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Gordon Ramsay Gets "Humble"
Thursday, September 28, 2006 | posted by Mike

Gordon RamsayIt used to be that people would wait until they reached the end of their lives before they took the time to collect their memories and chronicle their lives. An autobiography would be the culmination of a long and successful career, and the writer had the benefit of a life’s worth of experiences to put all of the events in perspective. That’s how it used to be.

These days, we have two autobiographies from a football player who has spent more time suspended then he has on the field over the last year.

Well, another “footballer” has a book coming out. Gordon Ramsay’s Humble Pie will hit the shelves on October 2nd. In anticipation of the book’s release, there have been a number of stories in the tabloids previewing some of the revelations. OK…revelations might be an overstatement for some of the stories.

Included in the autobiography is the news that:
Of course, we’re getting the most sensational parts of Ramsay’s life. But, as I have said before, I think he’s much more complex and interesting than this “character” on Hell’s Kitchen, so the book may provide more than the usual fluff.



"What is 'Yum-O,' Alex?"

Alex TrebecJust a short post while I try to recover from getting my ya-ya’s out last night

Guess who’s appearing on Celebrity Jeopardy.

Rachael Ray, food TV star, talk show host and fledgling media mogul (moglette?) has been announced as one of the contestants on the next round of Celebrity Jeopardy, which will tape at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on October 5-8, according to the Entertainment Tonight website. The episodes are expected to air the week of November 8th.
Some of the stars looking to match wits with Rachael -- and earn money for their favorite charities in the process -- include REGIS PHILBIN, JAMES DENTON, JANE KACZMAREK, CHRISTOPHER MELONI, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, MARTIN SHORT, Boston Red Sox pitcher CURT SCHILLING, CNN's NANCY GRACE, fashion designer ISAAC MIZRAHI and DREW LACHEY -- last season's "Dancing with the Stars" champ.
The potentially cool thing is that a friend of TVFF.com has already scored tickets to the tapings. I’m not certain which of the days she is expecting to attend, but there’s a chance we might be able to give you a little preview of how Ray-Ray does in the high-stress pressure cooker that is Celebrity Jeopardy. (Seriously, do they even keep score on those episodes?)



Crumbs – 9/27/06
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 | posted by Mike

I’m increasingly becoming a big fan of Ace of Cakes. I just like the vibe of the show. If Ace of Cakes was a music group, it would be the Rolling Stones.

Why do I bring this up? Just so I can gloat that I’m going to the Meadowlands tonight to see THE WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL BAND! Woo Hoo!
  • Gordon Ramsay will be bringing the United Kingdom a third season of The F-Word.

  • Can you cook? Are you an active-duty member of the United States military? If so, Emeril wants you to enter his contest.

  • Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Melbourne has a successful opening.

  • Holland America is having a series of “Culinary Cruises,” and Dave Liberman will be appearing on the Ryndam Panama Canal, which will be sailing from January 5th to the 22nd.

  • Kohl’s will be teaming up with Food Network to sell branded products. “The line, which will include cookware, kitchen gadgets, cutlery and table linens, will be available only at Kohl's stores and on its Web site starting in the fall of 2007.”



When Recipes Attack!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | posted by Mike

Pot RoastApproximately 63% of the fun of watching cooking shows on television is the fact that you can track down the recipe on a web site or in a cookbook and try to replicate the magic in your very own kitchen. As you all know, this goes absolutely flawlessly every time and your family pats you on your back for your accomplishment and proclaim: “Move over, Giada!”

Sure. That’s how it happens.

Who are we kidding? Most of the time, we’re lucky if it tastes like a reasonable facsimile of what you heard described on the television (which, of course, Sandra Lee assured you tasted fantastic!). We’re not even going to mention what it looks like, a fact that you can attribute to your lack of in-house food stylists.

When I first started this blog, I had an idea to try to recreate a recipe each week and document the event for you, dear reader. Then, I remembered that I’m really not that good a cook. Fortunately, two of my favorite food TV blogs have a greater faith in their cooking abilities. Sometimes, things go badly. Sometimes, they go very badly and there are pictures to illustrate the carnage.

Everything Rachael Ray has a running feature wherein Madeline tries out a Ray-Ray recipe and lets you know if it’s a keeper or not. Her recent attempt at Birds in a Nest falls into the latter category. To her credit, she senses it and adds the helpful disclaimer:
Okay, please don't make fun of me.
Too late. Although the recipe did not go as planned, the comments are supportive and Madeline vows to try again some time. We’ll be looking forward to that update.

Another favorite, Food TV and Me, went the Dave Lieberman route and tried pot roast. What could possibly go wrong, you ask?
Things were going well and I was very engouraged, until, to my peril, I had a lightbulb moment. The meat that I had bought was significantly smaller, I mean about half the size of Dave’s meat, which meant, it needed less time. Oh no. I had this lightbulb moment fairly late in the game.
(As an aside…how did food network addict not manage to swing by and comment on this post? I mean, it’s almost too easy:“half the size of Dave’s meat?!?!?”)

Jessica also included a helpful photo of the dish (seen above), which just goes to prove that there is no visual difference between good pot roast and bad pot roast.

All right…I’ve had some fun at Madeline’s and Jessica’s expense, but it’s only because they do such a good job on their sites that I’m always checking them out. You should too!

We kid because we love. And because it makes me feel better about my own inadequacy.



