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Vervain

They're no Julia

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I didn't realize until I read Julia Child's biography that Sara Moulton started out as one of JC's assistants, fresh out of culinary school. Maybe that's where she picked up some of her TV teaching techniques. Makes you wonder about who Sara's assistants are now...will any of them be teaching future TV-watching generations, still using some of Julia's techniques?

In my copy of Julia Child & More Company (a beloved gift from a generous E-gulleteer) there is a picture of Sara, looking about 13 years old, with Julia loooooming over her (Sara's about five-feet-nothing, I believe, and Julia was six- feet-something). Very cute picture! I do hope you're right about the techniques being handed down.


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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So what specifically makes Mario or Julia or Jacques or Sarah or (fill in with whomever else) a great TV teacher?  And what do the others do or not do that keeps us from learning anything?

Do the good teachers talk more about ingredients (quality, variety, freshness, etc.)?

Does the camera work focus more on their hands, showing us technique?

Do they work slowly enough for us to follow what they're doing, but fast enough so we don't get bored?

Do they explain why they use what they use in a recipe?

Are the "bad" teachers failing because of bad or overly difficult recipes, their tone, bad camera work, they move too quickly to follow, the entertainment focus overrides the instructional one?

My personal take:

Good teachers in the cooking sense go beyond just showing you the recipes. They teach you an underlying philosophy or approach. They give reasons why they did something they way they did. They define ingredients, why they go together, what makes the dish work. They give history if necessary. From a speaking skills standpoint they seem knowledgeable about the subject and aren't glued to cue cards or scripts.

My top pantheon of FTV chefs: Mario, Sara, Ming, Alton, Rosengarten. All approached their shows exactly in that fashion I talked about above. PBS has some top-caliber teachers, too. In fact as a general rule they do much better on the teaching element of cooking shows than FTV did.

My resonse to the what makes a bad teacher is pretty much found in your questions. Perfect example: Emeril. A Taste of Emeril is pretty good, esp. when he's doing Louisiana cooking: he's in his element and understands intrinsically that style of cooking. Emeril Live however just grates my nerves, precisely because it is focused more on the entertainment angle. I'm not fond of either of the new "diet" cooking shows on FTV (Calorie Commando and Low Carb and Lovin' It), and that show called I think Lighten Up is one of the single worst cooking shows I've ever seen. But Cooking Thin I thought worked much better because they did go much more beyond the dishes and talked about lifestyle changes, techniques, etc.

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That's why more men apparently watch her show... :wink:

That's also why she started out on another cable network, not the Foodnetwork. She's selling sex appeal under the guise of cooking.

Yes, an little English channel called Channel 4. The Food Network is the only channel allowed to show cooking shows now? :wacko:

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one of alton brown's Good Eat's segments where he was rapping...that was really dumb, though mr. brown's show is informative..

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Years back the old BBC series Floyd on food. I used to love his show. I wonder if they ever put it on DVD. I think Sara dumbs it down too much, I don't think I have ever made it through a show.

I agree though I miss Julia.


**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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Yes, an little English channel called Channel 4. The Food Network is the only channel allowed to show cooking shows now?  :wacko:

I think he was referring to the U.S. debut of her shows on the Style network.

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I learned alot from watching the Frugel Gourmet. I was in high school/college when he was on and he reallly opened new doors of different ethnic cooking for me. I remember sitting there with a notebook to write down any good recipes that I might see. I think with the advent of the web more (not all) cooking shows don't really go through the specifics of the ingredients, they just show you how to loosely put it together, than tell you to get the recipes on the web, (sometimes the recipes online are nothing like the person on TV cooked).

I have a question: Do you think if Julia's show was on the Food network now would it fly or flop with the general viewing audience?

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I enjoy Alton Brown when he is discoursing on history or technical information, but his histrionics and side bars are getting to be too much. Some of the ancillary characters are more of a distraction than anything else. He seems to be becoming a caricature of himself. Sometimes, less is more.

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I have a question: Do you think if Julia's show was on the Food network now would it fly or flop with the general viewing audience?

I found the irony a little thick that FTV aired a special about her in the midst of their new drive away from cooking shows and more towards food entertainment.

