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Is Giada Branching Out?
Thursday, March 29, 2007 | posted by Mike

It wasn't a huge surprise when Giada De Laurentiis signed on as a correspondent for the Today show. After all, they occasionally run food pieces, and her guest spots during the Torino Olympics showed off the fact that she was more than just a "TV chef."

I have to admit that I haven't been following Giada's appearances on the NBC morning show, mostly because I'm out the door shortly after they finish the first round of weather updates. Not being around for the "features" sections means that I didn't notice that Giada has been co-hosting the 9:00 hour this week with Natalie Morales.

Giada's hosting duties have come up in two blog posts over the past few days. One, at mediabistro.com, is a short mention of Giada attending an industry event and a comment that "[s]he's doing great!"

The other mention is from AllDay, the official blog from the Today show. It's a piece about putting together a piece with Giada about the illness and passing of her brother Dino, who died a few years back from cancer. It's a nice post, and there is a link to the video of the piece, so you can check that out if you didn't see it.

So, what's the deal with Giada branching out and doing a little non-food hosting? After all, this was the gal who never dreamed of being on television. But with Rachael Ray and Paula Deen hosting talk shows now, you have to think that the prospects for someone as engaging and telegenic as Giada would be pretty good.

Weekend Getaways is almost more of a travel show than a food show, so Giada has already gone down the road of non-food entertainment television before. But one has to wonder how far she'll take the whole thing. With her, it's always seemed like it's about the food, so I can't imagine that she'd go too far afield.

Personally, I'm holding out for a Mario Batali talk show, complete with obscure references to medieval literature and that goofy guy from Mario Eats Italy in the Ed McMahon role.



There's A Reason For That...

Being called ‘Rachael Ray's husband' doesn't make this musician cringe

Yeah, there are worse things than being married to a multi-millionaire who supports your ambition to be a 40-year-old rock singer.



Crumbs - 3/28/07
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 | posted by Mike

This week: Short and Sweet.

  • UK kids don't like Jamie Oliver for getting rid of their fatty lunches.

  • Gordo opens his first pub.

  • And one of Cat Cora, which talks about her cooking for contest winners.



Food Network Swag: The Upfronts
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hey, remember when I posted about the Food Network upfronts a week or so ago? I joked about being upset that I didn't score an invite to the big event, considering upfronts have a long and storied history of free-flowing liquor and (I would hope, considering it's FN) good food. Well, I'm no longer joking about being upset that I wasn't invited...check out the swag attendees got!

OK, I can't actually see all of the gifts offered to ad buyers who attended events for the Scripps Networks upfronts. But, by the looks of that bad-ass grill taken from a site for advertisers, I would imagine the selection was pretty good. In case you can't read the accompanying text, it says:

Thanks from Scripps Networks!

Please choose a gift from this catalog as our thanks for attending our 2007-2008 Upfront Event.

Below that, they have a link which takes you to a fulfillment page. The page bears the logos of all of the Scripps networks and asks for a gift code (my random typing of letters and numbers has yet to bear fruit). My guess is that they went this route rather than handing things out in person because the buyers were coming in from around the country/world(?) and wouldn't particularly appreciate having to lug a 40 lb. electric grill on the plane with them.

The fulfillment page includes some additional information:

Welcome to The Scripps Networks "Life to the Power of Five" Premium Catalog!

Scripps Networks would like to thank you for attending our 2007-2008 Upfront Presentation. As a token of our appreciation, we invite you to choose one gift from the catalog. To learn more about the Scripps Networks family of brands, we encourage you to take a few minutes to navigate our collection of Ad Sales web sites.

The "Power of Five" appears to be part of the pitch that illustrated the value to be had by purchasing time on all five of their networks, which includes DIY and Fine Living.

Anyone out there with a gift code who happens to stumble across this post should know that they need to get to the site and put in their code, because, "The deadline for redeeming gifts is midnight on June 30, 2007, when the catalog will close." I know that a lot of you are very busy, so if you don't think you'll get around to redeeming that code in time, feel free to send it along to mike@tvfoodfan.com.



