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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is the Food Network losing its edge?

When I was a child I remember cooking shows on PBS like Julia Child, Frugal Gourmet and that dude that always said I garronnteee. I was too young to enjoy them I suppose but I do remember watching them for a bit with a speck of curiosity.

It's pretty interesting how currently chefs are like rock stars now in a sense. At least to some people. If you were to ask me today would I rather go see a Led Zeppelin reunion concert or go to a three star Michelin Restaurant like Per Se I would no doubt choose the later. Ten years ago it would have been a different story.

I would have to attribute my initial interest in the culinary arts largely to the Food Network. The first show that really sparked my interest in food would have to be the original Japanese Iron Chef. At first I watched it because I found the voice dubbing comical but as time went on I was more entertained by the food. At that time some of the food seemed just as foreign as the show itself but it sparked my interest.

I was living at home at those days and never really cooked anything before other than eggs. When I moved out of my house into my first apartment I was forced into the role of the cook due to my wife's culinary short comings. I was in charge of the buying and preparing the food for the house. It was pretty exciting actually I just didn't know how to cook. After some trial and error you start to figure stuff out. The Internet also has a wealth of information on it so I utilized that.

This is when I first started watching Good Eats on the Food Network. Alton Brown was really helpful. The way he broke down a certain ingredient and then teaches the viewer on how to prepare it was perfect. The show gave me confidence. He was almost like a virtual mentor to me. After I watched him explain the background of an ingredient and then prepare it I knew I could do it too. At first I tried not to deviate or be too creative. I just learned the basics and from there I spruced things up.

Aside from the above shows I mentioned above I find a lot of the programing in the Food Network is not up to par compared to what other networks are broadcasting. How did they miss out on Gordon Ramsey! This guy is Television Gold! He might be the most charismatic celebrity chef out there and they didn't get him on their channel. The Travel Channel also has two of the best food shows out there. Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations' and Andrew Zimmern'sBizarre Foods' ' are two great programs that foodies everywhere watch. Last but not least Bravo's huge hit 'Top Chef'. Now in it's fourth season this is one of Bravo's biggest hits. How can a reality show about cooking not be on the Food Network? I just find their prime time lineup very weak. Emeril finally is lost his 8pm slot to Good Eats(rightfully so). After that we are bombarded with Ace Of Cakes,Unwrapped, Diners,Drive In's and Dives and Dinner Impossible. What kind of self respecting foodie is going to watch how an Unwrapped episode about how a tootsie roll was made(hosted by dude from Double Dare) over a Gordon Ramsey show?

From what I have read The Food Network is still very successful but how long will this last? The best primetime food programs are not on their network. This should be a major concern for them. Right now their big show is the Ultimate Recipe Showdown(again hosted by the dude from Double Dare). Ok it sounds decent but are two home cooks competing in a chocolate chip cookie battle really original or cutting edge?

Everything on the Food Network just seems so sweet and wholesome. What makes like Top Chef and Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen so good is that they are full of energy. There is real drama, real tears and lot of emotion. I think they just need to step it up a bit. Take a chance on something new. Try to create a program that some people might consider edgy. Its only a matter of time until another food channel surfaces. Will they survive an ultimate food channel showdown?

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