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Gotta Love Those British Tabloids
Monday, July 31, 2006 | posted by Mike

Well, it’s only Monday and I’m already not looking forward to next week’s episode of “Feasting on Asphalt.” As you can see from the review below, I liked the debut episode just fine.

However, next week we’ll be get to watch as Alton and the guys “enjoy pork brain sandwiches in Evansville, Indiana.” Look, I’m all for down-home cookin’, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

On a slightly less stomach-turning note…

We love to complain about the low IQ of celebrity news coverage here in the United States, with our Brangelina coverage and Tom Cruise obsession. The British tabloids, however, are second to none when it comes to taking the sensational angle on a celeb story.

Not even TV food celebrities are spared:

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Review: "Feasting on Asphalt"
Saturday, July 29, 2006 | posted by Mike

I just wanted to wrap up the Week of One Thousand Alton Posts with a short review of the recently-aired debut of “Feasting on Asphalt.” The show was, as advertised, a road trip crossed with a culinary tour, with Brown and his travel buddies crisscrossing the American Southeast and sampling the roadside cuisine.

The locales and the food will be of interest to anyone who enjoys taking chances with a roadside restaurant, and for anyone who enjoys the artery-clogging food found there. Given particular time during the show was Southern and soul foods, and they’re obviously dishes that appeal to the show’s host.

The time spent in the kitchens of these restaurants is the most interesting part of the show. Brown and the chefs discuss cooking techniques and food, but they keep coming back to why these folks put the time and effort into a small, independently-owned restaurant. Every time, the answer is that they do it for the satisfaction they receive from feeding the people of their community, as well as the people who pass through on the highways.

Not all of the stops are a success, however. There’s an unfortunate incident with a pickled pig’s foot that Alton admits wasn’t “good eats.” Soon-to-be-Mrs. TVFF.com liked this part, particularly the fact that he didn’t try to tell us how delicious everything tastes, as is often the case on Food Network travel and location shows.

We’ve mentioned Alton Brown’s cinematography background (actually, he brings it up during the show, too), and the look of the show is certainly unique. It is shot using digital video which provides a look similar to film, and there are interesting camera placements and “photo montages” which take the show into commercials. Everything here works quite well.

Brown does a number of pieces speaking directly into the camera, describing the back-story of a particular locale with his usual, off-the-cuff delivery. It’s very similar to “Good Eats,” and seeing it in the real world rather than the semi-surreal environs of the Good Eats kitchen takes some adjustment.

“Feasting on Asphalt” is everything that “Good Eats” is not when it comes to the amount of production visible on the screen, and that’s a good thing. It feels like a real road trip, with real guys eating real food. And it should encourage you to remember: Not all great food is served in four-star restaurants.



On the Internet, Blogs and Food Television

Our article about Alton Brown earlier today got me thinking.

The story of Alton’s “discovery” is a great one. His Guideposts article tells the story of how he went from cinematographer to Food Network star thanks to a self-produced demo which aired on Kodak.com more than seven years ago.

There were two things that got Alton Brown his big chance: the technical know-how that came from his work behind the camera and his idea for an on-air persona and program that would someday become Good Eats. But seven years ago is a lifetime in internet-years, and the opportunities for aspiring Alton Browns may be available in a slightly different way.

The advantage held the Alton of the late 1990s was his technical ability. However, affordable digital cameras, home editing software and platforms to be seen like blogs and video hosting sites like YouTube have leveled the playing field.

Keep this in mind when you check out Genève's Kitchen, which is run by friend-of-TVFF.com Genève Stewart. She has a site where she’s able write and post photos about her cooking experiences, which look delicious. She’s also begun posting videos of cooking demonstrations, and she says she’s working on more. I think she’s already off to a great start, and I’m sure she’ll only get better. Here’s a person with a passion for food and a chance to share it with a larger audience.

But what does this mean to food entertainment? With so many talented people out there, and with the opportunity afforded by food blogs and the internet, how long until an online blogger star makes the jump to Food Network star? Or, how long until we’re watching a program (on television or foodtv.com) made up entirely of viewer-submitted segments?

My guess is that it’s only a matter of time. So, be sure to surf around, check out Genève and other food bloggers like her. You might stumble upon the next big thing.



Anthony Bourdain Tells His Story to Salon.com
Friday, July 28, 2006 | posted by Mike

As you know, we’ve been following Anthony Bourdain’s experiences in Lebanon here at TVFF.com. Although we got word on his initial reactions to his rescue a few days ago, his article on Salon.com, titled “Watching Beirut Die,” tells the full story of his first days in Beirut, the uncertainty of moving around the city as the bombs fell and his reflections on what it all means – for himself and for the people of Lebanon.

It’s certainly worth a read, and it’s vintage Bourdain. No punches are pulled, his anger is palpable and he spreads the blame around to all of the players in the conflict.



Alton Brown is Having the BEST WEEK EVER!

OK, maybe that’s overstating things a bit.

But his publicists are certainly earning their salaries.

In anticipation of this weekend’s premier of “Feasting on Asphalt,” Alton is appearing in a number of articles and interviews, including TV Guide and The New York Times.

But not all of the media coverage is simply about AB. Some of it is by him, as well. Brown wrote an essay and is featured on the cover of the latest Guideposts magazine. The publication, which is brought to you by the “Power of Positive Thinking” folks, features Alton’s thoughts on his upbringing in California and Georgia, his experiences on the road and how he made the leap from behind-the-camera cinematographer to multi-tasking star of numerous Food Network shows.