Random Thoughts From the Chefography Marathon
Monday, March 26, 2007 | posted by Mike

Saturday was spent preparing the new TVFF HQ building for our big move, but Sunday was spent on the couch. Left alone and without a car (courtesy of the idiotic SUV driver who dinged my passenger side door outside the grocery store a few weeks back), I was able to kick back a bit and watch some culinary programming on Food Network (and PBS) in between loads of laundry.

As you probably know from having tuned in yourself over the past week or so, FN is busy getting its money's worth from the series Chefography. This week featured the debut of the second batch, and I was a little surprised that they didn't go back and recut the older episodes to include some of the new events in the lives of folks like Giada (there was no mention of Weekend Getaways). Having been sucked into marathons of other shows like Top Chef and various shows on MTV (which has been notorious for marathons of Real World and others), it was pretty easy to open up a bag of pretzels kick back and knock off a bunch of Chefographies.

Just a few comments...

Where's Alton? - Round 2 and still no Mr. Brown. We've heard that Alton is, in fact, a pretty private person when it comes to his personal life, so that might be why. I can't imagine why FN would skip over one of their most likable stars.

Giada - I don't think there is an episode as watchable as the Giada bio. I had seen it during the first run, but had no problem sitting through it again. It's probably because it's light on the manufactured drama that shows like that often rely upon. The only time it "goes serious" is when it talks about the illness and death of her brother. Still, it's a fun show, and you're left with the impression that her development into the celebrity we know today is complete and total chance. Although you might think that she was destined for television with her looks, it's a minor miracle that she has a show today. Those demo reels are bad...B-A-D. Hats off to Giada for letting them use the tapes.

And I would completely hang out with the couple she cooked for as a personal chef. They seem like a blast.

Tyler - I had a little bit of "inside info" when it comes to the Tyler episode, as I have a friend who used to work at one of the restaurants with Tyler. It's one of the spots shown in a montage illustrating the various places Tyler worked once he went to NYC. We talked about the episode and she recounted a couple of stories about the place (not about Tyler himself, but about that kitchen in general). She even recognized an ex-boyfriend in one of the pictures. He's now known as "Satan," so I'm guessing that she doesn't think back fondly on her time there.

Mario - Probably my favorite new episode for two reasons:

  1. Mario, as a teenager, looked completely deranged.
  2. They spent a solid three minutes on Stuff Yer Face, the New Brunswick stromboli place that has hosted a number of TVFF happy hours. One of the reasons that I love Mario is that he always says something good about his time at Stuff. When you think of a "respected" chef, you picture the kind of person who wouldn't want to talk about his or her time slumming in a pizza joint. But that's not Mario. He embraces it and the experience that he gained from it. Great stuff. Plus, they showed them making the chicken and broccoli boli, which is my favorite.

Sandra - Wow. I don't even know what to say. I could probably devote a whole post to it, dissecting it and analyzing it shot-by-shot, like I would if I were writing a paper about it back in one of my communications classes in school. I could do that...but I would probably shoot myself in the head.

This is about all I can muster:

What the hell was going on with those curtains?

Mary Hart and Florence Henderson?

At one point or another, she says something like criticism of her style of cooking (the semi-homemade thing) as being a slap in the face of women who work hard to put food on the table. Excuse me...there's a difference between cutting corners and using prepared ingredients and what is often shown on her show. Two words: Kwanzaa Cake.

I've taken a few shots at Sandra now and then, but I've never been as critical as some. But hiding behind working women to deflect criticism of goofy ideas is not cool.

Sandy, you just talked your way on to TVFF's Crap List.

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Sandra Lee Teams Up With (I Kid You Not) Heartburn Medicine
Friday, March 23, 2007 | posted by Mike

I'm not going to lie to you. Running a blog can be hard work. There are times when you don't feel like writing a story or you just flat-out can't think of anything interesting enough to warrant sitting down and banging out a post. But sometimes -- and this is one of those times -- it's just a little bit too easy.

A press relelase from Procter & Gamble (actually, the PR agency hired by P&G, to be precise) is out on the wire right now talking about Prilosec OTC's sponsorship of the 2nd Annual Bunco Tournament. They're nice enough to include a paragraph explaining what the hell "bunco" is, and you can bet that I'll be running right out and starting up a bunco league with all of my friends.

