Interesting appraisal of The Food Network in the NYTimes business section today, sparked by the canceling of Emeril–what does it mean?  It means that the FN is responding to a rapidly changing food and media culture.  PBS continues to put out strong how-to cooking shows, the internet allows anyone to post their own food videos, and the culture at large is getting smarter about food.  I think it all bodes well.

Jamal Lewis’s blizzard defying performance in Cleveland’s victory over Buffalo sparked this story on how Lewis (“My body is a machine”) eats: No red meat (he’s watching his tummy evidently) and only organic. Thank you, Jamal!

David Leite, of Leite’s Culinaria, has posted what seems to be a reappraisal of my book, The Elements of Cooking.  David is a good and generous writer and the site he started has won many deserved awards, and I’m glad for his review.)

And finally, happily, this blog won both its categories in Well Fed’s Food Blog Awards.  Thank you everyone who voted!  I’m honored espcecially because I really admire the other blogs I was up against.  French Laundry at Home also pulled in two awards.  Becks n Posh won best city blog.  Serious Eats won for best group blog.  And 101cookbooks took blog of the year.  Congrats, Heidi, and all the other worthy winners (see Well Fed for the complete list).


71 Wonderful responses to “Food notes, December 17”

  • Claudia

    Congratulations, Michael – you deserve it! Do you realize how much THIS blog is cross-linked, cross-referenced and quoted daily? I see it pop up not only on other blogs, but in mainstream magazines, etc., etc. There are mainly fine food blogs out there – but yours seems to be the definitive, liveliest, where-the-action-is blog – perhaps due to your close and personal daily attention to it. Keep on keepin’ on!

  • JD

    RE: The NY Times piece, I think that Mario Batali’s quote sums it up nicely:

    “Still, Mr. Batali said, “They don’t need me. They have decided they are mass market and they are going after the Wal-Mart crowd,” which he said was “a smart business decision. So they don’t need someone who uses polysyllabic words from other languages.””

    While the nation-at-large seems to be getting smarter about food, Food Network keeps getting dumber (quite aggravating). But your pal Bourdain has railed on against this enough for everyone else.

    As an aside, I just received your new book in a Secret Santa exchange a few days ago and it really is fantastic, the best treatise on cooking I’ve read in quite a while!

  • kanani

    It’s nice to get recognition, and you deserve it! Congratulations.

    As for the NY Times article –these are all major stars. While I’m appreciative of what they’re doing to educate a generation about good cooking and ingredients, I just don’t care about their big contracts. They’re multi-millionaires. They’ll be alright.

  • tim

    From the NYT article:

    Ms. Johnson called “Top Chef” a copy of “The Next Food Network Star,” but “without the care about the food content, which we bring to everything we do.”

    I find that comment incredibly amusing…

  • Natalie Sztern

    Mazel tov on ur win…just a few questions: with which show did Anthony Bourdain have his start on the Food Network? Plus Top Chef is far more intuitive than the Next Foodnetwork Star and there is nothing wrong with shopping at Walmart Mr. Batali…I love when people forget where they come from….

  • Adele

    Congratulations on both the blog wins and Elements. This is an incredibly lively blog, with excellent information and humor, and Elements sits in my kitchen — I don’t try a new recipe without it.

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  • hollerhither

    Congrats! Very well deserved — and I’m amazed, finally my votes seem to count for something…

    Agreed about the NYT bizarre TC/TNFNS comparison, and I thought Batali’s comment was rather unfortunate. Seems to support the rumor that there’s a strained relationship between him and the Food Network, doesn’t it?

    Happy holidays, and I hope Santa (Amazon?) delivers a copy of Elements to my door next week.

  • Chris

    Wow, Mario’s quote was absolutely, devastatingly, spot on. And if anyone watches Food Network today, it’s painfully obvious that they have dumbed down. I can’t wait for the first show that focuses on cheez whiz as a major ingredient (unless Sandra Lee has already done that …)

    I also think it’s highly amusing that they’ve suddenly dug up Bourdain’s “Cook’s Tour” series and will start re-running it again. Gee, perhaps they’ve noticed he’s popular, and they’re trying to give some of that buzz to their own stale offerings??

    And congrats on the award Michael … I do enjoy your blog, though my own cooking skills are sadly lacking. But your blog has inspired me to do better, as has your books.

  • -s

    Don’t forget this part about Batali…

    “He said the network recently proposed a couple of new projects for him, including one where he would be host of a reality show, and that he would discuss them with the executives in January. “I’m not averse to working with them,” he said.”

    Riding his high horse down the “low” road apparently.

