When I was 7 years old, I discovered a new type of show that the kids at school weren’t watching: cooking. I remember spending one summer with my babysitter and every day I would ask to take a nap in her room because it had a TV—of course, I didn’t tell her that. While she thought I slept for a couple of hours each day, I was watching cooking shows, such as “Two Fat Ladies” and “Wok with Yan,” where host Stephen Yan wore punny aprons like, “Wok’s New Pussycat?” or “Stuck Between a Wok and a Hard Place.”
So, with the early beginnings of methodical cooking shows starring super trained chefs comes the dawn of a new age where the worst cooks in America have taken center stage. And the show is named just that. I admit, I rolled my eyes on this one. Imagine if a group of 16 people who could potentially be lethal—not in a good way—were here to inspire food enthusiasts across America. That’s what it is and I didn’t think that it would be worth watching, but five seasons in, I have actually learned a thing or two—or even three.
Anne Burell, host of “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” and Bobby Flay, chef, restaurateur and host of multiple Food Network shows, coach these culinary underdogs. Fifteen minutes into watching it, I thought to myself that this show was delivering far more than a pity party, but an ego boost to anyone watching who at least knows how to fry an egg—something that over half the contestants can’t do. As a bonus, viewers learn the basics from two successful and well-respected chefs. Do you remember to salt and pepper your greens before you pour the dressing along the inside walls of the bowl instead of directly on the lettuce?
In the culinary age of fusion and molecular gastronomy, have we lost sight of basic culinary techniques? While flipping through my “On Cooking: Culinary Fundamentals” text book every now and then I’ll be reminded about something so basic like not flipping your pancakes more than once otherwise they will deflate. Did you just say, “Oh, yeah!” too?
While Emeril Legasse would say, “Let’s kick it up a notch,” I’m saying let’s turn it down. Sure, there is that pressure to wow our guests, but at the end of the meal the question remains whether or not the dish was executed well and if the ingredients were cooked right. We all make mistakes in the kitchen. Just watch “Chopped” and listen to the critiques of these insanely talented contestants: “under cooked,” “over cooked,” “not enough seasoning.” So, before you begin that gastrique because you’re looking to dress to impress, ask yourself is it necessary? I’m not the best cook in the world, nor do I believe I’m the worst, but “Worst Cooks in America” taught me that we cannot be cocky in the kitchen, to humbly season both sides of the meat with purpose, and when it comes to cooking, I can still learn a thing or twofold.