Monday, November 21, 2005

Food Coma: 5 Suggestions to Improve the Food Network

It's only Monday and I already have Thanksgiving fatigue. In the last few weeks I've watched Rachael, Paula, Alton, Giada, Michael and Emeril prepare Thanksgiving meals. In case you missed these shows, let me sum them up:

Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.
Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.
Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.
Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.
Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.
Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, pie.

I'm a little grumpy today. I feel like I've been watching the same show on repeat for the last two weeks. Only the faces are different.

I love the Food Network. I watch it all the time, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. I'd love to see a few changes and additions to my favorite channel.

1. Add a vegetarian cooking show (or two).

I'm pretty confounded as to why this has not happened yet. The Food Network already has a whole section of its site dedicated to vegetarian recipes. Eating vegetarian does not mean you have to give up leather, tasty food, or common sense. Many people eat meatless every day, so the show would not only appeal to hard-core hairy-pitted vegans.

Might I suggest Toni Fiore of Delicious TV and Regina Campbell of Regina's Vegetarian Table? If you don't want to poach all of PBS' programming, then how about Annie Somerville of San Francisco's iconic Greens restaurant?

Agree with me? Sign this petition asking Food Network to add a vegetarian show its lineup.

2. Add some ethnic cooking shows (as well as ethnic hosts) to the lineup.

First off, I understand that the Food Network wants to cater to the widest possible audience, so it's not going to have a Tibetan Recipe Extravaganza anytime soon. However, a lot of people enjoy Latin (especially Mexican) and Asian food - at least as many as those who like Italian, and look how much air time Italian food gets.

I liked the idea of one contestant from last season's The Next Food Network Star, travelling around the world to find new and exciting dishes. While the production costs of a travelling cooking show would be prohibitive, I'd love to watch a show where, for instance, the host would throw a dart at a world map and then next week he or she would have to cook a meal from that region. They could bring in a native of that country to assist, or the host would have to wing it.

While we're diversifying the food, let's diversify the hosts! Now, I don't think the Food Network has to be a rainbow coalition, but are the only cooks in America caucasian? I already mentioned Food Network Canada's Rob Rainford. Anyone remember Padma Lakshmi? This former fashion model cooked amazing food and, move over Giada and Sandra, is one of the most gorgeous women in the world. Her first cookbook, Easy Exotic, is one of the best kitchen resources I own.

3. Bring back gourmet.

I don't think I'm alone in saying that when I watch a show on the Food Network, there's a 90% chance that I will never want to make the food they're cooking. I will pick up ideas here and there, but mostly I want to be entertained. What is more entertaining than watching a highly educated and experienced chef prepare a meal containing ingredients that cost more than your rent?

4. Embrace the Web.

Food Network is doing a pretty good job with this one. Their website is pretty thorough, with lots of info about hosts and a searchable recipe database. Even though I don't care for Dave Lieberman, today the Food Network launched a 13-part Internet-only cooking show called Eat This with Dave Lieberman. From the press release:
Hosted by the critically acclaimed young chef, author and host of "Good
Deal With Dave Lieberman," each of the 13 episodes will visit several of the
hottest spots in five major U.S. cities, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San
Francisco and Miami, to focus on hot new trends and crazes in cuisine.
Lieberman will delve into everything from science-influenced food (in such
famed places as NYC's WD-50 and Chicago's Moto) to specialty meats (alligator,
kangaroo, elk) and flavored salt (smoked, Hawaiian red and Maldon) to spicy
sweets (chocolate truffles and bars flavored with curry, goat cheese and basil).
I like the idea of Web-only content, but this is just like $40 a Day, Tasty Travels, and Roker on the Road. The Next Food Network Star page has unaired videos of each contestant online, and lets viewers vote on their favorite. I'd love to see supplemental information for shows that have already aired on television, as well as original content that features actual cooking. Behind the scenes features might be a good place to start. And why don't any of the Food Network hosts blog at

5. Variety is the spice of life.

I'm no cooking show purist. That is, I love watching actual cooking and learning how to make new dishes, but I also enjoy some of Food Network's other programming. The jury is still out on Restaurant Makeover (who are bigger jerks, the designer and chef, or the restaurant owners?), but I do like Recipe for Success. Unwrapped bores me to tears, but I do enjoy the Food Network Challenges.

I'd love to follow a group of students through culinary school. I'd also watch Super Size Me-type experiments where someone only eats the food they cook for 30 days. I'm surprised that Food Network doesn't have any kind of kitchenry gadget program - I would totally be into a show that reviewed or showcased different types of kitchenware and appliances. Heck, they could even plug their own wares, considering they sell all kinds of kitchenware at

What do think of these ideas? Do you have any suggestions to improve the Food Network?


Alicat said...

I think those are all awesome suggestions! :)

I wish they would drop Sara's Secret. Booring. I'd take an ethnic themed show anyday over that lady. :)

MSH said...

I remember Padma and she was great. Bring her back, bring back Ming Tsai, and I'd make David Rosengarten more prominent on the Web. One thing they should stop doing is propaganda for the food industry. "Unwrapped" can be interesting, but it basically allows companies to openly shill for their products. Also, there was a special on last year called "The Future of Food" or something like that, where experts talked about how stupid it was for people to be concerned about genetic engineering. I'm not taking sides in that debate, but the show wasn't even remotely balanced. I love this blog! Have I mentioned that before? It's the only one I read regularly. Keep it rolling!

Armchair Cook said...

alicat - I'm not a fan of Sara's Secrets either. I appreciate that Sara Moulton is a real chef (as opposed to Sandra Lee and company, at least), but I think she comes across as so cold and bitchy that I can't watch her show. Word on the street is that Sara's Secret has been cancelled. They are still running old episodes, but they're not filming any new ones. I can't find anything official, but it's mentioned here:

and here:

m.s. harris - Unwrapped is so boring to me, plus Marc Summers creeps me out.

I've got "Future of Food" in my Netflix queue. I've heard good things about it, even if it is directed by Jerry Garcia's widow:

Kimberly said...

I think once upon a time there was a vege cooking show on there, or if not completely veggie, very vegetarian friendly. Curtis Aikens. Ring a bell?

Love the blog!

Alicat said...

armchair - i completely agree! Have you ever noticed how badly she rushes her guests along each and every segment?

It's like, jeeze woman, if you cant handle someone else in your kitchen, dont have any guests!

Armchair Cook said...

Kimberly - Oooh, thanks for the tip. I just googled Curtis Aikens and though I never caught his show, he has some awesome recipes on his site. Mango Macadamia Nut Bread, here I come!

alicat - Totally! I first noticed Sara was kind of bitchy when she had some sweet lady on there helping her bake something or other, and Sara was dismissive of the other woman's baking advice.

Wannabe Chef said...

I know this is an old blog, but I wanted to comment anyway. I, too, am a Food Network addict. My very least favorite is the Barefoot Contessa. I think if she smiled, her face would crack. I've never heard someone so monotone!! Plus, if I have to hear one more comment about Jeffery, I'll puke!!!!! Please put her out of her misery!

Joanne said...

I've seen Jennifer Cornbleet (author of "Raw Food Made Easy) give cooking demos and classes, and I think she'd be great on the Food Network! She has a mainstream approach to raw food that can encourage all people to include more fruites and veggies in their diet. And her recipes are . . .EASY!

Rocky Yoder said...

Enouth with the cake program in prime time. Please play more Paula Deen, Racheal, Sandra Lee, Giada or Bobby.

Thank you