Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 19, 2008

TV's tastiest cooking judges are the ones with a tough crust

Watching cooking shows and competitions on TV may seem to be as safe and cozy as your grandma's knitting circle,but things can get really steamed up if there's a tart tongued judge on the panel with a sharp eye for detail and an even sharper set of personal standards to determine the fate of the chef contestants.

Least you think that these folks are simply food tyrants,the harshest critics turn out to be folks with many years of training,skill and no nonsense approaches to what is best about the profession that they truly love. Here are some of the ones that make me sit up and pay attention whenever they're onscreen:


I call her Professor McGonagall,since she reminds me very much of the head of Harry Potter's House at Hogwarts(even tho Kerry is an Aussie)and can easily picture her going around the contestant's entries saying "five points will be deducted from Gryffindor!"

Kerry is one of the regular judges for Food Network Challenge,usually when it's a cake competition. She's a self taught sugar artist and cake designer/author who runs the Oklahoma Sugar Art show,which is an international yearly contest/exhibit for current sugar and pastry artists that also encourages newcomers to the field.

She's also a real stickler for the rules,as in the Disney Princess cake challenge where points had to be deducted from the Jasmine cake,due to the very noticable toothpicks protruding from the top section. I have to agree with Kerry on that one,it really did take away from the beauty of the piece:


Steingarten is best known as the author of The Man Who Ate Everything,a collection of food essays that he wrote for Vogue that chronicled his many culinary adventures. He's a food critic who was once a lawyer(which may explain his cross examination style of judging)and has also won the James Beard award twice,along with several other honors.

Jeffrey Steingarten is one of the frequent judges on the revolving Iron Chef America panel,and while he's usually the biggest nitpicker in the group,you can always count on him to not be shy about the use of the secret ingredient or to point out the overpowering spice that distracts him from the dish at hand:


Bourdain is about as well known as Simon Cowell,for his blunt and occasionally brutal take on the world of professional cooking and his fellow celebrity chefs in the field. Therefore,it's always a thrill to see him as a guest judge on Top Chef. His appearance practically guarantees a memorable quote or two.

One of his best ones was his reluctant praise of Michael's contribution to the Season Two Thanksgiving challenge,admiring the guts to have a "Flintstonian" presentation of his food. He had a few interesting things to say during the third season's airplane food challenge,too.

So far, Bourdain has only made a brief appearance on the current season but I hope he shows up soon. I'd love to see some of the smack talkers they have now try that crap on him:



Of course,negativity in and of itself can be fun at times but the real pleasure of watching such tough critics is the chance to see them truly enjoy and marvel at discovering a real talent who reminds them of why they got into this business in the first place. Getting recognition from someone with such a high level of expectation and reverence for the art of food is more valuable than a simple pat on the back from a Paula Abdul type of judge. So, thanks,folks and bon appetit!:

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