Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Sep 21, 2012 11:20 AM

Honest Cooking?

I'm a food lover and spend more time watching cooking shows (NOT Food Network garbage, just had to add that) than regular TV and it does annoy me when chefs use that term?

I'm currently watching Great British Menu - which is a similar format to Iron Chef/Top Chef - and I don't get why chefs say it. Honest cooking; as opposed to what, dishonest cooking? Did I order steak and you served me snake meat?

Just had to vent.

Back to the show.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i've never heard that term until today, and now I've seen it twice on Chowhounds. So, I'm going to camp out here with you and see what people say about it's meaning. :)

    1. Haven't heard that term much myself. As to FN garbage, I find there to be a number of good shows--Alex's Day Off, Good Eats, Iron Chef and Secrets of a Restaurant--though there are certainly others I don't watch. To each his own.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123

        There are some good shows like Good Eats and Iron chef, but those now play on the cooking channel. I saw an episode of Alex's Day off and although it was decent, whenever I see her, I always feel she's giving me the same stink-eye she gives to the chefs on chopped.

        There's something about baking shows that I seriously love, but I can't stand the shows on FN. It's always to gimmicky and half the shows are more about personal drama than cooking.

        It was great when the Cooking Channel started, but I see them now tossing their crappy shows over there. Throwdown..., Kelsey's, Dinner Impossible, Deen offspring, Giada, etc.

      2. I interpret it as straightforward cooking, no showing off or getting cutesy with it. Let the beef be beef, the chicken be chicken, the carrots, beets and greens be expressions of their true flavor. It may or may not be an adverse reaction to "molecular" cooking, the business of making foams that taste like meat and an "egg" made from frozen cactus juice or whatever. I know I'd be attracted to a restaurant promising "real food and honest cooking," without worrying too much about what that meant. Like "Simple Cooking," the title of John Thorne's blog, but simple is not necessarily uncomplicated: the cooking in a subsistence economy can be extremely tedious and drawn-out just to make the foodstuffs edible. Try making a Mexican meal starting with dried corn, pumpkin seeds still in the pumpkin, things like that, and while it IS honest cooking, plain cooking, it's a hell of a lot of work.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          "I'd know I'd be attracted to a restaurant promising real food and honest cooking"

          Me too, and I would hope that means they really cook, not just microwave or heat precooked food items brought in from the big food service suppliers.

          Other examples of honest cooking: scrambles eggs made by cracking real eggs and cooking to order, not using powdered eggs and water or frozen liquid eggs. That's 'dishonest cooking!'

          1. re: bagelman01

            That's why I never order eggs in any place that offers only scrambled or omelets: I just assume they'll be poured from a carton. I have no objection to pasteurized whole egg in cartons - I've used that to make mayonnaise to serve pregnant women and small children - but to pass it off as proper breakfast cookery is just wrong.

            Paying attention to how food behaves is a good sign of honest cooking, too. I remember when every fern bar in America had to have quiche on the menu. I like quiche, and I know how hard it is to screw one up if you possess any skills at all. What constantly pissed me off was almost every one I was served in those places had been microwaved to order. You know what that does to custard over a crust? It creates a layer of water between the two surfaces. So how do you avoid that? Serve it cold! It's GOOD cold, maybe better than fresh and hot. My success rate at convincing anyone the truth of this was about 30%, but that was just the waitpeople, who explained that if they served me a cold one, even if I had demanded it, they'd lose their jobs. So don't expect honesty from fern-bar managers.

            1. re: bagelman01

              Just recently, I went to the made-to-order breakfast bar where someone said she would like her eggs made with real eggs. I couldn't help wonder what that yellow liquid I thought were beaten eggs really were. The chef did say they were egg beaters, but I'm not sure WTF that is.

              What's the point of having liquid egg whites, whole real eggs, and yellow egg liquid. They already had real eggs.

              1. re: nikkib99

                Egg Beaters is the totally misleading name for a brand of egg whites with stuff in them. The similar item I use is called Nu-Laid Reddi-Egg, sold by Trader Joe's. I occasionally use it in recipes (as binder for salmon cakes, for instance) or as a lower-fat extender for a pan of scrambled eggs, but as the only egg in an omelet or scramble it can't touch a good egg from the shell. And while I'll use that stuff at home, largely as a ploy to get my fat-conscious wife to eat eggs for breakfast, I want REAL eggs from any restaurant, over easy or poached.

          2. Never heard the expression before. It brings to mind something like nouvelle cuisine, ingredients prepared simply and presented nakedly, without sauces and such. But I've no idea if that is what people mean by it, and suspect that it isn't.

            1. I think "honest cooking" is definitely new buzz term that I hear a lot in regards to cooking competitions (off hand thinking of MasterChef Australia and Top Chef Masters). I agree with what people have said thus far in regards to it being a response to molecular gastronomy or meals like the tasting menu at Alinea.

              There's also a part of me that thinks it's a rebranding of the term "home cooking". When people talk about honest cooking or simple cooking or straight forward cooking - it's another way of saying "upscale home cooking". It also reminds me of people using terms like "working mom" instead of "stay at home mom" - if they don't want to get caught saying that being a mother isn't a job. Regarding both food and motherhood - I don't think the substantive issues have changed, just the way terms are perceived and rebranded.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cresyd

                Ah so. I don't watch TV cooking competitions, other than the original Japanese "Iron Chef" for laughs, and that may explain why I haven't heard the expression "honest cooking."

                1. re: John Francis

                  I think you hit that nail square, cresyd. It's very much what Thomas Keller is talking about in his book on how he does home cooking: he takes the same pains with it that he does with the fancy stuff, but it's still roast chicken and potatoes and peas.