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Foodies Get Game at 'Cook or Be Cooked!' Preview

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For those who are handier with a Wiimote than a spatula, the Food Network and Namco Bandai have an upcoming release for the Wii that might be of interest. "Cook or Be Cooked!" is a game designed to closely mimic real-life cooking actions (minus the tasty results...we're not that Jetsons yet!) using Food Network-approved recipes you can duplicate in your kitchen once you've mastered the game.

To preview the game, which is due out this fall, Iron Chef America's Michael Symon came to town to demonstrate some real-life cooking timed against the virtual cooking of the same dish in the "Cook or Be Cooked!" game. Foodies, bloggers, and other media members were on hand at Hipcooks West to watch the restaurant-owner and Food Network personality battle in a whole other kind of kitchen stadium as he worked to match the motions of the game in the kitchen, and talk about why this game can help teach adults and kids practical cooking skills.

After the demo, guests were able to give the game a go, and all around the room it was a virtual smorgasboard of dishes coming out of the computerized kitchen. The premise of the game is simple: Follow step-by-step instructions from a recipe using the Wiimote to simulate the action (swirl your wrist to coat the skillet with oil, flip the burner switch, crack the egg swiftly on the bowl's edge, etc.), assemble all the components of the dish in the appropriate time, earn points for each skill done well, and present the dish to the judges--here it's Food Network's Susie Fogelson, who serves as judge on the channel's Next Food Network Star series. If you've undercooked your noodles or over-seasoned your fried eggs, they won't hold back from making a face. But if you've carefully done everything well you'll earn raves.

So can this game teach you cooking skills? Certainly you can become aware of how vital timing is in a dish, how much salt is too much, and that it's important to wait for the oil to heat before filling your pan. While not a tutorial, the game remains firmly that--a game--and it's up to you to take its lessons and translate them in your own kitchen. Although Chef Symon says he isn't a big gamer, he did point out that this game would be ideal for a family to play, followed by them working together to recreate the actual dish (the recipes come in the game booklet) in the kitchen, then enjoy the food they've made.

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I tried out the game myself, although I knew from the onset that I'm far more comfortable with a spatula than the Wiimote, to say the least, and made a bacon and eggs dish that didn't make the judges retch, thankfully. For me, getting the feel for when to hold down a certain button or how to tilt the remote is far more daunting than any recipe I've encountered, so I'd have to say I'm not necessarily the ideal player (plus there's that whole gone-to-cooking-school factor). However, many of the event guests were self-proclaimed non-cooks who not only had fun taking a try at the game, but also could see its potential as a learning tool.

Chef Symon was a gracious host for the evening, and he did indeed reproduce the Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry dish in tandem with the game. Unfortunately, just like in the game, once the cooking was done, we didn't get to taste the dish. (Why the Food Network didn't think to pass around the dish for us to sample, along with the hors d'oeuvres using Symon's own recipes, is a mystery; some of us more brazen blogger-types straight up asked Symon for a bite, and re-purposed our appetizer spoons for the task. The result: YUM! If anything, the game has inspired me to use fresh sliced ginger more in my own kitchen.)

If you think you might have game in the kitchen, "Cook or Be Cooked!" will be out in time for the holidays.