Famous chefs criticize competition cooking shows

 Jacques Pepin and Alice Waters books

For many years, chef competition programs like Bravo TV's 'Top Chef' and the Food Network's 'Chopped' have been highly popular with food lovers. Some food media experts credit this show and others like it for reinvigorating interest in home cooking. But a few people don't think that the program is doing cooking any favors. Culinary icons Alice Waters and Jacques Pépin recently critized some of these shows at a Television Critics Association press tour stop.

The chefs feels that the shows promote the worst of the U.S. "fast food culture". Says Pépin, "It's a disservice very often because this is not what's cooking is all about. That kind of confrontation that you have there is not really how you learn to cook. Or how you understand food." Waters agrees, saying that cooking is "never about competition. It's about the pleasure of dealing with real food."

Waters admits, however, that the country is in the midst of a food revolution, and the public is ready to "start learning how to cook." One could argue that part of this readiness is due to the popularity of cooking shows like Top Chef and Chopped. But on the flip side, some studies show that people who watch reality cooking programs actually cook less, and are less healthy.

What's your take on these competition shows? Do they encourage interest in cooking, make us hungry and therefore eat too much, or a little of both? 

Update: Pepin clarified his remarks in a Facebook post to Tom Colicchio:

"A couple of articles that came out recently that were not quite accurate. Below is the note I wrote to Tom Colicchio and I trust this settles the matter. -JP

Dear Tom
I was at a PBS convention in Pasadena over the weekend and was quoted as criticizing the reality food shows and they mentioned Top Chef. I criticized shows where the chef insults and yells at the cooks and the cooks are fighting between themselves as not being conducive to learning and good cooking and I still stand by that. That certainly did not include Top Chef. I have been privileged to be part of it several times, I enjoyed it and I have great respect for you as a chef. I am writing a clarification on my Facebook Page.
Hope all is well with you and your family. See you soon.


Dan Barber to bring experimental food waste restaurant to London

The Third Plate

Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farms in New York didn't always plan to be a chef. Originally, he wanted to be a novelist, enrolling in English Literature at Tufts University in Massachusetts. He turned to food service in an attempt to earn money for college, working in Los Angeles' fabled La Brea Bakery. Food soon became his main passion, and he has been a driving force in the industry for years. He did find a way to work in his writing, publishing The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food in 2014.

Even though he is an award-winning chef, Barber isn't content with just making delicious meals. He has long promoted sustainability, and to emphasize the amount of food that is wasted in the US each year, in 2015 he created a popup restaurant called wastED (the capitalization referred to "education"). There he served food made exclusively from what would be considered waste products: burgers made from beetroot pulp, fries repurposed from corn for cattle, and novelties like "carrot top marmalade".

Now Barber is bringing that sensibility to London. He's creating a popup at the rooftop restaurant at Selfridges on Oxford Street beginning in February. The popup will be open for about a month, and will feature items with a "uniquely British flavour". He is busy sourcing products like the rich "bloodline" flesh from salmon that gets discarded, and he's talking with local chicken and dairy farms about their waste products as well. "A project like the one I am trying to do at Selfridges couldn't have existed even 100 years ago," says Barber. "Because there was no waste from agriculture, everything was utilised."

The rags to riches story of Marie-Antoine Carême

Careme cookbook

Exactly 184 years ago today, the world lost its first celebrity chef, Marie-Antoine Carême. The story of how Carême rose from impoverished beginnings in France to become the foremost culinary authority of his time is chronicled in an article from NPR's The Salt

It's difficult to overstate Carême's influence on Western culinary traditions. He brought to life the "mother sauces" - béchamel, velouté, espagnole and allemande - the foundation of French cuisine, which was copied throughout Europe and North America. We also owe Careme a debt for perfected the soufflé, and introducing the idea of piping through a pastry bag. He's even responsible for the iconic white, double-breasted, chef's jacket still worn by most chefs today.   

Carême wrote cookbooks that would be used in European kitchens for decades beyond his untimely death at age 50. These works, including Le Pâtissier royal parisien and the five part series L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle were among the first cookbooks that systematized basic cookery principles including drawings and step-by-step directions. Over 100 years before televised cooking shows, "Carême walked readers through common kitchen tasks, instructing them to "try this for yourself, at home" as celebrity American Chef Julia Child might do."

