successful from the start, airing for ten years. In general, she would prepare a different dish each show and as the shows were taped live, mistakes sometimes occurred, which added to Julia's charm. After that show, Julia would go on to star in a number of other successful cooking shows.
Nowadays, there are probably close to 200 cooking shows on television, on the Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, Recipe TV, Bravo, Fox and others. The popularity of cooking shows seems to be at an all time high. Sure, there are still some traditional cooking shows, where a single chef or cook shows people how to prepare a variety of dishes, from many different cuisines. But there is now a wide range of other types of food-related shows as well, including the "competition" shows, where food lovers, cooks, chefs and others compete in a variety of different culinary challenges and contests.
I watch some of those shows, such as Hell's Kitchen, Chopped and Man Vs Food, primarily for the entertainment value. But I wonder what impression such shows give about food lovers and chefs, whether it portrays them in a positive light or not. Does Adam Richman promote gluttony as he demolishes heaping platters of food within a limited time period? Does Anthony Bourdain depict the stereotypical "ugly American" who makes fun of other cultures? Do you really need to scream and insult chefs, like Gordon Ramsay does, to inspire them? Do these food stunts reflect the reality of the life of a chef?
You are seeing more and more chefs appearing on television, including locals like Joanne Chang, Jamie Bissonnette and Jason Santos. It seems to benefit them, to provide positive publicity for their endeavors. So they must consider the trials and tribulations of these culinary competition shows to be worth it. But that is but one element of the equation, and does not say anything about the previous questions centered on Richman and Bourdain.
What would Julia Child think of such culinary competition shows? Would she ever participate on such a show? Or would she see them as mere stunts, unworthy of her attention?
What are your thoughts on these culinary competition shows? Do they have value beyond entertainment? Do the positives outweight the negatives?
As Julia Child said at the end of every show: "Bon appétit!"