An Open Letter to the Food Network

Let me start by stating the obvious. This is my opinion; my tastes are my own, and they’re extremely subjective. What follows is more or less a rant about how the Food TV network chooses programs to air.

For the last few months, I’ve begun to notice something about the Food Network. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I have a set in my kitchen, and it’s generally on while I’m cooking. If there’s no soccer on, or if I’m not interested in the Daily Show’s current features, it’s been tuned to the Food Network.

More and more, however, I’m finding that during the times I’m home watching TV, I have no interest in what’s showing on that channel. Let me give you an example. Tonight when I got home, and started to cook, I watched a bit of Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats. I like Alton Brown, even though the show tends towards the silly. Right after Brown’s show, however, is an exercise in advertising called, “Unwrapped.”

It’s pretty typical of what’s on during “prime time” on the Food Network these days. Here’s the blurb that describes the show at Food TV’s website:

Ever wondered where the tiny marshmallows in your breakfast cereal came from? Have we got a show for you! Each week, Unwrapped uncovers behind-the-scenes details on classic American food, from peanut butter and chocolate syrup to French fries and bubblegum. Join host Marc Summers as he explores the test kitchens and the secrets behind lunch box treats, soda pop, movie candy, and more. Unwrapped–the show for everyone who’s ever worn a pair of wax lips.

I’m not sure I can express how little this interests me. And from what I’ve seen of the show, and shows like it (“Roker on the Road,” “Food Finds,” “Follow that Food,” and “All American Festivals,”) it’s largely an extended advertisement for the featured topic. Here’s the blurb, again from the Food TV website, on the episode that aired at 6:30 p.m. CST,

Marc Summers takes a biteout of Cookie Snacks. Find out how Otis Spunkeyer makes their cookies so soft, visit the World’s Largest Cookie, sample a movie candy made of cookie dough and see how Ben & Jerry’s mixes up Cookie Dough ice cream.

Oh boy. Just how does Otis Spunkmeyer make their cookies so soft? I’d know the answer, but I’d rather disembowel myself than watch that show. So my theory is that Otis Spunkmeyer puts puppies in their cookies to make them soft*Instead of educating myself on the nuances of mass-produced cookies, I was watching Discovery TV, which was airing a couple of episodes of Great Chefs, the venerable tv show that started on PBS, and which focuses on three or more chefs from all over the world on each show. The food is always beautiful, with minimal interference from the narrator. It’s one of the first food shows I remember really getting into, and it remains one of my favorites. I’m just glad it’s still out there among the Emerils, Bobby Flays, and Rachel “Gatemouth” Ray.

Okay, that last bit about Rachel Ray having a mouth the size of a barn door was a bit much, but you get my point. And I don’t mean to denigrate what Emeril, in particular, has done for the popularity of cooking by any means. He’s sort of the Tiger Woods of food programming. But there’s got to be a balance, doesn’t there? At some point? Because right now, it seems to me that the Food TV network is in danger of turning into a caricature.

So what would I like to see? How about a televised version of the New York Times “The Chef” articles? Give Marc Bittmann a camera crew and a few hundred thousand bucks and turn him loose to cook at home with professional chefs. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.

How about a James Beard Foundation show, featuring footage of meals cooked by chefs given the honor of hosting meals at the Foundation’s dining room in NYC? It would be a fantastic way to introduce new chefs, and a kick-ass “reality” tv show to boot.

How about a show featuring a debonnaire New Orleans attorney who by day blogs about cooking and restaurants, but by night fights crime armed only with a 10 inch Sabattier Chef’s knife?

My wife just pointed out that the latter idea might have a somewhat limited audience, which, significantly, wouldn’t include her. But my point remains. I love that we have an entire channel devoted to food and cooking; it’s certainly more than I expected when I was becoming interested in food. But is it really necessary to sink to shows about Otis freaking Spunkmeyer cookies, and why they’re so soft?

Maybe it is, I guess I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the demographic the food network advertisers are trying to reach. But the way I figure it, if you actually made quality food-related programming, people who are, you know, interested in food, would tune in. Am I alone in this?

Also, am I alone in thinking that Rachel Ray could swallow a suckling pig in one bite? HELLO? IS THIS THING ON?

*Otis Spunkmeyer does not, to my knowledge, put puppies in their cookies. They use the puppies for brownies.

Posted by on July 13, 2004 9:13 PM | Permalink

Comments

Otis Spunkmeyer is a great porn name. For that, and other reasons, I’ve never eaten one of his cookies.

But you’re right about the Food Network. Whatever happened to the spirit of the great British shows? Two Fat Ladies, Jamie Oliver, and his forefather Keith Floyd all had fantastic shows featuring witty hosts that knew when to take a back seat to the simple, creative, and tradition-rich dishes that they worked HARD to make in “real-time”.

The whole thing smacks of advertising, when what I want are short films about chefs in action in their own kitchens.

Grilling with Bobby Flay sometimes comes close, but the man needs to buy a sense of humor.

Let the rant continue…

Posted by: Ian | July 13, 2004 11:14 PM

I don’t mind looking at Rachel Ray, but that laugh is the worst. In her defense, her’s is a show that demonstrates some technique, and features some things that are useful for quick weekday meals. There is an over-reliance on processed food, and sometimes the dishes she prepares are so rudimentary I wonder why she bothers, but there are worse programs.

I mostly watch FoodTV on the plane as I shuttle back and forth between the Big Apple and The Queen City of the Lakes, so I am usually not watching during prime time. “Molto Mario” is always good– I have learned a lot from it. Bobby Flay is annoying, but can be a source for some decent ideas. Emeril’s schtick was tired after two weeks, but I never fail to see something that I want to try when I watch it.

The shows that focus on cooking things are what I like. The shows that focus on eating things– usually sweet, processed things, it seems to me– are less amusing. The show that features Rachel Ray eating things is the least appealing, because she laughs a lot on it.

