Cooking and Controversy

I attended a cooking class last night at Central Market in Austin.  Rebecca Rather, who I have blogged about before, taught the class.  On the menu: cold cucumber soup, bread salad with summer vegetables, frosted sugar cookies, molten chocolate cakes, and ginger peach upside down cake.  I’m not going to go into detail about the class.  The food was tasty, especially the bread salad and peach cake.  My reason for writing is to address an issue I started contemplating on my drive back to Waco last night.  Cooks, chefs, cooking teachers and cooking entertainers…who is more worthy?  More important?  More talented?  During the class last night, someone mentionned a show on the Food Network and referred to the host as a chef, to which Chef Rather replied, “Well, those people aren’t really chefs.” as she stirred another unknown and unexplained ingredient into the recipe I was suppossed to be “learning” to make.  I have been to other classes at Central Market where the chef teaching the class really explained what she was doing, why it was important to cream butter and sugar thoroughly, how to tell how well meat was cooked just by poking it, and how to avoid common cooking problems.  The class was entertaining and I ate great food.  None of those teachers, however, owned 5 star restaurants, had their own cooking show, and had also written numerous award winning cookbooks.  Can anyone be an incredible chef, teacher, entertainer, and business owner all at the same time?  Emeril Lagasse entertains and has a celebrity personality.  I wonder about his cooking abilities at times.  Rebecca Rather has two successful businesses and has written great cookbooks…but she was not the best teacher.  Christopher Kimball can explain in great detail how to make the perfect poundcake, but I would not want to watch him on tv.  Anthony Bordain wrote an entertaining article about the Food Network.  I agree with some of the ranting, but also think that not all people in the business of food can or should be judged on the same criteria.  Ok, so Rachel Ray is annoying and none of her recipes seem too amazing or inventive to me…but she’s incredibly popular, she’s easy to relate to and she’s doing quite well for herself I imagine.  Part of me says “What a shame it is that people like that are making tons of money making mediocre food while well trained chefs at small, increbibly delicious and wonderfully innovative restaurants go unnoticed by the majority of the population.”  Maybe that’s how it SHOULD be.  Maybe fame would ruin those chefs and their restaurants.  If those chefs decided to write a cook book and create a line of their food to sell at HEB maybe they would be spreading themselves too thin and the restaurant would no longer be a success.  Do I think that the Food Network people are the best chefs out there?  No.  Do I think they should be burned at the stake for making recipes using store bought foods?  No.  This brings me to the battle between Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star.  These shows are completely different.  You can’t even really compare them.  Top Chef looks for a true CHEF who can really cook.  They don’t have to be funny, witty, clever or good looking.  Food Network Star is all about personality and presentation…and their food must be edible.  In conclusion, people are different, people have different talents and that’s just how it is.  Is it fair for people with less cooking talent to make more money than those CIA trained chefs?  As I tell my fifth graders…life is not fair.  That is my two cents.