Carla Hall, Top Chef contestant

Carla Hall, Top Chef contestant Credit: Bravo

Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, let's talk about love. A talented photographer I was working with earlier this week lamented a recent restaurant meal he had, observing that “the food wasn’t cooked with love.” This sentiment has become commonplace; Carla Hall, one of my favorite contestants on "Top Chef All Stars," is always going on about it.

Call me a cynic, but when it comes to cooking, I’ll choose skill over love every time.

First of all, I don’t know which love, exactly, food should be cooked with. Surely not love of whoever’s going to be eating the food. I don’t expect the chef or the line cooks at a restaurant to love me — I don’t expect them to like me or even know me. In my own kitchen I have been unable to discern a difference in the results whether I am cooking for someone I love or for someone whom I owe dinner.

I suppose it helps, when cooking, to love one’s ingredients as well as the recipe they are being used in. But loving a standing rib roast is much less crucial than having an instant-read thermometer with which to assess its internal temperature.

The idea that all a cook needs is love is appealing because it implies that she doesn’t need practice, commitment or the proper training. Would you patronize a mechanic who fixed cars with love?

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