Monday, September 05, 2005

Top 5 TV chefs

1. Julia Child. My favorite moment is the Nancy Silverton episode of Baking With Julia. After tasting Nancy's brioche tart, Julia begins to weep and cannot speak.

2. Alton Brown. His recipes are excellent (a favorite is his shrimp cocktail). And I will never tire of his through-the-refrigerator shots. Good Eats is the only Food Network program for which we still have a TiVo season pass set.

3. Jacques Pépin. I adore Jacques Pépin, especially the way he seems never to care that he's on TV. He comes across as the most sincerely cheerful man. I can't get enough of his little shrimp casseroles. I think of all these superstars, I would be most eager to dine with Jacques.

4. Mark Bittman. A newcomer to telechefdom, his show (now airing on my PBS station) called How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes on America's Chefs is my favorite program of the summer in any genre. His banter with the big-time chefs he "battles" is always funny. They mock and rib and insult each other. In the episode I watched this weekend, Bittman makes a lavash bread stuffed with potatoes and the Indian chef Suvir Saran describes it as "a knish gone wrong." I have been eager to eat everything that both Bittman and his battle-mates have cooked and have laughed out loud at most episodes. Of all of my cookbooks the one that's falling apart the most from constant use is Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

5. Mario Batali. I have had way too much of Mario and I never watch him any more. But Molto Mario was a fantastic cooking show (there have to my knowledge been no new ones in a couple of years), though often badly produced, awkwardly planting boring questions for the guests to fire at Mario, letting him stammer and repeat himself through his impromptu discussions of Italian cookery, and ending before they had a decent shot of the finished dishes. Yet I learned a ton from watching it daily. Now the Food Network has fewer shows in which a chef cooks in a studio kitchen in "real time" and I miss them. That's probably why I watch so little of it now.


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