  • Luis

    Well, What can be said about Mario and FN? Great loss…. Mass market.. yes!
    I bought two cookbooks this day. While I thouroughly enjoy reading the elements of cooking each day, I still look at any cookbook I can get my hands on. Even in the supermarkets. For the working stiff,,me!. I found slow cooking book by Phyllis Pellman Good that made me very happy. This is why, as I said I work and work and there are not enough hrs in my day to rest and do what I need to do. One glance at her book fix it and forget it and immediatly I know what I can do with the shallots and onions and turkey stock and pita bread and left over cheese I have laying around the kitchen. Page after page of five ingredient recipes anyone can make. Not Gourmaid for sure, but not bad. Practical.
    I also picked up a copy of Sandra Lee’s semi home made for the same reason. I think we should push ourselves to be and eat the best. But is it realistic?
    Be that as it may the cooking science principles of heat and water and stock and eggs etc Ruhlman has given us in the ” Elements of Cooking” Apply. They will apply until the end of time. That is what makes that book a keystone volume in any cooking collection. Combine that with Phyllis’s 5 ingredients favorites series with an eye out for healthy ingredients and the common home cook is were he/she needs to be. My opinion of course…. Bourdain is a pain….

  • Brad

    Mario was indeed spot on in his observation about how Food Network’s decided to chase the almighty dollar by embracing the “walmart” mass-market crowd. I share his disappointment, and more than a modicrum of scorn. I’ve found less and less material worth watching on FN lately, with the steady erosion of their better “how to” shows … and I’ve been having to go elsewhere to watch the shows I like – Jacques Pepin, Mario, Lydia, Julia Child, Moulton, Bourdain, etc.

    AFAIAC, FN can keep their mediocre low-brow and otherwise vacuous “I’m a TV personality not a real chef” people like rachel ray, sandra lee, paula dean, and the like. There’s literally almost nobody left on FN who’s a serious chef of genuine talent with professional credentials, which is both sad and more than a little ridiculous.

    Funny how it was viewers and hardcore (and very vocal) homecooks like me like me who were the initial audience that helped put FoodNetwork on the map … and equally funny that they’re now casting a healthy chunk of that segment of their early core viewership aside now that they feel they no longer need us. Pity.

    As usual, i’ll go wherever the quality, innovation, and highbrow content goes. I only watch mediocrity in my rear view mirror, and preferrably not at all.

  • Kansas City rube

    Wow. That is some good hate coming from the Great Pumpkin.

    To me, that looks the first shot fired in the coming war of former stars v. the network. I hope it gets even nastier. Go get ’em, Mario.

  • Lisa

    @Chris: “I can’t wait for the first show that focuses on cheez whiz as a major ingredient…”
    Well, in the Iron Chef “Holiday Dessert” battle, howler monkey Paula Deen made a frightening fudge concoction with something Alton Brown identified as “processed cheese” (Velveeta, perchance?) as a main ingredient. End times are near.

    Batali’s WalMart quote is priceless–and dead-on. I found it hilarious when RayRay was cooking beside him in an IC battle. She couldn’t stand the heat of the kitchen–LITERALLY! She didn’t know how long to cook a custard, and had to check with him! She looked like hell after an hour of actual work, with no makeup crew and assistants running around to do everything for her. And she is supposed to reflect who “real” home cooks are? PLUH-LEASE! Let us learn from genuine chefs.

  • ntsc


    Question for Ruhlman at bottom.

    Well ham #2 (a la Charcuterie)gets hung on Xmas eve, just finished the dry cure box. Wife looked at it and I think she is a little worried as to what I’m planning. It is 3 feet tall and covers a floor area of two full sheets.

    The ham will hang until the temperature inside gets above 60 F. It is against a north basement wall so that could be summer if not year round.

    In the instructions for this ham, you include ‘remove the aitch bone’. What is an ‘aitch’ bone?

  • JoP in Omaha

    Sigh. It looks like FN is headed for even more “Let’s watch people eat in restaurants” and the like, rather than providing instruction. Do they really belive that watching RR eat while on vacation will be compelling and will draw lots of viewers? I don’t get it. Sadly, my PBS staions carry very few cooking shows….it’s mostly home improv. So I’m pretty much out in the cold. FN really wants me watching instructional cooking videos on the web, rather than in their network? I just doesn’t make sense….

  • jerri Udelson

    Jerri N. Udelson
    20 Tanoito
    Santa Fe, NM 87506
    (505) 992-0055

    December 17, 2007

    Bruce Seidel, Executive Producer
    The Next Iron Chef
    Food Network

    Dear Mr. Seidel:

    I am an avid fan of the Food Network. I particularly enjoy the Iron Chef Challenge programs, as well as anything with Bobby Flay.

    I recently watched all six episodes of “The Next Iron Chef” show hosted by Alton Brown. The shows were particularly interesting to me since they featured such a variety of chefs in terms of style, technique and personality.

    When Michael Symon and John Besh were the last two chefs standing, I was not surprised, given the kudos expressed all along by the three judges. When Michael Symon won, I was personally surprised, since it seemed as though Mr. Besh was the favorite.

