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"Food Entertainment Network" - Enough Already

Ok this is a general post about the direction the Food Network has been heading the past few years. The Food Network is no longer about food, it's about food entertainment. The exact same thing has happened with Food Network that happened with MTV. MTV started off where the programming was almost exclusively music videos, but over the years dropped the videos altogether for game shows, specials, and music-related entertainment programming. Food Network has followed the exact same path and has gone from shows that were about food and cooking to game shows, specials, and food-related entertainment programming. They've replaced programming featuring top notch chefs with programming featuring bush league cooks. What they have left of top notch chefs are now doing "entertainment-style" shows, or are being shown at times with the fewest viewers. Ming Tsai, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Oliver, Sarah Moulton, even David Ruggerrio all gone. Now we get Food Network Challenge, Ingrid Hoffman, Rachel, Giada, and the chefs with actual cooking chops stuck in "game-show challenge" type shows like ICA, Dinner Impossible, and Throwdown. I think the time is right for another food network that actually goes back and focuses on food and cooking, not entertainment. /endrant

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  1. I totally agree. Without Batali, Ming Tsai and Sara Moulton it's just not worth my time. I watched to learn from talented and engaging chefs, not to see Paula Dean cackle and pour confectioner's sugar over a competitor on ICA.

    Is there another option on TV?

    1 Reply
    1. re: alexig

      This has been the theme here at CH for a year at least. Try the sister channel, Fine Living, they show some reruns of the classic FN series, or check out PBS, like we used to do pre-FN. Just don't watch.

      To paraphrase Anton Ego

      "I don't LIKE food, I LOVE it. If I don't LOVE it, I don't SWALLOW or WATCH!"

    2. gotta come up with a new name...dubbing it the food "entertainment" network indicates that the programming is actually entertaining.

      5 Replies
        1. re: bubbles4me

          Emeril and Mario leaving were the kickers. The face of the network is now Alton Brown, the only true chef left not involved in a "challenge" type of show like ICA or Throwdown is Michael Chiarello. Well and Wolfgang Puck if you count his 2am reruns of episodes taped 6 years ago.

          1. re: Bunson

            Apparently "Emeril Live" is to continue in re-runs and "Essence" is to continue.

            http://www.digitaljournal.com/article...

            As to Mario, here's one version of the story: http://www.nypost.com/seven/09052007/...

            Maybe just like there is TV Land for really old sitcom reruns, there can be FoodTVLand for old cooking shows.

            1. re: Bunson

              AB may be the face of what's left at FN, but the T&A is Giada...

              1. re: Bunson

                i was just watching an episode of the martha stewart from about a week ago with mario on it. they made a butternut squash ravioli and some other amazing stuff. while they made the ravioli martha asks mario "why aren't you going to be on foodnetwork anymore?" and he answers they're going more mass market then he would like but he'll still be on iron chef...so there it is...he's also admitted to it's crappy mass market demise as well...

          2. Sadly, I too agree. I used to love FN, but now I find myself shooing myself away from the countless (and needless) "challenges" (Rice Krispie treats, anyone?) and hoping that maybe someone would recreate the old "Great Chefs" programs that showed, well, GREAT chefs in their natural element. I do look to Fine Living or Create to watch some real cooking shows, but even those are interspersed with some real dreck.

            I'm guessing the America's Test Kitchen crew doesn't have enough hippy-hippy-shake-shake to make it on FN. That's a doggone shame.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bards4

              is "great chefs" still on any other network? fine living? pbs? i used to love that show!

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Only running in my brain and on my 25 year old video tapes that I know of.

            2. Bunson wrote, "The exact same thing has happened with Food Network that happened with MTV. MTV started off where the programming was almost exclusively music videos, but over the years dropped the videos altogether for game shows, specials, and music-related entertainment programming."

              I agree. But unfortunately for us, MTV had many years of success with their non-music-video programming. In the past few years MTV has been criticized for being stale & having lost their way, but their first years of reality TV was quite successful (e.g., the first few seasons of "The Real World").

              Those of us on Chowhound may really dislike what the Food Network has become but part of me suspects that the rest of America loves it.

              41 Replies
              1. re: alanstotle

                It's all about the Benjamins, I am sure.

                1. re: alanstotle

                  Food Network isn't for good cooks, it's for people who sorta wanta cook. I was in the hospital a couple of years ago, and wound up watching it several hours a day, though my idea of "cooking" a meal involves a microwave and something from Trader Joe's.

