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Ride Like Alton Brown
Thursday, August 31, 2006 | posted by Mike

Alton Brown's MotorcycleObviously, things are kind of slow around here, and they’ll continue to be so through the weekend. We promise to be back and going full steam after the Labor Day holiday, and we’ll be letting you in on the news of a special TVFF.com correspondent and her trip to a big event which will be coming up soon. Intrigued? Good…that means you’ll come back next week!

In the meantime, I saw something pretty cool in Alton Brown’s site. Anyone who watched Feasting on Asphalt knows that he and his buddies crossed the country on some pretty nice looking motorcycles (this coming from someone who has never sat on, let alone ridden a motorcycle). Well, if you’re interested in finding out more about the bike and some of the gear that Alton used, you can check out a fully-annotated diagram.

As a full-time office worker, I can attest that the single most important thing that he brought with him was the Blackberry, of course. And you have to wonder how far you can stretch $16.79 in change. Heck…that’s even more ambitious than Rachael Ray’s $40 a Day!



"Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie" Coming to PBS this Fall
Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | posted by Mike

Gourmet's Diary of a FoodieThe folks over at Slashfood had a post about a new show coming to the PBS starting on October 7th called Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie.

At this point, there is only a placeholder site up with a brief description of the show:
Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie is a delicious new public television series that looks at the world food first. Join us as we travel the globe unearthing a feast of cutting-edge food trends, exotic ingredients and in-the-know food players.

Bringing our discoveries back home, Gourmet’s Ruth Reichl, with the help of her team of renowned editors, takes viewers straight to the kitchen for some internationally-inspired dishes. [Mike: emphasis mine]
Ahhhh…that’s what we like to hear! A travel show that actually takes the time to head back to the kitchen and show us a thing or two about cooking.



Crumbs – 8/30/06

Homer SimpsonI was right…this is the quietest week ever. The TVFF.com interns are already packing up their stuff and heading back to school for the fall semester. Honestly, they’ve been mailing it in since the second week of August.



Out of Their Elements
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | posted by Mike

Kitchen ConfidentialWell, I hoped to get some conversation going with our topic of the week, and it looks like Dan of The Hungover Gourmet is weighing in on the issue of food, big business and celebrity chefs.

In addition to his comments on one of the posts below, Dan has a thoughtful and interesting post up with his point of view on the issue. I don’t want to put too many words into his mouth, so go and read his post (don’t worry…I’ll wait). My takeaways, however, are that he really doesn’t like chains co-opting “The Food Nation” ethos and he has a significant problems with the recent track record of food celebrity “cross-over” attempts.

I agree with him on both points (and he’s right about Kitchen Confidential being pretty good, too), but I think there are really two forces at play here.

Yes, institutions without foodie credibility trying to buy their way into respectability are doing nothing but pandering, and chefs that sign on to these deals are open to questions about their motivation.

But the other factor, the one that is bringing us the talk shows and sitcoms and cookbook tie-ins, is coming from the Food Nation side of the table. These are all examples of everyone’s favorite 90’s business buzzword – synergy – and they’re largely being driven by the celebrities or the network.

We enjoy the shows and the chefs because we appreciate watching them do what they do best, and we bristle when we see them out of their elements. Although, much of you would argue that Rachael Ray will be doing what she does best when she’s hosting a talk show…a sentiment that would be held by fans and detractors alike, and maybe Rachael herself.

As Dan says, there is money to be made, and so we should expect this trend to continue. But I think we’d be all right with it if were still able to get what we want: programs that are truly about cooking. We just worry because we see these commercials and new programs and it seems to be another symptom of the move away from cooking and towards “lifestyle.”

Thanks to Dan for his thought-provoking post!

Lidia Bastianich Interview Podcast on Family Matters Radio

Lidia BastianichThis has been out there for a week or so, but I just came across a podcast interview with Lidia Bastianich on a site called Family Matters Radio. Actually, I wasn’t able to get the “podcast” part to work properly, but you can listen directly from the site. Here are posts with parts one and two.

