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Slate: The Myth Of The 30-Minute Meal

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ramsay_ff There is a great article written by Linda Shaprio on Slate critiquing Gordon Ramsay’s (him again!?) new book ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food’ in which Ramsay like so many celebrity chefs attempts to convince that the only difference between your cooking and theirs is a few tips and recipes ultimately worth about $25.

Shaprio writes-

Fantasy has always played a big part in beat-the-clock cookbooks; in fact, the category relies on it, as Ramsay’s book makes clear. Despite the shopping lists, the step-by-step directions, the time-saving tips, and the authors who insist that this is exactly how they cook at home, there’s little that reflects the real world in such books.

Well said.

The truth is that for the most part the entire business of ‘celebrity chef’s’ is like the traditional carrot on a stick with the carrot of being a ‘good cook’ kept just out of reach. If the book/TV show dangles it too close you’ll think you won’t need them, but if the complexity/ingredients cause the carrot to appear to be too far away you won’t believe that being a good chef is obtainable.


Implying that you can do it fast implies that it’s fairly easy when the reality is neither are true.

In our opinion if you’re a novice and want to up your game in a 30 minute time frame watch or read someone like Rachel Ray. She’s not a professional chef and her approach to quick meals with as much quality as possible in a short time frame is far more comparable to what your own speedy cooking might be like. Or you can take a more cerebral approach like Alton Brown who makes no pretense of the fact that you’re in the kitchen because you love being there and don’t mind taking all day to make your own pop tarts or build a smoker from a cardboard box.

That’s not to say the upper scale professional chefs have nothing to offer the home cook or that its not feasible to cook complex meals at home, nothing could be further from the truth. Just don’t let them fool you into believing that you can prepare the same food they do in the same time they do without putting in a lot more time and effort than clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button for a cookbook.

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3 Comments »

  • chiffonade said:

    Let’s face it – anyone with a decent pantry, a knowledge of cooking, and a moderate comfort level in the kitchen can whip together something in 30 minutes. (We’ve all done it.) Where the authors make their money is that the “regular person” in the kitchen may not have the pantry, the knowledge or comfort level to work fast enough to do all the steps in 30 minutes.

    Someone of real expertise can take a “30 minute meal” prep and probably finish it in 15 minutes. Someone with no kitchen experience will take an hour or better.

    We need to teach those people not by thrusting a book in their hands but by showing them it’s possible. I’ve always found it more effective to lead by example – put something yummy in front of someone and when he or she asks how it’s made, offer to demonstrate. (Grandmothers have been doing this with cookies for centuries…LOL.)

    <3 Chiffy

  • Ian said:

    Hi Ramsays. If you like a very taste for pig well when i cook pig a big leg i like to put it in 5oo mls off wetar and 500 mls of vinegar and add bbq sauce and one cup of honey and let it sit for at least 30.mins but give it a good stir before you put it in and then put your in spices in that you like but let it set before you cook it and cook it slow with your spices put them in with your mix and give it a good baten all together the and put your leg in and set it for 1.2 hour or over night and put in some garlic in to the meat and then let cook for 3 hours slow and tune it up for about 15 mins and it should come out very nice i have cook it before it it has come out very nice .you have you to cover it it up ..please let me know we both like your show we have not let one go by with out see we thing that you are the fucken bets keep it up ..

  • Kevin Ashton said:

    There are elements of validity in the complaints about what is and what isn’t possible in 30 minutes. But I also think you missed asking the question…why are so many of the latest spate of cookbooks trying to sell the notion?

    For all the money and influence a Celebrity Chef like Gordon Ramsay has, others such as publishers and TV executives have a much larger say in either the content of his shows or the thrust of his cookbooks. Usually a TV deal is signed for say 3 years for £5 million and in that time Gordon pretty much appears in the programs they dream up. Like any other business in the last 20 years they are heavily dictated to by the bean counters (accounts), It’s got to make money and quickly or its gone.
    This approach often stifles creative and innovative approaches.

    Many current cookbooks are “dangling this 30 minute carrot” because lots of people don’t want to be told real food can take time and because market research tell publishers this will sell books.

    That said, I do believe cooking a delicious meal is perfectly possible in 30 minutes
    but it heavily depends on the cook’s level of skill.

    I do think in general that a novice home cook can become faster not just by practise but also by being organised, which most people aren’t in their home kitchen.
    Such as read the recipe through the night before and make a shopping list.
    Check and cross off any ingredient you already have in your cupboard.
    Make sure you have any specific tray, pan or cake tin the recipe calls for.

    Kevin Ashton
    Chef and Food Writer
    member of the Guild of Food Writers

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