Since Guideposts is all about “True Stories of Hope and Inspiration,” the article provides the kind of inspiring story that you would expect. It seems like every time you read something about him, Alton Brown becomes more likeable. In fact, in an arena where personalities (Rachael and Bobby) inspire love and loathing, does anyone not like Alton Brown?

Brown’s story is an inspiring one, and the way he made the leap to stardom by committing to his vision is a topic I’ll be writing on a little later today.



Dave Lieberman Taping Webisodes in Philadelphia
Thursday, July 27, 2006 | posted by Mike

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a short item in the “around town” column Inqlings about Philly native and Good Deal host Dave Lieberman shooting segments for his upcoming web-only series “Dave Does” in and around Philadelphia.

The Inky also tells us that there will be thirteen episodes (just like last year’s Eat This) and that the first will debut on August 14th. Stop back then -- we’ll have a review once the shows start.

Lieberman will be shooting a piece on “meals ready to eat” with soldiers at Fort Dix (which is only a hop, skip and jump from the TVFoodFan.com offices in New Jersey) and will be talking about “retro-cool dining” with the folks at occasional TVFF.com staff hangout The Continental in Philadelphia’s Old City.

As always, for the best info on places like The Continental and other restaurants in Philadelphia, check out PhilaFoodie.



Gordon Ramsay is a Rich %$&#@

And he’s apparently about to get even richer.

Word is out that Gordon Ramsay’s confrontation/cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen” has been picked up by Fox Network for a third season. The show’s strong performance in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic is mentioned as one of the reasons for the pickup.

The new season will no doubt carry a hefty salary, but it looks like Gordon won’t be suffering any time soon regardless of future paychecks. The Evening Standard reports that Ramsay’s business ventures and BBC money place Ramsay’s net worth at £60 million (nearly $111 million to us, fellow Yanks), and that’s before he begins his conquest of America with the opening of a restaurant in New York this fall.

By the way, the idiots at Cablevision have decided not to include BBC America among the roughly 750 channels on my digital cable, so I’m not able to watch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, which is supposed to be much better than Hell’s Kitchen. If you get BBC America and watch Kitchen Nightmares, please feel free to let us know what you think of it in the comments. If you don’t watch it, check out the video clips at the link above…it looks very good.



Crumbs – 7/26/06
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | posted by Mike

It’s Wednesday, so that means it’s Crumbs time. Bite-size morsels for my mid-week short attention span:
  • Scripps, the parent company of Food Network, reported that profits were down 27% in the second quarter, but revenue from FN was up 18.5%.

  • Jamie Oliver introduced the students who will be part of his new Fifteen restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.

  • I guess they just don’t want to eat their vegetables…Kids Don’t Like Jamie Oliver’s Healthy Lunches.

  • But Slashfood.com seems to like Giada De Laurentiis’ latest cookbook.

  • Maybe it wasn’t such an amicable split: Sara Moulton tells the Bergen (NJ) Record: "The Food Network is done with me. ... They're not interested in education anymore.”

  • Next Food Network Star Guy Fieri talks with his hometown newspaper, which reports that ratings are good for “Guy’s Big Bite.”



New Food Network Ad Campaign with Alton Brown

Brandweek Magazine, a trade publication for marketers and advertisers, has an article about a new Food Network advertising campaign featuring Alton Brown or, more specifically, the “Alton Brown Fan.” The new spots promote FN’s Nighttime schedule of shows and it seems like they’re intended to reach out past the usual FN audience, since the article says they will run on networks like “Discovery, USA, VH-1, Travel, TLC and E!”

The first spot, which you can view below, is pretty effective. You’re not sure what the commercial is for until the punch line, but it is interesting and holds your attention until the pay off at the end. This seems to be a trend in advertising – I’m thinking of the recent Volkswagen “accident” advertisements that have caused much discussion lately.

This YouTube version of the spot may be a rough cut, since it doesn’t have any background music. Actually, I think it works just fine without it. If you catch the ad on TV, be sure to leave a comment and let us know if they’ve added a soundtrack.

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Rocco DiSpirito Coming to Broadway?!?!?
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | posted by Mike

Yes, you read that correctly. The New York Daily News ran a story the other day about food TV star and New York restaurateur Rocco DiSpirito meeting with the producers of the stage version of “Chicago.” Apparently, the discussions were not about catering a cast party. DiSpirito’s representative has confirmed to the NYDN that Rocco's in talks to possibly join the cast.

There is no word on what part Rocco would be potentially playing. Also no word on whether he can…you know…sing, dance or act.



Podcast Interview with Anthony Bourdain

As part of the promotion for Anthony Bourdain’s latest book of essays, The Nasty Bits, the book’s Canadian publisher, Raincoast Books, has put out a three-part podcast featuring an interview and some “day-in-the-life” recordings from his book tour stop in Vancouver.

Anyone who has read Kitchen Confidential knows that Bourdain writes with a clean, forceful voice. His prose backs up his thoughts and status as a pull-no-punches truth teller. His voiceover work on his television shows is also good, although he is working with the benefit of a script and hindsight.

Listening to these podcast interviews, however, is a great way to see Bourdain’s mind at work. He’s just as witty, insightful, self-assured and thoughtful in these interviews as he is in print or on television. He’s also paired with an interviewer who goes past the standard celebrity chef questions, which is an absolute must with Bourdain.

They hit on a wide variety of topics, including where to get breakfast in NYC, how an omelet can prove a chef’s worth and the role of Latinos in restaurant kitchens. And all of it is interesting.

Be sure to check them out. The page has “Listen Now” links, so you should have no problem listening through your desktop if you don’t have an iPod.

