Sure, anyone can cook but should everyone? Armed with a Nintendo DS and hundreds of hours of Food Network programming, I attempted to get in touch with my inner chef.
When Nintendo released the Japanese-only digital cookbook, Shaberu! Ryouri Navi for Nintendo DS back in July of 2006, I was steamed. While the citizens of Japan were exploring a new world of culinary delights and sharing their experiences with the online community, I was stuck here in America with my inability to understand Japanese to the point where I could trust my DS to properly instruct me on how to cook fish without killing myself. The only thing I could do to make myself feel better was to curl up on the couch, weep into a bag of baked Lay’s and watch a marathon of “Good Eats.”
All of this changed recently when I spotted a television ad for Personal Trainer: Cooking, the US version of Shaberu! Ryouri Navi. Finally, my dreams of being instructed how to cook by a robot were coming true and all that Food Network was finally going to pay off. I picked it up as soon as possible and began making dining plans for the future. As far as my skills in the kitchen are concerned, I’d consider myself to be a decent enough cook, but I’m never sure of what to make outside of my limited menu. Personal Trainer: Cooking seemed like the perfect solution.
My first experiment was to be performed alone, as I had selected a fried trout recipe and didn’t want to end my girlfriend with my first attempt at cooking fish, ever. After shopping for the proper ingredients (I wound up having to substitute rainbow trout for fresh salmon), I got to work. To find out whether or not Personal Trainer: Cooking was up to snuff, I decided to follow all of its directions as exact as possible, even if they were against my better judgement. This was, after all, for science.
When cooking with Personal Trainer, the automated Chef reads all of the directions aloud, alongside scripted text, pictures and the occasional movie. The entire process can be done entirely hands-free by advancing the steps through voice commands, though it suffers from the same recognition problems that plague most Nintendo DS titles that utilize this feature. Having just coated both my hands and salmon in a light flour, I found myself shoving my face into my elevated DS shouting, “Continue” until it finally realized what I wanted. So while the voice commands are a stroke of genius, I found myself using the stylus whenever I did have a spare limb.
My favorite feature of Personal Trainer wound up being the simplistic timer function. It’s very easy to find yourself trusting the robo chef inside the DS and when it tells you to cook the fish for five minutes, you tend to go along for the ride. Staying true to my set guidelines, I followed the timers exactly. By the time the clock began to buzz, I had successfully fried a fish for the first time in my life in about 15 minutes and it was delicious. Surely, I thought, something had to go wrong. An hour later, I was in no pain and by evening, I was still alive. It was time to move on to dinner.
A new found confidence brewed inside me as I pulled out the rib-eye steak I had picked up earlier in the day. On the menu tonight was steak with chimichurri sauce and again, I had never cooked a steak before. There could be no mistakes here for an undercooked meal would surely mean death for both myself and my girlfriend. As I began preparing the sauce, I evaluated my life. Perhaps dying before David Tennant left the set of “Doctor Who” wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
I found that one of the most useful features of Personal Trainer: Cooking was the ability to offer more details for certain steps, should you not know how to go about something. Unsure of its instructions on how to properly slice a bell pepper, I called out, “more details,” and the chef took me step-by-step on how to cut open the pepper and remove its seeds. This was just one of the many times I had to rely on the feature and each time it provided what I required.
While my chimichurri sauce didn’t look as pretty as the one on my DS (I cry Photoshop), the results were quite spectacular. The girlfriend enjoyed the chimichurri sauce which she had never had before and I crossed some sort of threshold of manliness, having properly prepared a steak. We had successfully opened a whole new world of culinary delights.
Overall, Personal Trainer: Cooking works exactly as advertised. It managed to walk me through two dishes quite successfully and I did so by trusting it almost completely. What flaws it does posses are difficult to hold accountable, as some recipes do call for some hard to find ingredients, though that may just depend on your local market access. It’s most certainly not a game but it is the most useful of all the “training” titles that have flooded the market since Nintendo started the craze.