                  What a lot of the programming did was demonstrate that cooking needn't be all that difficult, nor anything to be afraid of. If they manage to sell some Rachael Ray knives or Paula Deen-brand grits, so much the better.

                  I don't like a lot of the programming: on those "inside" shows, a person labeled something like "meat expert" is most likely the PR person for the meat company, and I wish Anthony Bourdain was on TFN rather than the Travel Channel.

                  But I also wish I was rich and famous, and that isn't about to happen, either. Still, life goes on.

                  1. re: Muskrat

                    My issue is that the Food Network is no longer showing or teaching new things. Everything has been dumbed down to cater to the home cook, or given an entertainment spin. I learned a LOT about food from watching Food Network since my days in college back in the mid 90's. East Meets West, Emeril, Ruggerrio To Go, Grillin' and Chillin', Calling All Cooks...some of the raw early shows that focused on food and cooking.

                    Then came "The Golden Age" of shows that really expanded to show more "global" food, and the grassroots blood sweat and tears aspects of food in the mom and pop suppliers and restaurants. A Cook's Tour, Ciao America, Molto Eats Italy, FoodNation, Food Finds, The Naked Chef, Ming's Quest, Molto Mario, Boy Meets Grill, Into The Fire (one of the best shows ever that never took off), Food Hunter...all of these shows focused on the food, ingredients, and sources. Most importantly it helped people gain an APPRECIATION and RESPECT for the food (at least it did for me). It also showed food that most people would never hear about or see anywhere in the U.S. I don't travel much, and these shows opened a gateway to an aspect of food on a national and global scale I couldn't get anywhere else. That in turn piqued my interest in learning more about food, top chefs and top restaurants. Most of my friends see Eric Ripert on Top Chef and say "who's that?" while I'm in as much awe as the contestants themselves. As it is right now, someone can watch 80 hours of FoodTV programming a week and all they'd learn is a pseudo gourmet recipe that they can make in 15-30 minutes, or get a few laughs from some "entertainment show" that involves food. Yay.

                  2. re: alanstotle

                    True alan but it must be conceded that MTV lost it's way in the end and now really isn't a channel of anything - it's no longer a destination channel even for the demo it was designed to attract. I think the MTV comparison is a fair one and that Food Network a few years ago with Emeril Live was in their version of "The Real World" phase and they've now moved into a very bad space. Even MTV doesn't know what MTV is anymore and they're no longer considered "cutting edge" or much of anything in the media world. MTV doesn't mean anything these days (nor do most of the MTV channels - Nick at Nite, TV Land, etc.

                    But I digress. The point is those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it and Food Network didn't learn the MTV lesson.

                    If one doesn't learn from

                    1. re: laylag

                      Wow. I must be watching a compeletly different network. On the weekends I often have it on all day or if I'm off I watch a lot of if and I see lots of cooking demonstration. Yes some of it is entry level like Paula Deen and Sandra Lee, but believe it or not, there is some actual cooking on the channel. A lot of the shows many of you seem to have issues with are part of the Food Network Nighttime brand and are designed to appeal to a different demographic. That's how TV works. You have to appeal to different demographics and types of people. Why do people think that the only programs worth airing should feature professional chefs? Some people find them off putting or too advanced. You know, Julia Child was not a professional chef. She was a housewife. She learned to cook by cooking dinners for her husband.

                      It seems they are trying to have a selection of programming that appeals to lots of different levels. Why is that so threatening? But to say that there is no cooking on Food Network anymore is just ignorant.

                      1. re: Wellfed

                        "She learned to cook by cooking dinners for her husband."
                        NO. Julia Child went to cooking school in France and then started teaching.

                        "Why do people think that the only programs worth airing should feature professional chefs?"
                        How about some programs featuring professionals. Perhaps something above entry level one and a while. They had that once. Now it is all about personality and cakes. They don't have to always appeal to the lowest common denominator.

                        1. re: Wellfed

                          To call Julia Child "just" a housewife who learned to cook by cooking ofr her husband is way too much of a simplification. She studies french cooking in Paris, applied herself to the art of French cooking, experimented ceaselessly with the techniques, the raw material, she was a popularizer but she never, ever dumbed down the recipes or sacrificed taste. The so called cooking shows like Sandra Lee, Rachel Ray, and the recent Paula's party definitely dumbed down the process AND more importantly compromised the quality. I think that is what people find the most disturbing. Simplifying the cooking process while getting the same tastes is very different from destroying the taste because the purpose is to simplify the process.

