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Dec 18, 2008 12:01 PM

What Kind of Cooking Show Host Do You Prefer?

Ok. This is not to bash anyone who has a cooking I happened to catch a few moments of Paula Deen last night, she was making something with butter. The butter was melted and in a bowl. She poured the butter into the bowl and then proceeded to put the bowl to her mouth as though she were drinking the butter. My reaction was total shock--a little chuckle, but it got me to thinking about what kind of host I want to see when watching a cooking show.

My ideal host would be a cross between the personalities of Tyler Florence and Ina Garten--a little bit of John Folse and Nathalie Dupree and a pinch of Mary(ellen or ann) Esposito.

So I would guess I don't like a lot of flash--I would say I like my hosts more subdued.

What about you?

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  1. I also prefer my hosts a bit subdued. I think Ming Tsai is my perfect idea of a cooking host. He's knowledgeable, humorous, easy to understand, has personality and is cute (though I don't know what he's thinking of with his hair-do in recent times). But I also like more bubbly hosts like Andrew Zimmern (I know he doesn't have a cooking show now).

    Paula Deen is not too bad on her own. But if you mix her with a live audience, it's unbearable. But it seems that people eat it up. And considering how popular Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri is, I think most of America prefers the "flashier" hosts.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle

      Paula Deen "not too bad on her own"???? She is an absolute train wreck.

      A guy like Ming Tsai - well, you said it all: knowledgeable, likeable personality, engaging delivery, and highly skilled in the kitchen.

      Paula lacks knowledge, is a rather unpleasant person when you strip away the bubbly veneer (listen carefully and you'll see that she can actually be quite nasty), and she has NO skills beyond a typical 12 year old child.

      1. re: szmeterling

        Really, that's not true about Paula Deen. Paula's Party is terrible, I agree, and her show has become more grating as she has gained fame, but if you watch early episodes of Paula's Home Cooking she is neither unpleasant nor nasty, and displays very good home cooking skills.

      2. re: Miss Needle


        Is Guy Fieri the "spikey-haired" dude? That name rings a bell. I *think* that I saw one of his commercials, maybe after "Top Chef," or "Kitchen Nightmares."

        He might be good on his show, if he has one, but his commercial made me scratch my head. However, I may be thinking of someone else entirely. Like I said elsewhere, I do not know my "personalities" all that well. Real chefs, are something else, but one hardly ever sees them, at least not during my viewing hours.

        Thanks for educating me,


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Yes.. spikey haired dude. Love him on Diners, Drive ins and Dives. He's no Julia or Jacques, but has a personality all his own.

          ... just now picturing all 3 of them in a room with glasses of wine...

          1. re: iluvcookies

            Your imagination is far better than is mine.

            As with most of the "personalities," I find him over the top, but then I appreciate a more laid-back host/hostess. Just goes to show how old I am.


          2. re: Bill Hunt

            I am absolutely, 100%, over the top positive that you would not like this dude, Hunt. In fact, I think that watching his show would cause you actual physical pain. It's bad.

            1. re: pikawicca

              If he is, who I think, I do agree.

              I like subtle, knowledgeable and personable hosts. I hate "in-your-face," but I seem to be in the vast minority on this, considering what sells, and what they seem to be looking for with "The Next Food Network Superstar."

              Just an old guy, who loves food and wine...


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I'm with you, Hunt. I watched about 20 minutes of the very first Survivor episode, not knowing what it was. First and last "reality" (HAHA) show I have watched. "Knowledgable" and the ability to teach. That's what works for me.

        2. I got flayed once for posting an anti Rachel Ray comment so I definitely won't go there.

          I prefer the subdued. Love Ina. No nonsense. I cannot bear the overly peppy (on TV or real life) I do not prefer the hoakie/ over the top folksy... and here I will let you decide who among the food show queens fits into that category. SIGH!

          I also like Alton Brown. Sometimes I catch my husband watching him. Once Alton was making crepes. My husband was watching him in the office and several days later he casually sez "how about some crepes for dinner". If you knew him, you would at once eyeroll and chuckle. I think his show is an actual educational show. I adore it.

          I also love Mario Batali. I don't know why. I hardly ever cook his stuff. I love watching his foodporn show.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            But did you get Bobby "Flayed" ? Not a huge RR fan either, but I like her cookbooks. Adam

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              I liked the way Mario used to kick the oven door shut with his heel after taking something out. That was on his old show, Molto Mario.

              I haven't watched any food TV in a while. I prefer a host who is a good technical cook or a real expert on a particular type of food -- someone who can teach me something.

              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                "I got flayed once for posting an anti Rachel Ray comment so I definitely won't go there"

                I thought that was a pre-requisite for getting your Chowhounder decoder ring!

                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  it's all about learning technique and tricks for me, and *not* just watching someone eat on tv. And low key, not hammy - so Batali but not Brown.
                  With Batali, I watch him and then I do what he did and it turns out great...
                  although I had to replay artichoke cutting a couple of times to get that artichoke lamb stew right. So goood.

