For a variety of reasons, people are cooking meals at home more often and there are now television networks devoted entirely to cooking shows.
Celebrity chefs are turning out wonderful meals in 30 minutes, while basic home cooks are serving up 3 course gastronomic delights under the sometimes grueling and stressful conditions of TV challenges.
While we at home may follow every step and the dishes may look great, oftentimes the challenges are won or lost on the taste test.
Our dish may look the same, however when it comes to taste, what makes one dish better than the other? It is true that individual taste is subjective and much of the population has diluted their palette with too much fat and sugar to really appreciate subtleties.
There is one thing that most chefs agree on, that they overwhelmingly prefer organic produce to that which is conventionally grown. Chefs prefer organically grown ingredients, not so much for environmental or moral reasons, for these professionals, it is all about taste.
Organic food simply tastes better, or so the reasoning goes. Is there any logic to this? Is there an underlying reason why this might be the case… or perhaps just a ploy to get us to pay more for their designer dishes?
Scientific research has actually weighed in and suggests a reason for the difference in taste.
The UK Soil Association review (2001) found that on average, conventionally grown produce tends to contain more water than organic produce, which contains more dry matter (20 percent more) for a given weight.
This extra water, in effect, dilutes the conventional produce and perhaps explains the more "intense" flavor in its organic counterparts. The review showed that the higher water content of conventional produce also tends to dilute the nutrient content. So, organic produce is not only tastier but also a lot more nutrient dense.
Another factor contributing to the flavor of organic produce is the vine ripening. Organic produce is allowed to ripen fully before harvesting, developing all the natural sugars.
Unlike conventionally grown produce, organic produce is not harvested green and kept in refrigerated storage until such time that demand dictates their arrival by artificial ripening processes.
The best produce of all, it could be argued, is organic homegrown produce. Produce sold at the market is grown for its ability to withstand being transported, sometimes many hundreds or thousands of miles.
As a result, both organic and conventional varieties can often be chosen based on qualities other than taste.
A home grown variety, rich in flavor and developing into a very soft fruit at maturity can be far superior than the limited choices offered at any store.
We may not all be master chefs, but most of us know a great tasting home grown tomato when we bite into one.
By Toni Salter