                          1. re: Wellfed

                            I've read back through all of the posts and unless I missed something, no one said there is "no cooking" on the Food Network anymore and to say that that was said is itself "ignorant." The thrust of the vast majority of the posts is that the cooking technique being shown (whenever that is) has been "dumbed down" and there are more "entertainment" oriented food shows than there were in years gone by. The recurrent theme of many posts is that there no longer is "programming that appeals to lots of different levels," that its all relatively unsophisticated stuff. No one suggested that that's "threatening," just disappointing.

                            For years the Food Network worked without appealing to the demographics they now seem to be focusing on and was apparently quite successful, so I guess I disagree with the notion that a network "has" to appeal to different demographics. Why do people think that programs should feature professional chefs? Because they want to learn new things, things that they haven't seen or done themselves 40 times. There is something to be said for acquiring new skills.

                            As far as Julia Child is concerned, while she was a housewife (certainly nothing wrong with that), she really honed her cooking skills from studying in France at Le Cordon Bleu and with master chefs in Europe. She also spent the better part of 10 years researching and refining her first cookbook. Needless to say, by the time she hit the airwaves, she was a very accomplished chef. Oh, and a former spy, but I digress...

                            1. re: Shayna Madel

                              Do you think that spy stuff is true... when she worked for the OSS? I wondered myself when I first heard that but then asked people who knew her well and they said "No, no way."

                              This is from the NPR piece on The National Women's History Museum:
                              "Decades before becoming a famous chef, she worked for the Office of Strategic Services. (The OSS was the predecessor to the CIA.) She was assigned to solve a problem for U.S. naval forces during World War II: Sharks would bump into explosives that were placed underwater, setting them off and warning the German U-boats they were intended to sink."

                              Seems like the word "spy" os an overstatement, though she did have some small level of security clearance. She worked in cartography.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                How did these people 'know her'?

                                It's well documented that she was a cartographer in China. I don't know what that has to do with researching sharks in the North Atlantic.(That's where most of the U boats were.)

                                She wasn't a spy in the Cloak and dagger sense but she do work in China, in some harsh conditions, during the Second World War in the information services. I don't know what her security clearance was.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Maybe we're romanticizing a bit to call her a "spy" but she did work for the OSS. If she was really a spy, it's doubtful we'll ever know the truth. However, the mystery is just as compelling...and there's no doubt that she was an accomplished woman.

                              2. re: Wellfed

                                i've worked in many large corporations not related to food but it always seems to boil down to creating market share by diversification. in other words, make more crap so more people will buy it and we can make billions of dollars to please the board of directors. and there's great pressure to do so at these places resulting in a diluted product b/c it tries to please too many people, in this case TV programming.

                                when i lived in the bay area i loved saturdays on kqed when they showed food shows like julia child, jaques pepin, culinary secrets of the CIA. hmmm...those were the good ol' days!

                                1. re: trolley

                                  Yes! I watched all of those when I was in grade school/junior high, all classics. Don't forget The Frugal Gourmet (his post-tv career issues aside) and "If Yan can cook, so can you!"

                                  1. re: Bunson

                                    i LOVED the frugal gourmet! until...well...yes, his sad post TV career issues. yes, yan can cook was great too. i loved it when juila and jaques would do the shows together... such great memories!

                                2. re: Wellfed

                                  Yes wellfed, the evening programming was changed intentionally to target the masses and have broader appeal. It has been the network's intention for some time now. Prime time was to focus less focus on actual cooking with the "how to" cooking shows scheduled in the daytime. However what I and others here are mostly griping about is that those are dumbed down just as much as the evening programs.

                                  I'm not sure which great chefs and cooks you're watching during the day but I certainly haven't seen them. Granted, I'm not home in the daytime often but those same programs air on the weekend. Cleavage cooking in the daytime, how twinkies are made in the evening. Not a greatly talented line-up.

                                  1. re: Wellfed

                                    First of all, I find it insulting to the memory of Julia Child to even mention her in the same paragraph as Sandra Lee. Julia actually studied the art of French Cooking and dedicated her life to showing America that you don't have to be intimidated to get into the kitchen. Did you know she used to be a spy? Housewife...just rubbish.She was ,and always will be, a national treasure. Oh and lets not forget her food did not include seasoning packets, and tablescapes (whatever the he!! that is.) And she certainly didn't talk like an annoying adolecent.

                                    There is absolutely nothing I can learn, or want to learn, from Sandra Lee, except how NOT to pronounce many items. Paula has just run her course, the show isn't so much about cooking as it is her character. Don't even get me going on Ridiculous Ray.

