There aren’t really any great chefs any more. Everyone seems to pick a niche and stay there, be it “sustainable” seafood or “eating local,” these so-called chefs aren’t innovating, they’re just appealing to the lowest common denominator. Not Sandra Lee, though. Sandra Lee is a true domestic goddess. While other “chefs” might brag about learning from another chef, or great cooking school, Sandra has no problems admitting that the only training she had was at a recreational two-week course at Ottowa’s Le Cordon Bleu. Hell, she even tells people that she didn’t complete it:
I was scraping beef tendons and I thought, ‘I’m outta here! […] When you look at a recipe you want to know that at least four of the ingredients are available at your grocery store. It’s more cost-effective and less time-consuming.”
That’s the kind of raw talent that I respect. She’s also got a very good point. A lot of these “celebrity” chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver talk about eating locally or in season. Who has time for that? Sandra Lee is living off the land, so to speak. Like early settlers before her, Sandra is using the food that is provided to her, cheaply and easily. It doesn’t matter if that $0.49 can of corn came from China, it’s way cheaper (and easier) than going to the local Farmer’s Market, buying a cob of corn (for a dollar!!) and shucking it yourself. Who has time for that?
The biggest issue, as I see it, is that not many other chefs seem to recognize her genius. Many ignore her, but some, like Anthony Bourdain, make it a point to attack her.
She makes her audience feel good about themselves. You watch her on that show and you think, “I can do that. That’s not intimidating.” All you have to do is waddle into the kitchen, open a can of crap and spread it on some other crap that you bought at the supermarket. And then you’ve done something really special. The most terrifying thing I’ve seen is her making a Kwanzaa cake. Watch that clip and tell me your eyeballs don’t burst into flames. It’s a war crime on television. You’ll scream.
Seriously, that is uncalled for. At least Sandra isn’t pretentious… her show is called Semi-Homemade. It lays it right out there. What the hell is “No Reservations?” It sounds like he just barges into places without making a reservation. Also, is he even a cook? From what I’ve heard, on his shows other people do the cooking! And when it comes to the Kwanzaa cake, he just doesn’t understand her special talent for turning the boring into the awesome. See it for yourself:
You see? He has no leg to stand on here. That is pure skill and talent and she should be proud. Chef Lee doesn’t need a gimmick like “farm to table” or anything like that because she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen. She doesn’t need to try and explain the “science” behind ingredients like Alton Brown, that realm is left to those who don’t understand the true workings of food. So here and now I’m declaring Sandra Lee the best celebrity chef and perhaps the best chef in America right now.
I will say, Sandra does have some competition in the wings, though. With up and comer Rachael Ray waiting in the wings, I could see Sandra retiring in the next few years and letting her take over. Perhaps they could have their own show, with Sandra showing Rachael how she could make her meals even faster if she just bought even more ready made items from the store? I think we have a hit on our hands, people… Food Network Gold.
With all that said, I declare today, April 1st 2010, Sandra Lee Appreciation Day. Please do your best to make at least one meal from her near endless supply. And of course, now I must ask you… Sandra Lee: Great chef or greatest chef?
Ed. Note: April Fools!!