    Now for the interesting part: About a month after the conclusion of the series I was given a book by a friend. Knowing that I like memoirs and biographies of chefs, she lent me The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman. As I noted the name and photo on the cover, I saw that Mr. Ruhlman, indeed, was one of the three judges featured on “The Next Iron Chef.”

    Imagine my surprise when I opened the book to the table of contents and discovered that a third of the book was devoted to Mr. Symon and his restaurant Lola. Not only did Mr. Ruhlman personally know Chef Symon, he spent time in his restaurant hanging out with him, observing him, smoking cigarettes with him, and indeed praising him, saying “I adored his style and admired his mechanical genius” (page 213, paperback edition, 2001).

    Now, I cannot assume that Michael Symon won The Next Iron Chef challenge due to the favoritism of one of the judges; however, I think the relationship between the two should have been disclosed to unknowing viewers, including the undersigned. To present the show as impartial and unbiased is a disservice to the many loyal viewers of the Food Network, and perhaps even a tad unethical.

    Sincerely yours,

    Jerri N. Udelson

    P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a native of Cleveland, Ohio, but I have never met any of the principals mentioned above, nor have I ever eaten at Lola or Lolita.

    Cc: Michael Symon
    John Besh
    Michael Ruhlman
    Alton Brown
    Kim Severson, New York Times
    Editors, New York Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer,
    Times Picayune

  • Brad


    I can only speak for myself here … but this dead horse has already been previously whipped to death in prior threads on this site, as well as elsewhere around the internet. Re-raising it yet again, in after-the-fact off-topic fashion (rather than in the blog post and comments area the author specifically devoted to it) is an unhelpful distraction that seems more about garnering attention for yourself than it does about trying to accomplish anything.

    Someday, if you move into a position where you have to review the work of others, or perhaps even have employees of your own, you will find that it is entirely commonplace to occasionally have to evaluate the work of others, and to have to do so objectively regardless of whether or not they are strangers, acquaintances, employees or close personal friends. Sometimes you’ll have the luxury of being able to recuse yourself, and more often you will not … life is like that.

    To assume the producers were somehow unaware of the fact M.R. knows, is friends with, and writes about, many of the top chefs in this country prior to casting him for that show is downright silly. On the contrary, Ruhlman was more than likely cast precisely BECAUSE he is currently the most prominent author focusing on what it means, and what it takes, to be a great chef, and BECAUSE he knows many of the current players in the industry. Duh.

    You can probably say the same about all the other judges on that show too, because they’re editors of major food magazines and they’ve all doubtless written about (or read extensively about) EVERY CANDIDATE who was selected to compete on that show.

    Sometimes life hands us a variety of hats to wear, not all of which fit together well at any given place or time. If you’ve never encountered such a situation before in your own life, then you’re either very young and inexperienced, or you’ve swum in rather shallow waters before now.

    Ok, back on the blog topic du jour … the blog awards …

  • Suzette

    Oooh, Mario, SNAP! I LOVE it. Finally someone brave enough to call them on their sheist, pardon my German! Meaning, someone who works for the network currently.

    I love how the unctuous Bob Tuschman claims TFN passed on Mario’s show, then Mario states it wasn’t offered to them! LOL!

    While it is true the public is getting ever smarter about food, TFN chooses to respond by progressively dumbing down their network every month. That’s why their ratings are going steadily downhill.

    Maybe someday, new management will come in and fix it. Meanwhile, I look forward to watching Mario’s new show on PBS, aka The Smart People’s Network.

  • Shane

    Hey Jerry, 2001 called, they want their classified info back. If you’re a native and didn’t know about the book until now and have not eaten at those restaurants, then that says more about you than it does about the principals involved in your tired-ass letter. Fkouttahere, mane!!! LMAO

  • Claudia

    Natalie, Bourdain’s first TV series was a Cook’s Tour, which ran on the Food Network. FN has stubbornly refused to release the rights (which Bourdain says expires in June). The show will start re-running in the first quarter of 2008. One can only surmise that, despite all the snark-filled invective Bourdain has directed at FN, they have, nonetheless, come to the painful realization that he is, as they say, a hot commodity, TV-wise. (Sharp people, those FN suits. Only took them several years.)

    I hope Tony gets some retroactive syndication rights or a little off the back end.

  • Egaeus

    I love Mario Batali. I used to occasionally come home for lunch just to watch Molto Mario (no DVR). He does hit the nail on the head. I catch the occasional Good Eats (when it’s not being preempted by retarded holiday specials) and sometimes Iron Chef (when there’s nothing else to watch) but I can’t stand the mouth-breather-targeted programming.

    It’s not like I want to be a snob. I try to watch FN. I watched one of the holiday specials yesterday and seriously, just the thought of the fried black-eyed peas (canned) with cranberry dipping sauce (canned sauce mixed with maple syrup and garlic powder) that Paula Deen made with Robert Irvine made me want to retch. I love all of those flavors, but that train wreck was terrible to watch. I would say that maybe all the smoking has gotten to Paula’s taste buds, but I wasn’t aware that it addled your brain.