Paula Deen is Making the Rounds

Paula Deen and Teresa MastersonThe marketing folks at the Food Network really do a fantastic job. Actually, I think they could save themselves a couple of bucks by cutting down on the number of times they run promos during commercial breaks for new shows that are about to debut.

Why is that? Because they manage to get more than enough free coverage for these sorts of programs by getting stories, interviews and appearances featuring the stars of the show on a wide array of web sites, print articles and TV show interviews.

These sorts of promos are even better than those spots that appear sprinkled in amongst the commercials on FN. First, and most obviously, the only cost for these free promos is for the operations of the undeniably talented and extremely hardworking marketing and public relations departments. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, these sorts of unpaid placements have at least a modicum of impartiality since they are often in relatively independent outlets (although corporate synergy being what it is, you do have to look out for blatant cross-promotion). And an independent voice telling you to check out a new show has more appeal than a commercial promo. So, it behooves these folks to get the word out to their audience through venues like – ahem – this very website. (And now you understand the reason for the blatant kiss-up to the FN marketing folks.)

We mentioned before that Food Network is looking for a younger audience with the soon-to-premier Paula’s Party. It’s no wonder, then, that they’re pounding the digital pavement and getting Ms. Deen some exposure on the Internet.

In TVFF.com’s neck of the woods, Teresa Masterson (the Philadelphia NBC affiliate’s blogger, shown above) snagged an in-person interview with Paula, and the required topic of butter was covered at length.

Now, the USAToday blog “Pop Candy” is soliciting questions for an interview later this week. If you’re just dying to know what Paula will slather with butter next (See -- I told you it was required), you can submit a question through the site’s comment form.

Pop Candy is a fun blog and one of the many that I include in my feedreader. Blogger Whitney covers a variety of pop culture topics, mostly centered on TV, movies and music. She’s also got the power of a major newspaper behind her, so she’s able to pick up the phone and put in a call to TVFF.com’s favorite Food Network executive, Bob Tuschman (or at least one of his handsome/pretty and knowledgeable assistants), when she gets a question about whether FN chefs tape their shows in their own kitchen. (Thanks to Madeline of Everything Rachael Ray for bringing this last item to my attention.)

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Jamie Oliver Webcast
Monday, September 25, 2006 | posted by Mike

Jamie OliverIn the past, I have mentioned that (to put it generously), some TV food celebrities and programs do a better job of using technology and the Internet than others do. Dave Lieberman and Alton Brown -- nice sites. Giada De Laurentiis -- not so much. (Shouldn’t she at least have more pictures on there?)

Jamie Oliver will be teaming up with AOL and Penguin Books to make good use of modern technology with a video webcast and chat, dubbed a “Cookcast,” according to an article on Webuser.

The 45-minute event will take place on October 12th at 7:00 p.m. (warning: I’m assuming that is “England time.” I’m too lazy to figure out what time that would be for you. Feel free to look it up yourself).

It appears that the event will be available to all site visitors, but the article states that there will be an added potential treat for AOL subscribers or AOL e-mail account owners:
In the run-up to the webcast, AOL UK is also running a competition to win the chance for a family to join Jamie in his kitchen for the event. The winning family will have a once-in-a-lifetime cooking lesson with Jamie and help him cook the treats he's planning live online. Entry is simply by creating and submitting a short video showing how much you need Jamie's help in the kitchen.
Check out the contest and submit your video at www.aol.co.uk/homecookingday.



Domestic Goddesses

There is a great article from Details magazine about the recent rise in the number of attractive young women populating food TV. I think the author hits the nail right on the head on a number of points, and provides especially good insights into some of the sociological and cultural trends that are both causing and being caused by the rise of the “domestic goddess.”

You all know how much I like to roll up my sleeves and get into the larger issues and trends associated with the things we see in food TV. Like I have said, I think it’s a tremendous microcosm of popular culture. The author of the piece sees this, too, and traces the development of the “ideal woman” from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched to Giada De Laurentiis. Each has reflected her era, and each has been alluring to men in different ways.

I think the most interesting part of the article arises from the fact that it is written for a male audience. Although the author mentions the changing role of women in society as one of the driving forces in the evolution of the ideal woman, he also states that changes in men over the past few years have led us to the domestic goddess stage. Specifically:
Guys who two generations ago might have wound down with Monday Night Football or the stock-market koans of Louis Rukeyser are just as apt to relax by whipping up some panna cotta. The 21st-century man cooks, cleans, decorates, and renovates, and his libido is fungible enough to adapt.
He also states that, in the age of career women, the domestic goddess has become the exception to the rule:
Corporate careers devour free time for men and women alike, and those women who do stay at home are inclined to see the predicament as a gulag of drudgery and despair. The happy housewife, in 2006, has become as exotic as a Bond girl.
The whole article is a great read, so be sure to check it out. Particularly cool is the fact that the author includes a quote from Adam, friend of TVFF.com and the man behind Men in Aprons and GiadaFan. It’s great to see the TV food blog community getting some notice!

As usual, Adam sums it up nicely when it comes to Giada:
“She’s beautiful, she’s successful, and she can cook.”
And what more could a guy want?



Want to Meet TVFoodFan?
Sunday, September 24, 2006 | posted by Mike

OK, I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting opportunity in the world.

But, if you work or live in New York and have nothing better to do on Friday evening, this could be fun.

I’ve mentioned FoodCandy, a great site that puts foodies in touch with other foodies. I was interviewed a while back by dB, site proprietor and generally great guy.

