Cooking on the Internet

By Beacon Staff

As part of my culinary practice, I am a consulting chef for an Internet service that helps people get through cooking problems wherever and whenever they have them. Yes, I’ve walked people through a whole dinner either on the phone or on a special computer chat service while company was in the dining room waiting to eat.

It’s an ingenious service called ChefsLine.com and I even helped create their tagline: “Real Chefs in Real Time.” There are about 20 of us with various cooking specialties and we take turns monitoring phones and our Internet chat service to help home cooks who have questions or who may be having a tough time getting a recipe to work.

You know how satisfying it is when you experience that “Aha!” moment? That’s how all of the ChefsLine.com chefs feel when our subscribers have their cooking problems solved with our help.

I also use the Internet extensively for my own business, posting my weekly television episodes on my Web site and, occasionally, on sites like YouTube.

The phenomenal growth of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter also have had a real impact on the way many people interact with each other in cooking situations.

I’ve been “Facebooking” for about six months now and my “friend” list has grown exponentially. Aside from reconnecting with childhood and high school friends from long ago, I now have Internet relationships with chefs in 22 different countries. Despite the language barrier in some cases, it’s been fascinating to share recipes and photos of the stuff we do.

But there also are a lot of people on Facebook who want to “friend me” (that’s the Facebook term) because they’re looking for additional sources of recipes or free help.

I will tell you, also, that there are a lot of annoying and juvenile things that go on with Facebook, which is why I’m considering cutting back the amount of time I spend on the service. I hereby confess to you that after discovering how easy it was to reconnect with old friends, it became “Crackbook” to me, it was so addictive.

Lately, however, I’ve come across a group of chefs who use a service called Twitter. When you write a message on Twitter, it’s called a “tweet” and you are limited to 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation. This group of chefs has a series of challenges that involves writing a complete recipe in 140 characters or less.

Go ahead. Find the simplest recipe in your repertoire, any cookbook or collection you have and see if you can distill it into 140 characters.

It’s not so easy, believe me. Sometimes, professional cooks – especially those of us in the fraternity of television cooks – become so enamored of technique and ingredient lists, that we forget that simple is always best.

So here is my latest contribution to the 140-character recipe challenge. It’s pasta primavera – timely for spring, of course, and designed to “tweet” with all of the returning birdies in our midst:

Butter-sauté veggies. Cream, half/half, basil, nutmeg, salt, white pepper in roux. Dice prosciutto. Pasta, veggies, sauce, prosciutto, Parm.

I invite you to try this little exercise. E-mail your best to me. You can exclude counting the characters in the title of the recipe so I’ll know what you’re trying to communicate.

The winner will be recognized in a future column.

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