Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Cooking Show... Just Cook This!

While I love to eat, cook and talk, write and read about eating and cooking my tolerance for cooking shows is pretty low these days. And that's a big change from when I first started watching The Food Network and couldn't get enough of Essence of Emeril, Emeril Live, The Iron Chef, Good Eats, Grillin' and Chillin', etc.

These days I've grown weary of Emeril's schtick (isn't it amazing that things taste good when cooked in a half pound of butter and a cup of heavy cream?), my thoughts on Batali (who says things like "I'm the best Iron Chef..." to a magazine?) and Flay are well known, the usually reliable Alton Brown is starting to grate on my nerves, and I've never been able to watch Paula Dean, Dino DeLaurentis' granddaughter, Jamie Oliver or that guy with the spiked hair who talks about diners. Guy whatshisname.

Honestly, the best cooking shows I've ever watched have been The Frugal Gourmet and any show featuring Ming Tsai. Why? Because they made dishes that I'd want to make and neither The Frug nor Tsai comes off like a pompous, condescending know-it-all.

Anyway, this wasn't intended as a rant about the state of food TV. Instead, I actually came to praise a new show, Just Cook This which airs on the Discovery Health channel. (Yes, in between their shows about nightmarish pregnancies, the lifes and loves of little people, mystery illnesses, and insane couples with 30 kids they actually have other programming.)

Hosted by a 40-something aging hipster named Sam Zien, Just Cook This is filmed in Zien's actual kitchen where he creates simple, healthy dishes based around a central ingredient. The debut featured the affable host whipping up Mexican-, Mediterranean- and Asian-influenced dishes featuring my favorite protein and best of all they all looked like something I'd want to make.

Better yet, Zien goes to great lengths to demystify cooking and impart some wisdom along the way, and he's not afraid to embrace his screw ups such as the debut's oversized Mediterranean wrap or the tiny burger buns in episode two. Like my motto goes, "Relax, it's only cooking."

Granted, this endorsement is only based on one-and-a-half episodes so the show could slide into an unwatchable morass. But I'm betting it doesn't.


John said...

I must catch Just Watch This. As for Jeff Smith: I do miss him. When I was a kid sitting on my grandmother's bed watching PBS every Sunday afternoon, I used to try and scribble down his recipes as feverishly as possible. Didn't work. While I do have a higher tolerance for some of those Food Network personalities, I do wish somebody would start a classic cooking show network - all Frugal Gourmet - French Chef - Galloping Gourmet all the time!

Dan said...

What a great idea... I would *totally* watch a Classic Cooking Network. As for The Frug, that was the first cookbook I ever received. I still have it, though the cover is gone and it's stained beyond belief.

Daniela said...

I love the Frugal Gourmet! I used to watch his show when I was about 17 or so. Ming Tsai is amazing as well. He is too much fun, and comes across the screen as a genuine, sincere person.

I completely agree with you on the pompousness of some of the chefs on FoodTV. I no longer watch it, unless I'm at my mom's house... and I'll quickly give it up for Victory Garden.

I got sick of Emeril when I realized that just about everything he cooks isn't home-kitchen friendly, unless you live in a major metropolitan area, have the entire contents of a Williams-Sonoma store in your pantry, unlimited cash flow, an albino Muscovy duck, and a kitchen cleaning crew at your disposal. The band says it all. If you do not have a band in your kitchen, chances are, you're not going to have everything you need to make one of his recipes. Should you have a band in your kitchen, you'll likely suffer the complete blockage of one coronary artery or another due to the amount of saturated fat in the dish. You might as well just inject Crisco into your vein; it'd probably be healthier.

I like your blogs :)

Dan said...

Daniela: Thanks for stopping by. I really enjoyed what I've read of SWEET VINEGAR and have bookmarked it so I can stay up to date. I never got to meet the Frug but I did get a nice note from Ming Tsai once after I sent him a copy of The Hungover Gourmet newsletter.

As for Emeril, my wife and I always joke about how if you put a stick of butter and cup of heavy cream in each dish it'd be hard for them NOT to taste great!