Mark Bittman, chef, author, and, yes, occasional food television personality, doesn’t think that you can learn how to cook by watching television.
In an interview by Ruth Reichl, according to Capital New York, Bittman said “I think what was learned from TV is that food is a worthwhile thing to think about,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone actually learned how to scramble an egg.”
I tend to agree.
The fact is that most cooking shows on television these days aren’t educational, they’re entertainment. While you can pick up morsels of knowledge along the way if you look for them, you’re not being taught how to cook. You’re being shown a perfect, rehearsed, condensed, and edited version demonstration. That, of course, assumes you’re watching a cooking show and not one of the reality, behind the scenes types of shows that are trying to pass as food television these days. But even my favorite shows, like Chopped, Top Chef, and Iron Chef, aren’t there to teach me how to cook. They’re there to entertain me (while they are marketing and selling me stuff).
That’s ok, though, because I’m not watching these shows to learn how to cook. But there is a real danger in how these shows are presented that intimidates some people in to thinking that they could never do what these chefs on television do, so they shouldn’t even try. Bittman goes on to say that “This whole thing ‘in order to cook, you have to be a chef’ has got things all backwards. The vast minority of people who cook wind up being chefs. No where else in the world, except for the West right now, would anyone ever think that cooking and being a chef was synonymous.”
That’s really our message, too. You don’t need to be a chef in order to cook. You just need to get in the kitchen and cook.
What do you think?
Do you think you actually learn to cook by watching cooking shows, or are they just entertainment?