                                    Sadly, there is nothing on FoodNetwork anymore that really presents things on an intermediate to expert range. Essence of Emeril is about as close as you get...and of course what is left of Mario.

                                    It is not the same station it was years ago, and that is not a good thing as it, like many things in our country, has been dumbed down for the masses.

                                    God forbidd we should continue to learn!!

                                    1. re: kkak97

                                      The thing that grinds my gears the most (in a very long list) about Sandra Lee is that she uses frozen, pre-chopped onions. Frozen onions! Not only are they mushy, tasteless and impossible to caramelize, they take literally one minute to chop yourself. Ugh!

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        I don't cook any of the recipes Sandra Lee prepares, but don't forget that she did go to culinary school, as did Giada.

                                        1. re: kprange

                                          sandra and giada are both probably very qualified cooking talents and i'm sure it's required for one to achieve something before getting your own show on FN. however, what they lack is personality and interest. giada is much more personable and watchable than sandra yet, they both lack the interesting quality and the humanness that julia and jacques pepin had. they're both a bit robotic versus the latter two had character.

                                          1. re: kprange

                                            She never finished culinary school. I read that she said in her chefography that she realized that all the things they used in school at Le Cordon Bleu she could find in seasoning packets...yeah right.

                                            Her former husbands money and influence I'm sure helped get her on TV. Dating and livng with Gordon Elliot has helped her stay!!

                                            1. re: kkak97

                                              If she live with Gordon Elliot that would explain quite a lot. In fact they should have a disclaimer. "

                                              1. re: kkak97

                                                She didn't attend culinary school at all; she enrolled in a two week culinary "camp" and dropped out after 3 days. I've been through the Le Cordon Bleu program, it takes a minimum of 12 months attending full time to earn an associates degree. I was at Costco yesterday looking at some good cookbooks (Julia Childs "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vols 1 and 2 for $26!) and accidentally touched a sandra lee "cook"book. As soon as my hand touched the cover my flesh began to blister.

                                                1. re: LabRat

                                                  She claims to have written eight cookbooks in the last two years. I gotta figure that if that's the case (a) she did not write them, at least not all by herself and (b) they aren't any good. That said, I hope you are recovering well from your injury--you had a similar to the reaction I get when I walk by the polyester clothing in some discount stores.

                                                  1. re: LabRat

                                                    LOL! Her "cookbooks" were all over the main display table in the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble on Saturday. I think B&N has a marketing deal with TFN stars, as ALL of the books by the Big Three were out - Paula, Rachael and Shamdra's.

                                                2. re: kprange

                                                  Okay, Wikipedia is not the end-all be all, but it says there that she took a 2-week course at Le Cordon Bleu and did not obtain any certifications nor complete the course.  Wikipedia says that in her "Chefography" she admits to being more of a lifestyle expert and frankly, from the quotes in the article, it appears that she thought that cooking anything involved is just too much of a bother for anyone. 

                                                  On the other hand, Giada studied at Le Cordon Bleu, worked in restaurants, including Spago and also as a food stylist.  

                                                  1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                    You guys are really tough. I just choose to change the channel and watch something else until a show comes on that I like. On the other hand, I am really glad there are shows on that makes people realize they can put a meal on the table and eat with their family. It is quite a change from eating at fast food places on the run.

                                                    1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                      She could hack a two week course? That's sad, but what's sadder is the fact that she has a cooking show.

                                                      As for Giada Lets face it she has fairly good family connections that certainly help to open the door.(As much as she claims otherwise.)

                                                      1. re: Withnail42

                                                        What do family connections have to do with Giada's cooking experience? Nobody went to cooking school for her or worked for her. She, as far as I know was very hesitant to enter the tv arena. It seems to me that some of you are grasping at straws to find something to complain about. Giada's family connections did not give her her cooking chops.

                                                        1. re: kprange

                                                          Giada's last name could not be De Laurentiis (sp?). That's her mother's father's last name. She uses it because people recognize it. There's something not right about that.

                                                          1. re: southernitalian

                                                            You are correct as De Laurentiis is her mothers maiden name. Her real name is Giada Pamela De Benedetti.

                                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                                              Good point I had forgotten about that.

                                                              So while her 'family didn't go to cooking school for her' she made darn sure people knew where she came from. Being the Granddaughter of a famous movie producer is going to open doors and get you noticed especially in Hollywood. No matter how much you 'protest' in doesn't.

                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                I am not Giada's biggest fan, but the fact of the matter is though the name may open the door, but it doesn't neessarily keep one in the room.