                  1. re: pitu

                    I know that the CH Team wants more pithy comments, and less host-bashing, so I will second your opening statement. It should be about the food, the prep, the techniques and the little tricks. Educate me. If I want entertainment, I'll rent a DVD, or watch sports on TV. I still have episodes of "Fawlty Towers," that are now on DVD, and I have not seen in decades. Rather than some of the TV cooks, I'll go watch those.


                  2. re: Sal Vanilla

                    In recent years, I think Alton can be over the top too.

                    1. re: melly

                      Is he the person, who does "play-by-play" on the "Top Chef American?" Even when we know the chef involved, it is difficult to watch that show. Maybe if they cut out the beginning, and the end, plus the comments from the sideline, it would be watchable.

                      If so, he may have "had it" once, but now, I find watching him more like watching TV Wrestling, just with broccoli involved.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Oh my,Bill, you have just unwittingly dismissed the darling of most chowhounds to irrelvance. I love it. Try and watch the "Fawlty Towers" episode, I believe the "Hotel Inspectors," where Mr. Fawlty declares that the guest in his hotel restaurant does not know the diffference between a Bordeaux and a claret. One of my favorites.

                        1. re: James Cristinian


                          Did not mean to poke the stick into the eye of a fav. I was just tellin' it I see it.


                    2. re: Sal Vanilla

                      I know exactly why you like those 3....they are knowledgeable and engaging, except for Alton. He's lucky that his shows are so packed with useful info because otherwise I would just want to throttle the annoying little dweeb.

                      1. re: szmeterling

                        I look at Alton a little like Martha Stewart. You always learn something but that doesn't mean you're going to blow out eggs and make ornaments. Or build a smoker out of a cardboard box, in the case of Alton Brown. :o)

                      2. re: Sal Vanilla

                        Well, I caught RR's show this afternoon, and she did a nice, simple but elegant salmon preparation. Fresh ingredients, prepared in a straight-forward manner. Can't complain about that.

                      3. The original comment has been removed
                        1. I like Jacques Pepin very much and Sara Moulton, too. I guess you could say they're on the subdued side, but they both can sure cook up a storm. They seem approachable too. Just nice people.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: Pat Hammond

                            I'm a Sara Moulton fan too. Subdued is more my style. Some of those over the top personalities send me running for cover. I never cared for Mario (I know...GASP!!!) he always seemed so condescending that it was off putting to me.

                            1. re: Candy

                              I caught Mario twice. Never again. Sorry to let you all see a minority vote here, but someone needs to say it. I *thought* that he was attempting to be too "cutsey." He probably had good info, but was not delivering it in a way that I was open to.

                              I was about to make reservations at B&B in Las Vegas, and my wife told me who was behind it. I decided to hold off, and maybe catch it another day.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I'm glad the world is full of people with different preferences. We've been enjoying the old Molto Mario's over and over again. And love his delivery. He's one of the recent chefs and cookbook writers that I really go to. About a year and a half ago, we had dinner at Babbo when we were visiting NYC over my husband's birthday. Our expectations were high and they were exceeded. But, Bill, I'd dine ANYWHERE with you or NOT dine anywhere with you. You're a definite keeper --- but then I love Southern gentlemen.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Now, Mario, old or new, has not been on my schedule. We ended up passing on one of his places in Las Vegas. It was not due to the personality, but more on schedules. The menu looked good, but plans and guests' schedules got in the way.

                                  I was a fan of Emeril Lagasse's show, prior to BAM and the live audience. Probably my favorites were the chefs on the old PBS, "Great Chefs of the World."

                                  Though I am a product of the Deep South, and have spent a great deal of time in the areas around New Orleans, I never could get into Justin Wilson. I always felt that his delivery was over the top. Same for Paula Dean now, and remember, I am a product of the Deep South.

                                  For me, it's more the cooking, than the "personality," but I feel that I am in the minority. Just look at the various chef's/cook's/host's popularity. Glad that the Food Network does not poll me - they'd be out of business by now...

                                  We need to gather, maybe in NOLA, and have a Chow-down.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Paula Deen's voice to me is like fingernails on a blackboard. I'm from Atlanta though I live in NoCal now. My SIL's family is from Savannah and nobody that we know talks like that. Yuck. Maybe we should gather in SF --- we're at Lake Tahoe. Alan Barnes would show up, I'm sure.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      I agree with you. I can muster it up, if I have not had too much wine, and I need to make a point. Still, I was "born and bred" in the Deep South and traveled through much of it. I spoke with many, and have never encountered such.

                                      Still, I feel that many in other areas of the US expect this sort of dialect. Unfortunately for them, they are wrong and will be horribly disappointed, should they actually travel to the Deep South.

                                      I felt the same about the late Justin Wilson. It is but an affectation, but it does play well to some audiences.

