Two TV Chefs

The school year has begun! It always takes a little while to get going, and said little while has elapsed. I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand I really do enjoy the poring over texts, the pondering of abstract notions, the pontificating of…uh…woops, that’s an intransitive verb. Shucks to my parallelism…anyway, those are the fun parts.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of unwanted reading and concomitant school-type stresses to get through — picking paper topics, trying to force oneself to talk in class, worrying about how to tie in any of it with possible career goals, etc. Those are the less fun parts.

My point is that in college I discovered that cooking shows helped me to relax, and to temporarily banish the less fun parts without also forgetting too much of the fun parts. Through some accident of fate, we had free cable one year and I started watching too much Food Network. Like many Food Network viewers, I became besotted with the irrepressible Rachel Ray. But then Ray’s charms caught the eye of media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who transformed her into (or arguably, accelerated her inevitable progress towards) the culinary Ricki Lake. I had to let her go.

So lately I’ve been looking for new TV chefs to idolize, especially people who are a little edgier than Ms. Ray and are hence unlikely to saturate the airwaves down the line.

As a way of procrastinating, I wanted to share my thoughts on two that I’ve latched onto so far: Hubert Keller and Anne Burrell.

Hubert — his first name is awesome — has a PBS show called “Secrets of a Chef.” It’s supposedly geared towards normal TV-watching home cooks, but really it’s just a hilariously elaborate exploration of fancy food. I really don’t know anyone (who isn’t retired) who cooks like this. But even though I could never envision actually preparing any of these dishes, I do love watching the show because Hubert is really goofy, with his long locks and whatnot, and he does the whole song and dance without any apparent effort. Also the show has an amusing low-budget quality and (related) a cheezy jazz-funk soundtrack throughout! Incredible.

In fact Hubert did a stint on Top Chef Masters where he mentioned his other great love, which is DJing!
So here’s a clip of him DJing whilst dancing around, which I think adequately conveys why I like him:

Look at how much fun he’s having! Yay!

My other pick is Anne Burrell, who has a Food Network show with title uncannily similar to Hubert’s: “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.” (You may also remember her from the Mario Bitali kitchen crew in Iron Chef America.)

First good thing: Chef Burrell’s food is easy to make and calls for ingredients that folks probably have in their kitchens. Next good thing: her background as a culinary school instructor shines through because you definitely take away little tidbits of information with every viewing. (For example: before grilling salmon, you should let it sit with the skin up for a while — that way the skin dries out and gets all crunchy when you cook it.) The other great thing about Burrell is just style. She has spiky hair, makes wacky hand gestures whilst cooking, and seems to subscribe to some kind of vaguely transcendental hippie philosophy of food preparation, without actually being vegan or anything like that. I don’t know what this belief system is or implies exactly, but I dig it.

Finally, here’s a medley of (exaggerated) odd noises that she has made on camera — which also gives you a sense of the gestures and style and cetera:

I hope I’ve broadened your TV chef horizons a little bit. Now I’ll return to the books and to the free range chicken legs that have been slow braising with veggies for much the afternooon…awesome!

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