Since I went to culinary school about two and a half years ago, I’ve been rather indifferent to cooking competition programs. But, I still have loyalty to Bravo’s Top Chef. Maybe, its because I have a crush on Anthony Bourdain (a frequent judge) or maybe its because I owe Bravo a favor for casting me on Millionaire Matchmaker. Regardless, I have learned some lessons from the show I thought I’d share (and they dont involve cooking!).
Lesson #1: Stick with the two “B’s”: Bacon & Booze: Have you ever noticed how much Padma, (when not with child) Gail, and Tom – love alcohol? And bacon? If it makes sense, use these ingredients! Don’t make a beverage virgin if it can be alcoholic (somebody did this once…and I swear Padma seemed sad).
Lesson #2: Don’t make dessert: I’ll write it again: don’t make dessert! Seriously, unless you are a pastry chef or are forced to, never willingly make dessert. With few exceptions, it never goes well, and while the judges might complain about being served meat as a final course, meat as a final course is always better than a bad dessert!
Lesson #3: Toby Young can suck it:Ok, so he is obviously more interested in being a personality than in instigating a thoguhtful conversation. But here’s an example of his ass holery. On one episode, he refused to prounounce “paella” in the standard, Spanish-inflected way. Instead, he sounded out both els so that “pie-AY-uh” became “pie-ELL-uh.” And when Tom Colicchio ribbed him about it, Young scolded everyone in the world who prounounces the word like a Latino. “People don’t say ‘Meh-HI-coe’ or ‘Bar-THUH-low-nuh,’” he snarled. To be fair, Young’s right about the last bit. Most Westerners puth the “ex” in “Mexico” and the “ess” in “Barcelona,” and we snicker when Alex Trebek says the word like a fur’ner. But the word “paella” has entered the Western vocabulary with its original pronunciation intact, much like “tortilla” and “quesadilla.” By insisting on Anglicizing the word, and belittling those who don’t, Young demonstrated an ugly, colonialist attitude that the “ethnic” way is not the “right” way… that the British/Western method is inherently superior. For all I know, the entire United Kingdom says “paella” like Young does, but I’ll wager that if someone corrected them, the bulk of them wouldn’t act like pricks about it. Ok, rant over.
. Lesson #4: If your hot, you will “pack your knives”: Sorry, but it’s true. There’s always one obligatory hot chick/season (who always finds it necessary to sun bathe in a bikini) – and while they sometimes go far (Casey, Jen.), they never win. There is also an obligatory gay guy/girl, the token asian, the token red neck, the token black guy, and of course, a “stud”.
Lesson #5: Keep it Simple! In cooking (and in life) sometimes the best route is the simplest. You don’t need to prepare an extravagant dish that goes over the top. A dish with minimal ingredients and prepared with a simple garnish can be delicious. Simple isn’t boring, but it has to be GOOD. Do one thing and do it extremely well, and this can take you far.
So at my newish job, I’ve been trying to ween the kids off packaged snacks by making homemade, slightly “lighter” versions of their favorites. I scored a doughnut pan (which I hear Deb just got!) and made these light as air doughnuts!
- 2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat, half all purpose, for a gluten free version that is semi decent, I would sub 1 cup peanut flour with 1 cup brown rice flour)
- 3/4 cup white sugar (or stevia, splenda, or all those other sugar fakes)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon shortening