App Review: Great British Chefs

Earlier this month, Great British Chefs had advertised that their iPhone and iPad apps, were on sale half-off this month.

I’ve been following Great British Chefs, mostly on Twitter and Facebook, so I downloaded their app onto my iPhone for $3.99. I think the usual price for the American iTunes Store is $6.99, but I could be wrong as my memory to how much it cost when I first looked at it is sort of hazy. It’s currently £2.99 on the British iTunes site.

I’ve finally had a bit of time to play around with it properly, outside of looking at pictures of food and going “ooooh.” It’s an impressive app, with a number of features from video to recipes to chef bios and other extras.

So, what do I think? Here’s the lowdown.

This is a very well-designed app, and the food photography for the dishes are amazing. So far, I haven’t made anything from the application, but there are at least a few recipes that seemed quite feasible for someone of my skill level, which is primarily based in baking–I’m quite a rudimentary cook, and many of the recipes (though not all) seem a bit more advanced or, more likely, that they require a bit more time and materials than what I can currently offer. The app seems geared towards the home cook who has a bit more time on his or her hands–the kind of individual for whom the Ottolenghi recipes in The Guardian are a piece of cake. The kind of individual who can buy a sheet of gold leaf or a 4cm teardrop cutter–which are actually listed on the ingredients/equipment list for Morcilla and pistachio croquette with apple purée, along with a deep fat fryer.

So, some of the recipes are a bit involved. But, for aspirational cooks, this is a great app because there are loads of recipes to draw inspiration from. To have an idea of which recipes seem good to tackle, each recipe has a degree of complexity assigned to it, and there are “Challenging” recipes as there are “Medium” and “Easy” ones. You can look at all the recipes in each level of complexity. There are apparently 79 recipes labelled “Easy” in the app, however what is considered “easy” by the people behind Great British Chefs may not be easy for someone who has never spent over an hour on a dessert before.

In addition to having recipes grouped in terms of difficulty, they are also organised what type of recipe it is (canapés, mains, desserts, etc) and by chef. The great British chefs in the Great British Chefs app are the stars of the application, being the primary focus when you start it up. Each chef has a brief biography, and some even have videos of them enthusing about food, information about their restaurants, or links to buy their cookbooks online.

There are many handy things about this app. One thing in particular that won me over was the inclusion of a way to have the recipes be either in US Imperial or in Metric in the settings. As an American, this is handy for me because it puts things in terms I’m more familiar with, and I can switch back and forth if I ever do some collaborative cooking with anyone else for whom Metric is standard, or if I ever get to the point where I don’t need to think in terms of Fahrenheit when using an oven.

Each recipe comes with a wine pairing, and also comes with a suggested menu of what other dishes would be complimentary served up alongside it. You can share the recipes on the two main social networking sites or on e-mail, if you feel the need to tweet about what you’re making at home to make your followers salivate. Also, all the recipes have a handy shopping list feature. On the list of ingredients, you can check next to items to add to your shopping list. This is great if you’re making more than one recipe in an evening, so you can have a list that aggregates all the ingredients you checked from the different recipes, along with equipment. There’s even a timer included in the app so you don’t have to exit the app altogether in order to set a timer on your phone or iPad. You can also add notes to the recipes, and save certain ones as favourites.

Also helpful for aspirational chefs is the inclusion of videos featuring information on how to do various things in the kitchen. If you’re looking for a video on how to boil an egg or how to cook rice, you’ll be disappointed, as the techniques shown here are a bit more for someone who already knows his or her way around the kitchen to some degree: how to prepare an artichoke, how to clean a squid, how to butcher a rabbit are some of the videos shown in the app. Although, as a vegetarian, I don’t see myself butchering a rabbit anytime soon, I shall never fear an artichoke again! At least so long as I have a sharp knife around.

It’s notable that these videos are available for free on the Great British Chef’s site. So if you feel that this would be the handiest feature of this app, you may want to save your pennies and pence. Also, there are a bevy of recipes available online as well, with a page full of links to where the recipes are on other parts of the internet. Whether these recipes also feature in the app I’m unsure about, as one of the recipes I was keen on in the app doesn’t seem to be on this listing.

If you are uncertain if the recipes would be something you would make or draw inspiration from, have a look at the recipe collection online and see how you get on with them before you buy the app. For vegetarians, there are vegetarian dishes, but all of the mains look to be some sort of meat dish: fish, lamb, etc. You can’t actually search for vegetarian dishes nor are they grouped together, and I think this would actually be a handy thing to have in an updated version, as well as nut-free or gluten-free for people with allergies.

It’s really difficult to have a collection of recipes that work for everyone’s skill level, and with the recipes from British chefs (or chefs working in Britain?), these aren’t going to be your standard recipes from Allrecipes.com, but a bit more challenging and some of the ingredients require a more developed degree of food understanding–e.g. understanding what superfine sugar is and where the hell to get shiso–and have the time to spend making these dishes and money to invest in good ingredients. If this sounds up your alley, or if you enjoy being inspired by ingredients and flavour combinations and making your own recipes out of what you see in books and online, this app is going to be half-off for just about a week longer.

Personally, I’m glad to have this app to my collection of food-related applications on my iPhone, but I’ll probably be sticking in the shallow end of the cookery swimming pool, along with ogling the food porn. I’ll be having a look at the recipes and favouriting the ones I think I can handle, and I’ll try my hand at making something soon. It’ll likely be a dessert (or ‘pudding’), so keep an eye out.

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