    I’ve never made a Rachael Ray recipe that I truly liked (I’ve made admittedly few for that very reason though). However, I always like Mario’s recipes (though there are few I can eat) and even Emeril’s recipes. However, the only non-chef (or former chef as the case may be) whose recipes I like is Alton Brown. Even then, he’s hit-and-miss. A timely example is his sweet potato pie, which is an insult to sweet potato pies everywhere, but his methods are generally good and instructive.

    Where am I going? Just venting I guess. Like most here, I lament the loss of my favorite network. I used to call it the only reason to have cable. Now, I can hardly sit through a program without falling asleep or changing the channel. But what do they care? I’m a single middle-class white guy who doesn’t shop at Wal Mart. Obviously not their demographic.

  • JoP in Omaha

    I wonder if FN has considered that rerunning episodes about 500 times is not the way to maintain an audience? And that we can put up with Guy in dives only so long…..and that perhaps we don’t care about Giada’s weekends in places we’re unlikely to go to….and….and….and…. Sigh.

  • IGIF

    I’m so pleased for you! A well-deserved recognition of your contribution to the food world. I am also impressed. So many other sites now link to your blog and speak so admiringly of it (deservedly so). The best part (IMHO) is the general opinion that you are such a talented, passionate gentleman who loves to share that passion. PLEASE don’t be “scared” to keep up this blog! I would so miss your thoughts, and the thoughts of all the posters here. Thanks again to you all.

  • Wilmita

    Michael Ruhlman,

    A well-deserved Congratulations on your Well-Fed Food Blog Awards.

    When The Food Network began, I had SUCH high hopes.

    I spoke for a long time about this with Robin Leach at one of their first events in my city.

    I was a long-time member of The Women’s Culinary Guild and took Master Classes there and Chef’s Classes at The Restaurant School, here.

    I cook well.

    I had already considered early years of TFN were really considered by me to be “dumbed-down” for the non-professional chef, (like me), where one could learn many upscale dishes and even a few techniques.

    “Ready, Set, Cook”, was one of my favorite programs in the early days because it presented what usually faced me after work, and how to make it work or even better with the help of professional chefs and contestants.

    Even if many of today’s TV audience has the tarted-up semi-pro kitchen renovation, but may not cook regularly, I STILL believe the TVFN on-air talent should feature professional chefs who are not necessarily telegenic, but know their stuff and can teach it to others.



  • Todd

    RE: Blog awards
    Congrats Michael! You deserve it.

    RE: NYT article
    So I’m of the firm belief that the FN is headed in a bad direction just like pretty much everyone else everywhere who knows how to turn raw, unprocessed ingredients into a decent meal. I’m also very appreciative of what they’re doing on PBS, but at the same time, it’s on so inconsistently in my area that it’s nigh frustrating.

    The thing that bothers me about the article is that the Food Network puts a marketroid out front to address the public. These are the kind of people that throw buzzwords around like they’re candy — count the number of times ‘brand’ is used… how he refers to the Food Network hosts as ‘the talent’, how they’re giving Rachael Ray time to work on a ‘brand as a whole’ strategy. I know how this is how they’re referred to in marketing speak… that’s fine, but if they’re trying to bolster the confidence of the just-at-home folks, they need to drop someone in front of an interviewer who can talk about their people like people, not as commodities. They speak about their human element, but there they show none. Good play… Bravo!

    Speaking of Bravo … even though the Next Food Network Star came first, the series is a snoozer. Top Chef has some excitement, even if it wasn’t so food related. And seasons 1 and 3 treated the food with respect. What did Food Network do with the last season? Made it more like Top Chef. Except it was more like Top Chef, Saccharin-sweet edition; every episode had someone crying. “…without the care about the food content, which we bring to everything we do.” He’s drunk his own Kool-Aid.

    And to top it off, he had to twice use the words ‘extreme’ (which I’m sure, though unquoted, came from Mr. Johnson) in the same paragraph! He’s not only drunk the Kool-Aid, he’s brought out the supply from 5 years ago!

    I’m angry because I’m sad. Emeril Live, as much as some people hate it, got me interested in cooking. For a while, he was entertaining and his shtick never wore too badly on me. If it weren’t for him, I’d never have found Mario, or Sara, or any of the other cooking shows. And the person that the NYT interviewed just sums up everything I think is wrong with the Food Network. Not in what he says, but how he says it.

  • Lisse

    If that bit about A Cook’s Tour is true, while I’m sure it’s really a business decision, I have to say that it smacks oddly of revenge.

