Can TV Shows Really Teach People How To Cook?

Revealing Insights From the Industry Pros

Posted by on Jun 16

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We all like to watch TV cooking shows for various reasons. Most of us tune in for the drama, a fresh twist on an old idea, or simply a glimpse of our favorite celebrity chef. But for those unfamiliar to cooking, can watching such programs really teach them how to cook? Here are some opinions from the culinary pros themselves:

Michael Smith, general manager of the new Cooking Channel, disagrees. "People don't watch TV to learn how to make things."

Food blogger for "Alinea at Home" Carol Blymire concurs with Smith to a degree, adding "People may fall into a trap if they think they can pull off the same thing in 22 minutes as Ina or Giada. They may need to alter their expectations a bit."

But some critics and chefs agree that TV is an exceptional learning tool. Says former "Top Chef" alum Spike Mendelsohn, "I'd have to say absolutely. Cooking is about having the confidence to get in the kitchen and not being intimidated. People are into it. They watch, then they have an understanding of the science and the reactions when you cook."

"If that's what they want to do, then yes," says Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University. "People watch food programming the same way they watch home decorating and renovating shows, even though many of those shows don't even tell you how. I used to love watching Julia Child, although I had no intention of ever making that stuff. Plus, it's not like trying to learn surgery."

Author Judith Jones agrees as well. "It's one of the best teaching tools if the cook who is performing is genuinely instructive and conveys the whys and wherefores of what he or she is doing. But the viewer has to participate: imitate, taste, feel empowered to use all her own senses and then start improvising on her own." Jones even feels that television can be better than attending a cooking school in some cases. "The camera can zero-in so effectively on important techniques that it's really better than a cooking class."

Source: The Washington Post

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