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TitleThe Mmm Face – Do we really want to watch people eat?

Accompanying the dumbing down of food/cooking television that we’ve all bitched about is what’s known in our house as “The Mmm Face.” Much airtime seems to be given to watching the host and/or chef tasting and eating, sometimes accompanied by the OER – the Orgasmic Eye Roll. This is especially bullsh*t if the chef herself is cooking – you’re a professional, on television – is it not therefore presumed that a) you have made the dish before, and b) you believe it is good?

Now, I do understand that if Tony Bourdain is going to chomp on something questionable or scary, we want to see his reaction. In the opposite corner, if it’s Paula Deen in her lardotorium going on and on like the bad actress she is, it’s unbearable. So I don't watch. But seems to be becoming a standard, and I’m just not especially fond of watching people chew and make faces, an unappetizing timewaster that wasn’t done in the professional chef-type shows of the past, where they’d plate something and that was that. Oh, Sara Moulton would take it to a table with a glass of wine, but that was about it.

Any thoughts?

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  1. I totally agree. It looks very unprofessional and self-congratulatory. Do you remember Capriel Pence and her show, Caprial's Cafe, by any chance? She would present the dish to her husband in the dining room. He would taste it, and would then suggest adding "some dried cherries" next time. Pretty straightforward....no lip-smacking, eye-rolling, back-patting, or other gleeful expressions. I miss Sara. Very lovely and elegant, low-key presentations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cookingschool

      That drives me nuts!!! Especially RR, Guy Fiori, and Sandra Lee. It is almost like they need their own approval. I think they doth protest too much.

      As much as I like watching Bourdain, sometimes he seems overly dramatic when congratulating a chef, but I think that is to ingratiate himself to the people on the shoot who are high governement muckety mucks. But he is nowhere as bad as the FN people.

      1. re: Phaedrus

        >>if it’s Paula Deen in her lardotorium going on and on like the bad actress she is, it’s unbearable.

        UpWithOlives, that's a wonderful line, and sooooo describes the 'new' PD.

        I soooo agree. I do remember, in days gone by, when the chef would assemble the dishes in front of them, or bring them to a table, sit down and start eating, the camera would pan out and the credits rolled. There was no gobsmacking lips, no orgasmatron faces, just polite fork to mouth.

        Ye gods and monsters, what HAS food television become?

        Yes, Sara is much missed.

        By the way, has anyone caught 'Posh Nosh' on PBS? Skewers all of the above and more.

    2. I'm also in agreement, with this. I hate it when these TV "chefs" act like they are tasting ambrosia from the gods. My pet peeve is you-know-who exclaiming "YUMMMO!"

      1. So you've never tasted your own dish and said, umm, this is good?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Jase

          Guilty as charged, Jase. And if someone compliments a dish I've made I'm also guilty of replying "You know why? Because I made it". LOL. Just for the record, I've often had the discussion with DH about how funny it would be if RR actually panned something that passed her lips. "YUCK-O"! :)

          1. re: Jase

            I don't roll my eyes, gasp orgasmically to a camera and scream: "YUMMO!!"
            Its not the reaction, but the unwarranted overreaction.

            Besides, they probably didn't prepare the dishes, the prep people on the show did.

            1. re: Phaedrus

              I am a fat little lady and am pretty good at cooking, when I taste my food I usually say "Oh boy" but that is it, no eye rolling, lip smacking. Some of the cooks (Most are not chefs) on the food network are so skinny I just don't believe they eat anything, Giada, The quick meals lady, even Sandra Lee who are they kidding, they must go throw up right after they taste their food. Of course because Paula eats butter balls proves she eats just about anything and RR is always eating out, I don't think she eats her own cooking.

              1. re: cook52

                cook52, I am pretty good at cooking, and better at baking, so when I make something I particularly like, I will say 'wow'. That's it.

                I remember Justin Wilson's reaction to his cooking and it was within the acceptable parameters, as was Julia Child. Neither wore a low cut top that showed their cleavage, Giada, nor looked like they lived on a lettuce leaf, Giada.

                I don't like today's crop of cooks at all.

                I miss Sarah Moulton and don't like how Alton Brown is being made to jump through hoops in a poodle collar.

          2. Okay, I'm digressing a bit, but sometimes the way they go on about the smells that the heavenly dish they are creating for our pleasure is emanating: "Oh my god, it smells so GOOD in here already!" It might smell like an armpit in a July heatwave for all we know.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MysticYoYo

              I think there was someone who actually used to gush, "oooo, this smells so good, I wish we had smell-a-vision!" Eee Gads!