Posted by: Bill Altreuter | July 14, 2004 8:11 AM

I read your post 3 times. Carefully. I’m doing my yoga breathing and loving every last second.

First off, thank you sir for standing up. I’ve recently done the same for some local forums in regards to Cook’s Illustrated (morons).

Food TV could be such a wonderful venue for everything food. But it caters to the people who don’t directly care about food. How crazy is THAT?

I started watching Food TV in late 1997 and caught Emril & Mario when they had a nearly static video direction. One camera, one angle.

After all these years & watching these chefs I have great respect. Now I can see how the Food TV network has ruined every aspect of who these PEOPLE are.

I love Rachel Ray, she’s done NO WRONG. She’s the hottest manx to hit cooking in months. Aside from Mr. Kimball’s top heavy blonde testers, tee hee.

Send me a copy of your letter Robert, I’ll sign it and send it in too. Food TV is useless.

Xo Xo

Posted by: Dr. Biggles | July 14, 2004 7:47 PM

I’m so glad you wrote this because I feel EXACTLY the same way. I too watched very little television and when I did it was always Food Network, but now that has changed and I barely watch even that channel. Save for Calling All Cooks which sadly, isn’t even in production anymore and Molto Mario, I could care less about the other shows, some of them, like the one with Sandra Lee are even insulting to my intelligence and cooking abitlity and it boggles my mind that a network devoted to food airs that trash. About a year ago you wrote an entry about Sandra Lee’s book and provided a link to the NYTime’s article by Amanda Hesser, who told it like it was and panned the book. I wrote a reply in your comments giving Ms. Lee the benefit of the doubt by saying something to the effect that maybe her type of cooking would inspire novice cooks to become more interested in food and cooking and they would eventually seek out more sophisticated recipes and cooking styles…I was so wrong about her. That woman does absolutely nothing for cooking but peddle brands and open tin cans.

We’ve been so over saturated with Bobby Flay, Emeril, Rachael Ray, and Tyler Florence that I feel the urge to commit violent acts whenever I see any of them. I will not buy a product they endorse, a cookbook they have, or watch a tv show of theirs, in the case of Booby Flay and Emeril, I will not eat at one of their establishments if I can help it. I know that sounds extreme but I’m just so sick of them and very bitterly disappointed in Food Network.

Posted by: Deb | July 16, 2004 6:47 PM

I’m with you too.

It appears that a channel that follows ratings numbers will be doomed to chase away the core fans it was aiming for when they started – Animal Planet is now 24 hours of stupid pet videos and shows with people in them (hello- I want to see ANIMALS!), TLC is nonstop home and fashion design-police shows, Discovery is 50% motorcycle fabrication, and Food Network is mostly shows about junk food, the kind of paraffin-filled, extruded, painted crap real foodies wouldn’t touch.

While there are a few things worth watching on Food Network (“Into the Fire”, the behind the scenes restaurant show is one you didn’t mention), but letting Bourdain go away just shows you what direction they’re going in. It’s only going to get worse.

And if I hear you insult that adorable Rachel Ray one more time I’m going to stone you to death with tiny marshmallows.

Posted by: paul | July 17, 2004 10:34 AM

I love Food Network, even though I do not care much about the programs that are “not in the kitchen”. I have learnt A LOT with this network. I just wish Frederic Van Copernolle could come back to “How to boil water” but there is unfortunately not much I can do here.

Posted by: Estelle | July 19, 2004 2:10 PM

Thanks for a great letter. My gripes with Food TV are too numerous to count, including the fact that they have CANCELLED production of any new Molto Mario’s! Molto Mario was the one redeeming show there … And you are right in saying that there are other channels that produce much better food shows.

Posted by: jen | July 20, 2004 12:11 PM

Just because Rachel has a mouth like a basking shark is no reason to be critical. Who else has the creativity to blend cream of mushroom soup with vermouth? Besides, she is actually cute and perky, and many of her quickie recipes do work.

Hmmph! Take that and cream it. Her series on hidden restaurants in Italy was quite good. Of course, she was talking and eating, not cooking.

As for Emeril, as he is correct when he says, “Not bad for a Portuguee kid from New Bedford!” Strangely, his commercial tomato sauces are actually superb if you are too tired to make a scratch sauce.

Never mind Booby Flay (misspelling intended). He really is clueless on grilling and not worth watching for how to grill. I only watch him to see what to avoid.

Yes, Beard is still the best. However, his books are lacking in the reading dept. If you want to have some fun with a cookbook on seafood, try Howard Mitchum’s “Provincetown Cookbook” or as a second pick, any of Jasper White’s cookbooks.

Full disclosure time: Do your readers know that Otis Spunkmeyer is your real name?

::waves cane::

Posted by: madbeargfh | July 23, 2004 11:01 PM

I’m not happy with you making fun of Rachel Ray, considering I would like to make love to her Peruvian style.

Posted by: Miguel | July 26, 2004 1:12 PM

Have you ever watched the BBC Food channel? While they do have their own version of Emeril, Ainslee is at least sarcastically humorous in that wonderfully British way…But I agree this “how is Skippy peanut butter made” stuff is just plain stupid.

Posted by: Tracey Marshall | August 10, 2004 12:59 PM

I don’t get the BBC, unfortunately. I’ll have to see if I can find anything by this Ainslee cat online.

Thanks for the tip.

p.s. Miguel, should I ask what Peruvian style means? Probably not.

Posted by: Robert | August 10, 2004 8:28 PM

I also feel that the Food Network has declined in the last year or so, mostly because the over reliance on Emeril and Unwrapped. There should be more shows about foods and various regional foodways, less on processed food, less reality shows. I’m surprised that people liked Molto Mario so much. I find that one of the least interesting, most pretentious shows on the channel. Her lack of pretension is the reason I like Ray. However, I miss Bourdain and Follow that Food the most! While I also get sick of the implicit advertising on Unwrapped, I enjoy Food Finds and $40/Day. There is a lot of merit to show about the history and background of foods and regional cuisines. So I enjoy the more populist shows about food festivals. Too many shows that are simply “in the kitchen” would be tiresome as well.