  • Laura

    Well, Emeril was the first program I saw in food network about 10 years ago. I have tried his recipies (which have always turned out fine). Even visited one of his restaurants on a trip to Miami and enjoyed it a lot.
    Fo 5 o 6 years I wouldn´t miss a show, either Emeril Live or Essence of Emeril, he is funny, entertaining and a good chef. Even my daughter who was a toddler loved watching him.How can we compare him or Mario Batalli with RR or Paula or Guy or…..? FN is going back to Mcdonalds and fast food? Are we supposed to prefer the frozen food isle than fresh produce in the supermarket? I hope they open their eyes soon.

  • Dane

    “But what do they care? I’m a single middle-class white guy who doesn’t shop at Wal Mart. Obviously not their demographic.”

    What does that have to do with anything–what is their demographic in your opinion if not the single middle class white guy–or gal—I don’t know what it is. Maybe you don’t shop at Walmart–but I’m sure you’re probably in their demographic.

    The people that aren’t in their demographic are the people that are oddly invisible on air–there is no asian cooking show–there hasn’t been a black chef on Food Network with a series since Curtis Aiken–I mean…those are the people that aren’t being catered to. How many Italian themed or Italian-american inspired (Rachael Ray (even), Michael Chiarello, Giada DeLaurentiis et. al) shows do they need? There are people besides Italians that can cook.

  • FoodPuta

    Good on you MR.

    Note: Was I just extremely high the other night, or did I actually see and ad that Jamie Oliver was going to have a show on the FN?

  • CaptainK

    I must admit when I started watching the Food Network, Rachel Ray did not bother me. Her food was not semi-homemade, it was quick and some of her recipes I tried were pretty good. Of course that was before her Tastey Travels and $40 a Day shows (why is it that FN over-exposes their hosts until you are literally sick of them?)

    Anyway, I didn’t really mind “EVOO,” “Sammies,” “Yummo” or even “Delish!”

    But I find myself grinding my teeth everytime Guy descibes a taste of food as “money!”

  • tinarina

    While I totally got a kick out of Mario Batali’s polysyllabic comment and agree that FN is almost totally geared to the non-cook, I had to remind myself that Mario did do a NASCAR cookbook. I guess that was just a good business decision.

  • Stephanie

    FoodPuta…don’t know how high you were…wan’t there 🙂 but, yes Jamie has a new show starting at the begining of January on the Food Network. And to promote it he’s gonna be on Iron Chef America against none other than Mario!

    Congrats on the awards, Michael! This blog is fun…these discussions in the comments, especially.

    I’m hoping the Food Network turns around soon. The only show I tune in for anymore is Good Eats (and Nigella if I’m up early enough). I’ll probably watch Jamie Oliver’s new show, too. I’ve always liked him, and was all jealous that the British got to watch his shows and we didn’t.


    FINALLY — a vote I cast somewhere resulted in a winner.

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned what I thought was the salient point of the NYT article: that FN didn’t own any shares in the merch value of the chefs who rose to stardom there (Emeril, Mario, et al). I’d sure love to know whether they DO own points in RayRay’s extracurricular activities, since they groomed her from day one. And whaddaya bet they’ll be cutting merch deals with the [cough] “chefs” they bring in to replace the stalwarts they’re dumping now?

    I would give odds that part of the deal for being given a show like Cake Ace or “Money” Guy is to give FN a points share in future earnings from non-FN activies (books, etc.).

  • Dave in NY

    Didn’t Batali put out a NASCAR themed cookbook? And he’s whining about “chasing the mass market”. Hmmm…something about a pot, kettle and black leaps to mind…..

  • Todd

    He enjoys NASCAR so he contributed a book. I’m guessing that chasing that market is probably as equally likely to get you detractors as it is extra revenue.

    Case in point, and all ^^

  • TC in Santa Cruz

    Congratulations Mr R. I found your blog because of the Well Fed award even though I know you from watching No Reservations Las Vegas and Cleveland and from owning and giving copies of The French Laundry Cookbook.

    I saw the Well Fed awards because they were referenced on a blog I follow called So now I’m wondering if you follow any cocktail blogs yourself. I am looking forward to exploring the world you have set up here with your posts and links and all. Thank you.

  • Hank

    “Still, Mr. Batali said, “They don’t need me. They have decided they are mass market and they are going after the Wal-Mart crowd,” which he said was “a smart business decision. So they don’t need someone who uses polysyllabic words from other languages.””

    Nice. Guess Mario will be standing on that Iron Chef podium all season. No challenge for you, Mr. Polysyllable!

  • Eric

    Luckily for me, PBS in Portland, OR., broadcasts alot of cooking shows that feature Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich, Hubert Keller, America’s Test Kitchen, among others. The “how-to” format that is availible on PBS is one that I’m acustomed to, since watching “The French Chef” w/Julia Child with my mother as a kid in the ’70’s. I’m not certain what “rapidly changing food and media culture” FN is responding to, other than one easily entertained by media hacks like Rachel Ray, et al. I’m certainly not among that target audiance that FN is now chasing.

    And, I’m O.K. with that.

