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So tired of so many food "celebrities"

I was watching Best Thing I Ever Ate last night and realized that almost everyone was listed as a "celebrity chef" or other food celebrity. Where do all of these people come from? There are a handful of genuine celebrity chefs, including Emeril, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, etc. And I'll even add in Paula Deen , Rachel Ray and others because, like them or not, they have built very successful empires even though they are not chefs. But now I think the Food Network (and even the Cooking Channel) is trying to manufacture a new army of food celebrities. Amanda Freitag? Alex G? Come on. I think vehicles like Best Thing I Ever Ate, etc. are just vehicles for FN to try to create their own batch of celebrities. Just because someone was placed by FN on a handful of shows does not make them a celebrity, no matter how bad FN wants them to be one.

These people are celebrities as much as the Kardashians are celebrities...

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  1. ...... in their own minds, they are.

    1. I caught a few minutes of some gameshow last night on TV and noticed that they had Guy Fieri hosting it. I was thinking "I can't even stand this guy on D,D and D and now he's hosting game shows in prime time?".

      After watching Curtis Stone on ANGR and Top Chef Masters and now seeing him on tv commercials...I'm really getting sick of him as well.

      It seems too much like they are trying to 'make' stars now rather than having stars naturally emerge after years (decades) of hard work.

      1. What makes someone a celebrity? I mean, I can identify Alex G or Amanda F, I can name them from a picture, but have never met them. I can even tell you things about their likes/dislikes or personality (or at least their on-screen personality). Sure, it's because FN jams them down my throat, but it's still the case. That seems darn close to saying they are a "celebrity". How does one become a celebrity? By creating an empire and/or getting lots of media coverage? How does one do that without being on channels like the FN? Seems like a chicken/egg problem to me.

        Personally, I like Best Thing I Ever Ate as a concept, but it doesn't work if they just pick random shmoes who we've never seen before. the show really only works because it is FN "celebrities".

        I'm not sure what your complaint really is. Are you complaining that the FN has people hosting shows that you don't like? That the FN should stick only to a heavy rotation of about 8-10 people? Or are you just grumbling because it's monday morning and you haven't had any coffee yet? :-)

        6 Replies
        1. re: LurkerDan

          I like Best Thing I Ever Ate as a concept too but for me it has little if nothing to do with the 'celebrities' and more (or all) about the food. I don't tend to pay much attention to who is touting what and 5 minutes after the show is over, unless it's one of the big names, I don't remember who I saw. But you'd better believe that I remember those deep fried cupcakes. :)

          Perhaps it's because I don't watch a lot of tv, food or otherwise, and when I do I prefer genuine cooking instruction such as America's Test Kitchen. Have never once watched a cooking competition show, so I don't know who half of the 'celebrities' are anyway. For me it's all about the food. If the 'celebrity' host or guest were to get under my skin, and from instructional shows I know they for sure can, then why watch them? Whether or not they are celebrities in their own minds or in the real world is neither here nor there, to me anyways.

          1. re: 16crab

            I had to smile at your comment: But you'd better believe that I remember those deep fried cupcakes. :)

            because, I am so guilty of running to the PC to check out that food/resto/specialty shop mentioned on a food program that is highlighting businesses big & usually small offering unique food stuffs before it slips my mind. I have bought dozens of products and visited many shops because of shows like BTIEA.

            1. re: HillJ

              I have actually been thinking about those deep fried cupcakes for weeks on end!

              I am often curious if the businesses featured on there pay for the promotion. I was actually just watching it yesterday and intended to look, but my DVR cut off the end credits...

              1. re: 16crab

                Their shows scouts find the companies usually. I'd hate to spoil it by thinking they pay for promo. What does a deep fried cupcake taste like?

                1. re: HillJ

                  I sure wish I knew. In trying to find the bakery that made them, I learned that the cupcake in question was actually featured on Kid in a candy store, not BTIEA. Just goes to show how well I pay attention to the food porn I watch while folding laundry! Nonetheless, here's the cupcake: http://www.kickasscupcakes.com/Cupcak... Aaaaaand...now I'm thinking about them again!