              1. re: MysticYoYo

                Sort of like how Ingrid Hoffman shoves her dishes in the camera and tells you to smell it. That's just stupid.

                1. re: Avalondaughter

                  Ingrid Hoffman's show is just another level in FTV hell. There is just nothing to like about that show and yet it is still on.

              2. My problem with all the TV cooks/chefs on whatever network is that they have NO idea how to describe what they are eating. Isn't there a taste dictionary they can refer to? (OK, I know there isn't) Yummo with eyes rolling heavenward just does not give me any sense of what the stuff tastes like.

                1. The funny thing is, like with Rachel Ray, you can tell when she really is GAGGING on her fake smile when she tastes some poodlepoop that she finds in those quirky local little dives on $4 a Day. I think she has a quick-side-glance cue to the director that says "grab a bucket quick".

                  1. Great topic! Yes, the eye rolling and OMG this is sooooo good is way over the top. You know what cheeses me even more? PERFECT! Everything is perfect and the show host has to tell you how perfect their dish is and wow, aren't they great!
                    The only person I can tolerate tasting their food is Nigella. She just seems so real as compared to Sandy et. al.
                    BTW..has anyone seen Sandy eat? I can only recall her drinking her lunch at the end of each show. I mean, who the hell would put a marshmellow stuffed store-bought angel food cake with neon colored icing slop on it in their mouth anyway?
                    Now if you really want to torture yourself with over the top food orgasms, watch this:


                    7 Replies
                    1. re: monavano

                      Longest two minutes and forty five seconds of my life, but OMG how funny. Thank you, monavano.

                      1. re: monavano

                        The cliche cooked/baked/broiled/fried "to perfection" needs to die a quick and silent death as far as I am concerned. If everything is perfect, then perfect isn't that great, is it?

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          Exactly, Phaedrus! EVERYTHING is perfect. Ugh. The set/house is spotless, the cookware looks never-used, and every single dish they make is perfect, or comes together perfectly.
                          I'd just for once love to see RR burn her bread under the broiler as she says she's prone to do-every-single-time. Yeah, like that's going to happen with a handful of assistants!
                          I mean, show a Le Creuset or Lodge enamel that looks like mine-it's seen some serious browning and braising!
                          BTW...am watching Tyler...his ahi tuna is "the bomb"...it's "gorgeous" like a "glass of chianti" and..he does the OER. Yup.

                        2. re: monavano

                          LOL! monavano, VERY funny! But did you catch in the middle of all that she took a bite of toast and did her eye-roll and Mmmmmm....sound? It was freakin' TOAST and she's making it like it's the best toast in the world.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Exactly! Did the ice tea, trail mix and popcorn really warrent an OER? I hope she makes those sounds for her husband.

                          2. re: monavano

                            I once heard Nigella moaning with pleasure as she was stirring chocolate. Kind of a gutteral groan -- it was on one of her early FN shows. Yep, I think she is the real deal. And I do think she actually moans with pleasure when she cooks because she clearly really enjoys it.

                            On the other hand, RR, is often exclaiming how delicious something is on her $40 a Day show before she actually swallows it. Not very believable. Not even on the same planet as Nigella.

                            1. re: RGC1982

                              Agreed. Even as a female I can appreciate the moans of Nigella. No faking it there. She's truly the total package =)

                          3. Interesting topic. In my family, the "Mmm Face" means somethig totally different. It refers to another patron in a restaurant who seems to really, REALLY be enjoying his/her dinner. We look for those faces and often ask the Server what that person is "mmming" over. If it turns out to be something one/some/all of us likes, we will often take a chance and order it. If the "mmm facer's" table is close to ours and there is friendly eye contact, sometimes we'll just say "That good?" to which the 'Mmmmer' will usually respond with a helpful description of what he/she finds so 'Mmm-worthy.'
                            Gee, just responding to this post with all these 'Mmm's' made me smile :-}

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Tay

                              Let me tell you, the shots where you are eating are in my opinion the hardest and most nerve wracking of all the shots in a show....you dont know if what you are eating is gonna explode all over you, is there some drunken idiot in the background pissing you off (yes that has occurred), then you have to take a bite that is not too small, not too big (because the focus groups said so) and then chew, swallow and say something clever all in a few seconds because you have to break down the lighting package and the van is about to get a ticket outside....ahhh....what an experience....not to mention there are like 20 people sitting 3 feet away all staring at you....

                              1. re: ccognac

                                Well, you can thank your lucky stars that at least you did not have to suffer the "Britney" treatment, Chris. ;-)

                                1. re: ccognac

                                  Chris, it must be tough to be spontaneous with a crew around. Your comments make me think of Paula D.'s "bites". She just goes for it! I don't think she eye rolls tho..