  • mirinblue

    My thoughts on the whole horrific FN downfall would be to suggest they offer a show to Rocco…they can promote him and take part of all his profits. I mean he has to be earning big bucks on the Chelsey Handler show… A perfect solution!

    Congrats MR and all winners. You deserve it.

  • sheila

    Congratulations Michael, you deserve it. Your blog is not only educational (especially to new cooks like myself) but it is also highly entertaining. Intelligent comments, very rare. I agree with most every-one here, FN is a disaster! However, they must realise a little bit that they are close to being shipwrecked, as just 10 mins. ago I was watching Ina, and overheard a commercial saying that all day Christmas Day (or eve) they will be showing Anthony Bourdain! I’ve only had a sip of wine, am I dreaming?

  • sheila

    Also, I have blocked out everyone on FN except Alton, Ina, Tyler and Bobby Flay. The rest are hacks! A travesty! Sorry, had to get that out.

  • CarolinaGirl

    Congratulations on a wonderful 2007. IMHO, the blog award really just ices the cake. You have rocked it out this year. Looking forward to what 2008 brings…

  • Frances Davey

    Congratulations Michael!

    On a sad note, I have to say that Paula Deen slipped below my radar with a recent Christmas cookie show. Her show-stopping cookie consisted of store-bought chocolate mint wafers sandwiched between sugar cookie dough from the dairy case.

    But on a positive note, I baked a cheesecake today for my husband’s birthday. That’s not the best part – my 9-yr-old son cracked 6 eggs for me that needed to be separated. Even though he has often been the cause of exploding eggs during breakfast preparation, I gave him a shot. I told him that if he messed up 1 egg, I’d be taking over. We did cheat and use my ancient Tupperware egg-separater, because really, once he cracks an egg, there’s not much left of the shell. But he did all six. Then I made him leave me alone. 😀

    And last, but not least, my husband loved Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, which I probably would not have bought if it hadn’t been for this blog.

  • Juliette

    Re: NYT article

    I understand “not biting the hand that feeds you”, but it’s ridiculous to say that the new FN “bodes well” for everyone.

    Mario said it better, “They’re appealing to the WalMart crowd and don’t need (me) with polysyllabic words from other languages.” (Not to mention, like Emeril, his genuine cooking SKILLS.)

    The dumbing down of Food Network programs is so obvious–with an overabundance of Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Paula’s ‘Party’, and now Guy Fieri and “Two Dudes…”.

    FN wants to be the WalMart of cooking channels–dumb it all down (for us ignorant masses) and rake in big bucks from marketing thes remaining personalities….uh, cooks. Okay. But couldn’t they keep A LITTLE sophistication in there, too?

    C’mon, Michael. Show some guts (like Mario and Tony do) and call a spade a spade!


  • cheffrey

    It breaks my heart to be so angry about the direction FN has gone over the past five years because in a way, I owe my career as a chef to the Food Network making cooking accessible. Now, accessible means taken from some chef’s restaurant kitchen where he can choose not to acknowledge the camera to a series of nice, instructional demoes. People like Emeril, Curtis Aikens, David Rosengarten, Bobby Flay, Sara Moulton, Ming Tsai, and Mario Batali really de-mystified some simple cooking SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES for the home audience while adding their own culinary point of view. A natural progression for aiding the home cook came when Tyler Florence, Alton Brown, and Jamie Oliver started incorporating more everyday fare into their shows. Hell, even Rachael Ray made an important contribution by shunning pre-measured ingredients (like salt or oil) for a simple, everyday home meal.

    But now Food Network has seemingly done to food what MTV has done to music. In order to cash in on advertising dollars and merchandising revenue, FN has shelved true authorities on food in favor of “personalities” who aren’t worthy to peel the shallots of their predecessors.

    How Guy Fieri broke out of his “token new guy” Sunday 9am time slot to be the official spokesman for condescending douchebag dining patrons is beyond me. I mean, this purveyor of glorified sports bar food (check out his restaurant–Johnny Garlic’s) emerged as the winner of his season of TNFNS–which is the equivalent of winning the gold in the Special Olympics…sorry, that was a little “out of bounds,” wasn’t it?

    I won’t even elaborate on the horrors known as Sandra Lee’s program. I fell asleep watching Mike Symon on ICA the night before I was set to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I awoke to learn that the American public was now witness to a concept of a Semi-Homemade Thanksgiving. Luckily, there was booze on hand to settle my skyrocketing blood pressure.

    Finally, of all the people to over-expose, why oh why do they disgrace the glorious cuisine of the South by allowing Paula Deen multiple shows. One of her home shows for “special occasions featured both a steak and asparagus marinated in Italian dressing (the absolute worst thing you could use for a steak) and “canapes” that were little more than a glob of mayonnaise and canned mushrooms(!) on pumpernickel toast. For the love of God, they sell sliced mushrooms at Wal-Mart. They take maybe 10 minutes to cook. What is TV cuisine coming to? Next, she pimps out her kids who have no insight on food whatsoever. Then, FN gives someone who is an admitted agorophobe a show WITH A LIVE AUDIENCE! I still have yet to see anything attentively cooked on that show, though I admit constant distraction due to her constant cackling laugh that is strangely remeniscent of Mabel King’s portrayal of Evillene in The Wiz.

