From Top Chef to Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef to Chopped, or MasterChef to The Final Table, there certainly is no shortage of reality food TV these days.
Culinary Arts educators have found America’s ever-growing fascination with competitive cooking programs to be a double-edged sword…more and more people are becoming aware of and interested in culinary careers, but at the same time, many people may be getting a less than realistic view of what it means to be a chef.
Here’s what the experts at Baker College’s award-winning Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) think reality TV gets right and wrong about the realities of being a chef.
Fact: Something the Cooking Competition Shows Get Right
In most of the reality culinary competition shows, you’ll see judges scoring contestants heavily on not just the taste, but the creativity and presentation of their dishes. That emphasis on originality – the expectation that a great chef will be inventive and imaginative – is something that the television programs absolutely get right about today’s culinary careers. Cooking professionally used to just be all about consistency and production…but today’s most successful chefs are culinary artists…those that can turn out not just quality dishes, but inspired, unique and beautiful ones.
Fiction: Something the Cooking Competition Shows Get Wrong
Without a doubt, cooking makes for exciting TV…there are bright flames, sharp tools and ingredients of every size, shape and color of the rainbow. Watching chefs chop, peel, grind, stir, sear, char, grill and whisk their way through a stunning dish is a lot of fun. What is not a lot of fun – both for culinarians and TV viewers – is cleaning the hood of a filthy range, or emptying a grease trap, or scrubbing cookware, or sanitizing countertops…but those too are the realities of a career in the kitchen. Cooking is a lot of behind-the-scenes, roll-up-your-sleeves, good old-fashioned hard work…most of which just isn’t sexy enough to make good primetime TV.
So, whether you love to cook, or just love to watch others cook, career culinarians like those that make up the CIM team, are proud of the booming popularity of the profession. Just don’t believe everything you see on TV!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Culinary Institute of Michigan, or a career in the culinary arts, visit the CIM Webpage.