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Its not tough...its only tough the ninth or tenth take......and of course the food is usually cold....ahh....the things I could talk about....it was an experience to say the least and I am glad I did it...

                              2. Not to worry foodies...I am sure that the big minds out there in 'food tv land' are already working on a show called: 'Cooking Robotics' where a robot designed at M.I.T. or some such place prepares dishes precisely, without any facial expressions whatsoever (except when a tube blows or something), and in the end just looks into the camera while the credits roll...come on now foodies, how boring!!

                                1. Imagine that the Simpson's skewered a TV cooking show:

                                  The cook would take a bite, gag, and spew the contents in a beautiful arc splattering against the lens! D'oh!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: nosh

                                    I never paid as close attention to the post-mouthful as I am now. Even on PBS, I saw a chef/cook/guest pod (don't know the show) take a big mouthful, and then perhaps not wanting to speak with her mouth full, she started waving her arms and jumping up and down in ecstasy.

                                    Ugh. I wonder if all these orgasmatron reactions aren't related to so-called reality television and the chance to out-orgasmatron the other chefs out there?

                                    Wow. I surely miss Sarah Moulton.

                                  2. For those of you old enough I have two words - Galloping Gourmet! He was the original, godfather of them all, tasters! Eyes closed, exagerated jaw movements, one hand following the exagerated jaw movements.....
                                    So for me, it actually brings back fond memories and associations to my first interest in foodie-ing...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: anchovy

                                      I was just thinking of the Galloping Gourmet. He originated the "mmm face," but on him it was so campy you had to appreciate it. I found an old book of Graham Carr's (sp?) this summer and had to buy it. There was one recipe for beef stroganoff that I remembered him carrying on about. I miss him.

                                    2. I could live with the OER if it was done less frequently. That it is done over the most mundane foods with the same gusto as the most exquisite of foods just cheapens it all the more. And just once, I'd love to see Rachel Ray (on her $40 show) comment honestly on a dish by saying how the dish might be improved or that it didn't live up to the standard.... because I know when *I* eat out not everything is "perfect" or "yummy"

                                      1. jfood did not even understand the title until he read some of the responses and like Anchovy remembers the GG face all too well.

                                        Jfood does not mind at all if someone makes somethingthey like and use verbal "perfect" or facial "MMMMM" to get the point across.

                                        On the "could live without list"
                                        - Giada sticking everything she ate up to her nose first on her Weekend Getaway Show, blech
                                        - Chefs that do not wash their hands after touching meat, double blech
                                        - Chefs that play with their noses and then go back to cooking, google blech

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: jfood

                                          To add to your list:
                                          - Chefs who scratch their heads then return to cooking
                                          - That dang side towel over the shoulder then waved like a flag over food

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            "Chefs that do not wash their hands after touching meat, double blech"

                                            On many shows the washing of hands is edited out. In a show that is 30 minutes.. well, more like 22 after commercials there wouldn't be much room for content if little things like that were shown all the time.

                                            Some shows for awhile they showed a brief splash... to get the point across but then there was the concern that people would see pros just splashing water on their hands and assume that was ok.

                                            Trust me... you'd be very unhappy if 5 minutes out of every 22 was taken up with hand washing.

                                            Many chefs now use an instant spray on hand sanitizer in between touching things, but people don't want to watch that either.

                                            I've done a fair amount of cooking on TV, washed my hands on camera many times but that always gets edited out.

                                            As to the face making... it is one of the many reasons I can't watch cooking shows anymore.

                                            Thank god Netflix has the entire original Julia Child series on DVD!

                                            1. re: lebelage

                                              They show Rachel and Sandra washing their hands all the time, close-ups even, as though we don't know how. My wife loves to spot the times they don't use soap. Speaking of cooking host schtick, I propose jfood gets a show, what with that incessant, idiosyncratic self referencing in the third person it would be a smash hit.

                                              1. re: RC51Mike

                                                "They show Rachel and Sandra washing their hands all the time"

                                                LOL! The very shows I've never been able to sit through more than 60 seconds of!

                                                1. re: RC51Mike

                                                  Yes! Kind of like the 'Jimmy' episode on Seinfield...

                                            2. So why don't the "powers that be" recognize that there is a market out here for accomplished, intelligent food shows? That's what I want to know. The Food Network - ?? - forget about it. Can't tolerate most of them and it just keeps getting worse. Take a look at the programming of the FN high def channel and I think you can get a good picture of where they're going - and it's no where any of us want to be. Giada's Weekend Getaway, Paula's Home Cooking, and just so much similar dreck.