The show seems to focus on family issues, and the notion of family and the role that food and cooking play are a big part of the discussion. Anyone who has watched any of Lidia’s shows knows that here children, grandchildren and mother make frequent appearances, and her cookbooks are full of photos and comments about how the dishes make her think of Sunday dinners with the family.

Also covered in the interview are the differences between Italian cooking and Italian-American cooking, the importance of buying quality produce (especially when it is in season) and her idea for a chick pea puree, which sounds like an Italian version of hummus and will be a definite must-try if/when I ever get that food processor.



The Applebee's Effect
Monday, August 28, 2006 | posted by Mike

Applebee'sI figured I’d take my first look at food TV in American culture and make up for some of the bad karma I generated when I took a cheap shot at Applebee’s last week.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to think that there is actually something pretty interesting (and cool) about what Applebee’s is doing with the addition of the new dishes from Tyler Florence.

Dan mentioned in his comment that Tyler Florence might not be all that well-known outside the food TV community, and I think he’s correct. So, then, who is Applebee’s going after?

Regardless of how well Applebee’s is able to pull off the dishes, the fact that they are making this move seems to be an effort to market directly to foodies like us.

Traditionally, there have been two types of chain restaurants: fast food and casual dining. But that line is being blurred, particularly by chains like Panera, which is trying to combine fast food convenience with upscale cuisine. Even chains like McDonald’s have dipped their toes in more upscale items.

The Florence dishes are nothing terribly different from the rest of the Applebee’s menu, but the fact that they’re using Tyler as a selling point tells us that they see foodies – more specifically, people who watch enough Food Network to know who Tyler Florence is – as a potential customer base.

This is a positive development because the recognition among marketers that knowledgeable eaters are a desirable target will have spillover effects on things like the kind of ingredients you’ll be able to find in your local supermarket.

I think we’re past the days of being shocked (shocked!) that our interests would be commoditized…it’s good to know that foodies are gaining enough clout to shape the market to our tastes.

Famous vs. Food TV Famous

This is the first day of what I am sure will be the quietest week of the year. You see…who wants to make news during a week when half of the country is on vacation and the other half isn’t paying attention because it is fixated on the upcoming long weekend?

Fortunately, our comments section saves us from a lack of anything interesting to write about:

Dan, a.k.a. The Hungover Gourmet, raises a few very good points in his comment within the “Tyler Florence” post below. One that caught my eye is the question, “[I]s Florence really that well known to the world outside Food Network?”

Since we spend so much time thinking about and watching food TV, we tend to develop a bit of skewed sense of the role that food entertainment plays in the bigger picture of show business and general culture. Of course, we can rattle off the “big three” Iron Chefs, but you have to wonder if the average Joe knows the network beyond “that guy that says ‘Bam!’”

I don’t think this actually has any hard repercussions to what we’re doing here. This is a hobby for us, and we treat it as such. But, on occasion, it’s fun to take a look at the big picture. Since I figure this week will be kind of slow in terms of news (probably just jinxed myself), look for a couple of posts about the place of food TV in today’s culture, and how we got to where we are.

Of course, if you have any thoughts or ideas or would like to write something up, drop me a line at tvfoodfan@gmail.com and let me know what’s on your mind.



Tyler Florence Will Be Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood
Friday, August 25, 2006 | posted by Mike

Tyler FlorenceWhat’s that? You say you’d give Applebee’s a try…but only if the menu included items from a celebrity chef with fantastic hair?

You are in luck, my friend! In an effort to add dishes to the menu that don’t include the words “buffalo-style” or “poppers,” the restaurant is introducing new items as part of their collaboration with Food Network chef/heartthrob Tyler Florence.

The Kansas City Star reports that four dishes will be available after September 18th, with as many as 20 total additions to the menu by the end of the year. The first round includes: “Penne rosa with Sweet Italian sausage, Herb-crusted chicken topped with Italian country salad, Crispy brick chicken with warm spinach salad and a bruschetta burger.”