This Friday, September 29th, at 6:30, there will be a “meet-up” of FoodCandy members for drinks and dinner. I’ll be spending the day in the city hanging out (no, not trying to sneak into the Food Network studios) and attending the event at night. Anyone who would like to come out, have a good meal and talk to some fellow foodies should drop me a line and let me know you’re interested.

Seriously, Enough with the Spinach

SpinachWe joked the other day about Rachael Ray including spinach as an alternative ingredient in one of the dishes on her new show.

But we managed to catch a couple of shows on Food Network this weekend that continue to feature the green, leafy killer as a main ingredient.

Yesterday, they were running Giada's Italian Holiday and there was a one-minute "quick recipe" segment that they ran during the commercial break that included a no-cook spinach pesto sauce that (unless her food processor has a “disinfect” setting) probably wasn’t the best idea.

Today, I tuned in late to Barefoot Contessa and Ina was plating some sautéed spinach dish. I’m not an expert on the safe handling procedures, but I’m not even sure I’d go with that route. Plus, I can personally attest based upon my trip to Wegman’s last night, there is no spinach to be found at the markets.

Finally, Easy Entertaining came on next and he told us all to stay tuned for – you guessed it – a roasted beet salad with raw spinach. Mmmmm…coli-rific!

Guys…this will all blow over soon, so how about shelving the spinach-centric shows until then?

Geof Manthorne, Rock Star
Friday, September 22, 2006 | posted by Mike

I really don’t want to start a turf war with the fine folks over at food network addict. I completely agree with their devotion to Ace of Cakes personality Mary Alice, which is well documented and features a two-part interview with the Charm City Cakes employee and Duff Goldman sidekick.

But we have to admit that our personal favorite on the show is sous chef Geof Manthorne. Not only does he have the coolest name in the history of the world, but he also has a certain laid-back demeanor and absurdist sense of humor that leaves us in stitches. He’s effortlessly funny, such as when he riffed on eggs last week (I still have no idea what he was talking about, but it was hysterical) or created a rice crispy canoli last night. Literally, I could watch a show that just followed Geof around during the day.

Well, it turns out that Geof is multitalented. In addition to decorating the cakes, he also appears to be a fairly well-know Baltimore area musician. And, thanks to the power of YouTube, you can see his performance (filmed in the Charm City Cakes kitchen, by the looks of it) on the video below.


Sorry, Mr. President
Thursday, September 21, 2006 | posted by Mike

Bill ClintonI’m sure that we’ve all been in this situation at one point or another:

You unexpectedly find yourself nearing dinner time and not too far from the hip/crowded/hot restaurant in town. You figure you’ll take a shot and run in to see if maybe they’ve had a cancellation and have a seat available for you. Maybe you even think your snazzy clothes or a well-placed tip will give you a better chance. Of course, the hostess laughs at you as soon as you mention that you don’t have a reservation and you slink off into the night looking for a Taco Bell.

Usually, the humiliation is limited to you and your friends or family. When you’re the former “leader of the free world” and you try to crash a celebrity chef’s notoriously booked restaurant and you get turned away for the second time, it’s tabloid fodder.

The Mirror has a story about former president Bill Clinton and his crowd trying to get a seat at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London without a reservation a couple of years ago. Jamie was having none of it then. And now, he’s been turned away again. The reason this time: fad diets.
The School Dinners star, 31, says: "Clinton's right-hand man was a total plonker.

"He comes into the kitchen, throws down the menu and says it's unacceptable because half the party are on the South Beach Diet.

"What a pack of proper nonces they were."

However, he's willing to reserve judgment on the former President himself.

"I'm sure Bill's a nice bloke but the people around him were horrid and in a restaurant all paying customers are more or less equal."
Good for Jamie, and on behalf of anyone who has been turned away from a restaurant, thanks!



The Hungry Detective is Online

CognacOK…enough of the Rachael Ray stuff for now.

Have you seen the new promo spots for The Hungry Detective on Food Network? You know – the ones that feature surveillance style photos like you see in the opening sequences of Cheaters? (Sorry to go off on a tangent, but Cheaters is possibly the best guilty pleasure show on television. I’m serious…their host once got stabbed on camera, so you know it’s quality programming.)

Anyway, the ads give a little bit of insight into the new show, which will feature host Chris Cognac (Sounds good…make mine a double!), a former police detective, as he travels around the country exploring out-of-the-way sources of foodly delights. Kind of like $40 a Day without the budgetary restrictions and Road Tasted but with less “Deen” involved.

I wasn’t familiar with Det. Cognac until recently (his appearance in Feasting on Asphalt), but it appears that he has a bit of a presence on the web. His home page has a bunch of information about him and his travels (although his choice of background makes reading a bit of a chore) and he has a blog, which hasn’t been updated that often but which does mention a bit about taping the shows.

Curiously enough, Cognac’s nom de web is “The Culinary Detective,” yet the show is called The Hungry Detective. I’m certain that this has some tremendous significance. I just don’t know what it is.



Why Does Rachael Ray Want to Kill Her Viewers?
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 | posted by Mike

Popeye & SpinachJust kidding. The potential drawbacks of pre-taping a television show were apparent during the debut episode of Rachael Ray, and the Chicago Tribune (and also mentioned in Everything Rachael Ray’s recap) caught the potentially dangerous piece of advice.

According to the article (registration required), Rachael was going over a recipe and said that you could substitute the arugula in the dish with baby spinach.

As you all know, thanks to Mr. E. Coli, fresh spinach doesn’t have the most fantastic reputation these days.