By the way…anyone have other good foodie podcast recommendations? I’m already a subscriber to the very good Men in Aprons podcast, but if you have another I should check out, email me at tvfoodfan@gmail.com.



Big Week for Alton Brown
Monday, July 24, 2006 | posted by Mike

It'’s only Monday, but this is already shaping up to be quite a week for Alton Brown. Not only does he celebrate his 44th birthday on Sunday, but he also has the debut of his new show Feasting on Asphalt on Saturday the 29th.

A.B. has an update on his personal site saying that there will be a "“Good Eats"” marathon on Saturday, followed by a one-hour behind-the-scenes program. Capping it all off will be the premier of Feasting on Asphalt.

Brown'’s site also has episode descriptions for the show. The synopses cover his journey from South Carolina to Southern California. Based on the fact that he's making stops at places called "Jacks Cosmic Dogs,"” "“Smokey Pig Bar"” and "“The Biscuit Place,"” it looks like the series will be filled with plenty of small-town Americana.

The trip takes place on the back of Alton's motorcycle (at least until they reach Nevada), so we should be able to expect plenty of shots of the riders against the backdrop of the South and Mid-West. If you want a taste of the look of the show, be sure to check out the "“Feasting Photos"” picture gallery, which features some really nice photos from the road.



Coming Soon to PBS: Sara Moulton
Sunday, July 23, 2006 | posted by Mike

Tracey over at Foodie Obsessed has a new post up about the end of the Food Network/Sara Moulton relationship. Apparently, the parting was first reported back in December by Slashfood, but that was before I was really paying attention to the food TV blogosphere, so it's news to me (and, maybe, you).

Janet asks: "So, what are your feelings on the loss of Sara Moulton?"

First off, Sara clearly loves food, and her "day job" as executive chef at "Gourmet" magazine means that she knows what she is doing. I'd gladly sit down at her table for a meal.

But, there seem to be two ways to succeed on today's Food Network: be a dynamic personality or inhabit a unique niche. Unfortunately, Sara really doesn't fall squarely into either category.

I'll echo Janet's sentiment that we don't need another lifeless travelogue show, and that they need to make sure that there are enough cooking shows on a network about cooking. I don't know the exact demographics and viewing habits of the typical Food Network viewer, but I'm thinking that they log quite a few hours, and take in a good variety shows.

But PBS has always been the place where people can go for "one stop shopping" when it comes to cooking. It's probably a good place for someone like Moulton.

This is in no way a criticism of chefs and shows like Sara's with a "generalist" focus, as I'll point out in a post later this week about the best show you may not be watching.

I think that Moulton is, first and foremost, a teacher. She is someone that wants to educate as many people as possible, and that is evident in her Food Network shows. I believe that her new platform at PBS will give her a tremendous opportunity to teach many people who never wander down the dial to Food Network.



Friday Happy Fun Time - 7/21/06
Friday, July 21, 2006 | posted by Mike

Another week down, but we're up when it comes to site traffic! Thanks to everyone who came by, especial those who visited us a bunch of times. If you liked what you saw and have a question or comment, be sure to write to me at tvfoodfan@gmail.com. Also, be sure to let me know how you heard about us.

I've got a Friday Happy Fun Time that is guaranteed to make you laugh! If you think it's funny, be sure to send it to your foodie friends. Just make sure you tell them you found it at www.TVFoodFan.com!

I saw this a few months ago, and I was reminded of it when I saw a link to it over on the great Men in Aprons. It is the story...told in pictures...of a Giada De Laurentiis segment that goes so very, very wrong.


UPDATE: Anthony Bourdain is Safe, Sound and Pissed-Off

You will be happy to hear that maverick chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain has been safely evacuated from Lebanon by the United States military.

The Reuters wire story caught up with Bourdain aboard the USS Nashville. The interview makes it clear that he was upset on a few levels with the way things have gone over the past few days.

Bourdain had apparently developed significant affection for the Lebanese people and for the city of Beirut, which he had said was quite cosmopolitan and international. He is "very angry and very frustrated" by the destruction caused by the conflict and by the less-than-efficient evacuation process, which he deemed "like a Metallica concert gone horribly wrong."

It will be interesting to see how Bourdain addresses this experience during the next season of "No Reservations."



Inside the Chef's Kitchen
Thursday, July 20, 2006 | posted by Mike

This looks pretty good. A press release went out today from The French Culinary Institute which said that they are in post-production for "Chef's Story," a 26-part television program modeled after Inside the Actor's Studio which will include in-depth interviews with prominent chefs. Included in the list of interviewees were a number of TV food personalities, including Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Anthony Bourdain, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay and Jacques Pepin.

The interviews will be conducted by Dorothy Hamilton, FCI Founder and Chairman of the Board of The James Beard Foundation. No word if she'll be doing a Will Ferrell-quality James Lipton impression. "Your tuna tartare was deliiiightful!"

The show, which will air on PBS, will be accompanied by "exclusive downloads, podcasts, extras-saturated DVDs, and a heavily-illustrated companion book to excite future chefs and American 'foodies' of all generations."

I'm not sure if this show was offered to the Food Network, but it got me thinking that they could use a "serious" show like this. Even the shows that feature chefs who can really convey their passion for cooking (Mario comes to mind first) require them to tell their stories in short segments, while sauteeing or chopping.

Shows can be interesting without the action going a mile a minute. I think the Food Network could use what "Chef's Story" would offer: a tasty serving of vegetables.



