Sunday, September 20, 2009

Food(snob) Network

So I love Food Network, and I watch it all the time. Something they have done a lot lately is competitive cooking. Now this is not a new thing. People have had cooking contests for a long time. But now we are putting them on TV and raising the stakes and the standards. And this is not a bad thing in and of itself. I love me some Iron Chef America, although the sexism and racism I've noticed on the show is another post.

But watching this show, I realized something. Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Chopped all feature chefs making food I will have the chance to eat maybe a few times in my entire life, if ever. I am watching the judges critique this food and I'm thinking: I have no frame of reference. I have no idea what these judges are talking about when they praise the 'richness of the Wagyu beef' or the 'brightness of the carpaccio with lemongrass essence', because I have never tried these things.

They eat these dishes that we have just watched these chefs spend so much effort on, years of training and artisanship and sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of expensive food. It looks beautiful and exotic. The chef will talk to the camera about the thoughts they had making the food and why they think it will be delicious.

And then some (almost always white) people judge it. They dissect it- sometimes literally, and make faces about minor details and sometimes they will denigrate a chef for having bad taste, again literally.
As in, and I quote, "My problem is she actually thinks this a good dish." Well, I'm sorry this is such a problem for you, asshole.
I can't imagine a chef making a dish that they know is going to critiqued, testing it, and going "Yeah, that sucks. Let's see if they like it!"

I guess I have a problem with these over-educated-palate-having judges eating this beautiful, painstakingly made food that most people will never get a chance to try... and then picking it apart. I suppose that's the idea of judging the food, but to me it speaks of incredible privilege. As though someone were to do my laundry for me, and I complain that they folded the towels wrong.
I'd like to see them have people judging the food who aren't celebrities or famous foodies.

I will be the first to volunteer.