Posted by: Allison | August 19, 2004 2:41 PM

I think the reason they have stupid shows like Unwrapped is because they are very cheap to produce. I didn’t realize until you pointed it out how seriously downhill the network has gone. It seems like Emeril is on ALL THE TIME and I don’t really care for him.

It would be nice if they would purchase the rights to show some of the shows that are on PBS like Jacques and Julia, Yan Can Cook. I think they should also show old reruns of the French Chef and the Galloping Gourmet. That would sure beat Sandra “Redondo Beach Airhead-Bitch” Lee with her “perfect, perfect, perfect” cake from a box.

Like most of the others who have weighed in here, I love Mario and I never get to see him anymore because they’ve given him a horrible time spot and I don’t have Tivo.

Posted by: Laura | August 24, 2004 1:00 PM

I guess I am giving my age away (doh!), but looking at the yummy Sandra Lee is worth the price of admission. I want to pour her canned pie filling on her and…well, it is a food show, after all. And Rachel is cute, too.

As for the negative: Bobby Flay should be flayed, Jamie Oliver should stick to bartending for yuppy girls, and that idiot with the Mexican food and the over-the-top spanish pronunciations should have his tomatillos blanched.

Beard is/was great, but watching Julia with Jacques Pepin was pure genius. Emeril is fine if you can “bam!!!” stand the schtick. Floyd on Food was great fun and the food was real.

But I have a recurring fantasy of Sandra in the apron and heels, and nothing else…

Posted by: Jerry | September 12, 2004 7:56 PM

What happened to David Rosengarten’s show “Taste”?

Practical dishes like cole slaw, broiled chicken and cinnamon buns were always clearly defined and entertainly presented.

Posted by: Joe Guzzardi | September 27, 2004 5:00 PM

How dare you insult Rachael Ray’s mouth. I think it’s hotter than the food she cooks!!!! I also think it’s probably has more uses than talking or eating!!

Hmmmmm…. is she single???? Rachael, are you reading this??

Pete T.

Posted by: Pete T. | September 29, 2004 11:06 AM

I give Rachael $40 for something

Posted by: Scott | October 21, 2004 3:52 PM

What has happened to Jamie Oliver? He was the very best cook on the food network,and the spark of the network has gone away with Jamie,he was simply the best. I saw him on the Letterman show,and on CNN,and he was a true delight as well as being a great human being. Bring him back, please. Sincerely sad viewer

Posted by: Jolene B. Morgan | October 23, 2004 12:01 AM

Food network, what’s up with the horrible shows?

The low-carb guy who makes «mock ice cream», the southern belle who makes iceberg lettuce/roasted ramen noodles salads? She mixes the ramen seasoning packet with oil for the dressing, for Pete’s sake! That’s not food! I say bleh!

What the heck is semi-homemade cooking?

Where are Oliver and Anthony?

What’s with the schedule? How many episodes of Unwrapped and Emeril do one need?

What’s happening???

Are you mocking us, you calorie commando you?

Coral M.

Posted by: Coral | October 23, 2004 2:41 PM

I, too, find my interest in the Food Channel is gone. What began as a great concept has degraded into a flood of infomercial type programming (Unwrapped, Top 5, etc) and too many programs hosted by the same few chefs. Rachael Ray was once one of my favorites but 3 episodes a day of 30 Minute Meals killed that, and Emeril’s whooping/hollering audience, added to his awful presentations of any dish got old fast.

The shows I truly enjoyed (Melting Pot, Chef DuJour, Calling all Cooks, etc) are out of production and have been replaced with shows that don’t teach how to cook, and shouldn’t that be the purpose of such a network? And don’t even get me started on their new star, Sandra Lee, and her retched combination of semi-edible ingredients.

It’s interesting that they’ve done away with their “fan boards” on the Food Network’s site. Guess they couldn’t take the heat anymore.

Posted by: RACaruso | October 26, 2004 9:30 PM

Although the Food Network goes overboard at times, in general it appeals to the masses, which is what their intentions are to keep their advertisers. If some of these people who have commented above want different programming…they are entitled to their opinion, but most of them want a major change and I’m against that. Since we live in America and we have a choice we can always turn off the program. I don’t like most of the current programming on TV, but if the masses like it…so be it. I just change the channel or turn the “boob tube” off.

Posted by: Joel Guerra | December 1, 2004 1:32 PM

I agree in that I like to watch the shows that are about cooking. I love to cook and to learn new recipes and techniques. I don’t care about taking a tour of some huge factory to watch dough being rolled in 500 gallon drums to make brand-name mass produced crap. And I REALLY hate the shows that feature hosts going to exotic locations I’ll never visit and discovering quaint little restaurants in the backwaters of Dungpile, Montana. And the ones that showcase the best jalapeno peppers in the world, home grown by people I don’t care about in a place I have no intention of ever going to.

Let’s have more cooking and less 2004’s Canadian Corndog Festival.

Posted by: Jenni | December 13, 2004 5:28 PM

I am so glad I found this series of entries about TFN….I was just watching Rachel Ray….she has become unwatchable.

She does not shut up! Taking your aggression out by smashing garlic with a knife???? Uggggh.

She’s such a phoney. have you watched “Inside Celerity”? She can’t hold an interview to save her life…and half the time she seem drunk.

Are we that stupid a nation that we can not bear to sit, watch and be educated by real chef’s? And what happened to Ming Tsai?

Iron Chef America? p.u.

