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I can't imagine that too many chefs are willing to use their iPads as the world's most expensive cutting board, but that doesn't mean it can't help make precision cuts. Apple's digital sous chef has already cleared valuable cabinet space, but what good are all those recipes if you don’t know the difference between confit and chiffonade?
Top Chef University can get you up to speed quickly, but at a significant price. Fans of the reality show will recognize their favorite personalities, but we know all too well that pop-culture branding isn’t necessarily synonymous with a good app. What matters is the content, and TCU has plenty.
Essentially an iPad port of its subscription website, Top Chef University offers more than 200 lessons and recipes with descriptive videos. The $3.99 entrance fee (originally $6.99) comes with 10 lessons to whet your appetite, but the real meat and potatoes is tucked behind a purchase wall, with prices ranging from $0.99 per lesson to $99.99 for the whole enchilada. Purchasing takes just a few seconds -- even when buying one of the discounted course blocks -- though the app consistently crashed before I could watch any of them. Also, since all video content is streamed from the TCU servers, you’ll need a network connection while you cook.
Lessons are packed with the kind of tips, techniques, and trivia you expect to find in a college class, complete with a related glossary, ingredients, and a field for notes. Videos are engaging and rather informative, and I learned some useful pointers -- like the best way to separate an egg and the secret to creamy mac-and-cheese -- but many of the recipes I tested were fairly basic and unlikely to command multiple viewings.
The bottom line. Top Chef University is overflowing with food tips and tempting dishes, but the five-star price doesn’t quite match the menu.
iPad running iOS 4.3 or later
Extensive glossary. Competent and familiar teachers. Entertaining lessons.
Expensive content packs. No offline viewing feature. Encountered crashes during use.