Book Preview: The United States of Arugula

There is a new book available on pre-order from Amazon.com (ships on September 12th) that looks like it will be of interest to foodies and TV food fans. The United States of Arugula by David Kamp will look at how the US became a “Gourmet Nation” thanks to writers and personalities like James Beard and Patron Saint of Food TV® Julia Child.

Given the time frame that Kamp is looking at in his book (the latter part of the 20th century), I’m sure he will address number of factors, including food on television, increasing focus on health and healthy eating and the ways that more recent immigrant groups from Latin America, India and Southeast Asia have influenced the types of food we eat.

The pre-release reviews look good, saying that it’s both an informative and entertaining read.

Of course, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. However, I’m guessing that it was sent to me in one of those “on sale now” e-mails that I get every week or so because I had recently purchased another book by David Kamp, The Rock Snob’s Dictionary. That book takes a playful look at the “rock snob” (If you just can’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t love Big Star, you’re a rock snob.) and offers comments that are both true and funny.

A snob is a snob, whether you’re talking about food or music or movies or art, so I get the feeling Kamp will "get" it. If his work in Rock Snob is any indication of what we can expect in Arugula, it should make for a very good read.

Who’s Missing?
Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | posted by Mike

AskMen.com weighed in recently with a list of Six Influential Celebrity Chefs. And -- not surprisingly -- TV food personalities factored heavily in their list.

(As an aside…who makes a list of six? Five, ten, twenty, twenty five -- fine…but six?)

Batali, Oliver, Flay, Bourdain and Ramsay (with the universally-revered but less-televised Paul Bocuse rounding out the group) are all men who are both active in the restaurant industry and prominent figures in food entertainment.

The article actually does a pretty good job of capturing the appeal of each of the men, and the descriptions are obviously geared toward the non-foodie reader.

Now, AskMen.com is not a high-brow culinary critic, and they’re probably not above going with choosing someone for “name value.”


If this list came out even just a year or two ago, is there any way it would leave out Emeril Lagasse? Restaurant empire, numerous prime-time Food Network Shows, toothpaste commercials and a line “everyday-priced” kitchen equipment…and yet he’s not on the list. And they’re probably right.

What happened?

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Crumbs – 7/19/06

First of all, I’d like welcome all of our new guests and thank Dan at The Hungover Gourmet Blog for his extremely generous write up of TVFF.com. Dan is a fantastic writer, and his main site has tons of great articles, which I’m still working my way through.

Now, I give you Crumbs…
  • USA Today has an article about Mario Batali’s footwear of choice, Crocs. “Mario Batali told Departures magazine this month that he owns 30 pairs. All in orange.”

  • Jamie Oliver is bringing his “Fifteen” restaurant program for disadvantaged youths to Melbourne, Australia.

  • Food Network…now available in High Definition!

  • For TVFF.com’s Canadian visitors: Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Feasts” debuts on Food Network (Canada) on October 2nd.

  • Jack Bishop of America’s Test Kitchen tells the Burlington (VT) Free Press not to overcook pork. He recommends 140 to 150 degrees.



Gordon Ramsay Nearly Blinded By Sous Chef!!!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | posted by Mike

This story has been kicking around for a few days. It turns out that TV chef Gordon Ramsay is fine, so now it's OK to make light of the subject.

According to the Daily Mail, Chef Ramsay was splashed in the eye with boiling hot stock while working with an amateur chef during a taping of his UK show The F-Word. (Which I'm sure he promptly uttered after getting hit in the face with soup.)

Reports stated that the injury was an "accident," but anyone who has seen Ramsay dish out the abuse on Hell's Kitchen KNOWS that this was premeditated.

I haven't spent a whole lot of time discussing Hell's Kitchen despite the fact that they're in the middle of a season right now. This is mostly because I think the show gets repetitive after about two episodes.

Also, I know I'm supposed to root for the contestants against the tyrannical Ramsay, but having to watch Dewberry last season pushed me perilously close to the edge of anger. I found myself constantly thinking, "Well, he had THAT coming."

What does it mean when you end up rooting for the foul-mouthed egomaniac rather than the upstart kids? Does that make me a bad person? Is it like rooting for the house in blackjack?



Bourdain Update

Anthony Bourdain is still hanging in there. Can't we send Michael Chiarello and Tyler Florence on some sort of TV chef black-ops rescue mission?

Scroll down on this post at Off the Broiler for the message board posting from Bourdain dated 7/18.



Everything Rachael Ray

If you’re spending any time looking at news about food TV these days, you can't help but be bombarded by stories about the new Rachael Ray talk show, including stories here, here and here. And this is for a show that debuts exactly two months from today. In short, this could very easily become a Rachael Ray blog if I posted every story that I found. Of course, if that’s what you’re looking for, you should check out Everything Rachael Ray.

You may have noticed a couple of comments here on TVFF.com from Madeline. It turns out that she runs one of the most comprehensive and informative fan sites I’ve seen in the TV food blogosphere. Seemingly, not a single piece of Rachael-related news goes unposted, and there are some other great finds like videos of the TV show promos. Madeline also shares her reviews of some Rachael Ray recipes.

Most of all, you can tell that Everything Rachael Ray is written by someone who really enjoys her subject, experiences the fun and joys of cooking and knows how to bring a fun and funny perspective to her writing.

Be sure to check it out, and I’m sure I’ll be linking to stories there quite often.



Giada De Laurentiis Tells Us Why She’s Not Fat (for the 823rd Time)
Monday, July 17, 2006 | posted by Mike

I’m a big Beatles fan. From time to time, I would think about what questions I would ask Paul McCartney if I ever had a chance to meet him. “What does this lyric mean?” “Why did you write that song?” I could never come up with a good question, though. The reason for this is that I was such a big fan; I read anything and everything I could, thus getting all of my possible questions answered through countless stories and articles.