Julia Child's kitchen design advice

 Julia Child

As you may know, the kitchen that Julia Child used in her Massachusetts home (and which was featured in some of her shows) can be found in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Visitors can view all corners of Julia's kitchen through viewposts set into the doorways that existed in the house. If you have seen the kitchen, or any photographs of it, you realize that Julia her own unique style of organization, learned from a lifetime of cooking. 

If you are interested in the thinking behind this kitchen design, you will find it, plus advice that Julia provided to award-winning architect Pamela Heyne, in a book that was released last year. Heyne, along with co-author Jim Scherer (Julia's staff photographer), wrote In Julia's Kitchen:  Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child

You can read an excerpt from the book on the website Literary Hub. The excerpt includes quotes from Julia, along with a in-depth description of different areas of the kitchen, from the iconic pegboard that held tools and cookware, to the three pantries, and even the flooring. 

Not surprisingly, Julia was a kitchen gadget aficionado. Heyne notes that "As far as Julia was concerned, you couldn't have too many. She adored her food processor, but also had almost every kitchen tool ever invented-in every size, shape and color!"  When Heyne commented to Julia that she found the countertops to be cluttered with all of these gadgets, Julia brushed off the comment, stating "Others might need more. I only need this much." It's just one more reason to love Julia. 

Christopher Kimball responds to the ATK lawsuit

 America's Test Kitchen cookbooks

Last month we reported on the lawsuit filed by America's Test Kitchen against Christopher Kimball where ATK alleged that Kimball  "literally and conceptually  ripped off America's Test Kitchen." Kimball recently filed his response to the lawsuit, and it paints a very different picture of what happened.

The article lists the highlights of Kimball's response, which was filed just a few days ago. Not only does Kimball disagree with the major points of the lawsuit, he has filed a counterclaim against ATK, alleging that it is he who has been damaged by ATK's "defamatory" and "baseless" accusations against him and his company, Milk Street.

In his response, Kimball denies that he ever signed any type of noncompete agreement that would limit his ability to create a business that is similar in concept to ATK. He also asserts that ATK knew that he was creating a new company and that the company gave him its blessing to do so. Kimball also goes on the offensive against ATK, arguing that the website they created (whywearesuingchristopherkimball.com) contains several false statements. "ATK has exploited this litigation, using it as an excuse for its nationwide media campaign to defame Kimball by improperly imputing criminal conduct to him and otherwise impugning his character and integrity," the response alleges.

It seems that Kimball is prepared to fully litigate this matter. A long, drawn out lawsuit could be detrimental to both organizations, but for now it appears to be headed down that path.

The Pioneer Woman launches her own magazine

 The Pioneer Woman cookbook

Fans of Ree Drummond, who rose to fame due to the popularity of her blog The Pioneer Woman, will be delighted to learn that she will be launching her own magazine next year, with a tentative launch date of June 2017. According to the publisher, "The Pioneer Woman  magazine will feature a strong emphasis on food, showcasing Drummond's accessible style for cooking, meal planning, and casual entertaining. Additional stories will cover fashion, lifestyle, family, and culture/fun, along with personal anecdotes and photographs of her life on the ranch."

The magazine is a collaboration between Hearst Magazines and Scripps Network Interactive, which owns Food Network, where you will find Drummond's television show, also called The Pioneer Woman. In addition to continuing her blog and hosting TV programs, Drummond has written several popular cookbooks. Her most recent book, 2015's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper!, has old over 750,000 copies and enjoys a five-star rating in the EYB Library.

Catching up with Diana Kennedy

Diana Kennedy Nothing Fancy book cover

Diana Kennedy reigns as one of the top authors in the EYB Library, holding two of the top ten spots in the Mexican genre. NPR's The Salt recently interviewed Kennedy, who is as feisty as ever at age 93. 

Born in England, Kennedy moved to Mexico in the 1950s. Once there, she began to chronicle Mexican cooking and plant life. This exploration sparked the publication of a cookbook, Cuisines of Mexico, plus eight others. Kennedy has been honored by both the Mexican government (Order of the Aztec Eagle) and the British government (Order of the British Empire).