                  1. re: 16crab

                    Wow, served with a scoop of ice cream would really appeal to my family and friends on a hot, humid day in NJ. Great inspiraton. I could definately try this in my kitchen. How about you?

        2. you don;t think mario, flay, and emeril's celebrity was manufactured by food network?

          8 Replies
          1. re: thew

            Emeril and Batali wouldn't be household names like they are without the backing from food network they received, but I believe they would still be well known chefs. Mario's food is so good he would have eventually become well known, and despite all the emeril hate that is around, he is a FANTASTIC chef. When he was the exec at Commander's Palace it was known as one of the best restaurants in the country, and before he left the kitchen at Emiril's in new orleans it was an AMAZING restaurant. It's still pretty good, but it used to be phenomenal when he was actually back there working.

            As for bobby flay, I think he probably would have only achieved moderate success.

            1. re: twyst

              there are plenty of chef's in NYC that are as good or better than mario, whose names are not known to the level of celebrity. Even more so Emeril in NOLA.

              this is not to take anything away from their skills. But their celebrity is completely due to FOodNetwork exposure. exactly as those chefs and cooks disdained by the OP.

              1. re: thew

                I'll have to disagree with you on Emeril in New Orleans. He was easily the best chef in the city when he actually ran the kitchen in his own restaurant and when he was running commander's palace. I moved out of New Orleans in 2001 but still make it back at least once a month. Other restaurants are better than Emeril's now, but they werent back then and most New Orleanians share my view.

                1. re: twyst

                  without arguing that point - how many people - inside NOLA and out, would know of emeril, if he was just the guy cooing at commanders, and not the TV personality?

                  1. re: thew

                    Oh I absolutely agree he would not be a household name, but I still think he would be well known in the "foodie" community. He was already well known in new orleans before his show ever hit the air, but mostly because of his namesake restaurant. I think he would have achieved a level of "fame" a couple of notches lower than someone like keller, who has become a celeb based solely on his (outstanding) food.

                2. re: thew

                  I'd heard of Emeril at least a decade before I ever saw FN. He was quite the pre-internet superstar, I thought, and his good reputation was well deserved. Same with Bobby Flay (or am I confusing him with Jonathan Waxman?)

                  1. re: Jay F

                    Him too, and for a lot longer than ten years.

                    1. re: mamachef

                      I was going to use the word "decades," but I wasn't sure when I started to hear about these guys.

            2. Freitag and Alex g are actually pretty accomplished chefs so I dont mind them getting their shot at becoming food celebs. The neeley's, claire robinson, aida etc, not so much and it feels forced.

              1. Guess that's why they created the "off" button.

                1 Reply
                1. re: fullyfunctional

                  Bingo! I guess I don't understand this kind of thread -- "BOY I hate Food Network and all the people on it so I'm gonna watch it and gripe about how terrible it is and how awful they are."

                  Sounds a little like jealousy to me. And incidentally -- Emeril Lagasse was chef at Commander's Palace before FN. I kind of think he would still be very well known.

                2. You have a good point, but your Kardashian analogy is incorrect. A "celebrity" is a famous person, regardless of talent or knowledge or skill. The Kardashians ARE celebrities (indeed, they are famous for being famous!)

                  Not knowing who Amanda Freitag or Alex G are (only basic cable, so I don't watch FN), I did get a bit of a chuckle (after being momentarily confused), because I confused Alex G with Ali G, the Sacha Baron Cohen character.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    I would love to see Ali G on The Best Thing I Ever Ate!

                  2. Well, if by "celebrity" you mean people with a high Q factor, FN has done an outstanding job of creating network-driven stars. But celebrity does not a chef make, anymore than any given chef is guaranteed to have celebrity. I'm not going to comment specifically on the folks you've named, but by definition they all have a measure of celebrity. Expertise, however, is a very subjective word, and I would not call them all food experts. But I will give them their celebrity. And for the record, I'm disenchanted too, which is why my "off" switch is my bff. While I'm quite sure I'd enjoy a pleasant meal with decent food from any of these folks, my personal favorites are the unsung heroes of the kitchen; the people who cook because they love it, because it's their drive, because it's what they do - without being caught up in the drive to self-promote in soul-sucking ways.

