Kitchen realities

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Ten years ago, reality shows shocked viewers when contestants ate sheep's eyes and buffalo testicles ("Fear Factor" probably should have been named "Ick Factor"). Now they make viewers swoon when chefs create the perfect duck a l'orange or roasted lamb medallions with braised pistachios.

Thanks to the popularity of cooking shows, more and more diners are becoming fascinated with food. Local chefs say a new legion of TV-inspired foodies are ordering more adventurous dishes while out on the town, cooking more complicated and healthy meals at home, and applying to culinary schools at higher rates.

While interest in the esteemed chef apprenticeship program at Columbus State Community College has remained stable, Columbus has gained a second culinary school - the Culinary Institute at Bradford School - in the years since "Iron Chef" and "Top Chef" first aired. And between 2009 and 2010 alone, the number of students taking culinary classes at Hocking College in Nelsonville increased 48 percent, from 202 students to 298 students.

Five chefs from some of our favorite local restaurants took the time to talk about how TV has affected their profession and what it's really like to work in the back of the house.