Saturday, May 05, 2007

What's Cookin' Volume 2

The Look: The set looks like someone's house but It is hard to tell if it is a real house or a convincing replica. It is French country design which is appropriate considering the host. Maybe it's Jacques' house. What do I know about it? I'm not a set designer. I'm just some dumb-ass Pollack in Chicago.

The Cast: Most of the time it's just Jacques but every once in a while he has an old chef buddy on the show and they poke fun at each other and tell inside jokes that they sometimes explain but not always. Somehow this makes the show more appealing.

Jacques has been around for something like a hundred years and has authored more books than Stephen King. That's serious clout. Also, he's French and (say what you will about the French) those fuckers can cook. They don't call the accepted rules for cooking "French Technique" for nothing.

What's Cookin': There's a lot of French influence in most of the recipes but Jacques has lived and worked in the US for a long time. He knows his audience so he makes recipes geared towards Americans. Also, he worked with Julia Child on books and TV shows and some of her tendency to thumb her nose at tradition in favor of convenience and tricks of the trade gained from years of cooking has rubbed off.

Though Julia's influence is apparent, he generally makes his dishes a bit healthier than she did. When he does put a big wad of butter in the pan he usually justifies it pretty well using the "all things in moderation" defense.

Problems With The Show: It's called "Fast Food My Way" and when Jacques cooks the dishes it does go pretty quick. A home cook needs to allow for a lot more prep time. When you work in a commercial kitchen for years, you get very fast at chopping, dicing and know how to multi-task in the kitchen without the wheels coming off the bus.

Also, less experienced cooks might get flustered by the fact that Jacques rarely measures anything. He (like many experienced cooks) does a lot of guestimating and uses measurements like "a handful" and "however many you like". At least he doesn't use the metric system. You can get written recipes on the show's website.

Why I Watch: He's a living legend of the culinary world. He won the James Beard lifetime achievement award in '05 for fuck's sake! Did YOU win a James Beard award recently? No, you didn't. So go get your knives and start chopping your mirepoix, rookie.

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