Despite fascination with celebrity chefs and My Kitchen Rules, are we actually cooking less?

An interesting study out of the United States was written up in the Washington Post over the weekend.

A longterm study into cooking habits in American households has shown that over the past 50 years, the amount of time our Yankee allies have spent in the kitchen preparing meals has significantly decreased, from 150 minutes — or 2.5 hours — in the 1960s, to only 110 minutes — just shy of 2 hours — today.

Data by the NPD Group further revealed that more and more meals eaten by Americans are being prepared outside the home. In the early 1980s, 75 per cent of meals were prepared at home, while today the figure is around 59 per cent.

This move towards eating out or taking prepared meals home comes despite near-fanatical levels of interest in cooking TV shows. The United States has been very similar to Australia in its current love of cooking programs and celebrity chefs. Australia is also known to be like the United States in terms of trends, although we are often referred to as being 5-to-10 years behind the States.

In an era when programs such as My Kitchen Rules, Ready Steady Cook and MasterChef have dominated the ratings, indeed MKR contributed five out of the top six most watched TV programs for the week of 21 February 2015, and we’ve turned chefs like Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Rachael Ray into fully-fledged celebrities, it would be something of a surprise if this passion isn’t translated into more cooking in Australia.

A lot of appliance brands are relying on the popularity of cooking TV programs to drive interest in cooking at home, leading to increased sales. To that end, these shows have been magnet for marketing budgets in recent years, with Sunbeam and Breville both sponsoring various shows at differing times. Tellingly, however, no appliance brand is currently partnering My Kitchen Rules, despite it attracting almost 2 million metro viewers during its most popular broadcasts. Does this mean the ad rates have become too rich for appliance brands? Or is the return on investment simply not worth it?

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