Food for Thought

High on Chopped but not Hell's Kitchen: The cooking shows Houston chefs watch on TV

High on Chopped but not Hell's Kitchen: The cooking shows Houston chefs watch on TV

Julia Child, chef, kitchen
Whatever your food porn faves are, you’ll want to catch PBS’s tribute to Julia Child starting Aug. 5. Watch, cook and remember why we all loved her. The Monday Evening Club
News_Marene Gustin_Guy Food for Super Bowl_020310_Ziggy Gruber_Kenny & Ziggy's
Ziggy Gruber of Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen is a huge fan of the old Julia Child PBS show. Photo by Paula Murphy
Curry Crawl, Shiva Patel, Queen Vic, June 2012
Shiva Patel of the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen, doesn’t get to watch a lot of TV, but when she does food shows are her guilty pleasure. Photo by Karen Burd
News_Marene_chefs_gadgets_Vanessa O'Donnell
Sweet Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique has a personal connection to some shows. Photo courtesy of Ooh La La Courtesy of Ooh La La
Chef German Mosquera, Roots Bistro, Roots Juice
“I actually don't have a TV,” says German Mosquera of Roots Bistro and the newly opened Roots Juice. Courtesy of Studio Communications
Chef Roberto Castre, Latin Bites
“Even though every chefs’ hours are long and free time is hard, I make sure to record the series Chopped and Iron Chef,” says chef Roberto Castre of Latin Bites.  Photo by Renato Rimach
Julia Child, chef, kitchen
News_Marene Gustin_Guy Food for Super Bowl_020310_Ziggy Gruber_Kenny & Ziggy's
Curry Crawl, Shiva Patel, Queen Vic, June 2012
News_Marene_chefs_gadgets_Vanessa O'Donnell
Chef German Mosquera, Roots Bistro, Roots Juice
Chef Roberto Castre, Latin Bites

There has been an explosion of food and cooking shows on television over the past decade. Almost any channel you turn to has some foodie feature or culinary challenge going down.

And a lot of Houston chefs and restaurants have been featured on these programs. Guy Fieri has visited our diners, drive-ins and dives, Monica Pope and Bryan Caswell have taken some chef challenges while Rebecca Masson and the recently departed (no, he didn’t die, he moved in New York City, but that may be the same thing) Vanarin Kuch battled over desserts.

But do local working chefs really watch these shows?

My pal Jennifer Olin, who writes a nursing blog, recently came up with the idea to do a column on whether nurses watch medical shows. And while researching it she asked me if chefs watch cooking shows. Hence this column. Thanks for the idea Jen.

 Ziggy Gruber is a huge fan of the old Julia Child PBS show. So much so that he is featured in a promo for the station’s August tribute to Julia’s 100th birthday. And yes, he does call her a badass. 

Ziggy Gruber, of Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, is a huge fan of the old Julia Child PBS show. So much so that he is featured in a local promo for the station’s August tribute to Julia’s 100th birthday. And yes, he does call her a badass in the promo.

But he also watches current shows.

“I love Good Eats with Alton Brown, he is Bullwinkle’s Mr. Peabody of cooking, always entertaining and informative,” says Gruber.

“I like watching Giada De Laurentiis on Everyday Italian. Besides the smoky lens with which it’s shot and the food porn music, all she is wearing is a smile. Chinese Food Made Easy with Ching-He Huang on Cooking Channel makes me want to immediately run out for Chinese food. She goes from market to market, not just in China but around the world, so you learn every country’s take on Chinese cuisine and cooking.

"And Chef Wanted with Ann Burrell, she really knows what she’s doing, she’s very knowledgeable and her techniques show she has the experience to back up what she’s saying. It’s like when one violinist sees another and knows they are a virtuoso. But if she ever decides to give up cooking, she could definitely fit in with the cast of Mob Wives.”

Shiva Patel of the Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen, doesn’t get to watch a lot of TV, but when she does food shows are her guilty pleasure.

“I don’t get to watch until late at night,” says the London-born chef of Indian descent. “But my favorite are the travel shows like Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.”

Ronnie Killen of the foodie steakhouse fame recently auditioned for a food show. So what does he watch?

Top Chef, Chopped, Restaurant Impossible,” he says. “Top Chef because I like the quick thinking in the quick fire challenge. Chopped the same, I like the quick thinking of what to make with the mystery basket. Chefs have to be creative on the fly. Restaurant Impossible is to see what not to do.”

 In fact, Chopped and Iron Chef seem to be the most popular shows for chefs.

 In fact, Chopped and Iron Chef seem to be the most popular shows for chefs.

“Even though every chef's hours are long and free time is hard, I make sure to record the series Chopped and Iron Chef,” says chef Roberto Castre of Latin Bites. “Both shows are entertaining and I love to see how each chef showcases their creativity. The dishes they come up with are spectacular and I am always impressed in how short of time they do it.”

Sweet Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique has a personal connection to some shows.

“While I was in Dallas attending the home and garden show, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Curtis Stone and got an opportunity to meet him,” she says. “Not only do I like Curtis Stone because he is easy on the eye, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him on Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates.”

She also likes Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and, of course, Cupcake Wars.

“Because it is what I do. And I hope to one day compete on the show.”

But not all chefs watch food shows.

“I actually don't have a TV,” says German Mosquera of Roots Bistro and the newly opened Roots Juice. “And most chefs I know don't actually have time to watch cooking shows. But I get a lot out of YouTube and enjoy shorts with Ferran Adria from El Bulli, and we recently watched all of the TED talks Food series, which was really inspiring.”

“I haven’t watched much in the last three years,” says Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo’s cibo e vino. “I guess the younger chefs do, but by the time I get home I just want to relax.”

But she did used to love the shows that really taught you about how to cook: Too Hot Tamales, the early Emeril Lagasse shows and Two Fat Ladies.

“Their food was terrible, everything slathered in bacon, but they were so funny!

“But those shows used to be about teaching cooking, now it’s all about celebrity chefs and entertainment.”

Whatever your food porn faves are, you’ll want to catch PBS’s tribute to Julia Child starting Aug. 5. Watch, cook and remember why we all loved her.