Of course, the show was taped quite some time ago and there was absolutely no way for them to know that this would be an issue. And, although there have been a few fatalities and serious illnesses due to the contamination, I certainly don’t think it was in poor taste to leave the line in the episode. In fact, being a throwaway line in the recipe, there’s a chance that the staff, which is surely busy working on new episodes rather than reviewing those already in the can, hadn’t even noticed it.

Anyway, you shouldn’t be substituting bland baby spinach for the much tastier arugula. That’s kind of like taking a great bruschetta and serving it on Wonder bread.



Crumbs – 9/20/06

  • The new book, The United States of Arugula, (which we mentioned some time ago), gets a write-up in USA Today.

  • Tyler Florence is leaving “Food Talk,” his NYC-based radio show. I was not aware that Tyler Florence had a radio show.

  • Dave Lieberman will be at Macy’s near Dallas this weekend. Go and tell him how good he looks in goggles.

  • And Food Network stars Emeril Legasse and Tyler Florence will be at the Sur La Table in San Jose next month.

  • Have you submitted your entry to be the Next Food Network Star? The deadline is October 27th. My money is on Genève.



Scripps Shopping for More Food Network
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 | posted by Mike

ScrippsIt looks like there might be something brewing on the financial side of the Food Network.

We've mentioned before that EW Scripps Co. "owns" the Food Network, but that's only partly true. Scripps owns a stake in the Network, as does Tribune Co., which also owns television stations, newspapers and even the Chicago Cubs.

According to a Reuters report, the CEO of Scripps is looking to make an offer for Tribune's 31% share of the Food Network. There is no word on a timetable for the deal, nor on the amount Scripps might be willing to pay.

This doesn't mean a whole lot to us on the "watching" side of FN, and I'm not sure that it would significantly impact any of the programming. What it does mean, though, is that Scripps appears to be very pleased with the performance of the Food Network (and other cable holdings, like Home & Garden) and that they're looking for continued success to offset newspaper readership and advertising declines.



No Rachael Ray Review

Rachael RaySorry, kids.

I know you were all waiting on the edge of your seat for my review of Rachael Ray. OK, maybe not.

Anyway, I’m really not a big fan of talk shows (Hence my unshakeable sense of dread about Paula’s Party), so I’m going to take a pass on this one. Honestly, I haven’t gotten around to seeing it. Blame it on not having Tivo…I developed a minor headache when I thought about setting the VCR to tape it, so I bagged the whole endeavor. If only it were a one-click process…

Feel free to check out a couple of other sites for their opinions (1 and 2). The reviews from the “traditional media” are mediocre at best, but with the same sense of inevitability when it comes to the show’s success that we’ve been hearing along the way.

By the way…the ratings were very good.



Alton Brown Working on New Good Eats
Monday, September 18, 2006 | posted by Mike

Alton BrownAlthough the folks at the Food Network do a fantastic job of letting you know when they have a new show debuting (I’m looking at you, Paula’s Party!), but they can be a little lax when it comes to getting the word out on a batch of new episodes from an existing series.

I don’t have a marketing degree, so I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this. On one hand, I can understand them not wanting viewers to think of shows during the rest of the year as “reruns” and not bothering to tune in. But I’m probably just as likely to stick with an episode I’ve already seen, so I would think it would be even more of an incentive to make time if I knew there were new episodes to be seen.

One of the most “re-watchable” shows on the network is Good Eats. Fortunately, according to AltonBrown.com, there are new episodes on the way. In addition to pumping out a bunch of new Iron Chef Americas, Alton spent August filming a bunch of new GE shows.

Included in the topics:
Peaches, Peppercorns, Okra, Popcorn, Squid, Tortillas, Turkey
Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of okra, but I’ll leave that for our visitors from the South to explain why I’m mistaken.



Gordon Ramsay’s New Show on...LOGO?

Gordon RamsayHappy Ray-Ray-Day®. You all know you are legally and contractually bound to watch today’s premier of Rachael Ray. I’ve run out of things to say on the topic.

One thing that I’ll never run out of is a steady stream of sensationalized articles from the British press about Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay. I could probably start a separate blog tracking down stories about Nigella’s tan and Jamie’s fat suit.

Today’s entry from the Daily Record (“Number One for Scottish Sport”), “Ramsay Fighting the Flab,” seeks to put Gordo’s fans (both female and male) at ease with the knowledge that the foul-tempered chef is working hard to get his body back into shape.

In order to live a long and healthy life? To be able to stay in shape and teach his kids how to be a pro footballer like their dad?

Heavens no! So he can take his shirt off on his show.
Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay has vowed to get himself back in shape for his hit show - in order to please his gay fans.

The former Rangers player has become as famous for baring his body as he is for his cooking after he began stripping off during the opening credits of the F-Word.

But Ramsay, who's now started to fight the flab, insists he won't be taking off his chef whites until he is back in tip-top shape.

"It's hard to keep the weight off as you get older but I will, if only to keep all my gay fans happy."
See…two seasons of taping Hell’s Kitchen in Los Angeles and he’s already “Hollywood.”



Friday Happy Fun Time – 9/15/06
Friday, September 15, 2006 | posted by Mike

Happy Friday, everyone, and thanks for another fantastic week of traffic. Since we now have a new bunch of “regulars” on the site, I’m going to ask you all again to be sure to mention TVFoodFan.com to a friend, family member or some random person on the street.