She's such a charismatic presence it would be hard not to think she would be met with some degree of success and/or a following. Still I can see her cooking show getting swept aside by the powers that be at FTV in favor of this new direction and then burdening her with another "travelling the US" type show. Her stance on things like butter and cream would also I think catch some flak.

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I vote for Mario Batali as one of the very best teachers on TV (too bad Molto Mario was canceled). I have learned a whole lot from watching Mario. I also have to give him credit for having the most well-written recipes in the business. I can’t think of any of his recipes that I tried, which didn’t work. I was also very pleasantly surprised when I visitied Babbo that, having made so many of his recipes over the years, the results I had achieved at home were passably comparable to what he served at his restaurant.

But since the question was about who is the worst… I have to say without any reservation that this honor falls on Ainsley Harriet. I lack the vocabulary to properly describe my disdain for this man’s horrifying attempts at cooking instruction.

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One big difference between Julia Child's and Sara Moulton's styles is that I never noticed any bias in Julia. She seemed to like all foods equally and her classes and cookbooks played no favorites. Sara, on the other hand, is entirely prejuidiced in favor of salads and vegetarian dishes and takes great delight in throwing hot peppers into everything.

Also, Sara has been known to stumble through dishes she's obviously never made before. One time she was preparing an apple dessert which was supposed to be sliced horizontally and then reconstructed. Sara sliced it top to bottom and then tried to put it together. You can bet Julia always did her homework.

Sara has/had several concurrent jobs and had to appear daily, but perhaps she took on more than she should. Her call-in show was more enjoyable to me, probably because she doesn't have a personality big enough to fill the entire screen, a la Julia.

Nevertheless, I believe Sara is authentic and a pretty good teacher. Also liked her cookbook which I reviewed here.


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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--snip--

But since the question was about who is the worst… I have to say without any reservation that this honor falls on Ainsley Harriet. I lack the vocabulary to properly describe my disdain for this man’s horrifying attempts at cooking instruction.

Ah, yes - good ol' Ainsley. A good part of that impression is due to his playing things for laughs. His books aren't bad, if a little thin.

I was a religious watcher of "Can't Cook, Won't Cook" when BBC America was showing it, principally for the comedic value. Made one realize that there is a grain of truth (at least in certain cases) in those awful kitchen-tool ads where the kitchen becomes a disaster area when the pre-gadget-of-the-hour housewife tries to make pancakes/meatballs/whatever.


Charlie

Walled Lake, Michigan

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One big difference between Julia Child's and Sara Moulton's styles is that I never noticed any bias in Julia. She seemed to like all foods equally and her classes and cookbooks played no favorites.  Sara, on the other hand, is entirely prejuidiced in favor of salads and vegetarian dishes and takes great delight in throwing hot peppers into everything....

...Nevertheless, I believe Sara is authentic and a pretty good teacher. Also liked her cookbook which I reviewed here.

She has this weird bias against cold pasta salads, too, as if they are a crime against humanity. :blink:

That being said, I agree that she is a pretty good teacher, too.


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Watching Jacques Pepin's new show made me think about how some people, like Jacques and Julia, are wonderful teachers.  I think Sarah M. is good at this too. 

So, in your opinion, which chefs really aren't so good at teaching on TV?  Whose show is/was too obscure, intimidating, unclear, etc.?

I'm going to let my prejudices show here. There's one person I don't mind watching, but I don't believe a word she says. Giada DeLaurentis. I just can't believe that anyone could eat significant amounts of Italian food and stay that tiny. :raz:

Plus, yesterday she was boiling water for pasta, and she instructed viewers to throw two handfuls of sea salt into the water. From what I could tell, she threw at least $3 worth of sea salt into the pot.

I'm having trouble believing that most people could tell the difference between pasta cooked in sea salt water, and pasta cooked in water with some other kind of salt. I know, I know, there are a few who could. But most people can't. While I can appreciate that we should all use excellent ingredients whenever possible, I'm having trouble with this one, especially considering the huge difference in cost between a couple of handfuls of sea salt, and a couple of handfuls of kosher salt--or, good grief, even regular iodized salt.

If you can enlighten me, be my guest.

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I came across this essay last night. It seems very appropriate to this thread.

Searching for Julia Child

Note: this is written from the perspective of someone who doesn't cook.


"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I came across this essay last night.  It seems very appropriate to this thread.

Searching for Julia Child

Note: this is written from the perspective of someone who doesn't cook.

