Friday Open Thread: TV Chefs

So look, we all have our favorite television chefs, and then the ones we barely tolerate. Tina still loves Robert Irvine, despite the fact that he’s been proven a fraud on a number of counts; I have a thing where I can’t turn off Alton Brown, even when he’s engaged in prop comedy that he has no right doing.

But lately, a new star has risen on my horizon, and I just can’t get enough of her. Laura Calder is a Canadian chef who got her start in journalism and PR, and then chucked it all to become a cook. She spends her time jetting between Europe and the Canadian Maritimes, where she tapes French Food at Home — possibly the greatest cooking show ever. Graced with generic non-verbal Euro jazz, filmed in someone’s beautiful kitchen, French Food at Home actually does involve great food.

The charm of the show, though, comes from Calder. Never, ever failing to appear in a low-cut summer or cocktail dress, she radiates the charm of someone you might bump into by accident in a store where you can’t afford anything. She has an unflappably elite posture, and so her show leaves you with the feeling that you’ve been invited into her kitchen under false pretenses: As someone who’s on the same social level, as someone who might someday roll their own puff pastry, as someone who looks up new words for “delicious” in the dictionary, the way she does.

In tribute of this excellent half-hour, and to spark some discussion among our readers on who your favorite television chefs are, I have composed this string of haiku poems (they are only faintly perverse):

Food Network weekends:
The bright light amidst CanCon?
It’s French Food at Home.

Food I’d never eat,
recipes that are hard, but
who cares? Laura’s hot.

Oh Glamorous chef!
Are you ever not found in
your slight cocktail dress?

Wait! Don’t answer! Is
fancy-dress cooking wrong? I
don’t want to be right.

Your appeal is like
a high-school drama teacher’s:
The regal cougar.

Tina gets jealous,
but we both admire cleavage.
Yours, specifically.

Plus your dorky jokes,
and the food seems good also.
Oh right, and: cleavage.

When’s the new season?
Don’t delay, Laura Calder!
FoodTV needs you.

Open thread, folks! Who do you watch? Whose show do you admire? And, c’mon, who do you secretly wish you were friends with?

  • Marcel

    I don’t watch a ton of cooking shows but I like Tyler’s Ultimate. Every recipe calls for a full stick of butter and copious amounts of Olive Oil.

  • Mike

    Ah, Tyler — that guy’s awesome. I wonder sometimes if he shouldn’t have a faucet on his work surface that pours nothing but hot water, cold water and extra-virgin olive oil.

    “Next, my Ultimate Ice Cream Sundae — and wait’ll you see the topping!”

    As a side note, Anthony Sedlak from The Main totally reminds me of a low-rent rip-offof Tyler. It’s like they took an eyelash off the set of Tyler’s Ultimate, and grew an imperfect clone who makes totally unremarkable food, with an added dash of AWKWARD!

  • kristie

    Laura Calder has stupid hair, and all of her YouTube videos make her look like she’s got enormous breasts…right below the shoulders of a linebacker. Maybe it’s just the video quality. Anyhoo, my point is that Tina is so much cuter.

    I have very, very strong feelings about our tv chefs, so I’ll do my best to keep it at a brief top ten.
    1-Rachel Ray needs breast implants so badly that it actually hurts my feelings.
    2-Sandra Lee is a no-talent ass-clown
    3-Tyler Florence is awesome (although has been packing on the pounds like he’s planning on spending Winter in an igloo this year)
    4-Alton Brown is my boyfriend on the side, and I wish he were my friend, solely so I could make him build me culinary science set-ups.
    5-Mario Batali is an AMAZING chef, even though half of his stuff is so far-fetched that it wouldn’t ever go in my mouth, and his shoes are so bad that my dog wouldn’t even deign to chew on them.
    6-Anthony Bourdain is a genius, but should really pay attention to some of the inhumane treatment of animals on his show. I don’t give a fig about “respecting other cultures’ traditions” if those traditions are things like burning an iguana alive.
    7-Chris loves Guy Fieri. He calls him “Guy Fury” and I’ll admit, he’s got some great recipes for football games and is oddly charismatic, for someone who seems so contrived.
    8-Sunny Anderson is just a black Rachel Ray. Ingrid Hoffman is just a Cuban Rachel Ray. I was just fine with only having to hate the one Rachel, but this is getting excessive.
    9-Michael Symon is adorably clueless. He totally has no game, and it permeates everything he does.
    10-I, too, heart Robert Irvine. You could tell he was a mega-dork in high school, so he went and worked so hard to bulk up and talk himself up, and then it backfired in his face. Sad. I mean, I have fabricated every resume I’ve ever written, including my admissions app for every school. So why be so tough on this guy?