But the best part of the whole thing is that they've managed to get Sandra Lee to sign on and help promote the event:

"For the women who play Bunco, it's not merely a game, but a reason to connect with female friends for a home cooked meal, good gossip and just plain fun," said Sandra Lee, celebrity chef. "I'm excited to be working with Prilosec OTC to help Bunco ladies across the country prepare for a great Bunco party - from easy recipes and decorations to great entertaining ideas. With just a little planning, anyone can throw a Bunco party that friends and family will be sure to enjoy."

Now, I get the whole connection between the sense of community (which is a great thing) and the idea of entertaining in your home, so Sandra's participation isn't that far off. But the idea of her teaming up with a HEARTBURN product is a bit more of a head scratcher. "My food gives you heartburn," is not the kind of message that I would want to send out, even subconsciously.

And another question: Why is Prilosec sponsoring a bunco tournament? When folks in a PR department have a sponsorship, they'll sometimes try to come up with a nice way to tie-in their product with the event. Sometimes they'll even commission some sort of study or survey as part of it. I had a professor in college who worked on a study that showed the self-esteem and confidence benefits to girls and young women who participated in organized sports, and the sponsor was one of the big shoe companies, so there was a logical connection. So, why is Prilosec involved?

"We found that twice as many frequent heartburn suffers play Bunco regularly compared to the general population," said Karen Klei, Brand Manager of Prilosec OTC.

Sorry to go off on a research methodology discussion, but I have to justify that college education somehow: Huh? Although the numbers might say that, what is the logical reasoning for that sort of relationship? Why are heartburn sufferers more likely to play bunco? This, folks, sounds quite a bit like what is called "data fishing." That is, of course, unless BUNCO CAUSES HEARTBURN!!!!!!!!!!!!



PETA: Food Network Rejected Our Commercial
Thursday, March 22, 2007 | posted by Mike

The last time we mentioned the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals here on TVFF, they were parading a giant lobster around outside the Food Network studios in New York. They're back, and this time they're issuing nastygram press releases about the fact that Food Network (and a couple of other channels, including MTV) refused to run a commercial illustrating (and I mean illustrating) the less-than-pleasant way animals become meat. Or, as they put it, CASEY AFFLECK VEGETARIAN AD BANNED BY NATIONAL TV NETWORKS.

For those of you not up on your Affleck trivia, Casey is not the one who went out with J. Lo. or who is now with Jennifer Garner (pictured, at left...why? BECAUSE IT'S MY BLOG!). But still, he's an Affleck and he's been in a few movies, so he does qualify as celebrity. He recounts the reasons that he is a vegetarian, including concerns about animal treatment and the cleanliness of the slaughtering process. You can check out the video at the PETA site GoVeg.com, but I'm going to go ahead and warn you that it is not for the squeamish. Seriously, you've been warned.

And so, that brings us to the issue with running the commercial. According to their press release, they took the spot to the Food Network. Amazingly, the network that makes its money by getting people excited about eating must have had a problem or two with showing stomach-turning images of cattle, pigs and chickens. Of course, PETA would tell you that the fact that the images were so repulsive was the point, but you can see where the Purdue commercial that would run right after it might not appreciate it.

According to PETA:

In a bid to show Food Network viewers what happens to animals before they’re fried, filleted, and fricasseed on TV, PETA tried to buy time during the network’s cooking programs for its 30-second ad, but advertising execs didn’t have the stomach for it.

I wasn't able to track down any responses by the Food Network, but I think one viewing of the spot will pretty much explain why they didn't accept it.

Obviously, the message that PETA (and others) is putting out there is getting through to some in the food industry. According to a Reuters story, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck is making significant and animal-friendly changes to the menus at his restaurants, including eliminating foie gras and meat from "crated" animals.



Crumbs - 3/21/07
Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | posted by Mike

If you all clap really hard, I think we might be able to bring the TVFF redesign back to life really soon.

In other news you probably don't care about, we're in the process of relocating TVFF HQ, which will be happening between now and the end of April. I'll certainly do my best to keep up a steady stream of new info for you during that time.

On to the crumbs...

  • A detailed portrait of Ina Garten in the New York Times. Sorry to dump it in with the Crumbs, but I didn't have the energy to recap. It's worth a read if you're a "Garten-er." (Did I just coin a nickname for Ina's fans? I think I did!)

