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Mar 11, 2014 04:26 PM

Cooking Contest

They continue to produce these cooking contests on Food TV and other channels.

My questions are not with the chefs that show up for a chance to win or just to be on TV. It's with the judges.

If you were a judge, wouldn't you want a tall set of salt and pepper shakers at you hand? Wouldn't you want the server to bring over that really tall pepper grinder and ask you if you would like some 'freshly ground pepper' on your plate? Just like in your favorite restaurant? Just as you get at that chefy restaurant you ate at last weekend?

I mean, if they are judging the food, wouldn't they like to add salt and pepper???

I know that every post and associated thread on these boards goes on about eating in a restaurant and judging the food. And everyone chimes in on the salt or how personal it is. Aren't these judges people too? Don't they want to add a shake of salt and/or pepper to their food to their liking???

Why don't we see a salt and pepper shaker at each judges disposal?

The judges do tell some chefs that their food Needs salt, so why not do as we do and add some from the shaker on the table?

If we judge here and they judge there, why shouldn't the cards be dealt evenly???

We have salt and pepper at our disposal in these same places these chefs cook in under their own will, why shouldn't the judges on these shows???

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  1. From the standpoint of the judges:

    Use of salt, pepper, and other seasonings is one of the ways they can evaluate a contestant's skill. Why remove it from the equation? There are some judges who have questionable palates, but a lot of judges take their personal salt tolerance into consideration when evaluating contestants. For example, Tom Colicchio of Top Chef is well known to prefer a lot of salt; but he's also defended dishes that were under-salted to his palate but technically well executed anyway (such as many cooked by season 6 contestant, Brian Voltaggio).

    From the perspective of TV producers:

    No personal seasoning to taste by judges = more criticism,
    More criticism = more drama, higher ratings.
    Open and shut case.

    Considering restaurant realism:

    Ever wonder why restaurants don't leave their food completely unseasoned and then just give diners their own salt to add to their personal preference? There are two reasons, really.
    For one, food tastes differently (and in some cases, has a different texture) when salt is added earlier in the cooking process vs just before eating.
    For another, many patrons won't add salt to undersalted food (except french fries, for some reason), even when salt shakers are provided. Instead, they'll eat the food as is and then criticize it later as being too bland. Why? I don't know. Probably, there are a lot of people who don't actually realize that salt is the critical flavor they're missing.

    Either way, restaurants have generally found that they get more favorable reviews and more return customers if they salt the food to taste before it leaves the kitchen - usually fairly aggressively - even though it annoys people who have a low tolerance for salt.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Gastronomos

        There's a reason why all fast food outlets use 'The Holy Trinity': Salt Sweet Fat. Get them in front of any judge/customer in any dish, in the right balance and you're a winner.