Famous chefs criticize competition cooking shows

 Jacques Pepin and Alice Waters books

For many years, chef competition programs like Bravo TV’s ‘Top Chef’ and the Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ have been highly popular with food lovers. Some food media experts credit this show and others like it for reinvigorating interest in home cooking. But a few people don’t think that the program is doing cooking any favors. Culinary icons Alice Waters and Jacques Pépin recently critized some of these shows at a Television Critics Association press tour stop.

The chefs feels that the shows promote the worst of the U.S. “fast food culture”. Says Pépin, “It’s a disservice very often because this is not what’s cooking is all about. That kind of confrontation that you have there is not really how you learn to cook. Or how you understand food.” Waters agrees, saying that cooking is “never about competition. It’s about the pleasure of dealing with real food.”

Waters admits, however, that the country is in the midst of a food revolution, and the public is ready to “start learning how to cook.” One could argue that part of this readiness is due to the popularity of cooking shows like Top Chef and Chopped. But on the flip side, some studies show that people who watch reality cooking programs actually cook less, and are less healthy.

What’s your take on these competition shows? Do they encourage interest in cooking, make us hungry and therefore eat too much, or a little of both? 

Update: Pepin clarified his remarks in a Facebook post to Tom Colicchio:

“A couple of articles that came out recently that were not quite accurate. Below is the note I wrote to Tom Colicchio and I trust this settles the matter. -JP

Dear Tom
I was at a PBS convention in Pasadena over the weekend and was quoted as criticizing the reality food shows and they mentioned Top Chef. I criticized shows where the chef insults and yells at the cooks and the cooks are fighting between themselves as not being conducive to learning and good cooking and I still stand by that. That certainly did not include Top Chef. I have been privileged to be part of it several times, I enjoyed it and I have great respect for you as a chef. I am writing a clarification on my Facebook Page.
Hope all is well with you and your family. See you soon.


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  • Rinshin  on  January 17, 2017

    Watched them few times when staying at hotels or a hospital stay. Don't like them.

  • adrienneyoung  on  January 18, 2017

    Give me Good Eats any day…

  • rivergait  on  January 19, 2017

    I have read that Food Network moved from "cooking" to "competition" to appeal more to men. The older (and now daytime) shows were instructional. Notice how the evening shows (after work, as if only guys "come home from work") are like football games. Chefs even compete in stadiums!

  • melpy  on  January 19, 2017

    I miss the instructional shows. I had to stop watching FN. It's like a machine churning out drivel.

  • FJT  on  January 19, 2017

    I'm not a fan of competitive food shows, but I do like the BBC's "Saturday Kitchen" and some the food / travel shows.

  • annmartina  on  January 19, 2017

    Done a certain way, they can be enjoyable. I've found GBBO to be the most enjoyable competitive cooking show I've ever watched. I'd rank Top Chef second, depending on the season. I want it to be about the food, not the drama.

  • slimmer  on  January 23, 2017

    I really like Top Chef. Used to consider Chopped as bizarre because no one in their right minds would choose the food combinations that appear in the baskets; but I have to say it has taught me how to prepare some unusual ingredients. Over the last few years, however, The Food Network has devolved into a collection of strained competitions (e.g., the faky Worst Cooks in America) and travelogues (how many episodes can there be of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?). Programming execs have lost their touch — I never see shows from the winners of Food Network Star, but the runners-up are everywhere. Cooking Channel, meanwhile, seems like a dumping ground for failed FN ethnic food series.

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