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Reality of Cooking

Julia Child’s legacy lives on through…Chef Gordon Ramsay?

There is such a plethora of “reality” cooking shows on TV today, it’s hard not to cruise by one of them while you’re channel surfing. Even for those who don’t have much interest in cooking, these shows draw us in with a variety of personalities and styles. From Giada at Home to BBQ Pitmasters, and soon to be Junior Top Chef, there’s something for everyone.

Thanks to Julia Child for bringing The French Chef (she wasn’t) to television. She had such a passion for food and cooking, and even in the later days when her diminished capacity meant she could only watch. There was no scripting and no editing in 1963 so we experienced everything that Julia Child was experiencing, live, including her frequent mistakes and her more than generous use of wine.

We’ve also been entertained and educated by the Galloping Gourmet, Emeril, and (Martin) Yan Can Cook. We welcomed and enjoyed the genuine simplicity of The Naked Chef (he wasn’t). And then the cooking reality TV genre took a hard right turn with Gordon Ramsay. His brash style has brought a competitive edge to cooking and catapulted chefs to the forefront of reality TV. He’s probably single handedly increased attendance at every culinary school around the world.

Along with Chef Ramsay came rewards which had never before been seen in televised cooking shows. Winners of Top Chef receive $100,000 cash and/or prizes, including a suite of new appliances, a culinary tour of the French Alps, and entry into various industry events. The winner of Hell’s Kitchen is generally awarded an opportunity to work with Ramsay or as chef in one of his prominent restaurants.

The passion for cooking that we first saw from The French Chef is brought to us now by a new generation, lead by Rachel Ray, Barefoot Contessa and others. The tradition continues but with a modern and contemporary style. Now the entertainment value of cooking on TV is equaled by the practicality of preparing an entire meal in 30 minutes. Working men and women everywhere spend a few evenings with Rachel Ray and pick up some valuable tips for simple meal preparation. Even if it’s not really that quick and not always that simple, viewers can always pick up some great ideas to pass on to the chefs in their lives.

We don’t always think of cooking as reality TV, but the dedicated audiences that these shows have built up is undeniable, and they invite viewers to channel the inner chef in all of us.

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