Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Comparing Newspaper Food Writers: Who's the Winner?

Chef Bleeper Ramsay has been all over the Toronto media recently, and that's how I became introduced to The Toronto Star's Food Editor Kim Honey:

TheStar.com | living | Flavourful risotto needs to be nursed, Ramsay says

"Last week British bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay went all Hell's Kitchen on me after I burnt his toast. In between rants he did manage to make a mean risotto, all the while dispensing invaluable advice on making the Italian classic."
Well, I have to say after watching the video "Ramsay Heats up Star Kitchen" I couldn't get that burnt toast out of my mind, even days later. The Star uses a toaster over to toast its bread -- personally, I think a standard toaster would be better for toasting bread -- but even so I'm not sure how she set fire to the thing. Mind you, Ramsay was in the kitchen with her, so you could say they both presided over the flaming of the toast. Still, it was a kitchen and a toaster she's so familiar with that burnt toast, um, charcoaled toast, shouldn't have happened.

Ever since Marion Kane left The Star, I've not paid too much attention to the Food section, not being impressed much by her replacements. Kane seemed to have experience and knowledge of food and how to prepare it that was singularly lacking on the videos I saw with Honey and Ramsay. I totally agree with Ramsay on both the Ghandi flip-flop toast and the mushrooms. Even I could see through the so-so video quality that she'd poached the mushrooms -- which usually happens when you're sloppy and in a rush -- instead of sauteeing them properly. Yuck.

Then today I saw Mark Bittman on Martha Stewart (so I'm a Stewart fan, sue me!); I checked out his website because he looked like he knew what he was doing and was fun to watch. I like the Blog format of his column and how he has a conversation with his readers, commenting on comments and allowing comments at the end of his column. Honey writes well, but a straight column with a video inline or a photo doesn't work as well online as a blog format. The New York Times' website designers have also included an easy way to search for recipes and thumbnails for the videos. Unfortunately, there's just a text title for the food vids on The Star's website, no thumbnails. Visuals, people, visuals! On the other hand it's easy to make the vids fill the screen on The Star site and see more clearly what's going on.

But the most important thing is Bittman obviously knows what he's doing, even if he is a bit too liberal with salt (like all chefs). He's pretty amusing too in the vids I saw, obviously a man who doesn't take himself too seriously, a nice trait. Of the two, I would trust the recipes more from Bittman than Honey, and Bittman's blog provides more videos to watch, definitely useful for the visually inclined.

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