Now it is time for a little bit of fun with Rachael Ray, who will be launching her talk show (officially titled Rachael Ray) on Monday after so much promotion and fanfare. I have a feeling that Madeline over at Everything Rachael Ray is probably ready to explode with anticipation. Of course, some of you are slightly less enthusiastic about Rachael getting more screen time.

Well, regardless of how you feel about Ms. Ray, the clip below will probably reinforce your opinion. It features bloopers from the taping of promotional messages for local airings of her show, and it is Ray-Ray at her goofy, giggly best. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. If it’s not your thing, well…you have probably already decided that Rachael Ray is not for you.



The Batali Clog Backlash Has Begun
Thursday, September 14, 2006 | posted by Mike

CrocsI mentioned a while back about the rise in popularity of Crocs, the brand name of those orange clogs popularized by Mario Batali. Personally, I get a kick out of them. Yeah, they look a little goofy and I don't know that I'd feel like stepping out for a hot night on the town with a pair of them on, but you could wear them in place of flip-flops or just around the house. In fact, just for giggles, I tried them on at a store and they really are very comfortable and extremely light, so I can see how they would appeal to people who have to be on their feet for an extended period of time. And the variety of colors is pretty cool.

As is often the case with this kind of geek-chic item, Crocs have caught on with celebrities and people who want to have their footwear be noticed.

And, as one would expect, the backlash against the fad is under way. Radar Online has a story decrying Crocs for both their appearance and as an example of inane fashion trends. It also mentions an ihatecrocs.com website (which currently features a "Friends don't let friends wear Crocs" t-shirt) and explains how the "ugliness" of the clog has become a selling point and has actually made it into the advertising.

Like I said, I think they're kind of cool, but you don't come here for fashion advice, do you? So I'll just say that it's good to see a food TV celebrity having an impact beyond the usual circles.



More Duff

No, not that kind of Duff…

Bob Tuschman (yes, the guy from Next Food Network Star) is a busy fellow these days. He was quoted quite a bit in the article we mentioned yesterday, and today he’s bringing us news in the Baltimore Sun about gonzo-baker Duff Goldman’s Ace of Cakes getting picked up for a second season. According to the article, “The cable channel has ordered 13 more episodes for a second season to begin in January.”

Food Network, always eager to build a new “franchise” in the mold of Rachael Ray, is obviously quite pleased with Duff’s performance so far. The show debuted to an audience of 1.7 million and viewership has continued to be strong, with the show among the network’s weekly top five programs. According to Tuschman:
"It's been a hit right out of the gate for us," said Bob Tuschman, senior vice president of programming for the Food Network. "Everybody in the shop, including Duff, are artists who also happen to be offbeat and funny, and you get behind the scenes in the world of very high-end cake creation. Whether you're a foodie or not, it's just a great world to be a part of."
The rest of the article doesn’t contain a whole lot of new info. Odd, because you would think that the Baltimore media have already covered the basics quite extensively already.

Word of the renewal will be welcome news to fans of Goldman, and especially good news to rabid devotees of Charm City Cakes office manager Mary Alice.



It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | posted by Mike

With apologies to James Brown...

Jessica over at Food TV and Me has a post up about an interesting St. Petersburg Times article all about the Food Network programming, including the latest trends in shows and a word from the head of programming about his high hopes for the new Paula Deen show.

I had seen the article, but Jessica catches something that I didn't.
I looked at the list and found it strange that all of these shows have mostly male cooks (the only female is Cat Cora from Iron Chef America.) The core audience, according to the article, is mostly women. Maybe we like to see hot chefs cooking tasty dishes. I don’t know.
That's something to think about, especially in light of the discussion we had here some time back about gender and food and how it all ties in to our appreciation for food television.

To a certain extent, I think that the male-dominated evening schedule is a cyclical thing. Two of the Network's biggest female stars are busy with other projects right now, so it only makes sense that they're packing their evening schedule with what they have available.

Of course, maybe Jessica is right and we just like looking at attractive people.

Anyway, be sure to check out the article and you should absolutely add Food TV and Me to your bookmarks or feedreader!



Crumbs – 9/13/06

It’s Wednesday, which means we’re presenting the odds and ends of what we found during the week. We affectionately call them crumbs:
  • Gordon Ramsay is Captain Ahab and Paris is his White Whale.

  • Jamie Oliver is talking retirement and saying “no” to a run at politics.

  • Duff Goldman: Proud UMBC Alumnus

  • For all of you world record junkies, the Food Network is teaming up with Guinness for a four-part special series in October.

  • E.W. Scripps’ August revenue is up, thanks in part to the performance of Food Network.

  • The America’s Test Kitchen cookbook is getting a facelift to make it more user-friendly.

  • UK Vogue has the scoop on a suddenly tanned Nigella Lawson. Obviously! If the British are known for anything, it has to be their deeply and luxuriously tanned skin.



Gordon Ramsay is Coming to New York...Humbly
Tuesday, September 12, 2006 | posted by Mike

Gordon RamsayHell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay has seen a lot of success so far in his career. There are the acclaimed restaurants in London and television shows on both sides of the pond. But anyone who thinks that the headstrong and (often obscene) chef will be taking the success of his upcoming New York restaurants for granted should take a look at the profile that appeared last week in The New York Times.

