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Food Network taps into America’s competitive side

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Super Bowl Sunday, often a night abused as the perfect excuse for eating one-too-many chicken wings, is practically considered an American holiday. Last year alone, the event had an estimated 111.3 million people tuned in, topping all previous records.

Surprisingly enough, new statistics suggest Americans seem to be just as interested in the dips and drinks served at the Super Bowl party as much as the big tackles. The Food Network had the highest rated second quarter of its history in 2012, with new shows looking more like culinary gauntlets than boring kitchen tutorials.

Gawking at the complexities of the kitchen, viewers are enraptured by a more subtle career path. Chefs are admired like athletes, with their roster of restaurants known just as well as the teams of a player’s career.

Typically, guys have been notorious for yelling from their couches at the TV during big games. Now, referees aren’t the only ones getting berated, as culinary fans cry from the sidelines, “There’s yolk in that bowl, be careful! Her egg whites are never going to aerate!”
Cooking has become America’s next competitive sport.

Iron Chef America, Chopped and Top Chef are just a handful of the programs in which competitors are forced to jump through culinary hoops for the delight of viewers. The competitors are given blueberries, hot tamale candies, venison and cookie dough ice cream  and must make an entrée worthy for the judges. The judges count down the time, “20 minutes anddd, go!”

Sure, I feel like I have an excuse to watch because I spent two years going to school for food. The kitchen was my life and I adored every minute of it. I reeked of fryer oil, got yelled at by various reincarnations of Gordon Ramsey and thrived off the adrenaline of busy service.
Often, I don’t understand what would compel someone to watch the outrageous depictions of the culinary world. Then again, my watching a football game really isn’t all that different.

I’ve never scrambled from the pocket with a 350-pound linebacker sprinting to pummel me into the ground. I don’t know what a 99 mph fastball looks like leaving the hand of the pitcher. Just one turn on the Indy 500 would surely kill me.

Just as I can hardly imagine playing the sports that are on TV, most people tuning into Top Chef couldn’t fathom what working behind a line in a restaurant entails. In all honesty, I shouldn’t care about how my Irish football team got destroyed in the National Championship because it doesn’t affect my life. I’m not a football player, nor do I ever intend on becoming one. I’m just a fan.

And that’s the answer. While not many average people have contemplated the pairing of cookie dough and venison or what play to call for a completion on a fourth down, it’s enough to simply enjoy watching both events play out.

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