March 10, 2006

You can't taste it, you can't smell it, so will you watch food?

So I TiVo'd "Top Chef," the Bravo reality show that supposed to tide over "Project Runway" fans until they can come up with a new season of the wonderful fashion show. "Project Runway" is fun to watch because you're seeing people with real skills make something that you get to see in the end, and it's something -- a garment -- that is mostly about looks. It's true you don't get to feel what it's like to wear it or find out how well it holds up over time, but you basically get to appreciate the main purpose of the thing.

With "Top Chef," they are making food. And yes, it takes real skill to do that. But the thing they are making is to be eaten (and smelled). There is a visual aspect to food, but the guy who won the first week's competition just made an amorphous pile of beige. So, clearly, it's about flavor and the feeling of the food in the mouth. It's tiresome to watch people eat and then try to put into words what they are sensing. It's not as if these eaters are brilliant speakers, whose conversation adequately substitutes for the experience of eating. We can watch their faces, but you pretty much know the mmmm face and the disgust face. It's not that entertaining, repeated 20 times per show. And you know they'll exaggerate their reactions to try to make it more exciting.

Bonus Althouse opinion: I detest the TV talk shows when they have a chef on to cook something in a minute or two, and then the host holds the plate up close to her (or his) face, shovels in some food, and has a fake orgasm about it.

16 comments:

SWBarns said...

I was shocked that they pitched the Irish Chef after the first show. The producers should have stepped in to keep him. He would have been the 'Santino' of Top Chef.

The show is not just about the taste, smell and texture but about personalities. The Irish Chef and the RedHead probably would have come to blows within a week or two. That would have been compelling television.

knoxgirl said...

"then the host holds the plate up close to her (or his) face, shovels in some food, and has a fake orgasm about it."

You just described what almost every host on the Food Network does when they taste their own creations. Rachael Ray is particularly dramatic.

Michael Farris said...

"then the host holds the plate up close to her (or his) face, shovels in some food, and has a fake orgasm about it."

How do you know they'e faking it?

Dave said...

I still don't get the reality TV thing here. You clearly loathe most of TV, and find most reality TV show participants foolish and idiotic...yet you still have the patience to sit in front of the TV instead of tossing out the window.

Clearly you are a better person than I.

David said...

Those of us who cook know that you don't have to fake a sauce reduction or deglazing a pan!

Oh GOD YES!

CB said...

Agreed--I don't see how this can work. My wife got me hooked on America's Next Top Model & Project Runway; those shows work because the professions are visual. Wasn't there a show like this for lawyers that didn't last? On the other hand, cooking shows are very popular, so maybe it can work.

jeff said...

I watched a Tivo'd episode of Iron Chef America last night - American Kobe Beef battle.

Some of those dishes I wanted to climb through my TV for.

Especially since I'm dieting hard right now...

And Good Eats is always TIVO'd.

athenius said...

... but then there are Nina's food photos....

Moanique said...

Jeff Probst once said that reality shows are all about casting. The producers of Project Runway and Top Chef have obviously taken that to heart. If the food show is as focused on professional cooking as Project Runway is on professional clothing design it will do well.

Fake orgasms are to be avoided at all costs.

Verification word: leaka ... insert your own joke here...

stoqboy said...

I couldn't help but think of that scene in "When Harry Met Sally" in the diner when the woman says "I'll have whatever she's having."

Gerry said...

"I detest the TV talk shows when they have a chef on to cook something in a minute or two, and then the host holds the plate up close to her (or his) face, shovels in some food, and has a fake orgasm about it."

Yeah, but the ones where the host holds the plate up close to her mouth, shovels in some food, and has a real orgasm about it are the best!

tiggeril said...

Top Chef was kind of lame (and that host girl who it turns out is Billy Joel's wife but is like 10 years old is the most wooden person I've seen on TV in a long time), but it'll tide me over until Hell's Kitchen returns.

I love me some Gordon Ramsay.

Ann Althouse said...

Tiggeril: You are so right. That woman is maddeningly dull! She's clearly someone who thinks being pretty gives you immunity from every other requirement.

Simon said...

"You just described what almost every host on the Food Network does when they taste their own creations. Rachael Ray is particularly dramatic."

Indeed, but when one looks like Rachael Ray (see also Nigella Lawson), one can get away with practically anything one likes.

bearbee said...

A while back PBS had a 'cook off' series lasting over a period of weeks or months. Each week 3 different contestants would prepare a full course meal within a specified time judged by 3 top chefs. The contestants created any dishes they wanted but had to include certain selected ingredients.

Chefs sampled all dishes making this and that comment, then privately deliberated pros and cons considering taste, texture, smell, style, presentation, use of ingredients, creativity, use of time.Then emerged with a critque of each.

Winners of the weekly segments would then meet in quarter-semi-final cook-offs with the ultimate winner securing a cooking position in a top NY restaurant.

At least that is how I recall it........

PatCA said...

I watch food all the time, but shows like Everyday Italian, Mario Battali, that kind of thing. Hey, I finally learned how to cook fish successfully!

No interest in a reality show, though.