The Times points out how difficult the New York restaurant scene can be. It features many tremendous restaurants, but at the same time is seeing the “casualization of fine dining,” which may run counter to Ramsay’s classical French methods. But Ramsay insists that he doesn’t plan to simply show up and set the town on fire.
“I’m not trying to take New York by storm,” he said. “I just want to sneak in there, keep my head down, batten down the hatches and cook.”
Also mentioned in the piece is the fact that he may not be able to run his new restaurant the way he does his London locations. The unionized American employees may not take as kindly to his autocratic methods. Again, Gordon believes he knows what he’s getting himself into.
“I’ve already been warned,” Mr. Ramsay said. “The moment I touch down at the airport I get put in my straitjacket and I go straight to my management skills to learn how to ask a kitchen porter to wash out a copper pan for me.”
I’m not sure how much, if any, of Gordon’s humble approach to the new venture is simply a shrewd business move for someone beginning in the notoriously hostile New York market. The article alludes to something we’ve discussed before, which is that the bravado and hotheadedness are exaggerated, if not completely invented as an on-air persona.

The article is particularly interesting if you would like to learn a little more about how Ramsay has established his restaurant empire and how it differs from other well-know chefs’ restaurants. For example, he promises to be personally involved in the new restaurant.
He said he would be at the restaurant for 10-day stretches with 3-day breaks in London, at least until the new year.
Well, at least it sounds like there’s a good chance of Gordon being in the kitchen if we’re able to snag a table! Who are we kidding? We have absolutely no chance of scoring a reservation. Such is the life of a blogger.



Dave Does: Snorkeling, Apparently.

Food Network NewsletterAnother week, another couple of Dave Does webisodes.

At the beginning of each week, I’ve been having trouble remembering to check out the new webisodes. Probably a lack of caffeine buildup in my system…I’m not usually up to speed until Wednesday.

Fortunately, there is the Food Network Newsletter, which is conveniently delivered to the TVFF inbox every week. It helpfully reminds me about the latest additions to their site, new sweepstakes that I can win and why I should also be watching Home & Garden TV. This week they headlined the newsletter with the image you see above, which clearly proves that Dave Lieberman has a tremendous sense of humor. I’m sure the goggles serve some purpose, but it really just looks like he’s going on some underwater adventure. There’s probably a Steve Irwin reference I could make, but it’s likely still too soon for that.

Also…check out the last bullet in the image. “Coffee and Doughnuts.” Looks like someone at Food Network Interactive Marketing took my advice.



Pittsburgh-area Writer: Our Food Stinks!
Monday, September 11, 2006 | posted by Mike

PittsburghI’ve mentioned before how every little hamlet and township has a local paper that makes a big deal out of some crew from the Food Network coming to their area to do a profile of the local rib joint or caramel apple factory. It’s nice, and it shows how important food is in the lives of people, and how much of their local pride goes into their regional cuisine.

I have to admit I was taken aback when I came across an article by Mike Seate from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The column was – I thought – a review of Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt, which Seate called “brilliant.” But Seate actually had another, much more creative idea:
Thoughtfully presented and filled with the sort of down-home regional flavor that makes road travel so interesting, it was all I could do last weekend to finish the program before strapping on my own helmet for a taste of some diner cuisine.

That's where everything went all pear-shaped, as chefs like to say.
Ahhh! Anyone who watched the series knows that Alton didn’t sugar coat any of the less-than-spectacular meals that he tried while on the road (i.e. pig’s feet, brain sandwiches), but it’s interesting to see a “local” disparaging the area’s food. He did have positive things to say about breakfast, though. His biggest gripe seems to be a lack of a discernable identity (or flavor):
But here in Western Pennsylvania, there really doesn't seem to be any unique regional cuisine to cheer about.

In fact, after sampling food from at least a half-dozen roadside diners, I'm convinced that the use of spices and ethnic flavorings has been outlawed in this state under penalty of law.
Although Seate’s travels were not as successful as he would have hoped, we think that Alton Brown would have been thrilled. The true message of Feasting on Asphalt was not that this greasy spoon or that pancake joint is so great. Rather, it was about the preservation of a way of life that eschewed cookie-cutter chains in favor of locally produced food cooked by people who put their hearts into the dishes. And that’s what Mike Seate set out to find.

Better luck next time, Mike…and there’s always Primanti Brothers.



I'm Not Eating That

Mr. Hankey CakeHello, everyone. I hope that your weekend was as crammed full of grilled meat and football as mine was.

I did manage to set aside a little bit of time to check out what’s happening around the food TV web world and came across a nice collection of Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman's cakes at a blog called Neatorama.

Admittedly, I’m not a big cake/pastry person, but I do have to admit that I think Duff’s creations are interesting and creative. I actually like the kind of stuff he does rather than most of the things you see on those Food Network Challenge shows, which are ostentatious to the point of being ridiculous. Not to mention completely impractical. Any time you have to carry your cake up and down stairs to prove that it can be moved should tell you that it might be a bit over the top.

With Duff’s cakes, there’s a feeling that there might actually be a pretty tasty baked product somewhere in that flashy packaging, which I think sets it apart from the “spun sugar” and cantilevered contraptions seen elsewhere.

However, as cool as that Wrigley Field cake looks and despite the fact that he can turn a scooter into a dessert, there is just simply no way I’m going to eat a cake of Mr. Hankey.



Is “How to Boil Water” in Your Top Eight?
Friday, September 08, 2006 | posted by Mike

Food Network Kitchens BlogMadeline (a.k.a. Everything Rachael Ray) and I traded a couple of e-mails recently. Let me paraphrase the exchange:
Madeline: Hey…apparently Food Network has a blog. Did you know this?
TVFF.com: Yeah. Kinda. I think I knew that. Now I’m not sure.
OK, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic, but let’s just say that the powers that be seem to be keeping the Food Network Kitchens blog pretty quiet. Not quite the marketing plan we’ve adopted here at TVFF.com (i.e. “Shameless Self-Promotion”), but maybe it works for them.