  • George Duran inspires deep-fried White Castle hamburgers at a minor league baseball game. I hope he's proud.

  • Reuters profiles Guy Fieri and previews Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

  • The circulation for Cook's Illustrated, the magazine that brings you America's Test Kitchen, reaches 1,000,000.

  • Emeril likes Mario Batali more than Anthony Bourdain. Shocking, I know.



Some New Faces Behind the Scenes at Food Network and Scripps
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | posted by Mike

All right, maybe personnel changes aren't really that interesting to the readers of this site. But that's OK. I'm going to keep running them, because I'm certain that it's a career highlight for these folks to be mentioned on TV Food Fan.

A couple of new additions to the staffs at Food Network and its parent company, Scripps Networks, were announced over the past few days. I'm guessing that it may have been timed to coincide with the upfronts I mentioned last week. The big one for FN fans is the naming of Sergi Kuharsky as general manager of Food Network. According to a Broadcasting & Cable article, "Kuharsky will participate in the daily operations of the network as well as focusing on new business development."

Kuharsky comes to the Network from In Demand, where he was the Executive Vice President of sales and marketing. A piece over at TVWeek gives some background about a couple of his projects while at In Demand:

While there he led many initiatives including INHD, a suite of linear high-definition networks; "Howard Stern on Demand"; and the Emmy Award-winning "NASCAR In-Car," cable's first interactive subscription sports package.

The interactive parts should interest FN fans the most. How about an interactive version of some of your favorite FN shows that allow you to cook along with the host, pausing as necessary and even being able to get hints on how to salvage your bungled attempt at a souffle? Or, something as simple as multiple camera angles? Fun stuff, potentially, and a step in the right direction when you consider the fact that audiences are more and more used to being active participants in the media they consume.

Another new addition to the Scripps family is Deanna Brown, who will become the president of the Scripps Network Interactive Group. Why is this an important position? According to the press release put out by Scripps:

Scripps Networks flagship brands, HGTV and Food Network, are not only popular television networks, but also are the leading Web sites in the home and food genres. The robust interactive properties created by Scripps, which include a dozen broadband channels focused on topics such as kitchen, bath design, gardening, crafts and healthy eating, attracted an average of more than 13 million unique visitors per month in 2006.



Al Roker and Food Network Trying to Make Kids Healthier, Thinner
Monday, March 19, 2007 | posted by Mike

Food Network and Today Show personality Al Roker knows a thing or two about becoming a healthier eater. Once known for his oversized personality and oversized waistline, he's used gastric bypass surgery and a more nutritious lifestyle to shed over 100 pounds. Now, he's working with Food Network president Brooke Johnson to create a documentary about the problem of childhood obesity. An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the info about the show, called Childhood Obesity: Danger Zone and which will air on March 31st.

It is the Food Network's first documentary. Kids and obesity activists will be featured in the one-hour show. Rocky Tajeh, 18, who attends high school in New York, talks about his lap-band surgery (he symbolizes new research on the rising rate among U.S. teens for obesity-related procedures) and the challenges of weighing 500 pounds. Jeff Trimble, 14, from Little Rock, Ark., discusses his diet and exercise methods for losing enough pounds to no longer be considered obese or overweight.

Roker certainly has credibility on the subject, considering his own weight loss and the fact that he has children who, thanks to their genetics, might be predisposed to being overweight. Plus, you have an entity in the Food Network where the entire point is the glorification of and obsession over food, in all of it's creamy, crispy goodness. Certainly, even the most devout FN watcher knows enough to realize that, if they dine on Paula Deen's recipes for each and every meal, they're going to end up pretty chubby. But kids are a different situation, because they are so dependant upon the food put in front of them by their busy, often overworked parents. Having a show that points out that fact, and that teaches some lessons about the importance of providing kids with health food and smart eating habits is a good thing.


No, You're Not Lost

Sorry if the new look threw you off a bit. The TV Food Fan IT department is diligently working on fixing that Google bug, and I needed to revert back from the new look in order to do some testing. I know it's not as pretty, but I hope it gets us back on track with the powers that be over at Google and that we are back up and running with the spiffier version of the site very soon.

Thanks, and be sure to stick with us.


