Food Network has a new show called “America’s Best Cook.” This show pits home chefs from four different regions (North, South, East, West) against one another to determine who is America’s best home cook. Each region has a Food Network chef – Michael Simon (N), Cat Cora (S), Alex Guarnaschelli (E), Tyler Florence ( W ) – designated to coach and offer pointers for his or her team. I’ve only seen one episode, and I liked it.
What this show got me thinking about, though, was who I would choose to cook with as a mentor/teacher, if I had the opportunity. (Note: the contestants on this show do not get to choose their chef mentors.)
I watch a pretty fair amount of Food Network shows, so I feel like I have a decent handle on many of the chefs who have their own shows or appear regularly on shows. It didn’t take me too long to come up with the chef who I believe I’d like to both learn from as well as cook with:
Why Bobby Flay? There are several reasons for choosing Bobby Flay, the two most important being: 1) his personality (from what I can tell on tv), and 2) his food!
1) Bobby seems like a fairly easy guy to get along with – he is pretty even-keeled, laid back, has a good sense of humor – all while being a master at a wide variety of food. He has been a “coach” on the “America’s Worst Cooks” programs and seems to be patient and approachable to his “students.” I think he seems okay with working on the fly and improvising here and there when things may not work perfectly – I think I’d mesh well with his style.
2) Bobby is obviously a great chef who prepares great food. But he prepares a wide range of food that looks like food I’d like to eat. While he does care about presentation and how his plates look, I think his goal is to make flavorful food that most people would want to eat and would feel comfortable eating. His “Boy Meets Grill” lineup always looks delicious (and who doesn’t love to grill?!). He has shown his range of cooking through his shows, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”* and “Beat Bobby Flay”** where he is willing to cook just about anything – from meatloaf to cake to paella. He takes a lot of these dishes and adds his own flair and takes on them; again, he’s not tied to a particular or traditional concept of food.
So there you go. Bobby, whenever you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and let’s do some cooking!
Geoffrey Zakarian: I didn’t go with Zakarian because I think he’s a little too fancy and particular for me. I have no doubts about the quality of his food or his knowledge. However, the reason I still listed as my runner up is because there is another Food Network show that Em and I have enjoyed recently, “The Kitchen”, that has Zakarian as one of a group of four hosts. This is a completely different side of Zakarian than what I had pictured up until I saw him on this program – he’s light-hearted, has a great sense of humor, and doesn’t seem at all uptight about his food. I think that Zakarian would be great to work with.
Who would you choose?
*Truth be told, I was never fully on board with “Throwdown”. I enjoyed the food and the cooking, but I didn’t like the premise of Bobby challenging people at their own dishes. If they win, then so what, it’s their specialty dish and they are supposed to win. But if they lose, then Bobby beats them at their own game and what they were supposedly best at – and Bobby hasn’t put forth nearly the amount of time or effort into that particular dish as they have. It’s a lose – lose situation for the contestants, and a win – win for Bobby, which I don’t think is entirely fair. That said, I do always think that Bobby is gracious and still manages to have a lot of fun with the people he is challenging as they “throwdown.”
**“Beat Bobby Flay” is like a newer version of “Throwdown” but he invites two chefs to challenge him at their specialty meals. The two invited chefs compete against one another in an initial round and the winner then challenges Flay to compete in a dish of their choosing. I like this better because Flay is not in quite the cushy position of power as in “Throwdown” and the competitors get to choose to participate and aren’t caught off guard.