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I've been watching/binging on old episodes of Star Trek Voyager. One thing that I can't figure out is whether Neelix's cooking is actually good or terrible. Depending on the episode it looks like some people enjoy his cooking while in other episodes they seem to cringe when brings out food.

Was it either -- or was his cooking simply just very uneven?

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    Perhaps they were cringing when he brought out a well prepared, bur very alien, recipe. Anyone for sauteed hyper-slug? – Andrew Thompson Sep 7 '14 at 4:39
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    I don't have cites for this off the top of my head, but I think the answer is roughly "terrible for a season or two, and good after that." Which actually makes sense; presumably it takes some time to figure out how alien taste buds work... – Micah Sep 7 '14 at 5:58
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    @Micah - Yes, and after season 3, they don't really seem to desperately struggle for power. There's almost no mentions of replicator rations and plenty of power for Neelix to replicate favourite recipes like PB&J for Tom Paris and Banana Pancakes for Torres. – Valorum Sep 7 '14 at 9:54
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Like all great chefs, Neelix is largely under-appreciated by his audience,

He's too experimental.

NEELIX: Anthraxic citrus peel, orange juice with just a hint of papalla seed extract. An experimental blend.

TUVOK: The success rate of your culinary experiments has not been high
Flashback

His food is too flavourful because he uses fresh, not replicated ingredients.

WILDMAN: I thought you didn't use replicated vegetables when you're cooking. Always fresh, organic, from the airponic bay.

NEELIX: Well, the yields have been a little low lately. Normally, I would never dream of using synthesised veggies.
Deadlock

Many of the crew aren't used to natural food, having grown up with (bland) replicated food all their lives.

NEELIX: You're welcome. After all, if you want the crew to begin to accept natural food alternatives instead of futher depleting our energy reserves, you need to encourage them by your own choices, don't you?

JANEWAY: Fine. Give me your even-better-than-coffee substitute.

The Cloud

He doesn't like following recipes

NEELIX: It is zesty, isn't it. I tried following the recipe in the computer's databank but it seemed so bland, so I took the liberty of spicing it up a bit. Call it plomeek soup a la Neelix.

TUVOK: I must point out that if you take the liberty of changing a time-honoured recipe you are hardly presenting a taste of home.
Faces

He's feels that it's his duty to teach the crew to enjoy a "broader palette" of flavours

NEELIX: What's wrong?

SEVEN: They are pungent.

NEELIX: That's the whole idea. I've been adding Talaxian spices to broaden your palette.

SEVEN: My palette is sufficiently broad.

Mortal Coil

Some of the crew clearly like his cooking enough to want to learn from him

CHAKOTAY: The ship's out of danger, thanks to you. You've earned a break. Why don't you join me in the mess hall. Neelix is going to give a cooking lesson. Talaxian tenderloin in ten minutes.

SEVEN: I'm no longer interested in cooking.
Human Error

And after he's gone, some of the crew grudgingly admit that his cooking was excellent

CHAKOTAY: Crewman Chell's asked about taking over in the mess hall full time.

JANEWAY: Neelix left some pretty big pots and pans to fill. Does Mister Chell feel he's up to the challenge? endgame


The non-canon, but very amusing Star Trek Cookbook by ​Ethan Phillips (the actor who played Neelix) offers these Top Ten Reasons the Crew Hates Neelix's Cooking

10: Two words: Kazon saliva.
9: Kidney is not a breakfast food.
8: A little confused by the soup fork.
7: Can't take any more "cream of yesterday"
6: Swill du Jour.
5: Square meals means diced carrots.
4: Tuesday is fungus night!
3: The fruitcake leaks.
2: Pleeka rind.
1: Jelly à la Neelix.

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    I think it's fair to say that while some of the crew don't like his food very much (at least at the start), they see it as a favourable alternative to starving to death. – Valorum Sep 7 '14 at 9:53
  • i remember the "lorinax grub roach pie" incident from the Elite Force game – IG_42 Sep 8 '14 at 0:53
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    Also, as he considers the main cast his personal friends and trusts their opinion, he likely attempts to try out his "experimental" recipes on them. The standard rank and file may be getting excellent food that unfortunately came at the expense of his friends being convinced to try many failed attempts and giving feedback. – John Meacham Sep 10 '14 at 19:33
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    @JohnMeacham - Possibly. I think it's more down to the lack of ingredients in the first couple of seasons. He tried at least eight different dishes containing leola root before he found one (leola root stew) that the crew could stomach; en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Leola_root – Valorum Sep 10 '14 at 19:40

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