                                      Now, please do not get me started on Hollywood's depictation of the New Olreans accents and idioms!!! Once, I could listen to a young lady, and hit her address within about 4 blocks in any direction. I know my NOLA dialects, but the hearing is fading now... [Grin - or Cry].


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        "Once, I could listen to a young lady, and hit her address within about 4 blocks in any direction."

                                        I love that. My husband told my SIL's mother from Savannah, while sitting at her feet, "Anne, I could listen to you talk all day." It shoudl never be faked. BTW, for me, the more wine, the more Southern I speak. Especially if I 'm talking with a Southern friend.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          One's dialect and inflections should reflect their birth area, or the area of greatest influence. There is no need to fudge it, and too many do.

                                          OK, if one has been cast in a feature film to play a character from a certain locale, that is something different.

                                          I hate the "over the top" Southern accent. I hate it from Hollywood, and hate it from TV. Maybe I have worked for decades to affect a more universal delivery, and a less regional delivery, but still the listener's ears must be spared.

                                          I can read Eudora Welty, and follow along. Still, I do not wish to hear that speech pattern, or the dialect, especially when forced.

                                          Just my take,


                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        as i replied below, paula deen is from albany, georgia -- near the florida-alabama border. while i've never been to albany, i can certainly hear s. georgia-s. alabama-panhandle florida in deen's accent.

                                        i'm sure the savannahans have had a very hard time letting such a "hick" from the country become a self-made success there.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          I feel that if she relaxed, and did not listen to her agent, or the director, she'd be a lot more easily listened to - at least by my ears. I find her delivery to be far too forced. Maybe I am missing something, and do admit that I probably have relatives, who might sound the same, but I'd rather like to hear her in general conversation. Just because a chef, or TV personality is from the Deep South, does not mean that they should force that on the audience.

                                          Again, just my take, and I AM from the Deep South.


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            if you ever saw her shows at the beginning -- when i think the name of the show was "paula's home cooking," she had her ***much more natural*** accent -- unforced and not loud or "in your face."
                                            "her" kitchen was that of her producer, gordon elliott, by the way.

                                            paula has always tried to please, according to her memoir, but she needs to "displease" her handlers on this topic of "trumping up" her accent.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              I missed those. It was not until her recent program, that I ever saw her.

                                              I felt the same about Emeril Lagasse. His old show was better, and then there was "Emeril Live," and everything was over-the-top.

                                              My feeling is that the producers at the Food Network push these people to be 100% in-your-face, but there must be people, who love that sort of delivery. I feel that way about most of the "personalities." Be pleasant, articulate your recipe, explain where necessary, and do not get into my face." That would be my instructions. One of the best cooking series, that I can recall, was the "Great Chef" series on PBS. These were about cooking, and little else.


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                i loved the great chefs series, and have a couple of the series' cookbooks.

                                                and, as you say, essence of emeril is excellent. you could see he really knew how to cook, and had an appreciation for quality ingredients. he was also very gracious when he had a guest, or his restaurant-sous chef (from commander's palace) on the show with him. compare that show with the emeril live persona, and it is clear how the fn executives push their talent.

                                                i think i heard that food network is starting a companion cooking "educational/instructional" format sister network.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  An actual cooking show would be a great change of pace, for us. I'm more interested in why a certain knife might have been chosen for a particular task, or why a spice was included, that did not seem to go with the theme. Instead, we get to meet family members. They may be great people, but maybe save that for the Biography Channel?

                                                  First, we met the "Great Chefs of Hawai`i" on that series. Then, over the years, we met them in person in their restaurants. What a wonderful group of folk. We still get to drop in on them, and it's been decades!


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    >>>First, we met the "Great Chefs of Hawai`i" on that series. Then, over the years, we met them in person in their restaurants. What a wonderful group of folk. We still get to drop in on them, and it's been decades!<<<

                                                    oh, that is wonderful! when is your "the hunt for food & wine" book coming out? dibs on the title. ;-)).

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      If it goes to print, you will get both attribution and royalties!

                                                      On a side note, I have to say that that group of guys-n-gals are as nice a group of chefs, as we have ever met. They know what they're doing, are proud of the impact that they have had on Island cuisine, and are open and very approachable. Just great folk!

                                                      Most recent chef meeting was on of the "finalists" on Top Chef. From the attitude, I thought that I was in the presence of Jacques Pepin and not someone, who had lost. Oh well, gives one a frame of reference.


                                2. re: Candy

                                  I, too, like Sara Moulton. She seems like someone you'd actually want to cook with. Oh, and remember Cooking Live with Sara Moulton? Way, way back when Food Network had real cooking shows? You actually *could* cook with her.

                                3. re: Pat Hammond

                                  My wife has mentioned Pepin in a very flattering way. Apparently, she feels as you do. I have not seen that show, but with both of you (my wife included), it sounds like someone I should watch.


                                4. I like Lidia and find her to be informative, flexible, and charming at the same time. Ditto for Ming except for his use of the term "guys", as in "this is a one dish meal, guys". I miss Julia, she was the ultimate Host. (snif...) Adam