Posted by: Kim Banks | January 18, 2005 5:32 PM

I love Rachael Ray however, I do not like what the food network has done to her. They have tried to glamorize her and reve her up to a hyper version of herself. What made her a food network star was her fresh and sweet personality and natural ease in front of the camera,as well as her cooking skills. Now whomever has advised her to shout, instead of speaking in her own gracious manner, and to act like she is high on something, and they now have her overly made up,and she is know longer that gracious and very sweet and untouched girl that brought her to the attention of the country. Just let her be herself,which is wonderful and thoroughly natuaral and extremely special. Regarding her new “Inside Dish” show,she is not a professional interviewer,which takes years and years of traing obviously, and she does need to receive good training and advice in that gendre,just as she had received training on how to cook and how to work in front of the camera. She became a real star as a result of years of trining in the food industry. Now I feel that someone within the food network, should train her on how to interview and how important it is to listen to the stars that she interviews. It is not her fault if her interviewing skills are lacking because that has not been her particular genre. In my opinion,someone should have finely honed her skills in interviewing before she stated that new show. With the proper training in that area of entertaing,she would soar as she has in what ever skill that she has been trained in. She is a natural star. Perhaps just by doing, she will become a better listener as well as a great star of the food network. I adore her and have watched her for four years now. What the food network needs is more shows with Rachael Ray doing what she does best, which is communicating with the T.V.audiance and cooking and just having the opportunity to express herself the way she has done all these years and let Charlie Rose do extraordiary interviewing, which knowone esle could improve upon. Just as kowone else can improve upon the gift’s that Rachael Ray has brought to the food network. Imagine how lost Charlie Rose would be if he tried to make a meal on the food network. Keep gifted people in their own particular genre. Also what has happened to Jamie Oliver,next to Rachael he was absolutely wonderful,as a great cook and great personality. Sincerely Jolene Morgan

Posted by: Jolene B. Morgan | February 2, 2005 6:57 AM

I’m no chef but in the late 90s I tuned in to Great Chefs by accident. It gave me an appreciation for the fine art and brilliant work of fine chefs that I never had before.

I’m a graphic designer and it looks this way to me….I see the degradation of the Food Network much like the exploitation and distortion of the graphic design field that has occurred since the late 90s. Why oh why do people have to paint a mustache on a Mona Lisa?

We all know many Americans tend to overdo, obsess and exploit beauty. Instead of appreciating a single thing, we are compelled to distort, duplicate, hybridize and water down beauty until it is like a bad soup (like a graphic design that lacks concept and merely decorates).

Does anyone know if Great Chefs still runs regularly on any particular tv network? I see they have a www.greatchefs.com but haven’t nailed down a place to look for their reruns.

Posted by: Sharon Bruno | February 18, 2005 11:46 AM

Thanks for your honesty. Emeril is a “no talent ass clown”.

The food network needs more shows like “A Cooks Tour” – less commerical and more editorial.

Posted by: Joseph Abraham | March 1, 2005 5:10 PM

The FOOD NETWORK has changed, and I find myself watching less and less. I DO LIKE Paula’s Home Cooking, The Barefoot Contessa, and Low Carb and Lovin it..and will watch those. Unfortunately these shows are not on in the evenings when I get home from work. I wish they would bring back Calling All Cooks and Good Food Fast.

I am tired of Emeril and Rachel Ray. They are getting so tiresome! Yawn!!

The Food Network should get more food recipe shows on in the evenings so people who work during the day can enjoy them.

Posted by: Judy | March 20, 2005 9:44 AM

I have a great idea for a new show for the Food Network, but I don’t know how or who to present it to! This show would hit an untapped market, and there is no show like it on TV. Anyone in the biz have any suggestions? Anyone know how to contact Marc Summers, or a production company that would be interested? I’m really on to something here! Please help this accountant find his true calling in life.

Thanks.

Posted by: Tim | April 18, 2005 9:22 PM

Instead of saying what you don;t like here…email the foodnetwork. I am sure they, unlike me, have better things to do than find this site. I personally love the channel. Can you tell me of any channel that has everything just ‘you’ like. Give me a break!

Posted by: Brett | April 21, 2005 10:57 PM

One break coming up.

Let me start by stating the obvious. This is my opinion; my tastes are my own, and they’re extremely subjective.What part of that didn’t you understand? If you personally love the channel, hey, that’s great. I personally can’t freaking stand it, and frankly it’s gotten worse since I originally wrote this piece. The only, and I mean only show I can tolerate is Alton Brown’s. I don’t watch during the day, so maybe I’m missing some fantastic show, but the stuff they air during prime time is either Emeril’s culinary [email protected] or a goddamn commercial.

You appear to disagree Brett, and that’s fine. Fortunately for you, my little rant is not going to cause the food network to suddenly change its programming. That doesn’t mean I can’t get pissed off and rant about it now and then, does it?

Good. Thanks for reading, and I apologize if this came off as a bit harsh. I do appreciate comments, whether they’re in agreement with me or not.

Posted by: Robert | April 22, 2005 8:12 AM

I agree, Food Network has changed. Unfortunately, this is making Emeril more attractive. On his show, he will commonly defend his realtime cooking. He will comment to the viewer that on his show, he really does cook … unlike that other channel.

As I observe Food Network change, I am really wanting to know what the other channel is that Emeril is refering to. Does anyone know?

Does anyone miss the discontinued: “Dweezil and Leeza?” (?sp). Is was on par to “Unwrapped.” I don’t miss its absence.

Posted by: gerry | April 23, 2005 2:15 AM

If you don’t like a certain chef or cook as it be then turn the channel. Every one of them has their own personality and way of doing things. Afterall cooks over the years have proven there is more than one way to cook. There is such a wide variety on the Network now I pick and choose what to watch all the time and then print out the recipes if I want them. My least favorite of all the chefs is Mario M. What a slob.

Posted by: Darlene | May 1, 2005 2:55 PM

Hey, thanks for the advice Darlene, it honestly hadn’t occurred to me that I could change the channel. You have no idea how surprised I was to find out there are OTHER things on TV these days!

Man, egg on my face, eh?

Posted by: Robert | May 1, 2005 11:08 PM

My comment on Rachel Ray: I like her $40 a day show, you can sit at home, get around, see some amusing things presented by a really hot gal, what more can you want? It’s just perfect! ARRRGGHHHHHH!

