Friday, April 3, 2009

Open Letter to Food Network

Dear Food Network,

You may not know this, but one of my earliest memories of your network was watching Sara Moulton on her show Sara's Secrets. She was frying something (I forget what), but the thing I remember was when she used a wooden spoon to test whether or not frying oil was hot enough. She stuck the spoon in the oil and waited to see whether or not bubbles came out of it. This she explained was because the oil was so hot, that even the minuscule water molecules trapped in the wooden spoon were being cooked out.

I was blown away. She had demystified one of the reasons why I never got consistently good results with deep oil frying for me. To this day, I use that method to test the temperature of my frying oil.

So...what the hell happened??? Where are all the old school chefs that actually educated us as the cooked? Wolfgang Puck, Sara Moulton, Mario Batali, Ming Tsai, Tyler Florence, even Emerill Lagasse--where did they all go? All we have left on the show are surburban queens like Paula Deen (bless her heart) and Rachel Ray and upcoming chefs/cooks with fake plastic smiles that creep me out. Are you trying to tell us that a good meal is one where we cook with 2 lbs of butter in 30 minutes or less and pretend to like it?

You used to be about having shows that taught us that cooking need not remain mysterious and left to the pros. You used to empower the average American to make decent, home-cooked meals that brought families and friends together, connecting them through a common love for food and fellowship.

Sadly, no one cooks for the sake of cooking any more on the show.

Every show has been turned into venue for entertainment. Mediocre cooks making dumbed down and uninspiring food. Crappy cooks interviewing Zookeepers of all people on their own talk show. Celebrity chef turned douchebag challenging local food establishments and then being humiliated in staged throwdowns. A resume-exaggerating chef in ridiculous situations and unrealistic premises churning out mediocre food to people who deserve to have food made in an organized, well-thought out plan (like a real chef would do). A fatass eating inordinate amounts of the unhealthiest food known to man and FAILING every time.

The worst: A former model calling her own show SEMI-HOMEMADE and expects her food to TASTE GOOD??? And what's up with all these fake-spontaneous weekend getaway tours to drive-thrus, diners, and dives on $40 or less? What am I? A cheap bastard with a fanny pack around his fast-food engorged waist? How is this edifying? Is this even entertainment?


The best educational show you have is Good Eats, and even then, I can hardly swallow the corny jokes and bad sketches. Food and cooking should be about bringing the kitchen closer to the cook--you are instead drawing the cook out of the kitchen into the TV living room.

And all I see now on FN is a whore who works for money instead of food.

For shame.


  1. Bourdain on Sandra Lee a few years back:

    "Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves. What’s the difference between that and Sandra suggesting we fill our mouths with Ritz Crackers, jam a can of Cheez Wiz in after and press hard? None that I can see. This is simply irresponsible programming."

    I assume things have gotten worse - I haven't watched Food network in a few years.

    But yes, I agree completely - I love Michael Ruhlman's blog because he'll post how-tos on soppressata and duck confit, which to me are somehow both simple and exotic. As in, I look at the instructions which are super-simple, but I look at the finished result and realize I would never have even though to make that BUT FOR Ruhlman.

    Speaking of Ruhlman, he wrote a book about CIA a while back - it's on my Amazon queue (think Netflix queue but way more expensive because I'm actually paying for each book), and I'll probably get around to it this summer sometime.

  2. So....this isn't really a comment in response to your open letter to Food Network, but I just wanted to say that my mom always taught me that you knew that oil had reached the proper frying temperature when you stuck a wooden chopstick in and bubbles came up around the chopstick! I never questioned the rationale behind it, but just always used that little rule as my guide!! Your preface reminded me of the little things you learn in the kitchen when you cook with your mom! Or your dad!

  3. I totally agree with your view of the current Food Network shows.... BTW, the real chefs and cooking shows you are looking for are on PBS Saturday mornings.

  4. I have recently come to this realization about the Food Network. That and the drama, The Next Food Network Start...seriously? Yeah I am starting to get annoyed.

    I too like Good Eats for it's concept, and enjoy Alton's book for the information they provide.

    Check out Chef Todd Mohr. He's focus on the method of cooking and not fancy cooking. Jacques Pepin is also another favorite of mine. Simple good food with an emphasis on sharing the experience with family and friends.

    I hope this letter actually gets sent to the Food Network.