Tag Archives: chefs

Extremes in TV Cooking Competitions

The kids competing in Junior MasterChef Australia

Contestants in Junior Masterchef Australia Season 2. Image via Star World.

I’m a sucker for cooking shows.

I remember tuning in to this Chinese cooking show when I was a little girl, and how I loved the clatter, the sizzle, the knifes flashing at kung fu speed, though I understood not a word. Even then, cooking shows fascinated me — watching people cook, in general, fascinate me. Cooking to me is magic, and seeing it happen gave me endless thrills.

The cooking show genre has its own heartthrobs and bombshells, as evidenced by hotties such as Rocco and Curtis, Giada and Nigella. (I did write about hottie chefs before.) Add a little reality, a little competition, and you’ve got a sub-genre that can be totally addictive! There’s Iron Chef (Japan and America), MasterChef, Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star, Throwdown with Bobby Flay… and a whole slew of others.

But there are two that I’ve been watching the past couple of weekends that I feel stand at either end of the cooking competition gamut. At one extreme is the high adrenaline action-suspense-thriller type, Hell’s Kitchen, and at the other end is Junior MasterChef — a cotton candy sweet, children’s-educational type of show.

Hell’s Kitchen (USA)

This show is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I get headaches and get palpitations from this one. It’s like watching 24 sometimes. Tough-talking, potty-mouthed Chef Gordon Ramsay is as in-your-face as it gets, and the contestants take their cue from that and project their own versions of it — whether they have the skills and talents to back it up or not. There’s lots of cursing and swearing, lots of fast-paced action, and lots of alliances that fall apart as fast as they’re made. It’s a vicious, dog-eat-dog, throw each other under the bus kind of environment. And some foodies get a kick out of that.

Chef Ramsay

Image via Star World

Junior MasterChef (Australia)

This one is the antithesis of Hell’s Kitchen. Junior MasterChef Australia is comparatively laid back and relaxed. And where rage, tension, and terror reign supreme in Hell’s Kitchen, in this show from down under, it’s all about friendship, inspiration, positivity, and really adorable and talented kids! Everybody’s really, really nice! The judges are just as critical, but much less harsh. The contestants are sweet and supportive to each other, but no less competitive. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, but in its own way, it’s just as entertaining as the doom and damnation of Hell’s Kitchen.

Greta from Season 2

For more on kiddie cooks, check out Midori’s post about Kids in the Kitchen.

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Men in the Kitchen

image from connectedchefs.com

The person who first said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was on to something. The truth is that the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach too. Why do you think dates usually involve food of some kind? Didn’t the prehistoric men who brought to the village the biggest boars get the most admirers? They would’ve gotten even more in their furs if they’d roasted the boars themselves. That’s macho.

At least, this is what I came up with while trying to come up with a viable explanation for why I just love watching men cook on TV. There’s something so attractive and compelling about them in the kitchen, where they handle beautiful ingredients and wield steel not to make war, but to make wonderful, delicious eats. They make the kitchens look good, and the setting makes them look even better. When I see them on the screen, I stop channel surfing and stare. And drool — over the food or over the guy cooking, I know not which. Of course it also helps that the TV networks manage to find chefs who are easy on the eyes to begin with, as well as knowledgeable and talented. They fill up the on-screen kitchens and make of the cooking shows even more yummy eye candy.

Note that I love watching Nigella Lawson, Giada de Laurentiis, Ina Garten, and Rachael Ray too, but I these men, I find irresistible:

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay in the heat of the battle on Iron Chef America

Love a man who loves a challenge. I especially enjoy watching him in Iron Chef America, where he competes with the best chefs under extreme time pressure in what they call the Kitchen Stadium. The show Throwdown with Bobby Flay shows him taking on the masters of a particular dish in a cook-off. He does his thing with such an endearing cockiness that charms everyone, including his competitor, no matter what the outcome of the contest is.


Rocco DiSpirito

A lot of Rocco is good for you

This one is such a cutiepie. I like that he’s down-to-earth and really tries to make things as easy as possible for the amateur cooks. His thrust nowadays is to bury the notion that anything “good for you” is boring and tasteless. In short, he’s a chef who doesn’t want to make you fat, and for that, we have to forgive him for his Dancing with the Stars stint.


Tyler Florence

Tyler Florence at a cooking demonstration

Clean-cut or slightly mussed, Tyler Florence is the ultimate. His show, Tyler’s Ultimate gives you the most pimped up decadent version of the most well loved dishes — from pizza, to pie, to paella.

Jamie Oliver

He is kind and generous with his talent, and he uses his gifts to uplift the quality of food in schools, and the quality of life of kids who are out of school. Despite the seriousness of his causes, he’s still like the Peter Pan of food shows — with his adorable accent, goofy smile and the casual boyish way about him when he’s cooking, which seems to say, encouragingly and with lots of enthusiasm, that there’s really nothing to it.


Ming Tsai

His brand of cuteness makes you want to smile. And what he represents is the concept of East Meets West. Long after the cooking show with this title has produced its final episode, he still exudes this vibe, especially in his current show, Simply Ming. It is brilliant in theory, given today’s increasingly global society, but translated to food and yummy recipes, it is stellar.


Curtis Stone

He doesn’t have a signature dish or culinary genre, he doesn’t even have a trademark look to his kitchen. His trademark is his spontaneity — he is just fantastic at winging it. He is Curtis Stone, the Take Home Chef, and his kitchen is whomever’s that he crashes.


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