That’s where it starts! Please, Rachel! Lern something else! Every second word is perfect, perfect, perfect! This is perfect, that is just perfect and this cake is perfect anyway. In case you don’t know, Rachel: perfect means you can’t make it any better. Do you really think it is a perfect day when you sit at the beach biting on a crabcake? How if someone offered you 10,000,000? That wouldn’t be better according to you because just sitting there is PERFECT!

So get yourself some new vocabulary!

Posted by: Fritz Hohenzollern | May 11, 2005 12:43 AM

I just can’t watch the Food Network anymore–it’s one minute of show and five minutes of commercials. Pure greed, even though they have a audience base of maybe 500K, tops.

Also, it’s become the Rachael Ray network–I used to like her and now I can’t stand her. The bloom has definitely gone off the rose, and she just looks pissed off that she has to be there.

Posted by: steve | June 8, 2005 10:40 AM

Rachael Ray is a skank and talentless bore. Come on… is there a show on Food TV that she’s not headling? Her recipes are insidid and tasteless. Please pull the plug on this overexposed tart.

Posted by: Paul | June 8, 2005 8:40 PM

I watch Food Net Work all of the time and last night I turned it off because of Alton Brown. His show I thought was very offensive especially when children are involved. I know that He is a clown , so am I but You need to have common sense. I will get to the point in just a moment I am not a prude in no way,shape or form but it was really offensive dealing with food and sticking a Thermonitor up a Dolls Butt and Poking the Doll All over like voodoo. Tell Me if I am wrong. but really it was in very poor taste. Emeril, You are a Clown and I love you and I know that you would not do this type of thing .Not only is Emeril a clown He really knows the chemistry of good food.Sincerly Joey.

Posted by: Joey | June 16, 2005 9:45 PM

Don’t get me started Joey…I’m glad I’m not the only one repelled by last night’s show. I used to like Alton Brown, but I agree his “humor” is getting more sick and cruel.

Bring back David Rosengarten! His defunct show “Taste” was the best of Food Network. My fave was his “Omelet” segment, circa 1997. He kicked back and made one after the other, taking about 30 seconds each – first the James Beard style, then the Julia Child style, then with mushrooms, etc. all the while demonstrating true technique. He had a light sense of humor, and much expertise without the fussiness. I learned a lot.

It’d be nice if Food remembered it’s roots. Now it’s more “sizzle” and less “substance”.

Posted by: Ken | June 17, 2005 1:35 AM

I Googled here out of frustration and found many with shared sentiment.

I agree, David Rosengarten’s taste was the best. Lets get back to basics…Good Eats deserves an Emmy, Emeril deserves a break and Unwrapped needs a wrap.

Give us a feast for our eyes and an education for our palate! I want to know the why’s and where’s of cooking, not who won a BBQ competition 4 years ago or that pork rinds come in 7 flavors…

Start a new network for that crap…there are plenty of channels!

PLEASE, feed my mind with the talent that made FoodTV great in the first place!

Posted by: jc | June 22, 2005 11:45 PM

The foodnetwork has finally got it right by sexing it up with some spicy looking women. Guys will watch Rachel just to get a glimpse of that little bitty cleavage and that “baby got butt” figure. It’s not an hourglass but it’s not bad.

Sandra Lee highlights the opposite end of the spectrum with those huge breasts and svelt figure. She did a beach party show that had me reaching for the turkey baster. And who is that hot little blonde cutey that does the “How to Boil Water” with the goofy looking guy. Man, food network is getting better than the “Skinemax” movie channels. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Kent | July 6, 2005 10:31 AM

First of all, Robert, thank you for your Open Letter… Really. I stumbled across it a few months back and have to tell you that I laughed so hard when reading it outloud to my boyfriend (a former Food Network junkie) that I simply could not get the remaining words out and had to pass the printout to him to finish reading for himself. I have never laughed so hard while reading. It is a beautiful piece of work.

Having watched Food Network Canada follow most of the US Food Network trends, I am sorry to say that it doesn’t air much that interests me any more either, but I am writing you this note with a message of hope. Starting in September, Fine Living will begin airing a program called “Made To Order”. I won’t promise you that it’s everything you ever wanted, but I can say that it’s completely different, and waaaaay more interesting to watch than another BBQ show.

The show is not a cooking show, but more a lifestyle show set around two high-end restauranteurs in Toronto, a brother team – Michael and Guy Rubino, and based loosely on the kinds of requests they get at their restaurants, and shot on location at their restaurant “Rain” (award winning food and design – 4 1/2 years old and busier than ever). Viewers are invited to follow the brothers as they find out the challenge, design a plan and menu, toot around to specialty producers, show the viewer the prep of the meal and complementing drinks, and then watch as the evening unfolds in real time. It’s not about “oh my goodness, will the deal get done?” but more “holy cow, how will they pull that off?”.

Fine Living is targeting a different market than Food, and I dare say I think you’d be interested. Season One aired in Canada last year, and right now Season Two is in repeats. I’ll tell you right now I’m biased (my boyfriend’s involved with the production) but you don’t have to take my word for it. The show’s been a huge success internationally, from Italy to Singapore to South Africa to Hong Kong to Brazil. It’s being aired internationally by BBC Food and Discovery Network. Starting in Jan/Feb 2006 you’ll also find it on Food Network HD channel. Some recipes are available on-line at www.madetoorder.tv but we’re in the process of updating the materials so check back later in August for better stuff, and in any event I’m sure Fine Living will have materials on its website. We’re going into production on Season Three at the end of the month… and believe me, Season Three is going to knock your socks off.

I sincerely hope you all like it. If you don’t, well, then I guess I can expect to see it slammed here (your opinions are valid, of course!), but I hope you do.

happy viewing!