                    1. I once spoke with a producer of Sandra Lee's show and he said FN is all about branding. So there ya go. They make 'em and they sell 'em. And if they don't like you well enough they chew you up and spit you out, ala The Hungry Detective, a great guy who wasn't given the respect or opportunuties he deserved.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        The best word I can describe the experience is "Tampon"...when you are done being useful, you are tossed out in the trash...

                        1. re: ccognac

                          Hey, everybody. It's Chris Cognac, the Hungry Detective.

                          1. re: ccognac

                            This is so true. Emeril MADE FN what it was today and they unceremoniously dumped him too when they were done with him. Sad.

                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                              And a strong force who could (for a little while) relate to how EL was treated (Martha), gave him a new start and then a new FN idea, the Cooking Channel came along...and Emeril was back. It sure seems like once a chef starts to believe this is the only way to make a BIG living, they will do anything to remain on tv.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                He has a fairly large operation now, over a dozen restaurants with many hundreds of employees. You need that constant visibility to keep the customers aware that you're still relevant so that they keep visiting. So once you do get that big it takes a lot to stay big.

                                1. re: ferret

                                  Valid points. I enjoyed a meal at EL in FL inside of Universal studios. Many of EL's restaurants have varied followings and the meal inside a theme park was not inexpensive and EL was nowhere to be seen :) ...but if I'm an EL fan the best place to find him is on food shows.

                                  I've also sat in the audience of EL live taping and it wasn't a thrill...it was long and boring...the home tv audience gets the thrill.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    I'd say that your live taping experience is typical of any taped show. It's a long arduous process throughout the day for most shows. Being in the audience will have long moments of boredom punctuated occasionally by the warm up guy trying to get everyone pumped up.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      Hi Jase, Actually the taping at RR was so much fun I was gobsmacked for weeks. The live show with Guy F. and his crew at the community college here in NJ was one part comedy; two parts fun and a hot ticket. The live concert with Anthony B. was "interesting" but also worth the experience. So, while some of these aren't studio shows per se, some of my more recent opps were a good deal of fun and not a general yawn fest. EL's was for me.

                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        Glad that worked out for you. Exceptions to everything of course. I was thinking more of in studio shows. And perhaps I'm jaded too. Being in LA and also having friends in the industry, many of whom are the regular production folk toiling away behind the scenes, there definitely less excitement for me in attending a taping. I'm pretty low key until the "live" moments then I perk up and get into it.

                                        There is definitely an art and skill with the warm up guy in keeping the audience interested and involved and then pump them up to go crazy when it's time. It's not an easy job when the audience has to sit through long quiet stretches while the stage is being reset. I've heard good things about how RR treats the people around her, so great to hear you had a good time at her taping. I like to think how she treats people rubs off on better performances by the whole crew.

                              2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                Is there a television network out there that doesn't dump whomever or whatever is no longer making money for them?

                                1. re: 16crab

                                  I look at the runner up Food Network star shows: Kid in the Candy Shop and that other one, I forget the name, where the guy eats huge burgers... and I'm sorry, but there is no quality there, and I can't believe there is money there either, yet those shows are on, better ones are off, c'est la vie.

                          2. I haven't watch much of 'Best things', but Cooking Channel has something similar, Unique Eats. Amanda is one of the regulars; others commenters are described as bloggers or food writers. I tend to watch shows like this for the food information, let the quirks of the presenters slide past.

                            1. Agree with the OP. Tired of over-sold meat puppets who embody the working definition--albeit cynical--of "celebrity" as being "famous for being famous." They're just brands.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                Lee-Ann Wong must just travel full-time, just to make sure she has a point of view on whatever the "Best Thing" food is.

                                "Best Roadkill I Ever Ate? Check"

                                1. re: ooroger

                                  She's also a regular on Unique Eats

                              2. You'd have captured my sentiments exactly, if you had omitted the word "food" from your title.

                                1. I saw on tv once that Kim Kardashian likes to cook. We'd all better hope nobody latches on to THAT idea....

                                  1 Reply