Top critical review
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Jose Andrés won't let you go till you know Spain and Spanish cooking are great...
on August 10, 2009
"Made In Spain" is an attractive, well produced, colorful, upbeat, wide ranging tour of Spain and the cuisine of Spain, presented by chef Jose Andrés. Potential buyers of "Made In Spain" should understand however that this DVD is also an example of recent public relations efforts to make Spain into the next Italy. That seems unlikely to happen. However, having milked, squeezed and boiled every last drop of profit from the brand name and lore of Italian food there is a burning need to find new food business possibilities for chefs, cookbook authors and travel writers.
A viewer's rating of "Made In Spain" may come down to how they react to certain key elements.
First, how much cooking do you expect to see or have in a "cooking" video? Buyers should be aware that the content of "Made In Spain" breaks down to roughly 5% actual cooking, about 10% useful food info, and 85% travelogue and tourism. These are not really cooking videos, in the sense that Jacques Pépin's videos are. With Jacques, you get about 95% cooking and food info and maybe a small dash of filler. The reverse is true for "Made In Spain".
Second, are you already an aficionado and converted member of the choir singing the praises of Spanish cooking? If the answer is "yes" then this video and its enthusiastic treatment of all things Spanish will be like a jolt of your favorite drug, and still probably not be enough. If you are new to the subject, and looking for a lot of hard info, and have other favorite cuisines to balance your opinion against, the video may prove colorfully tiresome and rather content light.
Third, how do you feel about Jose Andrés? If you love always on, completely upbeat, in your face with high spirits, totally positive and amazed at the wonder of it all infomercial salesmen, then this is the guy for you. If you prefer a somewhat more sedate, even handed and content rich approach, then maybe not so much. Chef Andrés is, it seems, working to be the Emeril Lagasse of Spanish cooking. You can easily imagine Chef Andrés on The Home Shopping Channel, beaming and exulting into the camera to let you know that there's still ten minutes left to order his Super Spanish Saute Pan for only three payments of $19.99.
Is he a great chef? He certainly is hard at work promoting the idea that he is. It's hard to tell from this video, there isn't all that much actual cooking after the travelogue and tourism segments are over. This is somewhat like the formula being followed by Eric Ripert, another well known chef with an ongoing aggressive promotional effort. There's nothing wrong with the formula, it certainly may be good business. But Chef Ripert's videos tend to have more real cooking on balance, however, and his technique and recipe videos, on his web site and in his books, tend to be more substantive. But it is a matter of taste as to whether you wish to put your time into watching what is, in effect, a personality brand promo for the chef. In the case of "Made In Spain" there is a whole lot of scenery, backgrounds, touring around and, of course, a whole lot of Jose Andrés.
Spanish cuisine is one of Europe's great regional types. Many people are invested both emotionally and through their own travels and experiences in both understanding and enjoying what they fervently believe to be distinct and special about it. Devotees and aficionados of Spanish cuisine will immediately leap to its defense, saying that it's not about "technique", like the French, who are, evidently, thought by many people to be the font of all things overbearing and pretentious in cooking, but is instead about the joy of the "very finest ingredients". But the Italians will say exactly the same thing about Italian food and, last time I checked, the French aggressively extoll and promote the quality of their foods, crops, farmers and products also.
In summary: "Made In Spain" is a handsomely produced food travel video series, with some cooking and an ebullient and enthusiastic host chef, Jose Andrés. No doubt this is a tour of great Spanish scenery, great Spanish restaurants, great shots of Spanish foods and markets, and snapshots of great Spanish cuisine. But is "Made In Spain" all that great as a cooking video? That's for each viewer to decide. For this reviewer, the answer was "not so much..."