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Dec 26, 2006 04:19 PM

Impressions from a FoodNetwork newbie

In the past I only caught bits and pieces of the network's offerings -- just enough to get thoroughly annoyed by Emeril's verbal trademarks.

I recently visited a friend who has the food network on all the time, so I got my fill of Giada, Rachel, Emeril, Michael Chiarello, Ina Garten and, oh, I guess that's about it.

First impression -- I was shocked at the unflattering lighting on the stars of the shows. They managed to make Giada look plain, Rachel look tired, and Michael look like a blobby middle-aged bore.

Next impression -- Emeril was toned-down and never once said "BAM! Nor did he kick anything up. Somebody must have given him a crash course in dignity.

Impression #3 -- Ina Garten was the most charming and appealing, but I kept thinking "girlfriend, get yourself to a fat farm and drop 100 lbs!"

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  1. in my mind, ina garten is absolutely beautiful just as she is, inside and out, and furthermore, every recipe i've made of hers has been a raging success.

    4 Replies
    1. re: potterstreet

      I agree with potterstreet. Ina Garten, along with Nigella can stay exactly the way they are. And every recipe of hers I've ever made has also been a huge success. I like the catering tips, and that kitchen? love it! FN is for the food obsessed so a little forgiveness is in order for the bad lighting, wardrobe mishaps, and the quirky food quips of the stars. Concentrate on the food and less on the media driven obsession with being thin and young.

      1. re: sharonm

        "FN is for the food obsessed so a little forgiveness is in order"

        I have to disagree. FN USED to be for the food-obsessed. Now it's all talk, all the time about Unwrapped, Food Challenges (sky-high sugar towers that few people could make), and most hosts (most of whom have 2 or 3 shows) have little or no personality. They don't TEACH anything about food, IMO. They are over-the-top food personalities dumbed down for the masses. Unfortunately it's the masses that buy the crap they shell out.

        And I'm sorry - no matter what anyone says, the dreck that Sandra Lee puts out is *barely* food, and a lot of it is processed food.

      2. re: potterstreet

        My husband has the hots for Ina Garten, and I love that about him. I agree with potterstreet - I've had really good results with her recipes (although I have to spice up the indonesian chicken for my tastes).

        1. re: potterstreet

          Ok granted, he is not on the food network, but still I have to talk about him: Jacques Pepin. This is one TV cook that not only knows his stuff, but is also completely genuine and relaxed. There's no overly enthusiastic "mmmmmmm....SO good!" when he tastes things (the way the Giadas and Rachels and Sandras do it). His dishes are always simple and elegant and he always tries to teach you proper techniques when cooking. I have made many of his dishes and they have all been excellent. As my girlfriend always says: I wish we could go over to his place and just hang out and eat!

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Ina Garten is fabulous, and I could care less what she weighs. I'd take her any day over the skinny, hollywood-look chefs out there. Her show is just comfort on my TV. I'm not sure why people feel that everyone on TV should be thin and pretty, especially when a majority of us who watch are not size 2.

            As my husband says, "Never trust a skinny chef."

            I doubt it was the lights that made Rachael look tired. She's gotta be worn out with all that she does and how fast she moves and talks. I get exhausted just by watching her.

            Be greatful you missed Sandra Lee. You can't really call her a cook.

            1 Reply
            1. re: QueenB

              As I sit here watching Alton Brown making sushi (love him), I must post my observations regarding the FN. Ina Garten is wonderful and we love her, and her recipes ROCK. Sandra Lee is a joke with all her waste-of-time tablescapes. Tyler Florence is great. Nigella's new show is really good. Everyone else is mediocre. IMHO of course.

            2. It's supposed to be entertaining and educational.

              Two words.

              Alton Brown.

              No, make it four words. Add;

              "Iron Chef"


              4 Replies
              1. re: Bob Mervine

                "It's supposed to be entertaining and educational."

                Yeah, but it's neither.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Your opinion and mine on both points is up for debate.

                  I find the majority of Alton Brown's shows informative -- if not educational -- and entertaining.

                  I started watching Emeril a half decade ago. I probably wouldn't have my passion for food today without the collective result of overdosing on FN for several years, some shows of which I still watch and much of which I don't.

                  I respect Emeril as a businessman, but can barely watch a complete show today.

                  FN has changed and I've changed. Good for me, bad for the network (and their advertisers) but since there still appear to be people like the OP just getting started, what's wrong with that?

                  As much as I find Rachel Ray's kitchen work sadly lacking, she has encouraged thousands of people to try and cook something instead of opening up a package.
                  Add the other chefs and shows that have done the same, and I think that has societal value.


