Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Video game menu now includes virtual cooking

Nathan Sears, a sous-chef at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs, Ill., bobs and weaves a little bit while stirring a bowl of ingredients and keeping an eye on the clock.

Cooking games
Here's another way to avoid all that hard work in the kitchen: Folks are not only watching food shows but also playing food games. Here two chefs face off at the Nintendo Wii's "Cooking Mama." (Lui Kit Wong/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT)

Nathan Sears, a sous-chef at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs, Ill., bobs and weaves a little bit while stirring a bowl of ingredients and keeping an eye on the clock.

He's talking about how much his friends love food _ from preparation to presentation _ but don't necessarily have the stomach to make it at home or spend cash on fine dining every night.

"It's funny how people will watch the Food Network but then be like, 'Let's order a pizza!'" he said with a small grin.

And now to avoid all that hard work in the kitchen, they're not only watching food shows but also playing food games.

Led by "Cooking Mama" titles, video games featuring cooking are hot.


Selling 3.7 million copies in two years, the four versions of "Cooking Mama" are the leading moneymakers for game publisher Majesco Entertainment. In the game, players rub their fingers on the screens of their Nintendo DS video game systems or wave their Wii remotes at their TVs, pretending to chop vegetables, fillet fish, stir sauces and cook meals.

Looking over your shoulder is Mama, the game's Japanese character whose gentle encouragement _ and fiery wrath _ is delivered in broken English that gamers consider endearing, not patronizing. The more ingredients the gamer prepares, the more meals can be made. That unlocks more recipes, with more screen-rubbing, Wii-remote-waving fun.

Other games have taken a page or two from the "Cooking Mama" cookbook. Among them:

"Hell's Kitchen: The Video Game," featuring Gordon Ramsay

"Top Chef: The Game"

"What's Cooking? With Jamie Oliver."

None mimics "Cooking Mama's" successful recipe of lighthearted fun, but these games about food cash in on America's appetite for cooking shows, TV cooking competitions and sitting on the couch.

Like the older video games "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," cooking games can't turn a novice into an expert, but they can let gamers feel like pros after mastering a few rhythmic button clicks before the timer runs out.


"Hobbies such as cooking or guitar playing take practice," said Aimee Roberts, an investment analyst who covers video games for Frost & Sullivan. "Whereas games give individuals the chance to feel like they can cook or play a guitar without the commitment."

We asked Sears, the sous-chef from Vie and a gamer, to try a few of the new games. He got a kick out of the games but preferred the usefulness of "What's Cooking? With Jamie Oliver," which spells out a grocery list that a gamer can take shopping so he or she can make some of the recipes in this virtual video cookbook.

"The skills don't really translate," Sears said of the games that let you pretend to cook. "There's no way you can simulate standing on your feet all day, or cutting yourself but having to suck it up and keep going. But that wouldn't be as much fun, would it?"

And that's what the games are designed to be: fun.

"Can you take the ('Cooking Mama') recipes and apply them directly in the kitchen? No," said Liz Buckley, a marketing director for Majesco Entertainment. "But it's a nice escape. You don't have to buy the ingredients or worry about balancing out what dish you're creating with the other dishes you're making."

And in "Hell's Kitchen: The Game," all you have to worry about is hearing Gordon Ramsay yell at you if you mess up the juggling act of seating customers, taking their orders and timing dishes so they come out of the oven, ready to serve.

But even with all the fun, some learning is going on, according to Andrew Hale Feinstein, dean of the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona and an expert in food-service operations and simulation.

"Although a Wii controller cannot teach you the tactile responses necessary to cut an onion," he said, "in many cases, it is providing some procedural elements on the process of cooking."


Laura E. Hall, a social media researcher and consultant from Dallas, is proof: "Cooking and music simulation games make the real-life acts a lot less mysterious and daunting. In fact, I was inspired to learn to cook after playing a bit of 'Cooking Mama.'"


'Cooking Mama': Just as restaurants often tout just-like-Mom's cooking, the virtual culinary world often lifts from "Cooking Mama's" recipe book.

'Hell's Kitchen': The always-cheerful Gordon Ramsay is there to apply his kindly boot to your virtual bum when the restaurant gets off course.

'What's Cooking?': Jamie Oliver's game also offers grocery lists so players can make some of the recipes from the virtual video cookbook in the real world.

What To Read Next
Artificial intelligence can now act as an artist or a writer. Does that mean AI is ready to play doctor? Many institutions, including Mayo Clinic, believe that AI is ready to become a useful tool.
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.