    But her appearance with Robert Irvine on Iron Chef may have been the biggest “f*** you” to the chef community I have ever seen. To watch her spend one hour on little more than fudge with imitation cheese while Cat Cora and Lorilynn Bauer each banged out three dishes was a disgrace to the last true bastion of a forum where real chefs can ply their craft on FN. And as much as we all hate Tyler Florence’s Applebee’s campaign, TF and his sous cooked Irvine into a freakin’ corner. After watching that debacle, I can see why Mario Batali wants to distance himself from FN.

    We, as lovers of both food and the craft of good cooking, have watched helplessly while Bob Tuschman, Brooke Johnson, and Susie Fogelson have done their best to destroy cooking as we know it.

  • Paul DeLuca

    Michael, congrats on a well-deserved award and thank you for taking us along on your journeys.

    RE: TFN

    First and foremost, TFN is a business, and to remain viable, it must be run that way. That said, I’m a believer in Peter Drucker’s philosophy that any business enterprise has only two real functions: marketing and innovation. TFN certainly has the marketing side down pat and I hope SOMEONE from TFN is reading–and compiling copious notes on–all the comments on this topic.

    How you define innovation is another subject entirely. If innovation is giving Rachel Ray another show, then TFN is as much about food as MTV is about music. They must see feedback that indicates that the majority of their audience is not burned out on RayRay, or Paula, or Sandra, etc., otherwise they’d be pulling back. (All of the aforementioned are shows that I just can’t watch without wanting to throw a heavy metal object at my TV.)

    I’d also like to point out a distinction that Michael makes in several of his books: chefs and cooks are different. It’s not called The Chef Network, or even The Cooking Network, it’s The Food Network, hence shows like Alton’s and Tyler’s about cooking and shows like Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives about food. You don’t have to be a chef to be a terrific cook or to teach someone how to cook better. Most of us had our interest in cooking sparked by a parent or family member, most of whom were probably not chefs, so I don’t get hung up on the chef thing, but it would be nice if more people tuned in to a show with Mario than a show with Sandra.

    Is the quality TFN programming going in the wrong direction? It looks that way, but for TFN more mass market viewers = more ad revenue. They say they care about the food (they HAVE to say that, don’t they?), but they care about it within the context of what’s hot and what they think will continue to be so. Ratings are what it’s about and it’s actually not that hard to judge the mass market. More people voted in last year’s American Idol final than voted for President in 2004. (The infinitesimal Wal-Mart part of my brain is embarrassed to know that.)

    Don’t like the direction in which TFN is going? Tell them. Tell them what you want more of. That and your remote control are your most powerful weapons.

  • PK

    Re: Future of TFN

    I wonder about the relationship between TFN and FLN and what strategy (or not) there is in the offerings on the two networks that are owned by the same parent company.

    I’m in Northern California (Comcast Cable).TFN is offered as part of the analog cable package, and FLN is part of the more costly digital package. We also have 2 PBS station choices as part of the basic package.

    Until TFN began to dumb down its schedule, I didn’t look that closely at FLN. Recently I have. Unfortunately, a lot of the programs at FLN seem like they are aimed at encouraging people to buy stuff: Shopping With Chefs, Shopping Detective. But they do have Molto Mario and NapaStyle.

  • Brad

    Cheffy: Well said.

    Paul DeLuca: Ditto. And yes, in way, we ARE telling them (FN) – by posting here.

    This has become one of the more prominent culinary/industry blogs of the moment, and more than a few of the other culinary bloggers on the internet (myself included) have weighed in here, with fairly substantial remarks about/for TFN. M.R. was, as usual, objective and gentlemanly on this particular topic, and primarily just opened the discussion, but I think the rest of the comments posted since have been fairly telling (and consistent) in their growing disappointment with TFN.

    In the big picture, I honestly doubt the discussions here will have any near term impact, but still – for those in the industry who occasionally bother to put their ear to the ground at all, this is the sort of distant thumping that sometimes gets noticed and forwarded.

  • Elizabeth

    How can Mario say that about the Food Network when he’s always defending Rachael Ray?

  • Egaeus


    That comment was partially tongue-in-cheek. My age group is supposedly what all the advertisers go after. However, FN is going after the soccer moms who just love Rachael Ray and think that yummo and sammies are acceptable words to be spoken by anyone over the age of 12. They’re the ones who want to buy the whole set of FN branded cookware. I walked through the kitchen section of Kohl’s the other day and it was a horror show. I’d rather watch Sandra Lee “interpret” Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The crass commercialism was disgusting. They have gone from being about food to being corporate whores. But hey, it’s America, and they are free to make money however they want. Just not my money. Not anymore.

