The average reality TV cooking-show hosts sure do love to talk down to their chefs. Even the higher-end shows like Top Chef devote two entire segments to judges telling the home cooks how amazingly they sucked at what they attempted — no matter how ridiculous the parameters set by those very same judges were. There’s no greater antagonist of the common chef or restaurateur than Gordon Ramsay. The man built his reputation on elevating British cuisine to new heights. Then he used his powers for evil and has spent the better part of the last decade screaming at people who dare to make the slightest of errors.
Chef Jacques Pépin is probably best known as the master of all things French. His cookbooks, TV shows, and restaurants are the divine fillings of haute-cuisine foodie-legends. He’s known for his gentle demeanor and world-class cooking. It may not come as a surprise, then, that Chef Pépin is not a fan of “reality” TV these days and the way chefs and food prep are portrayed.
In an open letter Chef Pépin wrote to promote his newly-pressed cookbook, New Complete Techniques, he clearly states his utter distaste for all things related to reality-TV cooking. The letter laments the current state of some celebrity chefs by pointing out what should be obvious:
The process of combining ingredients together to create a dish, is never seen on these shows. Nor is the process of tasting, adding an ingredient, then tasting again and commenting ever shown. Dishes appear from somewhere, and the tasting is only done by the dictator chef at the end of the show, and only in the context of disagreeing, conflicting, or contesting the taste.
While this makes for great TV (for some), it doesn’t convey the camaraderie of the kitchen or in any way help the viewer learn any real cooking skills. Nor do these shows intend to teach anyone the finer intricacies of technique.
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Many would argue that these shows exist as pure entertainment. Chef Pépin counters that “so-called ‘reality’ shows…portray the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light, and I believe it is a disservice to our trade and to young people who want to go into this business. The worst offenders insult and humiliate their crew.” Many shows do make it their point to portray the kitchen as hellish, even going so far as to include ‘hell’ in a reality show’s title.
Pépin closes by reminding us that food preparation and eating is supposed to be something that’s full of love and joy, not hatred and tension. “Julia Child used to say that you have to be happy when you cook for the food to be good, and you also have to be happy in the eating and sharing of the food with family and friends. … I agree with her assessment. It is impossible to enjoy food when you’re angry and tense.”
That’s a lesson we can all appreciate. We’re looking at you, Gordon…
(Via The Daily Meal)