Tyler Florence, host of Food 911 and How to Boil Water, is the beginner's best friend. If anyone on the Food Network's roster might follow in Child's footsteps, it is the likable and efficient Florence. His series aren't limited to fundamentals, but teach viewers to make impressive meals. More than any of the cooks I watched, Florence most resembled Child, guiding his audience with patience and good humor.

TYLER FLORENCE following in Julia Child's footsteps??? tyler florence most resembles child?

the horror. i cannot even bring myself to contemplate the number of verbal tics and filler words florence uses constantly....on more than one occasion, i've had to turn the kitchen tv off because he's repeated the same inanity ("ya know") to the point that it crept into my subconscious and i couldn't even bear it as background noise.

doesn't he have about three shows now? i briefly saw him on "how to boil water". apparently he replaced the guy with the accent and the difficult name (von koppernal?). i'd prefer the accent, and the self-deprecation, but that's just me.


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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I'm having trouble believing that most people could tell the difference between pasta cooked in sea salt water, and pasta cooked in water with some other kind of salt. I know, I know, there are a few who could. But most people can't. While I can appreciate that we should all use excellent ingredients whenever possible, I'm having trouble with this one, especially considering the huge difference in cost between a couple of handfuls of sea salt, and a couple of handfuls of kosher salt--or, good grief, even regular iodized salt.

You are 100% correct. The difference is undetectable, even when using the really algea/mineral "full" sea salt which I doubt she used. After all, all salt is salt i:e NaCl. Sorry to veer off subject I just had to answer this.

Since I am here though, I'll chime in. Ainsley cannot teach or be watchable to save his life, I cannot stand to watch him.

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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a person may be a wealth of information, but that doesn't mean they can teach AND do it on-camera. i don't doubt that sara moulton has talent, but her habit of interrupting or finishing her guests' sentences is more than annoying.

don't even get me started on rachel ray.

these days, i just watch for entertainment, but the great chefs series really started things off for me many moons ago.

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I find Charlie Trotter to be excellent on the Kitchen Sessions. For me it's the first time I've been excited about a show since Molto Mario. As you'd expect, it's very serious business, with many very chefy sort of dishes that I, for one, would be extremely unlikely to cook at home. But I love the fact that he's unapologetic about it. He's the anti-Rachel Ray, and he's clearly aiming for the serious cook, perhaps even the professional.

Here's an example of one show. Two dishes:

a) Jelly terrine. Brined, smoked chicken breast, cubed, seasoned. Prepare fennel jelly (fennel broth to which has been added sheets of bloomed gelatin.) Sautee onion and sliced fennel. Put alternating layers of chicken mixture and fennel mixture in terrine mold, pouring in fennel jelly along the way. Chill etc.

Sauce: saute fennel bulb until soft. blend with fennel fronds, garlic, water, olive oil.

Plate slice of terrine with drizzle of sauce plus a salad component of sliced fennel, apple and radish lightly dressed in oil and lemon. Then tiny french breakfast radishes and a few micro greens are strewn about.

During this construction of the dish he's constantly examining his choices and giving alternatives. He explains, eg, that the apple gives sweetness, the radish bite, and that he doesn't want a heavy vinaigrette to interfere. He discusses the strategy of taking a single element (fennel) and incorporating it in a variety of ways in the same dish.

b) A roasted duck served family style.

Oil the duck, coat in coiander and fennel seeds and place on top of vegetables in a roasing pan. Roast high (450) then lower to 350 for an hour.

Whole fennel bulb wrapped in prosciutto and caul fat, browned in pan then baked in low oven for two hours. Sliced vertically.

Carved meat and fennel arranged on platter with a sauce of meat reduction, dried cherry, sherry vinegar, fennely fronds.

Again, lots of informative commentary given along the way, but no hand holding (eg. he's not going to get into how to purchase or truss a duck. I like this. He assumes you either know how or know how to find out.)

The show has lots of infomative glimpses into the restaunant kitchen as well.


"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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One of my favorites on FN was Good Eats, but the news that he's giving out less-than-accurate information kind of ruins it for me.

Cook's Tour was also one of my favorites, but I've seen every episode at least four times now, and they're obviously not coming out with new ones.

The first two food shows I watched, and the ones that inspired me to expand my horizons, were the Frugal Gourmet and Great Chefs (I watched both in my high school and college years.)