Now that I’m doing TVFF.com, I’m looking at a lot of interviews and stories about a lot of the personalities I find interesting, so I can feel myself falling into the same groove.

So, if I ever cross paths with Giada De Laurentiis, I won’t be asking her, “How do you eat all that pasta and stay so thin?

For the umpteenth time, Giada told the Globe and Mail that it was all about portion control, which should be added to the good genes and exercise, which she’s told every other journalist.

It’s clear that Giada’s appearance and style are part of her appeal, but in a day and age where anyone can do some simple internet research, why does she keep getting this question?

Well…apparently, Giada isn’t the only one getting this question. Rachael Ray tells People her key to managing her weight -- she doesn’t.

"I buy jeans with stretch. Everything I have has stretch in it.”

That’s a refreshing answer! Another good answer? How about: “None of your business.”



Gordon Ramsay: "Where is My Next $!%* Guest!?!"

Just a quick lunchtime update:

Well, it looks like Rachael Ray might not be the only TV food celebrity with a talk show in the works.

ContactMusic.com has an article up saying that Hell’s Kitchen host Gordon Ramsay has signed a deal to host a chat show on Fox television. I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if I see any confirmation of the deal. (Update: DigitalSpy.co.uk has it too.)

Talking about his new multi-million dollar property located in New York's TriBeCa district, Ramsay adds, "It's a massive loft style. We're getting it sorted right now."

I think they should just save everybody a lot of work and have Rachael and Gordon co-host a show. Who wouldn’t tune in for that?



Bombs Fall on Beirut, Anthony Bourdain Continues to Drink
Sunday, July 16, 2006 | posted by Mike

Plenty of bloggers, including Slashfood, have picked up on the Page Six story from the New York Post about TV host, chef and adventure-hound Anthony Bourdain riding out the bombing in Lebanon by partying "at local nightclubs into the wee hours."

Now, anyone who has seen any of Bourdain's shows, including "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network, knows about his willingness to live on the edge. He is on location filming for his current show, "No Reservations," which appears on the Travel Channel.

The Post reports that Bourdain and his crew are waiting for evacuation instructions from the US State Department.



Friday Happy Fun Time – 7/14/06
Friday, July 14, 2006 | posted by Mike

The TVFF.com staff is going to knock off a bit early this week, especially since we were up late last night putting together our review of "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay."

Today's Friday Happy Fun Time is all about videos. Be sure to swing by GiadaFan and check out the video he found of a Close Encounter of the Giada Kind. Also, scroll down to the next post on the site to see the fantastic mention and review of TVFoodFan.com. You'll also see the link to my encounter with Ms. De Laurentiis.

Below, you'll see a video that I came across a few days ago on YouTube featuring an Alton Brown appearance on Late Show with David Letterman. More often than not, a chef appearing on a late night talk show is a recipe for disaster, with the host goofing off and little (if any) actual cooking getting done. However, Dave actually remains relatively well-behaved and Alton, in full mad scientist mode, gets to demonstrate some of his kitchen innovations.


(If you're viewing this in an RSS aggregator, be sure to visit TVFoodFan.com to view the video.)



Review: "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay"

Throwdown,” which debuted this evening on the Food Network, is a Bobby Flay show through and through. It takes full advantage of Flay’s charms and talents – his wisecracking self-assuredness – and provides a good forum for someone who clearly thrives under competition.

We’ve been treated to previews and advertisements for some time, which outlined the basic premise: the super-chef challenges the best and brightest on their own culinary turf. This theme kicks off the show, with Bobby Flay receiving a package marked “Confidential” containing his assignment for the episode.

This segment (which was repeated in the second episode as well) and the voice over work by Flay are occasionally cringe-worthy. Both feel far too scripted and stilted. The posing and posturing of the challenger, who thinks that he or she is being profiled by Food Network, is equally annoying.

However, things really pick up when Flay gets down to work on his assignment, collaborating with experts to perfect his recipes. His training is presented warts-and-all, and the banter among the chefs elicits smiles, if not outright laughs. The footage spends some time illustrating Flay’s strategy, although it could be a little more explicit in laying out his thoughts. After all, he’s supposedly in their world, so you think he would need to come up with something truly spectacular.

Eventually, Flay drops in on the unsuspecting challenger for the cook-off, marking what is clearly the highlight of the show and the best use of Flay’s talent. There is a fair amount of friendly trash-talking, some technical difficulties and some good candid interviews of the crowd, which provide a nice, natural feel.

Episodes conclude with a tasting by an impartial judge (a panel, in the case of the second show), followed by scoring that is less transparent than Iron Chef and the declaration of the winner. Flay, who came out on both sides of the judging in the first two shows, seems genuinely gracious and complimentary of the challenger.

The only truly disastrous moment is when a friend of the challenger, enticed by the free beer and a chance for instant fame, performs some sort of horrible white-guy rapping. I was horrified. Soon-to-be-Mrs. TVFF.com just said, “Ohhhhhh….painful.”

Flay is at his best when he’s training and competing, having fun and mixing it up without lapsing into the smugness that many of his detractors find grating. In fact, he’s downright self-deprecating and endearing when he’s struggling with a wedding cake.

“Throwdown!” is not an instant classic, but the excitement and fun exhibited by Flay and the challenger provide enough reason to tune in.



