What is it that we are looking for in a cooking show?
One of the on going issues posted here is about the quality of food shows. FN is a continual bashing target (and rightfully so). But so it seems are many of the PBS offerings. Granted everyone has his or her own opinions.
So just was is it that we want to see in our cooking shows?
I have no problem with the Food Network. I like some shows and don't like others. For me, the host has to be engaging and entertaining (Alton Brown, for example), there should be variety in the recipes and not the same stuff revamped, and I'd like tips on cookware and methods with which I may not be familiar. I also like it when cuisine in various cities is highlighted. Gives me ideas for when I travel.
First and foremost, entertainment. If it's not, it doesn't mater what they're doing, I won't watch. Personalitily from the host is part of that.
Secondly, I want to be inspired. Either to cook what they're making or to try the type of cooking.
Thirdly, I want to learn something. I want to know more about cooking after the show then before it.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a FTV hater like some out there. I understand the need for shows like 30 MM and challenge shows. The issue I have is that there are too many of these no mind shows. I like shows where I see where food comes from and how it's made/processed. I like some insight into competition cooking. I think people who are afraid to make toast need basic cooking shows to get them into the kitchen. I also think that some of the above genre shows are completely terrible.
We also don't need any "Make over" shows. I hate that they are completely contrived.
I mostly want to learn something, so I like to see people actually go through the cooking process step by step. Personality is important, but only to the extent that the host is engaged with and passionate about food. I want someone (or ones)really knowledgeable about their particular food interest, who is able to communicate well and has some sophisticated knowledge to pass on. PBS food shows tend to come off a bit better by these criteria --
Technique technique technique - show me how to do something I don't already know how to do!
Failing that (and it is hard given all the different cooking backgrounds & levels of expertise in the audience), I do like shows that create an ambience. Nigella and Ina come to mind. I like Giada well enough, but by the time they've done their little summary of the recipe I know how to do it already and she doesn't give much other incentive to stick around.
In Canada we have Chef at Home who is annoying, yet, inspiring - his schtick is that you don't need recipes. Anna Olson's Sugar - I don't need to see you make muffins or cake 10 times with different ingredients: I want to see different techniques - working with filo; puff pastry; etc.
Agree with Technique.
Look up any recipe and there's a hundred + variations on ingredients.
For making an Italian meat sauce, for example, I want to know how best to layer the flavors, not what goes in a pot all at once.
In the BBQ arena, many shows simply try and wow you with scenes of the finished products - but the pre cooking stuff is critical. Brining chicken, for example. Creating rubs.
Im still not clear, for example, if and what marinades actually help best prep meats. I'd like to learn more about acids, enzymes, etc. But even then - simple techniques and advice are welcome. Alton, for example, did a great show on BBQ ribs, Every market has them, but few know how to cook them. I have a smoker and have slow cooked them for hours, but his are just as good from the kitchen oven. After grasping his concepts, I've been combining the ideas.
I also love the adventure shows. Bourdain in Asia, for example. Street food there is amazing, and should be exposed. I'd love to see more exposure to markets and simple eats in all cities.