My husband is a chef instructor at a culinary school, but really I watch because I like food. What I’ve discovered is that there is a thin line between being a creative chef and a train wreck – a very thin line.
Many cooking shows are designed toward making a perfectly competent chef appear deranged by requiring weird ingredients, a shortage of time, and faulty equipment. One program required participants filet a fish with a dull knife. Who thought that was a good idea?
When I think of Great Britain’s food, the phrase “thirty-seven religions and one sauce” come immediately to mind. However, one of the absolute best culinary show I’ve ever seen was on public broadcasting, entitled The Great British Baking Show. It showcased skill over time management. Technique over masking. And politeness over sniping. Every episode was truly a joy to watch.
Regardless of what program you’ve chosen, there are lessons to be learned. Here are some of the one's I've learned.
1) There is never enough time to make good risotto. Don’t even try.
2) The ice cream machine rarely works. Surely, there is an alternative. Think creatively.
3) The chances of salvaging Plan A once it tanks, are rare. Be prepared with a backup plan.
4) Before beginning any dish, make sure all the ingredients are on hand or be prepared to revert to the previously mentioned backup plan.
5) Keep your head in the game.
6) Ignore the competition. You can only control yourself and if you are paying attention to your competition, your head is not in the game the way it needs to be.
7) While bad mouthing competitors may give the show better ratings, the contestants who fall into that trap won’t win. The audience may laugh at your antics but they aren’t cheering for you as the race tightens.
8) Stop whining about your lack of experience or the position you hold in the culinary community that gets no respect – i.e. catering, home chefs and cooking for non-profits. You chose the profession. Don’t use it as a crutch.
9) If you have chosen assistants/partners to aid you, because you like them, even though they lack any culinary experience. If they fail, that is on you. There are plenty of competent people. Choose someone who can carry their own weight.
And finally - WINNING. Much as I hate to say it, I’ve rarely seen anyone take home the gold from any competition that gave them the boost they anticipated.
Inevitability, tomorrow is a new day and yesterday’s victories belong in the past. Which is why the Navy SEAL motto is: The only easy day was yesterday.
As I read this list again. I realize that most of these lessons also apply to more than just cooking shows. I plan to incorporate several of them into my writing. Particularly the one about not whining.
Please comment so that I know this post is reaching someone.