Francisca

Posted by: Francisca | July 11, 2005 8:58 PM

I wish TFN would do something like the Gameshow Network, and have a moldy oldies segment every day. I’d rather it wasn’t at midnight, but whatever. Bring back old Floyd, Julia, Jacques, Graham, etc. Also, the Great Chefs of series was a lot of fun.

I like to learn things, not just hear about the crap that everyone with no taste eats.

My faves are Alton and Mario, and Tyler Florence when he’s not being superman, and Paula Deen, although some of her recipes barely qualify as “recipes.”

My least faves, at this point…Booby, Rachael, and Emeril. Any of them can show something I’d like to learn or eat, but I can’t get through their shows to find out.

Posted by: Patricia | July 12, 2005 1:50 AM

Ooops, I guess I should clarify – Made To Order has been on the Food Network in Canada, but will be airing on Fine Living in the US starting this fall, then Food Network HD (in the US) whenever that launches. I guess the broadcaster is leaving the Food Network US for the people who like the current programming and growing these other channels for the 30 million or so subscribers who are looking for something else.

Oh, and you won’t find any “You could use a cup of milk for this recipe but I really like it better with two cups of 35% cream” on the show. sorry.

Posted by: Francisca | July 12, 2005 10:26 AM

I grew up watching public tv and cooking shows. Really learned a lot. I watch little if any network tv and was a devotee of the food network until now. It has become like food qvc and very tired.

Why don’t any old chefs…masters have shows? Or at least a spotlight once in a while. Where is technique or real instruction for those of us who DO know how to cook. Where is the creativity and genius of being a chef? The laugh tracks and noticeable audience guest participation is just deplorable. Emeril has gotten worse and now is selling his own line of products???

I can’t even watch him at all it is so commercialized. Most of the shows carry the same themes and show little excitement. The generic graphic arts on products used even is stupid. WHAT? the cooks can’t even say what products they like for fear of giving too much valuable advertising away? I want a real show. I want a real chef who is serious about food and cooking. What happened to people like Jacque, Madeline and Lilia. Why not get people who are already accomplished chefs, writers of classic cookbooks like Diana Kennedy etc. I really want a return to the discipline and serious food rather than laugh tracks and “personalities”. Rachels old shows are much better than the new Rachel on high. She wears me out and her hip lingo is embarassing, “man”!

Sara Moulton is insulting to all her guests and I don’t know why they even think that is a good idea. She interrupts them, contradicts them and is downright disrespectful.

I want the channel to work. I want the producers to read and understand we are not all just sitting around wanting entertainment but are starving for education. I would wager that every comment made on Calorie Commando was written for the guests and is so trite it is FUNNY. Loosing weight and redoing recipes for lower calorie count is an honerable thing…why act like a dolt? Please bring back Martha…at least she has taste.

Posted by: Jessica | July 15, 2005 5:04 PM

Jessica: The problem is that the food TV network is not geared towards you or me. The food TV network, generally, is geared towards the lowest (and I mean lowest) common denominator of the “foodie” craze. That means people who buy Wolfgang Puck brand frozen pizzas instead of Stouffer’s. That means people who are willing to spend a few cents more for a pasta sauce endorsed by Emeril than their standard Ragu.

Nothing, and I mean nothing we do or say is going to change this. It’s unfortunate, but that’s life.

I honestly believe that in the next few years media is going to be so easy to access that “major” media are going to pick up on the potential market for real food programming. Just look at the explosion of foodblogs, and the number of people who more or less despise what the food TV network has become.

Maybe I’m an optimist.

Posted by: Robert | July 15, 2005 10:18 PM

I say if all you guys can do is complain about the food network’s shows then STOP WATCHING THE STATION!!!!!!!!! I personally love to watch Rachel Ray, and Good Eats. I find them very interesting. I say you guys need to find something better to complain about than a tv show. Especially when it’s something that you can get rid of with just a click of a button.

But I want you all to remember that a great meal is never more than 30 minutes away!

Posted by: megan | July 19, 2005 8:54 PM

Thanks for the comment Megan, but next time, you might want to actually read both the post, and the other comments. I know I have stopped watching the Food Network, with only a couple of exceptions.

That doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it, any more than it means you can’t bitch about my bitching.

However, if your idea of good cooking is 30 minute meals, perhaps this isn’t the website for you?

Cheers,

Robert

Posted by: Robert | July 20, 2005 8:49 AM

Could someone please explain to me why an audience feels it necessary (or why a producer wishes to encourage an audience) to cheer wildly everytime they hear the word “garlic”? This, better than anything else, crystalizes for me the problem with the Food Network. Its not really about the food anymore – its about the spectacle. How much garlic will Emeril dare use?! Will Rachael find enough to eat with just $40 in her purse?! Will Bobby uphold the timeless honor of the Iron Chefs?! Will I learn, at last, which are the Top Five ice cream deserts?! And yes, how does Otis keep his cookies so soft? Frankly, I’d rather see Tom bounce on Oprah’s couch than watch these circus sideshows.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind a circus sideshow – when I’m at the circus. I don’t mind a little sensational tv either, and I like to see who gets kicked off the island as much as the next guy. Its just unfortunate to see a network which is supposed to be about FOOD start looking like the rest of network tv. Now we get more of what we already see elsewhere – women with a bit of cleavage, a host with his own band, studio audiences worshiping celebrity, and all the rest.

Ok, I admit I’m hopelessly adicted to the original version of Iron Chef. And maybe I lose all credibility for having admitted this. But how can anyone really resist badly dubbed Japanese tv – and those outfits!

Whew. I feel much better now.