                                              I enjoy Top Chef despite it's shortcomings. THere's lots to like on PBS though I find the scheduling so sporadic that catching the shows I like is impossible. I haven't found much to like on Fine Living, Travel, or some of the other channels I've heard people recommend. We need quality food programming - I think the demand's there, so let's get some supply, people!

                                              Thanks for letting me vent.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: nojunk

                                                With rare exceptions, the FN has never been about 'how to cook' per se. It has always been about personalities (remember the old, old 'cooking with Bobby Flay)?. Not that some of them aren't fun to watch, but to pretend that they are going to somehow educate you on kitchen basics or recipes is generally a fantasy. Many, many of the 'recipes' are clearly broken, often don't provide amounts ('Then I add some flour), etc.

                                                Sporadic as it is (and that's what a DVR is for), PBS is really the best place for shows that actually teach you recipes and techniques that work. You may find Chris Kimball obnoxious (I don't), but ATK has actual recipes that you can follow and duplicate.

                                                1. re: bnemes3343

                                                  Jfood uses FN.com all the time for recipes. He is trying to see their technique and theory of construction as the recipe is made versus the recipe itself. If something looks good, he goes to FN.com and downloads the recipe. So he watches and sees how it is made and served and then if desired it's "let's go to the videotape." (Warner Wolf was on IMUS this morning.)

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Your reference to Warner Wolf is clearly dating you... I remember him from the 70's n DC when he was riding high. Nothing like the 'Boo of the week'.

                                              2. If you think Giada loves everything, check out this link


                                                The last time this episode was run, I tried to watch to see if in real time she looked this unhappy. You know what? She definitely didn't like that sorbet.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                  Thank you for posting that link, it was hysterical!! Giada was NOT a happy camper, was she? Too darn funny.

                                                  The whole "Mmm-MMM face" just reeks of overly-sexual overtones..As of someone is telling these chefs to "sell just how delicious" the dish is. Why the heck can't these clowns EXPLAIN, in words, how it tastes- and leave the orgasmic moaning to the Spice channel?

                                                  I swear, if Chris Kimball does the "OER" or the MMMM face, i'm going to turn the TV off for GOOD. (i'm talking at the Paula Deen level, anyways)

                                                2. Try watching the QVC channel sometime when host David Venable is hosting a cooking show or a show selling mail-order food, such as Junior's cheesecakes, Kansas City steaks or any other food item. This guy is legendary for making a "yum yum" face as he samples the products; it is often a topic over at the Television Without Pity boards. He is known as someone who loves to eat. I swear, the Yum Yum face is patented by this guy and he'll do it on demand just to do it. He needs to sell the product but it's part of his schtick now and in my opinion, overkill, after seeing the exaggerated yum yum face complete with orgasmic overtones over and over. He's made it into a cliche on that channel.

                                                  Yes, I watch QVC strictly for the entertainment (and I'm fascinated by the marketing/selling juggernaut that is QVC and what compels people to buy stuff), the yum yum face of this guy being one example.

                                                  1. to add to this is the o-face in food commercials or the getting a little too much into the food thing. There is a Renee's salad dressing commercial where this woman is licking her plate.......and a recent Chunky Soup commercial where the guy is licking or sucking on his finger/thumb and very vocal with the mmmm's etc. Same with the Soup in Hand ads.

                                                    Both of these commercials have the result of turning me off off the food they are intending to entice me towards. Watching someone lick their plate grosses me out.

                                                    1. The over the top reactions wouldn't bother me at all if they seemed even remotely genuine. Half the time Giada starts with the moaning before the food is even completely in her mouth. Drives me crazy when it's clear the food has not even been tasted before the ecstatic reactions begin.
                                                      On another note, someone who actually tastes the food and gives insightful descriptions of flavors, textures, etc, Andrew Zimmern, is probably the person who I have the hardest time watching because his chewing and lip smacking are so noisy and half the time it is done with his mouth open. Has anyone else noticed this? Love his show though.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                        ArikaDawn, given the stuff Zimmern puts into his mouth I would give him all the leeway he wants...and stand clear! It does have a certain fascination though, doesn't it?

                                                        1. re: gutreactions

                                                          But he STILL can't eat a durrien....

                                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                                            Oh, that was the worst! His lip-smacking is cringe-worthy and his open mouth chewing more than distracting, but they seem downright charming in comparison to watching him gag repeatedly on durian. No one can say he isn't a trooper.