One of the more popular genres that people are making television shows about these days is cooking. Whether they are shows that instruct people in making gourmet meals, or reality shows that follow fledgling cooks as they battle each other in an attempt to cook their way to victory, more and more people are interested in watching cooking on TV than ever before.
In the reality category, and one of my favorites to watch, is the show that people either love or hate: Hell’s Kitchen. This show follows a group gathered from all walks of life as they attempt to successfully negotiate cooking challenges and complete dinner services for patrons of the Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant. Oh, and did I mention that they have to deal with Chef Gordon Ramsay, who is not only one of the best chefs in the world, but also someone so profane and abusive that he makes a drill sergeant seem like Bridget from the Girls Next Door? Although the show always starts out the season with Chef Ramsay constantly belittling the worst contestants, toward the end when the number of players gets down to the final four or five, he actually turns on the charm and gives compliments and credit where they are due. And along the way, the contestants turn into real battle-tested chefs, and the viewer learns a lot about how gourmet food is cooked and high-pressure kitchens are operated. For instance, the other day I learned how scallops look when harvested from the ocean, and how they are cleaned by the kitchen staff. Turns out they look a lot like big clams!
In the instructional cooking category, Paula Deen hosts one of the better shows on the Food Network. She’s a former housewife hailing from Albany, GA, and she has no formal training in the art of cooking food, but that hasn’t stopped her from using her southern charm to instruct people everywhere in how to make things like lemon bars, chocolate strawberry trees, and glazed honey bars. She is one of the more popular hosts on this channel, and she has released several cookbooks as well.
Martin Yan’s China
Probably twenty-five years ago, I used to watch Yan Can Cook all the time at my grandmother’s house, and it remains a memory that has shaped my life to this day. Mostly because I still like to pretend I’m Martin Yan with his staccato speaking style while I’m cooking in the kitchen (“And THEN! You add CELERY!”), and it gets on my wife’s nerves. So imagine my delight when I found out that Mr. Yan has a new series out on American Public Television called “Martin Yan’s China.” This 26-part series follows his travels throughout China, with a focus on the culinary traditions of the many different provinces. He visits markets, farms, and many different aspects of Chinese culture, discovering the complexities of all the different cuisines of each local region. And while his travels encompass half of each show, the other half is devoted to being in the kitchen. Martin Yan is one of the great TV chefs, and this is definitely not a show to be missed.