The cooking channel

Maybe this is more for comment thread but I have a question:  do you think America is cooking more or less at home than it did 20 years ago?  What has been the net effect of the food network?  I mean, I know people that really can’t cook at all that can throw together a good meal in “cookbook” fashion just by following directions, so on one hand, maybe more people can produce edible food.  However, I watch Top Chef, and they had a contestant on there that had made a recipe hundreds of times by her own admission, yet she couldn’t remember the recipe.  How is that even possible?  Does that mean that if I depend on my navigation system to get to and from places that I never really learn my way around?

There is undoubtedly a celebrity factor to big time chefs, although I don’t know how much of that is because of the food network, or just that their time has come again because they rise above mediocrity.  Unfortunately, the TFN got away from that and started putting shows on that had nothing to do with elevation of the craft.  The majority of the programming in my opinion is pretty mindless with odd photography, new age techno, studio kitchens and declarations of things being “yummo.”  Maybe it was intended for stay-at-homes that needed some ideas on how to put together semi-homemade meals in 15 minutes.  Pandering but succeeding.  It was to the point that if I really wanted a fresh take on things, the best shows were coming on Bravo (Top Chef) or public television (Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way, Jose Andres Made in Spain, Steve Raichlen Primal Grill).

Enter the Cooking Channel.  Appealing to cooking purists and so-called “foodies” the programming on this channel is far more about the process and currently is pretty educational.  The replays of old Julia Child episodes (where she drops the chicken) really puts Mastering the Art of French Cooking into context.  She was translating the French craft and trying to make it approachable to the US.  Unfortunately, she deviates a little too far sometimes when she starts giving volume measurements for baking French bread.  It just doesn’t work that way, Mike you need metric measurements!  Another really interesting show is Cook Like an Iron Chef with American Iron Chef Michael Symon.  It takes a core ingredient and gives three preparations and teaches a fair amount of technique, as well.  Personally, I can’t stand Iron Chef America because the host is annoying as hell.  But, Symon cooks a ton of Greek food, and frankly, he looks like he might be the next Kojak.  There’s also the Galloping Gourmet (the Brit that jumps over chairs), Two Fat Ladies, and bunch of ethnic cuisine like Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam, The Spice Goddess, Indian Food Made Easy, etc.

I suspect that with popularity, they’ll dilute this channel with drivel as well, so enjoy it while it lasts.  Soon enough there will be a generation that has never heard of Julia Child.


2 thoughts on “The cooking channel

  1. I’ve been meaning to write about this channel for a while myself. I enjoyed Fine Living, it’s predecessor, but this channel rocks (for now). Some of the personalities are a bit annoying (like the Rocco dude in Italy), but overall, its a vast improvement over Food Network. However, I personally HATE the slogan “Stay Hungry” and think they should abandon it. I also think Jamie Oliver is a genius on this channel, and I love his outdoor wood fired oven.

  2. Food Network is almost unwatchable. Still enjoy the occasional Iron Chef episode and although Alton Brown is annoying, he’s a UGA alum and I will watch Good Eats because the man can break down a recipe. The new channel is pretty good, though some of the shows are Network retreads. I wish they’d add Molto Mario to the line-up and Bobby Flay’s original show with that hot Italian chick. For that matter, that turd-burglar Ming Tsai actually had a good show back in the day on the Network. I’ve always thought he was sucked, and I was vindicated when I read a few months ago that Jacques Pepin called him out publicly in Aspen. I think he called him an asshole. A big disappointment for me was John Besh’s show on TLC. I may have to watch another episode, but the first one was about as entertaining as the Calorie Commando’s attempted hit on his wife.

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