What's cooking on TV?

Good tips are dished out from shows that aren’t your standard fare.

By RUTH BELOFF
June 25, 2011 15:14
4 minute read.
'Private Chefs of Beverly Hills'

'Private Chefs of Beverly Hills' 521. (photo credit: courtesy)

 
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All too often when I turn on the TV, someone is in the midst of being beaten up or shot at in a police show or action film. Fortunately, there is a whole other type of television programming where the only things being beaten are eggs, and all that’s being whipped is cream.

There is an abundance of cooking shows on both the Hebrew and English channels, where chefs prepare a wide variety of dishes before your eyes, generously sharing their recipes and providing valuable cooking tips. While that type of cooking show is standard fare, there are several others that have a unique flair and flavor – a little amuse bouche, if you will, to add some spice to the regular regimen of cooking programs. For people who like to cook or, better yet, for people who like to watch other people cook, these English-language shows are definite crowd pleasers.

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One of my favorites on the Good Life Channel (HOT 41) is Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. A company in Los Angeles called Big City Chefs sends out small teams of two to three chefs to do the cooking for some specialty party in clients’ homes in posh Beverly Hills. The party themes can range anywhere from a moguls’ backwoods barbecue or a teenager’s homecoming dinner party to a rock group’s shindig, a Renaissance costume murder mystery dinner or a luncheon for L.A. socialites and their dogs.

The entertainment value of this show is in seeing what creative menus the chefs whip up for the eclectic occasions; the interfering clients; the dynamics between the chefs; the drama that takes place in the kitchen when things (invariably) go wrong and how the chefs manage to salvage the situation.

Another posh program is Amazing Wedding Cakes. Here, too, we see how select and discriminating clients are catered to by the chefs they hire. Spanning specialty cake shops in New York, Chicago and L.A., this reality show takes us behind the scenes to reveal how truly amazing wedding cakes are made – from the creative concept on paper to the baking, structuring and decorating of the fabulous finished products.

Crafting such edible accoutrements as flowers, butterflies, windmills, landscapes and skyscrapers – you name it, they can make it.

Another interesting cooking show is Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag. Here, the two women evaluate cookbooks by trying out some of the recipes on camera. In each episode, they choose a particular ethnic cookbook, such as Indian, Chinese or Mexican, and step by step, they follow the instructions for three different recipes.

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Then they have an expert in that type of cuisine come and taste the results. Before they start, they seek professional advice on cooking utensils and recommend the best types and brands of implements for the task. In the end, after slaving over steaming sashimis or mulling over Mexican molles and subjecting their efforts to the polished palate of a reputable chef, they rate the overall effectiveness and userfriendliness of the cookbook.

On a much simpler and virtually foolproof level, Claire Robinson presents her 5 Ingredient Fix. In each episode, she shows viewers how to make a three-course meal, each course consisting of five ingredients or less. Very personable and very passionate about cooking, she fries, roasts, bakes or blends a menu of appetizer, main dish and dessert, all the while explaining how easy it is to make and how delicious it is to eat.

At the opposite end of the scale, Fearless in the Kitchen takes us into the homes of people who literally cannot boil an egg.

Every week, cooking maven Christine Cushing comes to the rescue of a woman (or man) who can’t cook but wants to be able to make a meal for her family that they will actually eat. In one episode, the featured damsel in distress used her oven for storage and didn’t even know how to turn it on.

In each episode, Cushing takes a woman by the hand and teaches her how to prepare a dish in her own home. Then she takes her to a public venue of some sort, such as a restaurant, events hall or bakery, and has her prepare a particular dish for a large clientele. Once she makes it through that ordeal, the woman returns to her own kitchen, where she confidently prepares a full-course meal for her family and friends.

Knowing how useless the woman has been in the kitchen for all these years, they cannot believe their mouths when they taste the delectable meal she has made herself.

On a more professional level, chef Rima Olvera travels the world to hook up with chefs on the show Duet. From Turkey and India to Israel and Hong Kong, she and a local chef take a jaunt to the produce market, buy a host of fresh ingredients and cook up an exotic meal. While they are shopping and cooking, Olvera – and the viewer – get a mini lesson on the ethnic cuisine and the culture behind it.

So whether you’re cooking for one, cooking for your family or cooking for an army (which in this country is not just an expression), these programs can help you put a little more panache on the menu.

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