Can the Internet Level the Culinary Playing Field?
By Bill Tancer
April 16, 2010
I have to face the facts; at 43 years old, my chances of becoming a rock star, professional baseball player or golfer are probably waning. But like me, you might, just for a second, indulge in the possibility that you could, if you put your mind to it, become a star chef and maybe even win a million dollars at the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
Cooking is a creative outlet, a chance for us to demonstrate that we can think outside of the (cake mix) box.
The Internet has changed many things in our lives, not all for the best, but one area that has really benefited from online groupthink is cooking.
In the past, one of the biggest challenges when I put pan to stove was that I had to place full trust in the cookbook or magazine recipe author. If I was cooking a recipe for the first time, my track record was 50/50 for producing an edible dish. I was almost certain not to come close to replicating the beautiful and appetizing result that was pictured in the pages of the book or magazine.
The Internet and, more specifically, user reviews of online recipes, has dramatically improved my chances of producing an edible and sometimes outstanding dish.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I recently purchased a celebrity chef cookbook. This particular tome provided "healthy" recipes on classic comfort food dishes. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to throw a dinner party for my neighbors using nothing but recipes from the book.
I soon discovered that either the difference between my results and the cookbook's picture was proof that I had no hope of becoming a celebrity chef or no one at this particular cookbook publishing house had tested the recipes I attempted.
Contrast that experience with a recent lasagna cooking experience in which I used popular online cooking resource AllRecipes.com. Rather than relying on one viewpoint on how to cook this dish, I chose a recipe entitled "World's Best Lasagna." The difference between this recipe and my cookbooks is that, at the writing of this column, there were 3,896 reviews for this particular recipe with an average review of five out of five stars.
Along with relying on user reviews to find the best-rated recipe to cook, other amateur cooks like myself weigh in on some of the challenges and changes that they've tried in order to perfect a specific recipe.
How'd the lasagna turn out? With nearly 4,000 other cooks weighing in on the excellent results they achieved, the heat was on. My dinner guests proclaimed that my dinner was a success.