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Men Who Cook
Manly recipes to pump you up

By Pervaiz Shallwani
For The Associated Press

A meat, potatoes and pasta upbringing in a family that gave little thought to food made Jason Weber an unlikely foodie candidate.

Yet when he got to college, he found himself glued to the Food Network, drawn in by Iron Chef’s kitchen battles and eagerly trying his hand at the bold Creole creations of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

He’s hardly unique. Unlike so many of their fathers and grandfathers, men such as Weber are embracing not just an affection for food, but a gusto for making it and a willingness to spend big chunks of disposable income on the toys to do so.

“When I think about my friends, there is huge cross-section of us who are interested in the culinary arts and food,” Weber, 31, a technology salesman, said recently as he headed to a Philadelphia gastropub to satisfy a craving for a gourmet cheeseburger and double-dipped Belgian fries.

Gone are the days when “man food” meant beer, grilling and Hungry-Man frozen dinners.

That’s partly because young men are an attractive demographic and the food world — from media to the makers of appliances big and small — has worked hard to make time in the kitchen appeal to them. It seems to be working.

Though the Food Network was launched mostly for women, network executives say men quickly tuned in and now account for half of all viewers. And at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., men represent half of students in the school’s amateur classes.

It’s a case of pop culture — and especially television — making cooking cool, even manly, said celebrity chef Rachael Ray.

Pop culture is making cooking cool, even sexy, and is getting men into the kitchen in ever increasing numbers. From media companies to appliance manufacturers everyone has seen the advantage of appealing to the male demographic.
AP photo by Larry Crowe
Pop culture is making cooking cool, even sexy, and is getting men into the kitchen in ever increasing numbers. From media companies to appliance manufacturers everyone has seen the advantage of appealing to the male demographic.
“They just sort of sexed it up,” she said. “You see a lot more men on TV with food, with good food.”

Of course, professional kitchens always have been male-dominated. And nationally only 20 percent of chefs are women, according to the National Restaurant Association. But this trend is fueled by guys like Weber, men who cook for fun.

Ad campaigns aimed at this group once featured heat-and-eat packaged meals, but today they showcase pricey espresso machines, NASCAR-themed cookbooks and industrial-style kitchen goods.

Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, said men are particularly drawn to big projects.

“Men are very surprising in the kitchen,” she said. “The real cooks, the passionate cooks, the ones who are going to do that pig roast, going to go find the pig and the box to cook it in and dig the pit, are usually men.”

And of course men bring to it a competitive aspect.

“It used to be, ‘I wanna show off my prowess in barbe-
cuing,’ ” said John Nihoff, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America. “But now it’s also, ‘I wanna show the prowess of my sauces.’ ”

It’s not just the food world that’s pandering to this interest in edibles.

Ten years ago at Men’s Health magazine, a publication known for workout routines, sex advice and cover shots of buff guys, recipes were among the least read stories, and sometimes were left out entirely.

“Now recipes are the most read stories in our magazine,” said David Zinczenko, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, noting that space given to food and nutrition has expanded from a tenth of the magazine to more than a quarter.

In fact, the magazine’s March issue will include profiles of celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Tyler Florence.

“They are seeing it as an energy source and a seduction agent,” Zinczenko said of men’s interest in cooking. “Simple meals that you can cook for her is something they want, because women constantly rank cooking as one of the things that women look for in a man.”

Even the testosterone-fueled pages of Playboy are in on the trend. The latest issue includes spreads on drink recipes. And Maxim magazine, known for photos of scantily clad women and racy advice columns, is launching a line of salsa and barbecue sauces.

Jack Bishop, editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen, publisher of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, said audiences at his book signings are usually half men. “It used to surprise me in the early years, though it doesn’t surprise me anymore,” he said.

Real men needed

Want to see teams of Decatur area men cooking and sample items such as Firehouse Chili, Tennessee River Stump Hash, Chicken Explosion Casserole and Banana Pudding?

Here’s how to go:

What: “Men Who Cook”

When: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Colonial Mall, Decatur

Tickets: $10 in advance from mall information desk and Mental Health Association office, 207 Commerce Circle S.W., 353-1160; on Saturday, $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12 Saturday at the armband table in the mall.

Recipe for real men

Gone are the days when the grill was the only spot manly men could express their culinary leanings. A wave of man-friendly foods, gadgets and food-media have made it safe for guys to get in the kitchen.

Broiled Bacon-Basted Salmon with Mushroom-Oyster Sauce

(Start to finish: 50 minutes)

Two 11/4-pound skinless salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 slices of bacon (4 of the slices cut into 1-inch pieces)

3/4 pound mixed mushrooms, such as oyster and cremini, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped chives

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup hot water

1/4 cup Chinese oyster sauce

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to broil.

Lightly season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Wrap 3 slices of the bacon crosswise around each fillet, spacing the slices 1 inch apart.

Place the fillets in a medium roasting pan and set 6 inches from the heat. Broil for about 13 minutes, rotate the pan front to back halfway through, or until the salmon fillets are just cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over high heat, cook the bacon pieces, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat and reduce the heat to medium-high.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute until they are golden, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of the chopped chives and the minced garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl, whisk together the hot water and the oyster sauce. Add to the mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Stir in the nutmeg, then whisk in the butter and cook until just melted. Remove the mushroom sauce from the heat.

Carefully remove the strips of bacon from the salmon fillets and cut each fillet into 3 pieces. Save the broiled bacon slices for another use. Transfer the salmon to a large platter. Spoon the mushroom sauce over the fish, garnish with the remaining chives and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from David Rosengarten in Food & Wine magazine

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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