Summer's here and along with barbecue, and Dave Lebovitz's ice cream, it is time for competition in the kitchen. Whether you like the urbane Top Chef, the commercial The Next Food Network Star, or the R-rated Hell's Kitchen, this is like the NFL playoffs for foodies! And I have to say that I like them all (If I watch them all, I'll have no time to cook...) At least if we have to be subjected to reality TV, it is great that some of it takes place where a lot of our reality happens... in the kitchen!
Since Top Chef comes on at 10 PM, I rarely get to see it, but I take advantage of the weekend marathons while I am cleaning up or folding laundry (or blogging).This is actually one cooking competition show where home cooks can learn something and get ideas. I love the approach to cooking competition on this show, because it is meant as a growth opportunity for the contestants as they are weeded out and most of the drama comes from the challenges, not from back-biting (though there is some of that) or histrionics. And where but Bravo could you see a challenge where the contestants had to each cook a dish that represented each of the seven deadly sins?!
The Next Food Network Star is a more commercial cooking competition with a focus as much on personality as food, since the winner will actually get his or her own Food Network show. Now I know there are a lot of people out there who think the Food Network is like TV culinary junk food, but it has created interest in home cooking in the generation of X-Box and I-Pod, because it makes cooking accessible for cooks of all experience and skill. For that, they get my kudos.
That brings me to Gordon Ramsey and Hell's Kitchen. It seems so appropriate that Gordon is on in the summer since it is h-o-t in his kitchen. Watching this show is a lot like slowing down to stare at an auto accident- you know what you see might be painful and someone may be hurt, but you can't stop watching. And Gordon Ramsey... honestly, I think Beelzebub would be easier on aspiring chefs. He uses the f-bomb enough to be a headliner on Death Row records! The redeeming factor in this show for me is to see people who are really passionate about cooking and food pulling out all the stops and enduring constant abuse to realize their dream. I always root for the fry cook or a line cook from the Waffle House (kind of like being a Redskins fan!)
So get yourself a perfect scoop of ice cream, and when it gets too hot in the kitchen or out by the grill , get the remote, and settle in for a long hot summer in the competition kitchen!