As someone who doesn't cook,(although I have) and is not orgasmic over a great meal (although great meals are....great) I find what makes any meal great is simply the company that you eat it in.
For me, the experience of the meal, with great conversation is the key.
As for the analogy between cooking and photography, and the meal being the deciding factor, I think many people like the process of cooking and the meal being just the outcome. As it is with many people and their photography, the doing, is more important than the result.
I'm not one of them but that's just me.