    Thank you for the forum.

  • kristie

    Gawd, I almost forgot. Bobby Flay is a cocky SOB, but he’s married to the only woman in the world I would totally give up men for, so I have to concede that it’s probably just boyish charm.

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  • Tina

    Mike – did you REALLY refer to Laura Calder as having possibly the best cooking show on TV? I mean, SERIOUSLY?! Okay, you like her hoots, I get that. But…but…NO! The only reason that I watch the show is that she reminds me so much of my girl Al.

    Kristie – you made me blush. And then I read your commentary and I am in TOTAL agreement. Particularly about Batali’s shoes, but that could be my aversion to Crocs rearing it’s head again.

    Bobby Flay – am I the only one who thinks that this guy is a one-trick pony?

    Michael Symon and Alton Brown – intelligence is a super sex-bomb and I’ve always been a sucker for a slightly nerdy and totally down to earth dude.

    Robert Irvine – to be honest, I like him less for his cooking than his personality. I love his management style, level headedness under pressure, and social grace when dealing with difficult people. And his biceps.

    Rachel and Giada make me want to stick my head in the oven.

    Paula Dean is bat-shit crazy and I LOVE watching her show if only because I’m always appalled by the fattiness of the food…which is funny because I should expect it by now, but I’m like a surprised goldfish every time. Oh, and I totally dig when she gets crazy-eye. And I like her shameless obsession with jumbo-rock jewellery.

  • Tara

    Gah! Laura Calder drives me nuts! She doesn’t open her mouth enough when she speaks and it’s really distracting.

    Plus, so much of her food looks inedible when she’s done.

    And she has Giada-like overpronounciation issues, only with the French words, not Italian ones.

  • Peter

    I’m smitten with Laura Calder and she has a standing invite to come over for dinner (blush).

  • bruleeblog

    I’m really liking The Wild Chef with Martin Picard and Hugue Dufour. I’d probably never cook anything that they make, but boy is this show oddly entertaining.

    As for cooking, I’m really starting to enjoy Ricardo Larrivée’s recipes (of Ricardo and Friends).

    And Alton and Bourdain are just pure fun.

    Laura seems nice but her voice makes me want to take a nap.

  • Tina

    OH MY GOD, the Wild Chef is a private addiction of mine. I ADORE that show. Des garcons are just so enticing, and I love that they cook everything in the great outdoors – and that everything involves a dairy’s worth of butter and/or cream, and looks so absolutely sinfully delicious. Did you see the episode where they made salmon pie and hand-tinned the salmon? And then added about 3 cups of capers? Jeez, I love that show.

  • Unpalyday

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

  • Bill Ferguson

    This message is for Kristie.
    Your comments on Laura Calder sound like the ranting of a jealous girlfriend.

    The truth is that Laura Calder is that she makes cooking entertaining for men. Look, she is not doing anything wrong by showing a bit of cleavage every now and then. It is like having a well built man do some cooking, I figure that would be eye catching to women too. The only difference is that male chefs are anything but well built. Sorry for your lose…ah and by the way, her seemingly enourmous breast are, lets say, “boccato di cardinale”

    Mean time, let some of us enjoy the show!

  • Michael

    This is absolutely and totally sexist to say but even if Laura Calder’s food wasn’t beautiful and simple to prepare, i would still watch her show. She is a beautiful and sometimes goofy culinarian – in my mind an irresistable combination. Oh, and the low cut dresses? She and/or her producers know exactly what they are doing. To them I say “Thank you”.

  • Bill Ferguson

    I agree with Michael here; thank you to the producers and director. Kudos to the staff of cameramen (you lucky guys!).

    I know that the subjec of my comments might sound low class. I apologize to anyone who might feel offended. Yet, enjoying beautiful things of life is a God give ability to humans. There is nothing wrong with contemplating natural beauty in its many expressions. Anyway, Laura’s beauty is worth my time and I am sure that applies to many others.

    Laura, please don’t get me wrong, the food is great too, the show is excellent, it is just that we are a bit hung-up here, defending your beauty from your jealous enemies!!!

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  • SM

    I love Laura Calder. Sure there is something odd about her mouth but her recipes are great and her breasts are just distracting enough.