Actually, after poking around a little bit and seeing a not-very-well-hidden test blog, I’m guessing they’re using this as a pilot project for future endeavors. Actually, it’s a bit of a shame that they’re not trumpeting it more because they take a pretty interesting angle.

The blog is written by a number of the chefs who work behind the scenes in the Food Network kitchens. This is certainly a perspective that we don’t usually get, and it really serves to personalize the apparatus that supports all of the big stars of the network. I think they could probably stand to update it a little more often. Of course, this is a side thing and I’m sure they have other things to do, like prep Sandra Lee’s tube of Pillsbury Grands. (Sorry, I can’t help myself sometimes.)

Anyway, their latest post (and the reason for the title of this item), is about a new How to Boil Water cookbook. I’ve always enjoyed the show (in all of its various incarnations) as a great starter-level instructional. I remember it being on when I first started watching FN and getting a lot of the basics in terms of techniques and ingredients.

In addition to providing a helpful link to FN’s online store to buy the book, their marketing department has also created a Myspace page for the book. Admittedly, the whole Myspace phenomenon is beyond me, but the kids seem to love it. Hey…even Bob Dylan has a Myspace page, so I guess I’m the one missing out.

Again, I say “kudos” to FN for hopping on the new media bandwagon.



The Gourmet Institute

The Gourmet InstituteFirst off, congratulations to “suburban housefrau” for being the first to identify the quote referenced in yesterday’s post, which comes from The Wizard of Oz. If TVFF.com had a budget for something like t-shirts or mugs, housefrau would be getting one. But we don’t have a budget, so she’ll just have to be content with the satisfaction that she was the winner.

We made a reference last week to the fact that we’ll be having news about “a special TVFF.com correspondent and her trip to a big event.” We’re proud to let you know that a friend of TVFF.com will be attending The Gourmet Institute from October 20-22 in New York. She has graciously agreed to take plenty of pictures and write up some posts about her experiences there.

The Gourmet Institute provides attendees with an opportunity to:
Meet Editor In Chief Ruth Reichl. Step inside our eight test kitchens and photo studios. Get up close and personal with Executive Chef Sara Moulton. Learn from celebrated chefs including Daniel Boulud, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Masaharu Morimoto, Charlie Palmer, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Taste incredible wines from all over the world. Enjoy an exclusive dinner at one of New York's most acclaimed restaurants. Kick off the weekend with a festive gala at the spectacular Buddakan restaurant.
This looks like a cool way to get up close to a number of great chefs, including some FN and PBS stars. The event features a bunch of different seminars as well as gourmet meals and lectures. I’d personally LOVE to see Anthony Bourdain, so I’m hoping that one is included in our correspondent’s itinerary.

Just as TVFF.com doesn’t have a budget for snazzy gifts, we also don’t have a travel budget, so we won’t be able to make it to the event. The staff is also planning a wedding in the coming months, so any slush fund that might have been used is strictly off limits. So, as I said, keep an eye out for the reports.

Jamie Oliver Continues to Save the World
Thursday, September 07, 2006 | posted by Mike

As if his school lunch campaign wasn’t enough, Jamie Oliver is back at it with two new efforts at being both a chef and one of those phila...er, phila...er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers. (A special TVFF.com shout-out to whoever identifies that quote in the comments!) It’s very cool that there are more and more people (Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet) who have both the means and the motivation to take a principled stand on issues that they find important and do something about them.

I’m sure that part of it is wanting to see one’s name on a library or university hall, but the fact that this new social activism and philanthropy is centered on topics and issues that are of interest to the benefactor leads me to believe that there is some genuine desire to address the problem and solve it for the betterment of society.

As we mentioned in the post’s hyperbolic title, Jamie Oliver is making strides on two fronts, one related to his previous efforts and one new one. After raising awareness about the unhealthy cafeteria food served to British schoolchildren, Oliver caught flak for turning the kids (and their parents) off of cafeteria foods and towards equally unhealthy packed lunches. Now, the Naked Chef is speaking out on the parents’ responsibility to provide their kids with packed lunches that are nutritious. However, he is aware of the catch-22 of the situation:
Asked whether he would like to see a ban on packed lunches he said: "Many of us would like to say yes, if there were facilities for better hot meals in all schools.

"I would love it but that will not happen."
Oliver is also in the news for his decision to install two wind turbines to generate energy for his Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall. Regular viewers of Oliver’s shows know that he is always extolling the virtues of using organic ingredients and other environmentally-friendly meat and vegetables, so his eagerness to harness the power of the wind for his restaurant should come as no surprise.



Graham Kerr: Riding the Highways and Byways
Wednesday, September 06, 2006 | posted by Mike

Graham KerrAs much as I enjoy the variety of options available to foodies on television today, I always make sure to check out programs or old footage of yesteryear’s food shows. It was also a huge treat when, during my last trip to Washington, D.C., I had time to drop by the Smithsonian and check out the installation featuring the kitchen of Patron Saint of Food TV® Julia Child.