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Until we moved last March, we did not have cable, so we were "limited" to the shows on PBS. Julia and Jacques have been favorites of mine, and my kids, for years.

Now that we have cable, we've been introduced to many more of the "cooking" shows.

It's been interesting to get my kids' reactions on them. On Rachel Ray, Peter asked "is she on TV because she's supposed to be a hot chick?" Diana finds Emeril to be very pompous. They both like Mario and Sarah. The other day, we flipped through, and Emeril was cooking chateaubriand. The kids asked what it was, and all I could say was "a cut of beef. An expensive cut." I loved Diana's comment. Julia or Jacques would have told us more about this cut of meat, and what to look for. Out of the mouths of babes...

When it comes to Food TV, teach us, please. I'll seek entertainment elsewhere.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Until we moved last March, we did not have cable, so we were "limited" to the shows on PBS.  Julia and Jacques have been favorites of mine, and my kids, for years.

Now that we have cable, we've been introduced to many more of the "cooking" shows.

It's been interesting to get my kids' reactions on them.  On Rachel Ray, Peter asked "is she on TV because she's supposed to be a hot chick?"  Diana finds Emeril to be very pompous.  They both like Mario and Sarah.  The other day, we flipped through, and Emeril was cooking chateaubriand.  The kids asked what it was, and all I could say was "a cut of beef.  An expensive cut."  I loved Diana's comment.  Julia or Jacques would have told us more about this cut of meat, and what to look for.  Out of the mouths of babes...

When it comes to Food TV, teach us, please.  I'll seek entertainment elsewhere.

snowangel, from all i've read here, i really love your kids!

also, as a cooking teacher with very limited on-camera experience , (i've been on a couple hgtv segments recently, but hey--a little exposure can lead to more, right?) i'm finding this thread informative, thought-provoking and helpful. keep it coming, all.


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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snowangel, from all i've read here, i really love your kids!

also, as a cooking teacher with very limited on-camera experience , (i've been on a couple hgtv segments recently, but hey--a little exposure can lead to more, right?) i'm finding this thread informative, thought-provoking and helpful. keep it coming, all.

I would concur. Even though the jelly terrine and the roast duck are not dishes I would attempt right now, I'm pushing myself to expand my cooking skills and the range of food I eat. [A product of the midwest, I was out of college before I was eating vegetables that had never seen the inside of a can. We lived in a fairly isolated area, and only an extremely limited selection of anything was available at the local grocery store. And my family didn't have the money for the more expensive meats.] My husband is less adventurous than I, even though he tries to be a good sport. I could see making something like the terrine or the duck in another year or two. But I think FN is aiming toward the "lowest common denominator" -- and there's nothing wrong with that, everyone's got to start somewhere-- but it seems like the programs featuring more ambitious, uncommon foods and uncommon techniques, are becoming more and more scarce. As long as I can find reruns of Mario and Julia and others, I'll have someone to help me progress to a higher level. But I've never made any of Emeril's recipes. I find him entertaining, but not educational, since often he enhances flavor by simply adding more fat. And I can't figure out who's watching "Unwrapped." Once you've seen one industrial food making process, you've seen them all. And don't even offer me any more shows with people eating insects. I don't know who FN perceives to be their audience, but they seem to be aiming lower and lower with each season.

I hope this isn't too far off the discussion, but what I'm finding is that I don't know how to buy the olive oils and wines that TV chefs often use. Employees at local cooking stores and liquor stores often are clueless as to which would be good with which food. While I understand that labels are often turned away from the camera so as not to endorse one brand above another, doing so leaves a vacuum for the "emerging cook" trying to find good, appropriate ingredients for a given dish. It would be nice if someone would fill that void, and go ahead and name names.

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TYLER FLORENCE following in Julia Child's footsteps??? tyler florence most resembles child?

the horror. i cannot even bring myself to contemplate the number of verbal tics and filler words florence uses constantly....on more than one occasion, i've had to turn the kitchen tv off because he's repeated the same inanity ("ya know") to the point that it crept into my subconscious and i couldn't even bear it as background noise.

You ain't kidding! These fucking FoodTV chefs and their catchphrases. Don't they know how to cook? They just rely on their catchphrases.

Anyway, this is bleachboy. Bon appetit!


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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