Lidia Bastianich: Your Italian Grandmother
Thursday, July 13, 2006 | posted by Mike

We spend a lot of time talking about Food Network personalities here, and that's because they're the most glamorous/flashy/whatever celebs in the world of food TV. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some great programs around the rest of the dial. In fact, there are a few on the granddaddy of food television, PBS, which regularly provides shows that are informative and fun (yes, I said "PBS" and "fun" in the same sentence).

One of those shows is Lidia's Family Table, which stars Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

In the pantheon of Italian TV chefs, there are three stars: Giada De Laurentiis -- young and energetic and eager to experiment with Italian cooking. Mario Batali --– possessor of encyclopedic knowledge of Italian food and customs and dedicated to authentic Italian recipes.

And then there is Lidia, who is about as "Italian-American" as a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Her demeanor (calm and soothing, always completely in control of the dish that she is preparing, like she'’s cooked it a million times before) and her Italian comfort food make you feel like you've been invited over for Sunday dinner. I mean, she even signs off her show with a welcoming "tutte a tavola a mangiare."

The Baltimore Sun had a nice profile of Lidia yesterday, which includes some info about her new limited-edition magazine and a new cookbook on the way.

There'’s lots of info here at TVFF.com about food celebrities appearing on red carpets and battling one another in culinary shootouts, but Lidia's show is all about the food-emotion connection. If you're a foodie, watch it --– and you'll remember why you love food.

Plus, her show's presenting station is WHYY in Philadelphia. As a Philly guy, I'm making her an honorary South Philly Italian Grandmother, and that's something everyone should have come dinner time.



Crumbs - 7/12/06
Wednesday, July 12, 2006 | posted by Mike

It's hump day, so it's time for Crumbs...

First off, I wanted to thank Adam at MenInAprons.net who had some really great things to say about TVFoodFan.com recently! I appreciate the moral support and the link!

I also wanted to say that I'm thrilled with the visitors that we're getting. And, based on the stats, I know that some of you are repeat viewers. So...I'd like to ask all of you "regulars" out there to mention www.TVFoodFan.com to one of your foodie friends. Thanks!

  • The New York Daily News reported that Rachael Ray will be cooking for the bears at the Central Park Zoo on August 6th.

  • Local appearances: Sara Moulton in Austin, Texas last weekend and Paula Deen in Jackson, Mississippi this coming weekend.

  • No word on whether Bobby Flay had to pull out of the American Century Championship golf tournament last Friday because of the delay in opening his new Borgata-based restaurant in Atlantic City.

  • A nice profile of Armandino Batali, purveyor of cured Italian meats and father of Mario.

  • Gordon Ramsay: Apparently a nice guy -- on the inside.



Alton Brown Explains Why We’re All Fat

I came across this article -- also covered at Slashfood.com earlier today -- which talks about Alton Brown's keynote address to the Institute of Food Technologists, an organization of "food and beverage manufacturers and food scientists."

The article states that one of Brown's messages was that "there are no obesity-causing bad foods, only bad eaters." This seems a bit of a simplification of the speech, as he also points out that there is unhealthy food out there, and that it is "designed to keep you away from good food." Brown is 100% right about the need for consumer moderation, but anyone who has seen "Super Size Me" knows that the deck is stacked in a way that encourages many people to over-consume unhealthy food.

Here, Alton is addressing a food industry organization. We also see TV chefs singing the praises of organic and naturally raised products. As these personalities get more and more well known, will we also see groups on both side of the nutrition debate lining up experts to advocate for them?

Everyone has their link of pots and pans and knives, and we see Emeril Lagasse endorsing a brand of toothpaste. Will the day come that he's testifying to a Senate committee that pork fat not only "rules," but it is also a renewable resource that can cure us of our need for Mid-East oil?

In all seriousness, is this a good trend? Just wondering. Posted by Picasa



Dave Lieberman Working on New Webisodes
Tuesday, July 11, 2006 | posted by Mike

I like Dave Lieberman. I like him because he’s young, he’s fun, he’s energetic and (like me) he’s a Philly guy. I do have to give him a hard time about including fontina cheese and red onions in his Cheesesteak recipe, though. I'm giving him three trips to Tony Luke’s as penance.

By the way…the Tony Luke’s site makes a reference to the recent Geno’s English-only sign brouhaha. If you want a great summary of the silliness of Geno’s owner Joe Vento’s point, check out this post at PhilaFoodie. Whatever your politics -- and for purely taste reasons -- you should be going to Tony Luke’s, not Geno’s.

OK, back to Dave. Last year saw the debut of the first Web-based series staring Dave Lieberman, “Eat This with Dave Lieberman.” Now, they’re working on “Dave Does,” which will be free-wheeling and ad libbed, according to this article in The Oregonian. His conversational style and engaging personality should be a nice draw for the younger audience you would expect from a Web-based series.

Good to see that the Food Network is embracing new delivery methods for their programming.



Rachael Ray Feedback

All right, I've been getting some feedback on Rachael Ray and doing a bit more snooping around on the Web. And -- seriously -- NOBODY seems to like her. Adam pointed out Rachael Ray Sux in the comments, which seems to be the go-to source for Rachael-bashing.

Regardless of your opinion of her, I think we can all enjoy the Rachael Ray Drinking Game.



Mario Batali, Good Ol' Boy
Monday, July 10, 2006 | posted by Mike

Now, when you think NASCAR tailgating and Food Network, you might think about Bobby Flay or Paula Deen. But Mario Batali?

Who knew!? According to the Gannett News Service story which appeared in the Lansing State Journal, Mario Batali is apparently a big NASCAR fan. Mario caught the motorsports bug at a Food Network party at the Dover International Speedway.