Food Network Upfronts: Three New Shows
Thursday, March 15, 2007 | posted by Mike

The Food Network (and the rest of the Scripps-owned television networks) held their upfronts, a presentation and accompanying announcement about the new and returning programs that networks hold every year for prospective advertisers. Traditionally, these upfronts are held in New York and feature media buyers attending the big presentations and then getting rip-roaring drunk in the city. You can see why everyone looks forward to upfronts.

For those of us who don't have an expense account or an open bar, the real fun of upfronts is that we get a sneak peek at what we can expect from the coming season. The Network announced three new full shows, as well as a few limited series. The new shows:

Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, in which Guy Fieri -- winner of The Next Food Network Star 2 and host of Guy's Big Bite -- will travel in his 1967 Camaro in search of the best diners, drive-ins and dives the country has to offer. It debuts April 23 at 10 p.m.

Simply Delicioso(working title), debuting in July, marking the Food debut of Ingrid Hoffmann.

Set for a fall debut, Food Dudes (working title) follows chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo as they strive to make a name for themselves while building a successful catering business.

Only one of the shows is a complete surprise to me, and that's Food Dudes. Having not seen it (TVFF is now accepting screeners!), I'm guessing that one could end up playing a lot like Ace of Cakes, being a behind-the-scenes look at a food business.

The Network also announced four limited series:

The third season of The Next Food Network Star, debuting June 3 at 9 p.m.

Feasting on Asphalt 2, debuting in August, follows Alton Brown on another "motorcycle tour through the back roads of America in search of the culinary soul of the nation."

The Next Iron Chef of America(working title), in which the network will search for a new Iron Chef.

'In the first quarter of 2008, Food will begin its search for America's Best Recipe, in which nine contestants will prepare their original recipes in front of a live audience in Las Vegas.

Again, not much here we didn't already know. The only question is whether America's Best Recipe will have a Simon Cowell-style cantankerous judge.

Being the optimistic guy that I am, I'll go ahead and pencil next year's upfronts into my schedule. I'm sure this year's invite just got lost in the mail.



Crumbs - 3/14/07
Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | posted by Mike

I had such a huge backlog of stuff from the past week, I was glad Crumbs day was here to lighten the load.

  • Duff Goldman makes an appearance at a cake decorating competition.

  • The Food Network's parent company, Scripps, is going green.
  • George Duran emceed a corned beef competition in NYC. Corned beef?!? Around St. Patrick's Day!?! Shocking!!!!

  • "Guy 'Guido' Fieri?" Really? "Guido?" I know I don't catch his show every weekend, but how did I not know his nickname was "Guido?"
  • Emeril will be making an appearance at Johnson & Wales University.
  • Bobby Flay's wife is appearing on Broadway in a new production of Talk Radio, and Bobby's Bar Americain played host to the opening night celebration.



TV Food Fan Goes "All Beer, All The Time"

No, not really. But I did want to share with you a guest blogging post that I have over at www.PhilaFoodie.com, a great site about the Philadelphia food scene by a great guy, David. You might remember that I congratulated David on some fantastic mentions in the media recently.

As I told you last week, I attended a beer tasting at the University of Pennsylvania over the weekend, and I wrote up my impressions of the event and a couple of the beers that I sampled. Take a spin over to PhilaFoodie and check it out.


HeresToBeer.com Expands
Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | posted by Mike

Considering what I did this weekend (and there will be a lot more about that shortly), it took me a few days before I was able to get back in the saddle and write about a beer-themed topic. However, I will soldier on for you, my dear and loyal TVFF reader, in order to bring you the latest info on the Here's To Beer campaign featuring Dave Lieberman that we mentioned last month.

As we said at the time, www.herestobeer.com is a website dedicated to teaching its audience about the finer points of beer. The site is part of a campaign which is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch to raise awareness of beer as a more "refined" beverage for enjoying with your gourmet foods, like you would wine. To that end, they've brought on board Dave Lieberman. This past weekend saw the launch of a bunch of new content, including Dave's video series, "Beer School."

