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Opinion

The Food Network provides life lessons

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February 24, 2011

Catching a ride on the reality TV wave along with the Bachelors, the Survivors, and the Snookies has been the celebrity chef. 

Bobby Flay was an extraordinary chef, but not a famous one until Food Network unveiled “Iron Chef.” Until he won Food Network’s reality competition “The Next Food Network Star,” Guy Fieri was a nobody. Now he is hosting a game show endorsing everything from cookware to insurance, and he is also popping up on bland talk shows every other morning.

My ultimate hope is that the celebrity chef will do for food what Guitar Hero did for older rock, introduce and excite a new generation to cooking as well as truly good food.

I think it’s fair to say most collegiate freshman have had limited experience in food preparation, and those who have worked in the food service industry may have a jaded view of cooking. Learning the basics to a good meal goes a long way towards saving money, a healthy lifestyle and executing a good first date. 

For those who have never thought about perfecting a fire-roasted garlic peppercorn sauce, much less picking up a wooden spoon, hear me out.  Watch a few episodes of Fieri’s original show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” Afterwards, if you’re not dead from the perceived boredom of a food show, watch a traditional food-prep show.  It doesn’t matter which one; pick a host you think you’ll like and very quickly you will find innumerable similarities in the cooking of nearly all the dishes. 

Inspect the simple art of sautéed vegetables. Get a sharp knife and chop up an onion and a couple celery stalks.  Throw them in a bit of hot oil, no need for olive or butter, and listen to them sizzle.  If they start to blacken, turn down the heat.  It’s simple. From here you can go anywhere.  Sautéed vegetables are the bases of soups, stir-fries, even good sloppy joes and most likely the beginning of three quarters of the dishes you watch being prepared. If your onion and celery mixture burns, so what?  Onions and celery are cheap and you’re learning.  The beauty of cooking is that no matter how slick you are with a sauté pan or a paring knife, you will make mistakes. However, the more you cook the fewer mistakes you will make and the less drastic they will be. The learning experiences will be overshadowed by the superb dishes you create.

Don’t worry about getting a perfect dice. Don’t worry if your gravy is a little lumpy. Are your potatoes a bit undercooked? No big deal. I began college and my independent life not knowing much besides how to over-fry an egg.  After a few years and learning experiences, cooking has gone from a nuisance to a hobby, and now is a passion for me.  Even if you don’t get the same out of it as I have, you can certainly appreciate spending five bucks on a homemade spaghetti dinner for two. Oddly enough, your spaghetti is just as good as the one at any Italian joint for twice the price.