Posted by: EMM | July 25, 2005 6:19 PM

It’s not your fault that you’re [read: we’re] addicted to the original Iron Chef, EMM. They have these tiny microscopic but really really long pea tendrils that come out of the red pepper seeds and through your TV and wrap around your neck so you HAVE to watch. It’s true. Emeril said so. I had speculated that it might be because once you get past the bad costumes and the astoundingly bad commentary, at the end of it you do have highly skilled and talented chefs creating imaginative (if not always successful) dishes under extreme time pressure, but I learned it’s really because of the pea tendrils. He also said the winner is the one who uses the most garlic, but I don’t believe that. Psshew, who does he think he’s talking to? I know it’s whoever uses the most booze. [crowd roars in appreciation] *grin*

Posted by: Francisca | July 26, 2005 6:01 PM

The food network is programming for idiots. Emeril is a complete jackass and not much of a cook to boot. The stepford like audience reaction shots make me want to rip my eyes out. He repeats the same few catch phrases over and over and over…… Malto Mario was a decent program. You could actually learn something by watching. He has since completely sold out (Iron Chef America?)He also might consider getting a haircut, a shower and shave and buying a pair of long pants and a chef jacket that fits. Good Eats would be a great show without the sophmoric skits and jokes which prompt me to switch the channel.Cooks tour was the best show on the network but of course they cancelled it. Bourdain has a new show on travel channel which is good. Why the hell is Al Roker or Mark Summers hosting anything on the food network? Because they appeal the audience they are playing to. The same morons that enjoy the Today show, Dr Phil, Oprah, Queer Eye etc.. and all of the other mind numbing 450 channels of horse *hit available on tv. Of course this is all just my opinion.

Posted by: JC | July 28, 2005 9:05 PM

“That doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it, any more than it means you can’t bitch about my bitching.”-Robert

Wow, I am so gay.

Posted by: Macy | August 5, 2005 9:26 PM

I spent the last 30 years in the food servics business. I was a dishwasher ,saute cook ,prepcook,bartender ,waiter,mater’d .cateror and when I owned my own I became a janitor.

By in large I find Rachael Ray to be likable and engaging and no where more annoning than half of the waitstaff I have worked with over the years.

I do not know her Bio but I can tell you this she never never worked for tips.She cross examinaes the wait staff and generaly mopolizes there time for a 12% tip. No wonder she does not visit a place twice .on her second trip she would be lucky to get the cat food de jour Patrick

Posted by: Patrick | August 6, 2005 3:50 AM

wow!..I too googled here and must say haven,t laughed this hard. You know, my grandma always said “2 heads are better than one” and I tell you for a long time I was feeling annoyed with fn and had no idea why…I just knew everytime I saw those idiots at Mario’s counter I wanted to reach out and console them…everytime I saw Emeril with a dish of garlic I knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out…and then I had to open another window to look at Rachel’s mouth because I could picture the spunk but not the mouth size..and knock it off folks one gets a natural high knowing they’re eating on $40 a day!Blimey!

Posted by: Rita | August 8, 2005 11:48 PM

Emeril has become full of himself, and is now a clown…

Rachel Ray is adorable, and her 30 min. meals all seem to make sense. also enjoy watching her $40. a day shows….Like that two shows back to back are shown…. Also like that Italian cooking show, with the slim Italian women…

Don R ……

Posted by: Don Roth | August 23, 2005 11:57 AM

I would like to add to your letter. I cannot take seriously that foo show girl Sandra and her silly ideas for parties. I am a grown woman with a family and I want to see cooking shows that offer something to me. I have had it with Rachel ray. Alittle of her goes along way. I also cannot take serious the italin “cook” who shows alot of cleavage and doesn’t look like she eat. I love to cook and fix good meals for my family, why don’t they have a show based on “Taste of Home” magazine. Or what about Mennonite cooking.

Posted by: mary | August 28, 2005 4:10 PM

I rarely have an opportunity to watch the Food Network. When I do it’s on the weekends and I am rather selective with what I watch. You use to be able to turn it on and be fairly happy with whatever show happened upon your screen. Nowadays I limit myself to Ina Garten and Paula Dean. The rest seem a bit circuslike. I do, however, enjoy the personalities, I just can’t see where I would use those recipe’s in everyday life. Tony Bordain, if you’ve noticed, has been brought back in re-run form. I think the smoking drinking cursing earring wearing freak, that I can’t get enough of was no longer PG rated enough for the old FN… See ya on the Travel Network.

Posted by: Deborah | September 17, 2005 1:40 PM

Hey, don’t knock Rachael or Gaida. They are the only two I watch. Saw Rachael today and she had on a low cut blouse and I go to see several shots of her clevage. I was beginning to think she didn’t have much tits but todays show show different. Would love to see her nude. And Gaida always has a little clevage to show. Love her tits.

Posted by: scout | September 18, 2005 12:52 AM

Excellent post. Well said.

I find I spend more time watching the PBS “Create” channel and Discovery Home now to see real cooking shows than I do Food Network. They’ve really gone downhill in their efforts to cater to the lowest common denominator. The worst for me is that awful Sandra “I’m a Semi-ho” Lee. She’s so bad I had to create a drinking game if I wanted to make it through and episode without hurling my tv out the window.

Sure we can change the channel if we don’t like a show, but wouldn’t it just be better if they didn’t have crap programming to begin with?

And, yes, Food Network _is_ aware of my feelings on the matter.

You mentioned that you’re an attorney in New Orleans. Hope you’re doing ok after Katrina.

Posted by: Amanda | September 24, 2005 4:47 PM

I agree with a bio I just read about Rachael Ray. There is no way her meals can be prepared in 1/2 hour and be done and fit to eat. One reviewer tried many times to replicate different shows, even tried to have everything washed and ready to go and could NOT do it after several tries. Usually it took her more than an hour going as fast as possible and she is a cook. I often wondered that myself. I never saw any “tater” dish cook in 1/2 hour and be done. No wonder she doesn’t ever taste or eat her own food on the show.