Dave gives an overview of the whole program in the video that introduces the Beer School, with a preview of what is up there now and what will be available in the months to come. The key to the whole video series is that, if you go through all of the lessons, you can be certified as a "Beer Connoisseur," a title that I am probably already well on my way towards. But there is always more to learn, so I'll certainly be tuning in as they roll out the new videos. Lieberman (or his copy writers) do a good job of pointing out one of the most underappreciated aspects of beer, the fact that there are a wide variety of flavorful beers that can compliment everything from buffalo wings to chocolate cake. It's unfortunate that beer suffers such an inferiority complex at the hands of wine, but lessons like this that encourage people to step outside the realm of lagers and pilsners go a long way in fixing the problem.

The lesson even goes so far as to guide you through how to properly "taste" a beer, including the visual appeal, smell, taste, mouthfeel and finish. The info is detailed and helpful, and included many of the same tasting strategies and terminology as seen at last weekend's big beer tasting event. There is a ton of information here, and it will take you a while to get through it all, so be sure to set aside some time. In fact, I'm still working my way through the first round of lessons.

Each learning module has a number of subsections, with little clickable facts and even printable information, including a PDF of the five tips for the beer connoisseur. (I was slightly disappointed to learn I couldn't print down a fantastic looking flavor wheel for use at my next tasting.) You can also sign up to get an e-mail when the site updates with new content.

There really is some great information here for the beginner, and there is even plenty of material in the first couple of lessons for the more advanced "beer geek" such as myself. Dave Lieberman is a good match for this program for the same reason he's likable on his show -- he's enthusiastic without being over-the-top and he gets you excited about what he's talking about. In short, he's the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with, so I guess he's right in his element.



An Early Start on SoBe '08
Monday, March 12, 2007 | posted by Mike

Riptide, the blog for the Miami New Times, is running with a scoop on the lineup for next year's version of the South Beach Food Festival. From the sound of it, they'll be honoring a couple of big names in terms of world-renowned chefs and international food celebrities. In addition to what I'm sure will be a full roster of demonstrations and lectures from your favorite foodies, there will be special honors handed out to Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the Naked Chef himself, Jamie Oliver.

Check out the post if you want a run down of what Messers. Vongerichten and Oliver did to snag themselves the commendation.

WARNING: WHAT FOLLOWS IS IDLE SPECULATION: So, we know who is the big sponsor for this event every year. We also know that Jamie Oliver hasn't had a new show on the Network for some time now. Wouldn't an appearance at South Beach be a great way to get some additional publicity for a new series?



Tomorrow is Beer Day
Friday, March 09, 2007 | posted by Mike

Sorry about the lack of posts today. Actually, I'm resting and getting ready to attend the 17th Annual Beer Tasting with Michael Jackson : Extreme Beer Tasting at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia tomorrow. There is a lot of beer to be had at the event ( I went last year), so I'll need all of the strength I can muster.

Check back early next week for some info on the tasting, and on some other beer related information!

Still No Baby For Rachael Ray
Thursday, March 08, 2007 | posted by Mike

Thanks to loyal TVFF reader Chip for passing this along!

I don't want to spend a whole lot of time on this. First of all, I already did this post once. Of course, I did this post because the same site, The Celebrity Baby Blog, has already run what was basically the same story a couple of months back.

So, here we go: Rachael Ray is still not going to have a baby any time soon. It came up this time because she was asked about it on The View. How did I miss that episode.

As you can probably tell from my tone, I absolutely LOVE talking about which celebrities are having babies and which aren't.

But, today I will make an exception and bring you some EXCLUSIVE celebrity baby news.

Other celebrities who will not be having babies include Bea Arthur and RuPaul.

This has been a service of TV Food Fan.

UPDATE: Rachael will also be appearing in Dunkin' Donuts (mmmmm....donuts) commercials. I'm too tired to write about it, but Madeline at Everything Rachael Ray is all over it.



Crumbs - 3/7/07
Wednesday, March 07, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hey, a big shout-out to a great blogger and TVFF.com friend, PhilaFoodie, who managed to get quoted in both the New York Times and the Washington Post today. To put that accomplishment in perspective, I find it difficult to read the New York Times and Washington Post in the same day. Way to go, David!

  • Robert Irvine and the Dinner: Impossible crew invade the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Inquirer is there to tell the story.

  • Mario Batali's sister is taking over Salumi, their father's Seattle meat-curing business.

  • A look at the world of food, with the requisite swipe at Sandra Lee.