                  1. re: Bob Mervine

                    Alton's show is the only one I'd watch anymore - yes, he is informational, educational, and fun to watch.

                    And push come to shove, TFN is all about making money...unfortunately, dumbing down their shows is one way to do it. Some of the shows used to teach and teach very well (Emeril's first show, IIRC, was a good one for showing how to do things.) Now, they have too much fluff for me.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I have to add Mario to the short list that is definitely headed by Alton Brown in the educational and informative. Whether one likes him or not, Mario knows his stuff.

                      Also, while my interest in Emeril has waned over time, his live audience show is very different than his Essence show. He's over the top with the prime time live audience but subdued and informational in the other daytime format.

              2. My wife and I love Ina's cooking, relaxed approach to entertaining, and liberated attitude towards drinks-with-dinner. On the other hand, Paula Deen drives me nuts. Perhaps its the dumbed-down approach she takes towards cooking.

                What I'd love to see more of are:

                1. More regionally diverse shows. The network is (unsurprisingly, given the nation's demographics) dominated by Italian themes. Whilst I wouldnt expect an Italian chef to mix it up once in a while and look to another cuisine (it would be nice though), it would be great to see shows built around Indian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, or French cuisines (to name but a few). Ina's show is loosely French and we used to see Ming Tsai (sp?), but now it's mainly Italian and desserts.

                2. As noted by a poster above, a show or two on food technique. For example, the proper approach to cleaning, preparing and cooking a whole fish, or demonstrations of how to make the classic sauces, would help me extend my culinary ability.

                Thoughts? What shows would you like to see more of?

                8 Replies
                1. re: ooroger

                  Wish Rosengarten was back.

                  Loved Melting Pot, and really like Aaron Sanchez' restaurant when it first opened.
                  Alton Brown, Mario Batali, and yes, I actually like Michael Chiarello's show.
                  Ina, Nigella.
                  Tyler Florence on Food 911 is tolerable, as with Tyler's Ultimate.
                  Down with Sandra Lee!

                  1. re: ooroger

                    Oh, you are so correct about the non-diversity of FN. The shows seem almost exclusively Western European/American. I live in San Francisco, so Asian food plays a large part in my diet; with all of the hours and hours of Anglo cuisine, would it kill them to dedicate one show to Asian cooking (Ming Tsai comes to mind). Actually, I don't watch FN much any more -- I find many of the shows annoying:
                    1. Does Giada have any say in wardrobe? Her shirts are so low cut, that when she rolls out dough her ... nearly fall out
                    2. Paula (and Emeril, and quite a few others) cannot speak English properly; neither can they pronounce foreign words; typos appear on occasion in Alton's infotitles (can the FN not afford an editor or a language coach?) Are these "chefs" a bunch of rubes, or so arrogant they don't want to bother?
                    3. Paula Deen THINKS she's cute. Please cut out the grimaces and giggling; 65 is not cute.
                    4. Rachel gives me high blood pressure. She's never made anything on the show that I couldn't have put together myself; and she has the vocabulary of a 12 year old.
                    Only shows I watch nowadays are Ina Garten (tasty, unfussy recipes; she seems poised and articulate); Michael Chiarello (don't know why an earlier post said he was "odd" -- I find him charming); Good Eats; Tyler's Ultimate (though they seem to have changed the format from earlier years -- he did a lot more traveling in search of the best recipe). Finally, I really, really miss Anthony Bourdain.
                    OK, sorry for the FN ranting -- I just had to let it out.

                    1. re: kzavarin

                      you are right, I have been waiting for a chinese or any kind of asian chef on food network for a while since ming tsai left , I hope they realize the audience need to see somebody besides bobby flay

                      1. re: monkfanatic

                        There is a good Australian-Chinese chef, Kylie Kwong, whose shows air on Food Network Canada: I enjoy her shows.

                    2. re: ooroger

                      I'd love to see something like "Cooks Illustrated" for tv... product and ingredient testing and reviews, making classic recipes healthier, fabulous recipes.

                      that said, we do enjoy Alton and Iron Chef. I haven't really caught Ina's show often, maybe just a couple times. Perhaps I'll give her another try. :)

                      1. re: jujuthomas

                        it exists - it's called americas test kitchen on PBS

                        1. re: Jeserf

                          Thanks, I'll have to look for that.

                          1. re: jujuthomas

                            Go to for station info. It is made by Cooks Illustrated, so a lot of the recipes make it to the magazine and books.