Another food TV legend popped up in the news today with word from the Times Herald-Record in upstate New York that Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet, will be making an appearance tomorrow. Kerr and his wife have been traveling around the country in an RV and giving a series of motivational speeches.
They call it "LIFEstyle #9," a philosophy of nine core ingredients for better eating, sleeping, exercising and communicating. The Kerrs, now both in their 70s, have been traveling across North America in a motor home, presenting free lectures at campgrounds and promoting their self-help books and DVDs.
He and his wife sound very happy with their new lifestyle, but the writer makes it clear that he still has a lot of the charm and “panache” that made him a star. One can easily see the potential for some sort of role, either at the Food Network or PBS. I do remember that a number of shows would bring Julia Child on from time to time and have her “cook along” with them, sharing her thoughts and experiences.

For someone who worked so well with an audience, you would think that Kerr would be a natural when it comes to “bantering” with the host as a special guest.

Crumbs – 9/6/06

A special welcome to everyone who is coming to the site from the Bonnie Trails message boards! Feel free to take a look around and bookmark us or add our feed to your newsreader.

By the way...happy 101st post to us! Why celebrate the 101st? Because I didn't notice that last night was the 100th.

  • Good news for Gordon: Gordon Ramsay makes it 11 straight years as the “best chef in London.”

  • Bad news for Gordon: Someone’s been stealing from his kitchen.

  • Madeline over at Everything Rachael Ray is busy testing out RayRay’s recipes and taking a journalist to task for his mistakes in a negative review of Rachael’s cookbook. Remind me not to make Madeline angry.

  • A Washington Post writer spends a week watching five food shows in an effort to learn how to cook. He really seemed to like the Emeril-and-Schoolchildren episode. Just writing that sentence makes me feel like my head is about to explode.



More Guy and Another Food Network Star
Tuesday, September 05, 2006 | posted by Mike

Guy FieriAfter recklessly spreading rumors earlier today, we actually have some confirmed news to share with you tonight.

Broadcasting & Cable has word that the Food Network is renewing Guy’s Big Bite for a second season of thirteen more episodes.

The Next Food Network Star is also coming back for another season, its third.
The show, in which aspiring TV chefs compete for a show on the channel, is casting now. Filming will begin with eight new contestants in New York in January and the show is set to debut in June.
Much has been made of the recent strides other networks have made into the Food Network’s turf, particularly with the success of Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef (which is expected to be back in October with new host Padma Lakshmi). So it’s no surprise that FN’s reality-competition show – a format that encourages repeat and loyal viewership – will be back for another go.

A Cheesesteak Throwdown?

Tony Luke'sWelcome back, all. I hope you all took the “unofficial end of summer” as an opportunity to gorge yourself on grilled meat. Now, get back to work.

If the Internet is good for anything, it’s for spreading completely unsubstantiated rumors. Now, most respectable “journalists” would wait to get confirmation, but this rumor brings two of my favorite things together, so I’m just going to go ahead and publish it.

Although I’m not the world’s biggest Bobby Flay fan, I do enjoy Throwdown! And my love of Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks is well documented. So, what could put me in such a good mood on the day back after a long weekend?

Unconfirmed reports (i.e. a message board posting) that Bobby was recently in Philadelphia challenging Tony Luke to a cheesesteak throwdown! According to the poster, who says she works at the Independence Visitors Center:
In fact, speaking of how lucky I am to be working there, does anyone watch that show on Food Network with Bobby Flay? The one he calls "Throwdown" or something, and challenges each city he goes to to make their signature food? Well, Bobby Flay was in Philly today at the Visitor Center doing a cook off challenge with Philly's own Tony Luke on who could make the best cheese steak.
She then goes on to spoil the outcome of the competition, so thanks for that. I’ll keep the suspense alive for you.

I’m glad they went to Tony Luke’s for the competition instead of the tired stand-by of Pat’s or (Heaven Forbid!) Geno’s. Pat’s and Geno’s being presented as the best of the Philly Cheesesteak is really a disservice to some great places in both the city and surrounding suburbs.



"Weapons-Grade Perkiness" – Rachael Ray in Time Magazine
Sunday, September 03, 2006 | posted by Mike

Rachael RayI hope all of our visitors from the US are enjoying their Labor Day weekend. (You’d be surprised how many international visitors we get considering we focus so much on American shows)

I just wanted to check in and let you know that, in anticipation of her talk show, Rachael Ray has a profile by Joel Stein in Time magazine.

Dedicated Rachael Ray fans (or haters) and regular TVFF.com readers won’t find anything too earth-shatteringly new in the piece. Stein, however, seem to really capture both Ray’s folksy appeal and the quirkiness that infuriates her detractors. As I’ve said it before…I’m pretty much right in the middle on Rachael. I guess I’m drawn to her considerable charm yet put off a bit by the occasional goofiness. That seems to be the point of view that I sense from Stein in this article.

Anyway, be sure to check it out. You can also send along a question that Rachael may answer if you’re lucky.



More Giada in the Mornings
Friday, September 01, 2006 | posted by Mike

Dan (a.k.a The Hungover Gourmet) has been a TVFF.com all-star recently. He’s been commenting like a madman and now he phoned in a tip on the new deal that Giada De Laurentiis signed with NBC’s Today.

Word of the contract appeared on the Variety site yesterday. (Best part of Variety? Words like “ayemer.”) You’ll all remember that she was a regular on the show during the Olympics in Torino earlier this year, lending her expertise on Italian food and culture. The buzz at the time was that her appearances were very popular, so it’s not surprising that she’s becoming a more permanent part of the Today team.
According to the report, Giada will “appear on the ayemer at least twice a month to discuss current trends in lifestyle, culture and cuisine.”



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