Monday, April 13, 2009

Off the Telly: My love affair with celebrity chefs

Since I got here in Bermuda, watching the “telly” (TV ‘to mga ‘tol) has played a huge role in my survival in this teensy weensy island especially during winter season. Otherwise, what else do I have to do when I’ve been to almost every nook and cranny in my first year here and when every appealing shop and cafés are closed at 5:30pm - - errr, when I’m still holed up in my audit prison!

Bermuda only has 3 local channels (although at least walang network war cum kapamilya or kapuso dito) and it’s almost imperative for an expat to hook up with a cable company. However, this comes with an efffing price!!! $150 a month for 100++ channels, with 2 extra pay channels, and broadband service (not including ISP connection which you have to pay $100/month separately). The upside is that with the close proximity to the US East Coast, I get to watch my favorite US shows real-time e.g. CSI, 24, Bones, etc. And of course, I have to make sure I get my value for money which means spending more time in the couch / bed surfing and watching new shows - - albeit dealing with my numb arse (pwet ‘to mga ‘tol) from sitting too long.

‘Tis when I developed my love affairs with different celebrity chefs. Being in Bermuda has revived my love for watching cooking / food shows. I remember in grade school, one of my quality times with my late Mama (my late lola, the greatest cook in my book) was watching Nora Daza and Stephen Yan of “Wok with Yan” (who btw, in my opinion, still has the fastest chopping and slicing skills I’ve ever seen) . I remember always looking forward to Stephen Yan’s different aprons with printed wok “pun” - - “you are wok you eat”, and his fortune cookie in every episode. Then this stopped when I discovered there was more to do outside the house with friends than watching TV (well, except during Saturday Fun Machine hour).

Fast forward to today, I am amazed by the West’s fascination to food shows. There are dedicated channels on food (Food Network, Lifestyle, Fine Living) and a plethora of cooking reality shows (Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Chopping Block, Last Restaurant Standing, etc.). No wonder the influx of the so-called “celebrity chefs” who are watched and celebrated like the Hollywood A-listers. And to be honest, I can’t blame them - - these celebrity chefs offer more than just entertainment compared to today’s Hollywood personalities. These are my top favorites:

Gordon Ramsay – The British kitchen god who rivals my Dad’s temper . I am never a fan of Hell’s Kitchen and I think his deliberate over-the-top (OTT) temper tantrums are just for the telly. But OMG, I can’t get enough watching his other British shows: “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” and “The F-Word”.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is my absolute favorite. This show revolves around Gordon troubleshooting a failing restaurant with the aim of improving the restaurant in just one week. Here, you see the true Gordon and his drive to help local restaurants and struggling chefs. His temper and his gazillions of profanities are still there, but this show proves that this “monster” really has a heart. I can watch this show’s re-runs over and over again (redundancy intended). This show now has a US version.

Others may think it’s horrible, but his perfectionism in the kitchen and his short temper just add to his remarkable persona, like an extra zing to an otherwise bland British meal (think of potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes). Gordon just simply ignites my passion for cooking.

Anthony Bourdain – Ok, who does not love Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” ???!! (Ok, you be daft, if you do not!). Not many know that he is a certified chef, with a long prominent culinary training and career. He’s different, he’s cool and he’s brave. He defies a typical celebrity chef’s pop persona, in fact he often puts down the celebrity chefs in his show and is very open about his anti-commercialism of the cooking industry - - in short, he is a rock n’ roller.

I always love watching his show and what it represents. Bourdain’s adventures have always underscored the value of diversity and authenticity, and that there’s always something good about the place he visits even if it is the grubbiest spot in the planet. Oh, and he placed Cebu’s lechon on the top of his list of his favorite pork dish!! On the whole, I love him because he represents 2 of my favorite things on earth: food and travel.

Jamie Oliver - Ahh, he’s a softie and he’s a cutie, what more can I say. Popularly known as the “Naked Chef”, Jamie is Gordon’s alter-ego: soft-spoken and uber nice. Jamie is all about fresh, organic and simple home-made scrumptious dishes, straight from his own garden (eh kaya nga home-made ‘tol). Jamie has made a mark not just by being a celebrity chef but by his numerous and loud campaigns on anti-junk food culture within the British school system and other advocacies. Nonetheless, I just simply love watching him because he’s so scruffily cute…. and although often times mocked, I love love his accent. Yummy!!

Bobby Flay – He’s the king of the grill. I first saw him when I started watching Iron Chef America (I also love this show!) as one of the Iron Chefs competing against the challenger chef in each episode. However, I am more drawn to him in his other show “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” where he challenges cooks / chefs across the US, renowned for their signature dishes, for a “throwdown” in their home turfs. Most of the time Flay has to learn the dish or the particular technique the first time and also more than often loses the challenge. I like it ‘coz it shows that even if he is a culinary king, there are still lots of dishes he’s not good at. His lack of knowledge is never disguised in this show. Very very human, love it.

Emeril Lagasse – I never attempt to cook his dishes as they are OTT, and one needs a high tech kitchen to be able to follow. But I enjoy watching his “Emeril Live” program. He’s known for his catch phrases like “oh, yeah baby” or the more famous “Bam!” However, I swear by his OTC bbq rib sauce and steak rub – very, very tasty.

Rachel Ray – No, she’s not a chef, and will never be a chef. And I hate listening to her voice and her OTT yelling of “delish!” and “EVOO” (extra-virgin olive oil daw to mga ‘tol). But, I’m a working wife with a hubby to nosh and Rachel Ray feeds to that particular demo. 15-minute meals? 30-minute meals? Yeah, gimme that for sure! Though I watch her show with one ear covered, I am a big fan of her magazine. I dunno why, I would buy it even if I don’t necessarily like the monthly recipes. Adik!

Masaharu Morimoto – Although Mario Batali is the most famous of all Iron Chefs (thanks to his BFF Gwyneth Paltrow), my favorite of all is Chef Morimoto. He’s the only one among the current Iron Chefs (America) who came from the original Iron Chef show in Japan. He is to me the most artistic chef on TV. He is as much as an artist as his being a great chef. He makes me crave more Japanese food than the usual sashimi and sushi. I can never cook his dishes, but we have something in common – drinking Coke while cooking, ye!

That’s it about my love affair with Celebrity Chefs. As to the ones I hate, I only have a few:

  1. Paula Deen and her most annoying Southern accent and bling blings ala Ina Magenta while de-boning a chicken – WTF!!
  2. Andrew Zimmern and his feeble attempt to be an Anthony Bourdain – sorry dude, you’ll never be the Man.
  3. Robert Irvine who used to man Dinner: Impossible but who’s now more famous for his fraudulent claim that he made Princess Di’s wedding cake. I never really liked him.

These 3 tend to spoil my broth.

Nevertheless, happy cooking!

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