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May 3, 2008 04:46 PM

Top Chef for School

I started teaching high school level culinary arts at our local tech school this year. I found myself watching all of the great food programing on tv these days and asked my students if they were catching any of this. Most of them had no idea what I was talking about so I decided to work it into our classes. We have Top Chef Fridays now and it has been a great success. I got a DVR from the cable company for free and started recording all the new Top Chef episodes. When the students arrive on Friday we give them the equivalent of a quick fire challenge and they work in teams of two or three. I get to play the role of Tom C. and really give them a hard critique. After the critque we pick a winner and they get 100's for the day, then we all go and watch the most recent episode of Top Chef. I have found this season to be particularly good, I think the quality of the chefs is good and there is some good competition happening. Just thought I would share this as a way to show how these shows are beneficial in many different ways.

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  1. That's wonderful - what a great teaching tool. Esp. since you get to be Tom C. Hope you didn't have to shave your head! My husband actually dislikes the show b/c he says he doesn't learn anything, so it's nice to see it being "put to a useful purpose".

    1. I concur with MMRuth, that is a very creative way to teach the TV generation. Very interactive. Good thing they bleeped things off of the episode where Dale went off on Lisa.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Phaedrus

        True enough, but since that stuff all happens at the end, after the judging and everything is done, and it doesn't really add anything to the show, I'd think it could safely be turned off before any of that happens.

        It is a very cool way to use the show and teach the kids. I wonder if Mike's grandson's culinary arts teacher has thought of that.

      2. I'm going to go ahead and disagree and say that having kids watch Top Chef during class isn't necessarily good for their education. I could understand doing a Top Chef day once during the quarter as a one-time event they can get excited for and anticipate. But you're showing your kids an hour-long reality TV show once a week, and the bottom line is that they shouldn't be learning from reality television.

        Don't get me wrong, I do like watching Top Chef myself - it's an entertaining show. However, I wouldn't be happy if my kids watched it during school every week, during time that they could be learning something more useful.

        Looking at the bigger picture, I think you are contributing to the trend of increasing numbers of young "cooks" who pick the career path of a chef because they want to be on TV, and not because they actually enjoy the craft.

        3 Replies
        1. re: wax311

          To me, it sounded more like an opportunity to get the kids interested in cooking, rather than contributing to the trend of young cooks picking the career path of chef.

          1. re: wax311

            I would assume it would be used to springboard interesting discussions about techniques, menu-planning, recipe-creating, flavor profiles, budgeting, teamwork, and the like -- and surely there would be room for distinguishing the differences between reality and "reality."

            1. re: momjamin

              Assuming anything is usually a bad idea.......

          2. interesting responses to the thought of using this as a teaching tool. I have found that the kids are very excited when Top Chef Friday comes around. We have not done it every Friday because logistically it doesn't work with the other things we have going on. The show without all the commercials is only about a half hour and we fast forward through all of them. All in all the class is not full of aspiring chefs only about 20 to 30 percent are going to pursue a career in this business. Don't forget some people still want to learn how to cook for their future families or themselves. I am a proponent of educational television watching, I find it to be sort of like reading non-fiction versus fiction.