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Seattle-Area Chefs Weigh In on Food TV
Sunday, March 04, 2007 | posted by Mike

There is an interesting article in the Seattle Times about the state of food television which takes a look at things from the perspective of a number of area chefs and restaurateurs. The author asked the chefs what food television shows they watch and enjoy, and the responses run the gamut from contempt to a grudging respect for the fact that they're contributing to the public's knowledge of food to outright fandom of a couple of the more "reputable" personalities like Mario Batali.

Frankly, if I lived and breathed food all day long, I think the last thing I would want to do is go home and watch someone cook for a couple of hours, but it seems like the chefs watch, and they watch for many of the same reasons we do. And, just like us, some of them go for the juicy drama of competition shops like Top Chef, even if it is just a guilty pleasure:

Smith is a "Project Runway" junkie, so perhaps the transition to watching "Top Chef," which is also on Bravo, was natural.

Or not.

"It's like a train wreck really to watch those guys," she said.


She wonders if food television, including "Top Chef," makes cooking seem more fabulous than the day-to-day work really is. Being a chef also includes cleaning ovens and taking out the trash.

But her Cafe Juanita cooks loved "Top Chef" and she started watching.

"I got sucked in at the end. I'm a fair-weather friend for TV."

And, of course, someone has to go ahead and play the Sandra Lee card.

She catches herself watching some Food Network shows despite herself, like "Semi-Homemade Cooking," which features Sandra Lee, outfitted to match her set and making dishes that are partially fresh, partially store-bought.

"It's shockingly bad," Smith said. "I'm guilty of sitting there just slack-jawed."

The key here, though, is the understanding among nearly all of the chefs that the greater knowledge and sophistication among the general public -- a situation that is the direct result of the Food Network and other food television personalities -- results in a more regular and discerning clientele. This kind of benefit, of course, is less dramatic than the results of an actual appearance on one of these shows.

She doesn't watch a lot of food television, but like other chefs, benefits from a Food Network appearance on "Gourmet Divas" several years ago that still boosts her Kirkland business.



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