  • A Pocano local tells the story of remodeling a kitchen for a lucky winner on the Rachael Ray show.



Feasting on Asphalt 2: The Mighty Mississip
Tuesday, March 06, 2007 | posted by Mike

Who doesn't like a sequel? Sure, only two have ever been as good as the originals (Godfather 2 and The Empire Strikes Back), but that doesn't mean they're going to stop churning them out. There's money to be made in sequels!

Why is that? Why do people keep lining up for Final Destination 27 or Halloween: The Return of Jamie Leigh Curtis' Career? They keep coming back because they know what they're going to get, and that's a very reassuring thing for people who are forking over their money and time for some entertainment.

So I had to chuckle a little bit when I saw that there will be a "sequel" to a Food Network show that was all about exploring new places and reveling in the joys of discovering things you've never seen before. But, hey, the first one was pretty good, so we'll probably give this one a shot, too.

Alton Brown will be Feasting on Asphalt again, with a new six episode (super-sized from four in the last run) season set to debut on August 4th. And, this time, he won't be going from coast-to-coast. Instead, he'll bisect the country from top to bottom, following the Mississippi river and uncovering all of the delicacies along the way. According to his home page:

We're also prepping a second season of Feasting On Asphalt which will expand from four to six episodes tracing the length of the Mississippi river. In other words, we're keeping busy. in my spare time I'm working away on my pilot's license and hope to be able to do away with commercial air travel permanently by year's end. Perhaps the third season of Feasting can be on "air" rather than "asphalt".

Alton will be taping in April and May, so we'll just go ahead and start drafting the post about one of the bikers skidding out on the side of the road somewhere in Missouri.

AB fans can also look forward to a boatload of new Good Eats, which will begin filming soon, as well.



What Do Rachael Ray and the Phillie Phanatic Have In Common?

Canine aggression.

Here (at Everything Rachael Ray) and here (at Philadelphia Will Do).



Food Network Is En Fuego
Monday, March 05, 2007 | posted by Mike

I hope that all of those poor, overworked Food Network publicity and PR folks have fully recovered from the madhouse that was the SoBe Festival. I'm not kidding about that...I worked an event in "sunny Orlando" for the day job and spent more hours working than I've ever had in my life. Trust me, conferences and conventions in Florida aren't as glamorous and fun-filled as you may think.

Well, someone at Scripps Networks is back at work, because a new press release came out today with info about a partnership between Food Network and the new V-me TV network. According to the release, "[t]he licensed Scripps Networks programming will appear on V-me during a one-hour Food Network-branded block airing Monday through Friday. V-me will be available in more than 28 million homes in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Houston when it launches today, and by the end of its first year will be in nearly 50 million homes."

So, what exactly is V-me?

V-me, (pronounced veh-meh) which means see me in Spanish, launches as a 24-hour digital broadcast channel presented by public TV stations across the country and carried broadly on digital cable and satellite. The networks programming is a mix of original productions, exclusive premieres, acquisitions, licensed programming as with Food Network as well as the best of public television adapted for American Latinos.

Part of the agreement includes dubbed version of some of the the current Food Network shows (including Giada, Rachael and Alton), as well as two new Spanish-language shows, Mas Sabor en Menos Tiempo (More Flavor in Less Time) and Nuestra Cocina (Our Kitchen). This follows on the heels of word that the Food Network had hired Hispanic star Ingrid Hoffmann for a daytime show that will debut in the third quarter.

We like the addition of some more diversity to the roster of Food Network personalities. Reaching out to a broader audience through partnerships with organizations like V-me and bringing in someone outside of the standard Italian/Grilling/Whatever Sandra Lee Does cuisine of most of the stars is a very welcome development.



Seattle-Area Chefs Weigh In on Food TV
Sunday, March 04, 2007 | posted by Mike

There is an interesting article in the Seattle Times about the state of food television which takes a look at things from the perspective of a number of area chefs and restaurateurs. The author asked the chefs what food television shows they watch and enjoy, and the responses run the gamut from contempt to a grudging respect for the fact that they're contributing to the public's knowledge of food to outright fandom of a couple of the more "reputable" personalities like Mario Batali.

