It all began in 1998. My obsession with the Food Network. I was hanging out in New York awaiting the beginning of business school. I'd quit my job and, other than boning up on the calculus, I had absolutely nothing to do. I scheduled my life around Too Hot Tamales, Ready Set Cook! and Cooking Live with Sara Moulton. In those days, the Food Network was all about cooking, especially cooking at home. I mean, Cooking Live - Sara would list the ingredients the day before so you could be prepared to cook along with her. People called in and they were actually in front of their stoves, yes, cooking live.
It was gradual, but the channel has changed over the past seven years. A couple of major things happened this year that indicate a turn away from the original core audience - people who liked to cook - to a new and (for whatever it's worth) bigger audience. People who eat.
The Food Network, it seems, is divesting itself of the foodies and embracing food, of the edible and eye candy variety. And this is such a shame. Some of the big changes that spell doom for the home chef:
- The ubiquitous Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade (as one commenter wondered, isn't that the same thing as half-baked?) specials, for Halloween and Christmas. They're more about decapitating food than cooking it. And with zero culinary training, classical or otherwise, Sandra Lee is the poster child for the turn against chefs.
- The removal of Sara Moulton. Getting rid of Cooking Live left an empty hole in my TV schedule. Getting rid of Sara altogether is a travesty.
- Alton Brown hits the road for yet another food-while-travelling show. Is the network "trying to convert some of his Good Eats fans to the new network format"? Consider us un-converted. We love Alton Brown's Good Eats and, as much as we love him, don't need to see him on a motorcycle.
- Christopher Kimball, the brainy chef behind Cook's Illustrated, developed his America's Test Kitchen show for PBS.
- Bob Sassone's favorite Food Network shows got us chatting about what he hit and missed.
- Bob interviewed Ted Allen from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy about his new cookbook in October.
- Rachael Ray was profiled in the New York Times that same day.
- I caught a Whole Foods spokesman calling his groceries "not...WAY more expensive" on Food TV this fall.
- Stefania Butler talks about learning to cook from Jacques Pepin.
- Nick Vagnoni found us a deal on Julia Child DVDs.
- Deidre Woollard looks at a new Food Network show, Sugar Rush.
- I let the Food TV chefs join us for Grilled Cheese Day.
- Finally, Nicole Weston points to a blogger who was fired for writing about Rachael Ray's visit to his place of employment.