As one would expect from someone who zips in and out of New York City traffic on a Vespa, Mario is a self confessed "adrenaline junkie" and he quickly took to racing and the tailgating lifestyle.

And, in case you couldn’t guess, this story also mentions Mario's latest cookbook, which came out in April. Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style…the reviews look positive, but the Publishers Weekly review makes it seem as if it skews more toward party-food (guacamole, coleslaw) and less toward the traditional Italian cuisine for which Mario is best known.

All of this begs the question: Can you drive NASCAR in orange clogs?



Defending Rachael Ray

I came across a year-old article, Rachael Ray: Why Food Snobs Should Quit Picking on Her by Jill Hunter Pellettieri on Slate.com today. The article defends the Food Network star’s style and outlines the dislike that many have for Rachael Ray, as well as the fact that much of the criticism takes issue with her lack of formal training and focus on easy-to-make food. It also mentions her penchant for giggling for no apparent reason, but I’m guessing you either find that endearing or you don’t. Me, not so much. But, hey, lots of people do.

What really interested me is the fact that this article came out almost exactly one year ago, but it might be even more relevant today. We recently saw the launch of Rachael Ray: The Magazine and we’re getting our first peeks at Rachael Ray: The Daytime Show. What I’m getting at is that the criticisms – that she’s a culinary lightweight who is more style than substance – are being reinforced in the minds of those who feel that way. And the growing “media empire” will only fuel it as time goes on.

Is the feeling just that Rachael Ray is so loved by so many people that she won’t face the popular backlash that Martha saw (even before the stock issues)? And is RR’s appearance on an upcoming All-Star version of Iron Chef America, as mentioned on GiadaFan, a chance for her to reassert her culinary bona fides?

We’ll have a lot more to say, especially when the show debuts. I’m also going to want to dig into this notion of there being “everyday chefs” and “culinary wizards” when it comes to TV food celebrities. Are foodies too elitist? And didn’t the Patron Saint of Food TV®, Juila Child, make great food accessible to the masses? I promise this will be a recurring theme in our future posts.

See you then!



Jamie Oliver Podcast Coming...Soon?
Saturday, July 08, 2006 | posted by Mike

Just a little bit of Saturday-blogging before I head out to get some high-class culture at the New Jersey Opera Theater tonight. Right now, I'm indulging my more low-brow tastes by watching reruns of The Restaurant on Bravo. Rocco DiSpirito vs. Jeffrey Chodorow...can I root for them to BOTH lose?

I just took a spin through Jamie Oliver's site, which is really quite good. I'm going to be writing more about Jamie in the very near future, because I think he's doing some great things with his Fifteen Foundation and his Feed Me Better campaign.

One thing I want to mention right away is that Jamie is starting work on a new podcast, which he promises to debut "later on this year." It looks like it will be an advice show where people "can tell me all about it by leaving a message on my podcast hotline. Me and my mate Pete will then do our best to solve your problem for you." It looks like he got a good response, because he's no longer taking calls.

No sign of it yet in iTunes, but I'll be keeping an eye out to give you a heads-up and a review.



Friday Happy Fun Time – 7/7/06
Friday, July 07, 2006 | posted by Mike

I want to keep things light, interesting and (hopefully) funny around here on Fridays, so we're going to have an ongoing feature called "Friday Happy Fun Time."” I'’ll see if I can'’t come up with something a little offbeat and share it with you. Certainly, if you come across something fun/cool/snazzy, shoot me an e-mail at TVFoodFan@gmail.com and you'’ll receive full credit and your name in pixels.

I think that today's gem qualifies as "Happy Fun Time."

I came across a blog named "Sparkles Plenty," written by Kristina, which caught my eye thanks to a creatively titled post called I'’d Like to Punch Sandra Lee in the Face.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Semi-Homemade (known around TVFF.com headquarters as "“Semi-Halfassed"”), but I don'’t think I would go so far as to advocate violence against Ms. Lee. However, once you get to the part about the Kwanzaa cake, you'll understand where Kristina'’s coming from.

Check it out.



The Scoop on "Scoop!"
Thursday, July 06, 2006 | posted by Mike

I haven't see any promos for this, but July 15th will be the debut of "Scoop!" a new two-hour special which features five Food Network fans competing to create a new flavor of Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Hey...wait a second...according to the Wikipedia entry,
"Häagen-Dazs" is a made-up Scandinavianan name made to look foreign to the American consumer. Is this true? I feel cheated!

Anyway, the article on Reality TV World (warning: pop-ups) says that the winning flavor will be sold in stores starting on the 16th.

UPDATE: Crisis Averted! NJ Budget Deal Puts Bobby Flay Back to Work

You'll be happy to hear that Governor Corzine struck a deal today to reopen the New Jersey State offices, which means that Bobby Flay's brand new restaurant at the Borgata is open and ready for business.

None too soon for Bobby, though. The New York Daily News had reported that "celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who opened a new steakhouse at the casino Friday, strode around looking peeved."

Drunken gamblers will take comfort in the fact that they don't have to eat at the buffet.



Crumbs - 7/5/06
Wednesday, July 05, 2006 | posted by Mike

Leftovers, quick hits and updates...
  • Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck just opened new restaurants at the Borgata hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.Not the best timing, since the State of New Jersey just shut down all of the casinos as part of a budget dispute.

  • Rating the online cooking sites,"” with reviews of the America'’s Test Kitchen site and the online home of TV food legend Julia Child.