Frankly, if I lived and breathed food all day long, I think the last thing I would want to do is go home and watch someone cook for a couple of hours, but it seems like the chefs watch, and they watch for many of the same reasons we do. And, just like us, some of them go for the juicy drama of competition shops like Top Chef, even if it is just a guilty pleasure:

Smith is a "Project Runway" junkie, so perhaps the transition to watching "Top Chef," which is also on Bravo, was natural.

Or not.

"It's like a train wreck really to watch those guys," she said.


She wonders if food television, including "Top Chef," makes cooking seem more fabulous than the day-to-day work really is. Being a chef also includes cleaning ovens and taking out the trash.

But her Cafe Juanita cooks loved "Top Chef" and she started watching.

"I got sucked in at the end. I'm a fair-weather friend for TV."

And, of course, someone has to go ahead and play the Sandra Lee card.

She catches herself watching some Food Network shows despite herself, like "Semi-Homemade Cooking," which features Sandra Lee, outfitted to match her set and making dishes that are partially fresh, partially store-bought.

"It's shockingly bad," Smith said. "I'm guilty of sitting there just slack-jawed."

The key here, though, is the understanding among nearly all of the chefs that the greater knowledge and sophistication among the general public -- a situation that is the direct result of the Food Network and other food television personalities -- results in a more regular and discerning clientele. This kind of benefit, of course, is less dramatic than the results of an actual appearance on one of these shows.

She doesn't watch a lot of food television, but like other chefs, benefits from a Food Network appearance on "Gourmet Divas" several years ago that still boosts her Kirkland business.



The New York Times Reviews "Ace of Cakes" -- And Kinda Misses the Point
Thursday, March 01, 2007 | posted by Mike

A review by Ginia Bellafante in The New York Times the other day hit most of the main points you would expect from someone looking at the second season of Ace of Cakes. There are the references to the power tools, the outrageously shaped cakes and the eccentric staff. It wasn't necessarily a pan, but it also wasn't a rave for the show.

“Ace of Cakes,” now in its second season, is burdened by its own sense of self-importance. The idea is to present Mr. Goldman as an artist with all an artist’s eccentricities; no simple service provider is he. We are to think of him as the Mario Batali of sugar.

Now, I'm not sure if the "now in its second season" is just a throw-away line or a reference to a perceived decline in the novelty of the whole rock-and-roll bakery idea. Bellafante mentions how far cakes have come in just the past ten years or so, changing from cookie-cutter shapes to over-the-top replicas of buildings, animals and anything else you can dream up. Full disclosure -- TVFF's cake for his December wedding was "reminiscent" of a stack of Christmas gifts with a red bow on top.

The reviewer brings up two of the cakes from this season in particular, the rat and the "punk" cakes, as evidence of some lackluster designs. A fair criticism, I think, but one that could easily be outweighed by the fantastic Wrigley Field cake.

But then we get to the point which has been made a couple of times online and which I know I should get more worked up over but never really can:

But Mr. Batali cares a great deal about what his food actually tastes like, while you rarely see anyone eating one of Mr. Goldman’s cakes or remarking that they are too sweet or perfectly moist or perhaps a bit on the dense side; all of which seems completely irrelevant to his ambitions.

Look, I've complained on numerous occasions about the move away from actual cooking and food on the Food Network. But Ace of Cakes is different, and as much as it might be fun or interesting to taste one of Duff's creations, it's largely irrelevant. Why?

Because, on the show, the cakes are a MacGuffin. No, not a McMuffin. A MacGuffin

I think that I've made an Ace of Cakes/The Office comparison before and I'll do it here again. How important is the quality of the Dunder Mifflin paper products to your enjoyment of The Office?

These plot devices are only there as a means of getting the characters together. And it's the same thing with Ace of Cakes, where the real reason to watch is not the taste of the cakes (your best local bakery is probably as good if not better) or even the wacky shapes they'll come up with (rest assured, they'll be plenty wacky). We tune in because we like watching the Charmers at work.

Maybe you dig the "mid-’90s Internet start-up" atmosphere and maybe you don't. That's fine. But there is no denying that the atmosphere (and the people who create it) is the draw of the show.

Discussing the taste of the pastries in a review here is a little like an early-80s TV writer wondering about Sam Malone's wine list.



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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