  • Jonathan Smathers

    I’ve sort of taken a hiatus from reading food blogs during the holiday season. Today, I started reading my favorites once again beginning with you and followed by David Lebovitz and then Dorie Greenspan. I must admit that, prior to going on to read others, I had to return to yours and re-read some of the comments in this section for a second time. A while back you indicated that you’d prefer that people remain reasonably civil and to please refrain from making derogatory remarks and/or ‘snarking’ at one another. I’m not certain that a good many of the comments that I’m referring to can be categorized as being either ‘snarky’ or derogatory; however, they certainly are made by individuals who are, if nothing else, full of themselves. They are, essentially, snobs and not necessarily because they were either born to the aristocracy or, for that matter, that they’ve evolved financially or culturally through a lifetime of acculturalization (there use or rather misuse of grammar and syntax is a dead give away). In sum, were it not for these individual’s attention and approval – the Food Network would never have evolved to the point of commercial success, according to them. Further, to hear them out when they speak of other people, albeit chefs, cooks, and tv personalities, is to feel a sense of shame that they’d refer to others more as if they were referring to dogs rather than humans not adequately trained to reach there level of sophistication. I suppose that you already know that indubitably there self-assessment is beyond grandiose and there mocking of other’s with so much disdain, vitriol, and condescension is truly a sad commentary on who many of your commenter’s in particular happen to be. The need for them to be so terribly pejorative, abusive, and sarcastic speaks more to the issue of who they wish they were much more so than who they truly are. I’ll certainly continue to read your postings but as of now I simply refuse, especially during a spiritually uplifting season, to read other’s who are intent on being such cads.

  • Gael

    I also wonder what demographic they are aiming for. You would think that a 24 hour food channel would have at least one show on Asian cuisine. Or any real ethnic food for that matter. They didn’t have any latin food until they got Ingrid Hoffman, who I think is on the same track as Giada. She will eventually go the route from watching her cook to watching her eat because she’s pretty.

    At least recognize that there’s something else besides italo-american food.

  • Egaeus

    Jonathan, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I searched for the 3 favorite targets of us “snobs” (Rachael, Sandra, and Paula) and have not found any ad-hominem attacks. They attack the recipes and mindset that they embody, but never seriously attack the people. The worst I found was my own in my description of Paula Deen’s fried black-eyed peas, and if you took that as a serious attack on the person, then you need to get your sarcasm detector checked.

  • BillB

    There’s a real market out there for a show that doesn’t assume that the audience is stupid.

    I’d get off on 1 show…ONE…that featured nothing but a great chef cooking a meal. I don’t need a band, I don’t need a studio audience. Spend the money elsewhere… Hell, you could even cycle different chefs through there. Have them come in, tout their restaurant, give a few tips and showcase their work.

    Give me an hour of that once or twice a week, and I’d have a reason to tune into the Food Network again. As it stands now I’m left to Tivo old Molto Mario episodes off of FLN.

    I guess I understand the need for shows like Giada’s and Rachael Ray’s, but throw some red meat to the fans who were with the network in the early days.

    Seems like a small thing to ask.

  • Steven Morehead

    (and maybe a better person, too.)

    1. Cook everyday
    2. Learn the fundamentals
    3. Think critically about what you are doing.
    4. Read about cooking and the history of cooking from people who cook
    5. Take a cooking class at a culinary school where the focus is on quality and authentic tastes.
    6. Meet Dan Hugelier.
    7-10. Stop watching FN for “inspiration.” Switch to PBS (if you must)
    People who watch FN to learn how to cook should spend an hour reading Julia Child, James Beard, Michael Ruhlman, Thomas Keller, Escoffier, Creme, or Lynne Rossetto Kasper!!!

    I don’t know why everyone keeps saying Emeril is so great. Watch when he says things like “sweat the onion until it is translucent” and then adds the next item right after he says that. Maybe it’s that Emerilware he’s using but my onions never cook that fast!! It really is not that bad but if his goal is teaching people to cook he has not done that. The same goes for his sloppy plating. I hear he can cook, thats what is frustrating. Overall he was the best cook on FN, but the format is the reason for people disgust. I’m sure “his” show was really FN’s.

    Mr. Ruhlman ever think about convincing Anthony Bourdain to come to Detroit. You could take him to Schoolcraft College and show him who the real celebrity is. Seriously, why not stop in and say hello.

    Bourdain is optional.

  • Ray

    Has anybody noticed the upcoming Food Network lineup? Looks like they’re desperate to regain some semblance of foodie cred, they’re trotting out Jamie Oliver and trying to rerun our boy Bourdain’s show (probably while still eating crow over the decision to wipe Cook’s Tour off their network’s A-List in the first place).