I really enjoy the recent episodes on Create TV. The format involves Ming Tsai plus a guest chef, a technique, and a choice of ingredients. Each chef creates two or more off-the-cuff dishes, after choosing from a well-stocked pantry and fridge. The two work in tandem on each other's dishes, trading sous-chef responsibility. Today the jumping off point was pounding. First Ming demonstrated and explained the merits of pounding meats. Then he uncovered a big salmon filet and a boneless pork sirloin. The guest chef has first choice, and picked pork, leaving the fish to Ming.
Though I do not have cable, I recognize that the format is a nod to Iron Chef and all its competition clones, down to the bottom of the barrel, Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef. Fortunately, Simply Ming is more civilized, without a competitive element. This format should help home cooks who lack the confidence to branch out from following recipes. It's a bit ironic that chefs who routinely publish cookbooks often don't follow recipes. Jacques Pepin was baking cookies with a pastry chef on Essential Pepin the other day, remarking that he doesn't usually follow recipes or measure, but has to for proper ratios when baking. Yet were it not for their televised/published recipes, we would not recognize these cooks.