Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Food Network in the news: It all comes back to Rachael Ray

The Onion A.V. Club names Sara Moulton the most Underrated Food Network Chef. They're impressed with her personality and credentials (she attended the Culinary Institute of America and was Julia Child's protege), but I just don't see her appeal. I think she's stuffy and subtlely bitchy to the guests on her show. The piece also mentions that Rachael Ray was a Burger King spokesperson, which I missed completely. I would give anything to see one of her Burger King commercials, if only to make fun of it relentlessly. The only thing better would be to see her and the Burger King King mix it up! Maybe she could wake up in her house and find the King standing there with a BK Criossanwich. "How cool is that?!" Blech.

Rachael Ray is also featured in The New York Times today, complete with unflattering photos and chipper, down home reponses to her critics:

A favorite slam is that her meals take more than 30 minutes, which, especially for people with little kitchen acumen, they often do. They say she is untrained and relies on too many shortcuts, like shredded cheese and frozen French fries.

To which Ms. Ray says, they're right.

"I have no formal anything," she said. "I'm completely unqualified for any job I've ever had."

Rachael Ray haters are having a field day with this article, revelling in the fact that she was a cheerleader (come on, does that really surprise anyone?) and making snarky comments about her recent wedding (with more unflattering photos)

The most interesting Food Network piece today is at Harper's magazine (via Susie Bright). I'm a fan of the clever site Food Porn that relishes (no pun intended) in the similarities between food photography and porn photography. Harper's speaks with a porn photographer who has run porn and Food Network footage side-by-side to examine the similarities. Strategic lighting? Check. Weird angles? Check. No plot, so you can drop in and out at any time? Check.

Naturally, it all comes back to Rachael Ray:

Bob Tuschman, the Food Network’s senior vice president for programming and production, sat in his office, contemplating a dry-erase-board calendar on which he had filled in the shooting schedule for every hour of every day for the upcoming year. Even as they aligned the ground chuck downstairs, Sara Moulton and Jeff Kay and everyone else knew that Tuschman was monitoring ratings, watching videos of new talent, and obsessing over the recondite desires of that choice prime-time demographic, the eighteen-to thirty-five-year-old male can’t-cook-won’t-cook crowd – the men who like to watch. As people cook less and less, they ogle cooking shows more and more.


Of course, the girl next door [Rachael Ray] is not the only female porn archetype. For every Mary Ann there’s a Ginger, and the Food Network’s resident glamazon would be Giada De Laurentiis. Giada, Bob Tuschman explained, “has a huge following. She has filled out her skin and really fills out the TV screen.” Sara Moulton put it more reductively: “She’s eye candy.”

Giadadada de Laurentiiiiiiiis as glamazon? As the Food Network's femme fatale to Rachael Ray's femme fragile? No way. If there is a glamazon man-eater on the Food Network, it is the incomparable Sandra Lee. Sandra Lee is barely a cook, as is acknowledged by the title of her show, Semi-Homemade Cooking. Sandra Lee and Giadadada are both in danger of dropping a boob in the mixing bowl but only Sandra Lee has the audacity to make a cocktail with every meal. I saw her make a ridiculous bunny-shaped cake for her niece's birthday party, only to follow it up with a high octane cocktail for the mothers. Now that she's in the midst of a divorce, I fully expect Sandra Lee to be one of those single women who, when she gets home from work, pours herself a glass of wine and leans on the kitchen counter drinking it. For the entire night. That might sound depressing to some of you, but while Giadadada is out eating babies and shopping for v-necks, Sandra Lee is concentrating on more important things, like where to get her next buzz and, possibly, her next husband. Is there anything more anti-Rachael Ray than that?

Look how angelic and pure she looks here. Support Sandra Lee!

Sandra Lee is not to be confused with Sandra Lee Jose, female bodybuilder.

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