Thoughts on instructional cooking shows

by Madeleine Brown

It occurs at parties or social functions large enough that I encounter individuals either for the first time or the first time in a long time. We then proceed to engage in conversation and should it sustain itself long enough that they take (or at least feign to take) an interest in my own life and then learn that my two primary passions are theatre and food, inevitably (as if they’re the first to realize it), they suggest, “You should have your own cooking show.” From there I laugh, make some joke of it and either disengage myself from the conversation entirely or redirect it to focus on them—a marvellous talent of mine.

They really should be more careful. Someone else might take that conclusion and turn it into delusion, spending the rest of their lives striving to be the next Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson. And, sure, maybe they succeed, but more often than not I’m also sure they make a few embarrassing YouTube videos and the dream becomes a confession they share in “get to know you”-type situations at work or future parties.

Personally, I would never try to be a celebrity chef because a) you should have genuine, professional-level cooking skills and b) the chances of becoming a celebrity are already zero to none, so why should becoming the chef version of that be any easier? That said since I certainly watch my fair share of instructional cooking shows—I have standards—I have some nagging related pet peeves.

Emptying bowls completely

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love how beautifully prepped ingredients are on instructional cooking shows, each in their own matching bowl. What gets me though is once all these ingredients are combined—particularly if they take on a liquid consistency—and are then poured into another vessel, the hosts never properly cleans out the one they combined them in. In real life, it’s always at this moment in cooking or baking that we use about three different spatulas to scape every scrap of batter, sauce or whatever off the surface of the bowl. And, if all else fails we then use our fingers and lick those clean. Never do we get the bulk of our mix out, look at the remainder that clings to the bowl and go “Whatever,” and toss it casually to the side. If you do that, then stop. Or, call me over and I’ll do it for you.

Thoughts on instructional cooking shows (2)
Scrap it like you mean it

Eating with pleasure (but not too much)

It’s typically the last shot of the show: the culinary creation is complete, the host goes in for a bite and eats. From here it goes one of two ways: either they practically have an orgasm over their one-pot chilli, falling to the floor in pleasure or they swallow it as if it was a spoonful of burning coals and mumble something like, “Delicious…?”. I admit I’ve exaggerated slightly (generally that’s what we do to the truth, right?) but, I argue why do we need this shot anyways? No cooking show is going to communicate that the food they’ve produced is terrible. In my opinion, cut the eating shot. It’s practically useless and at this point clichéd.

Unveiling pre-prepared stages of a recipe

I know no instructional cooking show is in real time, and if it appears so, it’s all due to some talented editor. But, why, why must a host pull out a cake from the oven, for example, and casually announce, “Let it cool completely before icing. I’ve already got a cooled one here.” And, then produce, indeed an already cooled cake. The sequence is redundant. Up until this point in a recipe, I’m sure 75% of what’s been shown was meticulously prepared in advance, we know, so why ruin the magic with that second statement? Embrace the medium we’re in—which isn’t some form of reality.