Are cooking shows inspiring you to don your apron?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th August 2014
By Mark Savile   Ready Steady Cook - Image credit to Jerry DaykinFrom Fanny Cradock to the Hairy Bikers, Ready Steady Cook to Masterchef, our screens have been awash with cookery shows for decades. Morning classics with cooking sections, afternoon extravaganzas such as Keith Floyd on Fish, and prime time competitions including The Great British Bake off or Masterchef, are the ingredients that have combined to create a culture of cookery programmes that light up our television sets around the clock. Television cooking competitions for both amateur and professional chefs have been excellent in raising the profile of the food and fine dining industry with the general public. Can’t Cook Won’t Cook hoped to encourage less inclined cooks and inspire them to don their kitchen aprons more often. Come Dine with Me was supposed to start a revolution of middle class couples hosting fine dinner parties, with the obligatory obnoxious person and the narrator’s sardonic comments. Saturday Kitchen has brought live cooking into our homes, intended to get us into the mood for a busy weekend in the kitchen. come dine with me scoreYet questions have arisen from many quarters over whether our screens have become overly inundated with such programmes to their own detriment, creating a saturated market and a dumbing down of content. How often do we switch on the box to see Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay beaming (or swearing) back at us, ticking us off over school meals, demonstrating the perfect chocolate fudge cake, or berating a lowly chef for overcooking a steak? During one month in 2012, Come Dine with Me was broadcast 126 times which drew much criticism, with an anonymous commentator labelling Channel 4 ‘lazy’ and ‘bankrupt’. This almost senseless glut of one programme only serves to disenchant the viewer. Being cheaper to produce than dramas packed with actors, extras, 19th century costumes, and filming on location not to mention the behind the scene work, cooking shows offer a product that is also safer in terms of guaranteeing viewers, with ratings essential to the suited TV bosses. Deemed as requiring little concentration, these programmes, along with similarly styled home and garden improvement shows, have been lambasted for trivialising the television business.  Great British Bake Off challenge dish Undoubtedly the indulgent scheduling plays a large role in the issue; however, there is another side to it. The problem has been equally attributed to modern society and our tendency to consume TV shows detachedly. Food writer Joe Warwick is quite outspoken in his criticism: ‘A lot of people sit and watch food TV and then sit and eat M&S ready meals. Do you think most people who watch food TV go away and cook from them?’ He raises a valid point. Fast-paced lifestyles and the surge in the popularity and range of ready meals available have created sedentary evenings and less interest in trying to make the overly complicated dishes seen on screen. Everything has to happen quickly and although the industry has tried to adapt, take Jamie's 15-Minute Meals for example, viewers are still disaffected. Warwick is also cynical in regard to television cooking shows and competitions, stating bluntly that ‘the reason chefs like going on Saturday Kitchen is because it fills a restaurant’. He is adamant too that it is television producers who are causing the problems: ‘with TV, they are obsessed, since Simon Cowell, with the contest format’.Jamie Oliver credit to Rex Features And it’s not just television critics that take issue. Michelin-starred Icelandic chef Agnar Sverrisson, who runs four restaurants in London, is particularly opinionated on this point. He is frustrated by young prospective chefs who have come to work for him brainwashed by reality TV, with a ‘get-rich-quick’ attitude and unwilling to put in the hard yards. He sharply warns this generation that the recipe for success is blood, sweat and tears: ‘A lot of young kids want to be chefs because they see it on TV and think “yeah I want to do that”, they think it’s easy and that success is instant, but they don’t see how hard it is and how much work you have to do before you get anywhere.’ masterchef logoKeith Floyd went as far as believing that television programmes were harmful to the food industry and a chef’s knowledge of it, elegantly denouncing the phenomenon many years ago on a documentary by maintaining that TV chefs ‘have all been seduced by TV... All they can do is assemble pieces of gastronomic Lego without having the faintest idea where they ******* come from.” Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of the three Michelin star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York, has an opposing view. He strongly believes in the future of TV cookery shows and hopes that they are ‘not the flavour of the moment because it’s good for the industry, it’s good for the chefs and it’s good for everyone’. Nigella Lawson credit to The Telegraph   Despite his optimism, which is shared by a number of the industry’s leading lights, the overriding sense of disillusion that pervades on all sides of the debate is clear to see. A consensus seems to have emerged that many cookery shows are failing the public, but the occasional gem such as the final episode of The Great British Bake Off which attracted 9 million viewers will only urge directors to forge ahead and broadcast more of the same.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th August 2014

Are cooking shows inspiring you to don your apron?