  • Gordon Ramsay'’s daughter apparently isn'’t a big fan of his cooking, but it seems the queen is.

  • Anthony Bourdain, never one to hide his opinions, sounds off.

  • Lidia Bastianich celebrates her restaurant'’s 25th Anniversary in New York City.

  • An Amazon.com interview with Giada De Laurentiis.



BBQ & Breakfast with Jack McDavid

I’m sure that many of you spent your 4th of July like I did, enjoying way too much grilled meat at some sort of get-together. The barbecue got me thinking about one of the Food Network shows I used to watch when I first started getting interested in cooking, Grillin’ & Chillin’. The main hook of the show was that you had Bobby Flay, the gas-fueled city boy, and Jack McDavid, the no-nonsense charcoal proponent. The best part was watching Bobby’s attitude annoy Jack, who would basically treat him like a disobedient 13-year-old. Having been fed a non-stop stream of Bobby since then, I think it’s easy to sympathize with Jack.

So, I liked Jack because he seemed to take his food seriously. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Jack, despite his Virginia roots, was the owner/chef of two restaurants (Jack’s Firehouse and the Down Home Diner) in Philadelphia, which is only a short ride from the TVFF.com offices in New Jersey. So, one day I decided to take a weekday off from work and spend a day in Philly shopping and visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But, to start off my day, I pulled up a stool at the Down Home Diner, located in Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market.

It didn’t surprise me at all that Jack was working in the kitchen that morning…he seems like a hands-on sort of guy. You can see straight through to the kitchen from the counter, and he looked like he was working his cooks pretty hard back there. On the other hand, when someone else sitting at the counter sent back a note, he gave a wave and a smile. Again, somehow I wasn’t surprised.

Oh yeah…the food! I got the Sawmill Gravy and Biscuits with Sausage and it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

Giada Fan
Monday, July 03, 2006 | posted by Mike

There are few sites out in the television food blogosphere that are as dedicated to its subject and complete in its coverage as Giada Fan. Simply put, if you’re a fan of Giada De Laurentiis (like we are) and would like to know what Giada is up to, you should be reading Giada Fan.

Adam, the site proprietor, is constantly on the lookout for the latest goings-on of the host of Everyday Italian and Behind the Bash. As you would image, he’s able to track down lots (and I mean lots) of photos, but he also has a great eye for charting how Giada is going beyond “TV chef” and entering the realm of media celebrity, with posts about Giada’s appearances on the red carpet and on reports from her fans who attend book signings. Giada Fan really gets why food on TV has gone from niche programming to the widespread appeal it has today.

Adam also runs Men in Aprons, a site with great recipes for the home cook. Be sure to check out both of his sites for the latest news on Giada…and for an idea for tonight’s dinner.



Robo-Bobby Flay
Sunday, July 02, 2006 | posted by Mike

Throwdown! with Bobby FlayIf the folks at the Food Network are good at one thing, it’s promoting a new show. You’re practically unable to make it to a new show premier without having seen (very, very many) teaser commercials. And, frankly, with a network that tends to shuffle the lineup around from time to time, this is a good thing. I mean, I probably would have missed Ham on the Street were it not for the 435 promos we were shown before it debuted.

Anyway, the current push is for Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, which features the grill-meister mixing it up with unsuspecting chefs who “believe that Food Network is shooting their profile for a show.” Little do they know…they’re in for a crushing defeat at the hands of Mr. Flay usually reserved only for those foolish enough to wander into Kitchen Stadium.

The spots feature a Terminator-like Bobby Flay, complete with computer graphics and, well, let’s just say it’s a bit much.

Yeah…you can probably tell I’m not a huge Bobby Flay fan.

The new show debuts on Thursday, July 19th at 10pm/9pm central. Check back after then for a review from yours truly.



Alton Brown Takes New Show Title Too Literally
Saturday, July 01, 2006 | posted by Mike

Tracey over at Foodie Obsessed (which is an ABSOLUTE must-read blog) has a story up about TVFF.com favorite Alton Brown’s upcoming four-part series Feasting on Asphalt, where he eats his way from Georgia to California on the back of his motorcycle.

As you might expect, it looks like things didn’t exactly go as planned. Alton had a bit of an accident in Las Vegas (who hasn’t!?!), hitting a ditch and breaking his collarbone. As you can see from his site, Alton is in pain but remains in good spirits, even writing a recount of the accident for the NY Times.

Asphalt – definitely NOT good eats…

Get well soon, Alton!



Greetings from TVFoodFan.com

Hello, and welcome to TVFoodFan.com!

I love food. I love to cook it, I love to eat it and I love to watch it being made. For me, it’s one of the few ways I have to show my creativity.

Since you’re here, I’m guessing that you feel the same way.

Fortunately, for food enthusiasts like us, the television landscape offers us more opportunities than ever before to watch, appreciate and learn from inventive chefs like Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver and Lidia Bastianich.

I created TVFoodFan.com as a place where you can come to get the latest news and views about what’s going on in the world of culinary television. And I invite you to become part of this community, sharing your thoughts, stories and opinions. I know it looks a little shabby around here, but we’re still fixing up the place, so think of this as an early housewarming party.

So, be sure to bookmark us or subscribe to our feed and come back often. Take a look at our posts and explore the links to other sites. Most of all, become part of the discussion by leaving comments or contacting me at TVFoodFan@gmail.com.

Bon Appétit & Happy Clicking!

Hi, I'm Mike and I created TVFoodFan.com as a place where you can come to get the latest news and views about what’s going on in the world of culinary television.

Contact Us at: mike@tvfoodfan.com

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