Posted by: Elaine | September 27, 2005 2:15 AM

I have read all the comments and am amazed at how wonderfully honest everyone is. I hope foodnetwork reads this as I find it a great source of opinions, good and bad. Why are all the shows left on now pretty much all women? I still don’t know why some of the more serious chefs have not been highlighted. I mean, I never heard of Rachael Ray, Sandra Dee (I mean Lee) :), and who is the gal on “How to Boil Water” and what is her purpose? As far as I can see all she does is sit and drink coffee and make clever intros to the breaks. Where did she come from and why is she on a cooking show? I feel sorry for Ina Garten (what a great name) because she is always trying to keep her husband in on the show…and why? At least she is a serious cook. I still want some more instruction. I can get most recipes shown these days out of a church cookbook (and nothing wrong with that) but I know how to cook. I want insight and education. Entertainment for me is learning something new. Now I just cringe even though I still watch hoping for something else to shoe up. Do you think Gordon Elliot reads this?

Posted by: Jessica | September 27, 2005 5:30 PM

I totally agree with Jessica’s mention of “instruction”. That’s exactly I look for in a cooking show, not some ditz reading a teleprompt.

I recently viewed old videos of Julia Child, Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet), and David Rosengarten (Taste). I noticed they all did a fine job teaching cooking technique, as well as something about the dish’s historical background. They told the viewer not only “how” to achieve results, but also some idea how to “measure” success.

Examples:

Wrong – Rachel Ray finishes a dish and simply says “See how FANTASTIC it looks!”

Right – David Rosengarten cooked a halibut, asked for a closeup and said “This is what to look for, you want to achieve a texture like ‘custard’. See how it jiggles? Otherwise it’s overcooked.”

The old shows were much grander than what Food Network force-feeds us now. Recently they ran a retrospective honoring Julia, and I couldn’t help thinking how disingenuous it seemed. If Julia came on the stage now, she would have been booted out of the first audition for “The Next Food Network Star” – I could just hear them now: “too old, too frumpy, she’s not a part-time model, she talks funny, blah blah blah.”

I have many more gripes about Food Network, but I’ll save ‘em for later.

Posted by: Ken | September 28, 2005 6:44 PM

The Food Network is all about making money–not cooking. It’s basically non-stop commercials interspersed with a few minutes of “cooking shows” which are nothing but product placements. informercials. They celebrate “chefs” like Rachael Ray who simply open cans and throw the mess into a pot with a little olive oil and call it cooking. And they prostitute their celebrities to make even more money. When I first got the Food Neetwork, I liked Rachael, but now it’s RR overkill and I can’t stand to even flip past her with the remote. They’ve gotten rid of real chefs like Mario Batali and Sara Moulton in favor of pre-packaged pap.

The Food Network is all about greed. I don’t watch it any more.

Posted by: steve | October 1, 2005 9:17 AM

Ah, I love your letter. And I totally agree, ESPECIALLY about Rachel Ray. God, everytime I watch her show I want to go out and buy a gun. I really do like Alton Brown because he’s silly. It’s a nice break. I want to follow Bobby Flay around and see if he’s really that emotionless. When they took Tony Bordain off I wanted to cry, but now he’s back, (sort of) with another no frills show.

Posted by: Tiran | October 6, 2005 10:48 PM

I generally agree with most of you. I *CAN’T STAND* Bobby Flay and his over-exaggerated hand movements any time he talks. He almost looks like he’s trying to direct an orchestra with his horrendous hand movements and I sometimes wonder if he is suffering from turrets syndrome. That, and he is arrogant, rude, and has **NO** personality other than he’s obviously in love with himself. He almost must own a lot of stock in Food Network because very single show he’s ever starred in don’t last long, yet they keep making new shows for him that don’t last long. He’s awful to watch (thus I don’t watch him anymore other than a few minutes to confirm that what I don’t like about his shows is still correct).

Emeril was fine for the first week I had Food Network but his audience is a bunch of mouth breathers who oooooooooh and aaaaaaaaaaah on command every time he puts pepper into something, or salts the flour, and laughs hysterically on command every time he says “I don’t know where you get your water but where I get mine it don’t come seasoned!” bull crap. YUCK!

I used to like Rachel Ray on 30 Minute Meals until her over use of the word “groovy” “…goin on” etc. simply got on my nerves. $40.00 a day is worthless to me, and that Inside Dish show was painful to watch.

I LOVE Paula Deen, even though they’re starting to overplay her now too. I also love Ina Garten on Barefoot Contessa….though I wish they’d keep her TOTAL NERD and COMPLETE DORK of a husband Jeffrey OFF CAMERA at ALL TIMES and ALL COSTS! It’s obvious she loves him, but they don’t need to show us his ugly face and horrid gray frizzy permed hair and TOTAL whimpy whiny voice on the show cuz he is also very painful to watch.

Al Roker is a nice guy but, I really don’t like watching him host a food show.

I think the best things Food Network could do is: #1 — GET RID OF BOBBY FLAY ALL TOGETHER!!!!! #2 — Get rid of 80% of the Emeril shows, quit forcing the audience to ooooooooooh and aaaaaaaaah over everything, do *NOT* let him say “Bam”, “I don’t know where you get your _____ but where I get my _______ it don’t come seasoned”, tone down the garlic, don’t let him make that AWFUL humming noise he makes, among a few other things. #3 — Get rid of Sandra Lee and her stupid show #4 — Put it into Mario’s contract that he MUST shower and shave before each show, and have a haircut every two weeks and NEVER let him wear shorts #5 — Get rid of that girl named ‘Jack’ on How To Boil Water #6 — Don’t let Ina Garten’s husband Jeffrey EVER appear on the set of her show #7 — Take every show with Rachel Ray off the air EXCEPT 30 Minute Meals and with 30 minute meals, don’t let her use the ‘retro-hip’ lingo (i.e. groovy) #8 — Bring back Cooking Live with Sarah Moulton #9 — Make Giada eat huge bites of the food she prepares and make her put on at least 10 pounds…she looks annorexic and like she detests eating and #10 — Bring back retro shows like old Julia Child, Justin Wilson, Jacques Pepin, Marcia Adams, Graham Kerr (Galloping Gourmet) shows.