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Yo, Food Network. I got my eye on you.

2 May 2010 6,866 views Add a Comment

OK, so I got a little heated in my diatribe against the Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” the other day. While I did get some positive comments, I know that it’s easy to dismiss me as yet another food blogger on some negative rant, hoping to get lots of page hits by being an ass. Well, I know from experience – rarely do my rants glean a high number of hits. Most readers can’t be bothered. And I can’t say I blame them. And I’m not ranting for page views – I really do just vent my thoughts because I can.

It’s easy to tear something down, but all too often, detractors don’t take the time to answer the “Well if it sucks so bad, what do you suggest?” question. I have been thinking about just what it is that would make me watch the Food Network again (I’m not equivocating here – it’s already obvious I’m not bucking for some big $$ blogging job with the Food Network…). Who could get me all hyped up about the idea of cooking again?

It’s exactly like this, except Fred Rogers is the Food Network…

In the 80s, for me at least, it was Jeff Smith – no doubt. I’m not sure how, but I became hooked on the Frugal Gourmet series. Jeff told stories. Real stories. Stories about the people that he learned a recipe from, people that he cooked for, people that sold him an ingredient. Stories about the coffee mill he used as a pepper grinder. And all the time he was tell these stories he’d fidget over his board, he’d make mistakes, he’d talk to the off-camera crew, he’d rush some stage of a dish, leaving you wondering who would have to eat that half-cooked chicken… He’d talk to YOU. He broke the 4th wall, and he did it in in such a way that you forgot that you were watching him – you were there with him. Julia Child did the same – especially in her series with Jacques Pépin. In my mind though, Jeff Smith was a slightly softer entry point into the world of cooking.

I haven’t seen many TV chefs since that I thought could pull this same thing off – and I guess that’s my beef with the Food Network. Maybe their initial idea was to find good candidates and cultivate them – I’m not sure. Mario Batali seemed to be on a good track with Molto Mario – even though I was always a bit creeped out by the people sitting at the counter… But now he’s been relegated to cartoon status on Iron Chef. They even chased Bourdain over to the Travel Channel so he could whip out Chase credit cards in a quick edit of a digital still (wonder how many takes that took…).

But it seems the lowest common denominator continues to rule. I’m not going to rant about Sandra Lee, Rachel “Satan” Ray, or Guy Fieri. My rant is done. I’m just trying to figure out who would be a good “follow on” to the likes of Julie, Jeff and Jacques? I’m not suggesting a successor, or a copy – just someone that shows that level of “How the hell do you guys not get this?” – almost unchained passion for cooking.

My current vote is José Andrés. This is a guy that can go completely nuts when he’s talking about food and it’s nearly impossible not to feel his passion.

José Andrés on Letterman

So there. That’s my 4 1/2 cents. Who do you think could turn the Food Network around?

(BTW, I’m looking for collaborators to help pitch my concept for “Shitty Little Cooks” to TLC (The Little Channel)…)

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Submitted by: BuHi

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