                                                                1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                  Nah, her head keeps the door jammed open.

                                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                    Actually I thought there were a couple of other things that kept the open.

                                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                                      Now you are just being mean and petty. She does a good job and has the cooking chops. I don't know what the problem is. It seems if it isn't a host from "the old network," then it isn't good enough.

                                                                      1. re: kprange

                                                                        She doesn't do a good job. She a pretty girl with low cut blouses from a well connected family who got lucky. Ever see her live? Not good, like a bad home ec demo. Last time I saw her on Today there was an awful lot of smoke in the air. Tiki Barber, a professional footballer player had to step in and take charge. He more or less told her what to do for the rest of the segment.

                                                                        If you really want to see mean and petty see how she acted towards the contestants on the most recent "TNFNS". She was quite simply nasty and pretentious. Yet she can't deliver the goods herself despite her years of 'experience'.

                                                                        And yes the chefs on the early incarnation if the network were better that the personalities that are on these days.

                                                                    2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                      LOL!!!!

                                                                      thanks for that...i needed a good laugh today :)

                                                        2. re: kprange

                                                          Kpr, I can't imagine anyone who went to culinary school using frozen onions.

                                                          <Shrugs>

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            I agree that she takes many shortcuts and I don't cook her recipes. I didn't realize she only took a quick course. She, herself doesn't say she is a chef, and she had to be persuaded to go on the air with her show.

                                                          2. re: kprange

                                                            going to culinary school has nothing to do with becoming a good cook-- even Alton Brown has said that

                                                            1. re: charlottecooks

                                                              Sadly, Sandra Lee has accomplished neither.

                                                3. jfood has been watching TV cooking shows for over 30 years and still finds value in the Food Network (remember when it was Food TV). Jfood think sthe biggest issue facing many of us in watching is the scheduling. Jfood remembers finishing dinner, going into the study and watching cooking shows. Now look at t he schedule from 8-11:

                                                  - 6 episodes of Good Eats
                                                  - 6 episodes of Food Network Specials
                                                  - 2 episodes of Secret Life of
                                                  - 2 episodes of Ace of Cakes
                                                  - 2 Diners, Drive-ins
                                                  - 1 Food Network Challenge
                                                  - 1 Rachel
                                                  - 1 Giada
                                                  - 1 Bobby

                                                  See the difference? Only 3 cooking shows Friday from 10-11 and Thursday at 830. The other slots in M-F Prime Time is fluff-stuff.

                                                  Jfood triess to hit the fitness center so he is on the elliptical from 1130-1230 so he can watch Chiarello and Garten, still good shows.

                                                  So if you are looking at the 8-11 slots, it is basic garbage, if you look around the off-hours the good stuff is still there. What a shame.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Yes, there are a few left in the afternoon jfood - Ina and Chiarello being the best examples but that's not much in a day.

                                                    1. re: laylag

                                                      Agreed, jfood has really taken a liking to Chiarello's stuff and he could not stand him the first few times he was on. And watching Ms Contessa in the kitchen gives jfood additional motivation for the second 30 minutes on the equipment.

                                                      But jfood grew up with much less, GG at 330, then onto Jeff Smith for a few years, LOVED the Julia Shows (even SNL's "Fish is a Prop"), Jacque Pepin, PBS' regional specials, etc They were all few and far between.

                                                      Yes we all got spoiled with every night cookie shows and when the trivia challenges came on jfood knew it was a different world approaching.

                                                      Alas, food changed and food tv changed. gives jfood more time to read cook books, and google for recipes.

                                                      There is one more thing that should also be a rule, no spouses. It is impossible to watch Flay with Mrs Flay. She was a better DA than food hostess.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Mrs. Flay is a rare example of the person who is better at being a fictional character than at being herself.

                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                          I am in agreement with you both but would like to add that the same rules should apply to offspring (especially sons) as well.

                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                            Pepin's daughter was pretty good, but Lidia's multiple genrational show was not a show to remember with any positives.

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              I was of the understanding that the rule only applied to FN. Have no problem with PBS families and off spring.

                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                I don't know....I saw Bayless with his daughter, and the show gave me the willies.

                                                                1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                                                  Oh, good lord, Bayless and his daughter are the creepiest people on TV. She is an absolute nut, full-grown but acting like an over-eager 3-year-old. And Bayless, with that weird sort of whisper/moan thing he does, almost like a bedroom voice. Very weird.

                                                                  And I'm sure they are wonderful people. But it's like a train wreck, watching them.