It would difficult to imagine anyone who has as much passion for Mexican cooking as does Kennedy. Her cookbooks are the result of years of travel and study within the country, both of its food and its plant life. Although she's often referred to as a "culinary anthropologist," she prefers the term "ethno-gastronomer". Earlier this year Kennedy re-released her memoir Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food, which has been expanded with new and revised recipes, additional commentary, photos, and reminiscences.   

Her forthright manner--bordering on bluntness--has put off some people, including one reporter who described her as "prickly". But Kennedy's proclamations are a reflection of her intense desire to get everything exactly right. And at age 93, after decades of study and publication, she has earned these strongly held opinions. 

Noted reviewer AA Gill dies at 62

A.A. GillWe are saddened to report that award-winning writer, television host, and restaurant critic AA Gill has died at the age of 62, just a few weeks after he revealed that he was seriously ill with cancer. Gill was a longtime writer for the Sunday Times

In a column last November, Gill revealed that he had the "full English" of cancers. He had been undergoing chemotherapy. His final column, which will discuss his coming to terms with his diagnosis, will appear in this week's Sunday Times.

Gill's writing was often controversial. For instance, he was chastised in 2012 for rude comments about classicist Mary Beard and her television show. He wrote that she was not good looking enough for television. Despite this, people praised his writing ability. Writer Jay Rayner  tweeted that Gill had been a "controversialist" but also "a kind man and a brilliant writer". 

Alton Brown announces internet cooking show

Alton Brown EverydaycookFans of Alton Brown have mourned his departure from the Food Network, but now they have something to cheer them up. In a live chat on Facebook on Saturday, Brown delighted his audience by revealing that he will be soon starting a new internet cooking show.

The new program will allegedly be called "A Cooking Show", and it will be a sequel to his popular program Good Eats. Brown decided not to try to put the show on television for two reasons, the first of which is that he wanted freedom to do what he wanted without worrying about "what a larger corporate entity might or might not want." He listed several subjects that the Food Network wouldn't let him cover, which included cooking game like rabbit and venison, and working with offal. Brown also said he would be using a digital scale in his cooking. He warned fans that they would have to become proficient in using one, and was adamant that he would be using metric measurements, because he "hates fractions and hates decimals", stating that "grams is grams."

The second reason for placing the show on the internet is that he wanted to be able to respond to his fans' requests. In Brown's hour-long Facebook chat, he proceeded to do just that: notepad in hand, he scribbled down subjects that his fans were writing in the comments. One of the topics was "more steaks" - to which Brown replied that he would be interested in working with meat other than beef. Another topic was yeast breads, and Brown promised to bring back the "yeast puppets" that he killed in an episode of Good Eats. While no exact timeline was announced, Brown said the new show will debut sometime next year.

America's Test Kitchen sues Christopher Kimball

Milk Street magazineIf the EYB Forum and Facebook posts are any indication, plenty of our members recently received the charter issue of Milk Street, Christopher Kimball's new publication. The magazine may have seemed familiar to Cook's Illustrated in its approach to recipe development: create the best version of a dish by listing, and subsequently eliminating, the problems that often arise in other recipes. The concept is a bit too familiar to his former company, which has filed a lawsuit against Kimball, alleging that he "literally and conceptually ripped off America's Test Kitchen."

The suit claims that Kimball not only copied the model, but that he took steps to build Milk Street as a direct competitor to ATK, including using the company's databases and recipes, while still employed at America's Test Kitchen. Jack Bishop, currently the Chief Creative Officer at ATK, said that Kimball "kept on saying he wasn't going to compete. I took him at his word." Bishop noted several similarities between Cook's Illustrated and Milk Street, including graphical properties and the magazine's 32-page size.

The lawsuit cites a number of emails that purportedly show Kimball, or those working under his direction, surreptitiously completing tasks for the benefit of Milk Street, such as obtaining office space and copying recipes. This is not the only litigation involving Milk Street: the owner of Boston's Milk Street Cafe filed a trademark lawsuit earlier this year.

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