Actually, they sound kind of tasty and I would probably be tempted to try them…at some place other than Applebee’s.

Hey, I can only do the “warm & fuzzy” thing for so long. I’m from New Jersey.

The Heartwarming Story of a Girl and Her Cookbook

Katie's Cooking!I know that sometimes we here at TVFF.com can be a bit cynical, with our snide comments and whatnot. But the weekend is upon us, yesterday was our biggest traffic day ever (Thanks guys! Keep it up!) and we’re in a good mood, so I want to pass along the story of Katie Harr, six-year-old cancer survivor and Mongomeryville, Pennsylvania resident.

Her story comes to us from the Philadelphia Daily News. When she was two, Katie was treated for leukemia and spent years going through painful treatment with lots of time recuperating at home. And, just as I do when I’m “recuperating” from a few too many beers, she spent the time watching Food Network with her mom.
"She loved Emeril [Lagasse], she'd say 'Bam!' and everything... she even drew pictures of Emeril with the towel over his shoulder like on the show," said Harr.

Katie became engrossed with the shows "Unwrapped," which toured one food factory after another and "Emeril Live."

"And I liked 'Iron Chef,' " she added sheepishly.
So, once her leukemia went into remission, Katie started to think about how she could give back. She decided to put together a cookbook, and she contacted a number of celebrity chefs for recipes.

The outpouring of support from the celebrities was overwhelming.

What resulted was a 783 recipe cookbook featuring dishes from Sandra Lee, Christina Pirello, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Michael Chiarello and Paul Prudhomme. Over 900 copies have been sold, with the proceeds going to a variety of local and national charities.

Be sure to check out the article, as well as Katie’s Web site, www.katieswish.com, where you can order the cookbook.

We all know that food and cooking has a tremendous potential to nurture and restore, and Katie’s story is a fine example.

Happy Birthday to You, Too, Rachael!

Lest I be accused of any favoritism...

TVFF.com wants to wish Rachael Ray a very YUM-O 38th birthday!



Food Network to Go After Young Demographic with...Paula Deen
Thursday, August 24, 2006 | posted by Mike

Paula DeenAccording to The Wall Street Journal, things at the Food Network aren’t going so well. An article ran in yesterday’s edition with the title “As Stars Lose Spice, Food Network Bets On Sassy Southerner” (subscription required) that paints a fairly bleak picture of ratings on FN, stating that numbers are down sharply from a year ago with Emeril Live down 7%, Food Nation with Bobby Flay down 10%, Iron Chef America down 11% and Molto Mario recently cancelled. Not pretty.

The article also states “Food Network’s profits and overall audience continue to grow,” but that the concern is in the decline in ratings of some of their “flagship programs.” And so, the article explains that they’re going to try to “augment fading stars, fend off competition from rival networks and attract a younger audience” by, in part, developing a new show starring Paula Deen. Paula’s Party will debut on September 29th and it will be a “raucous show” with segments such as “trying on a young audience member’s stilettos, telling jokes and staging a live crab race. She named her entry 'Cocaine Connie.'”

Obviously, reaching out to a larger, younger audience is a great way to offset some of the issues that other parts of the network are experiencing. But, honestly, does Paula Deen, appearing in what seems to be a variety show, really sound like the answer? I understand she has her appeal and plenty of fans (personally, her food looks fine, but I tire of her shtick in about 38 seconds), and she is a home-grown talent, which is a great way to create and continue a pipeline of talent. But she’s a grandma now, albeit a sassy grandma, and I just don’t see her as a way to connect with a younger crowd. I guess it’s funny when she throws a stick of butter onto her two cups worth of string beans, but there’s just no way I’m making that dish, and health-conscious people feel the same way.

I really don’t believe that younger FN fans want “entertainment” in lieu of cooking. These are young people who see cooking as an artistic outlet, a hobby and a means of living the good life. Show them people their age (Dave Lieberman, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri) cooking and enjoying food. Bring in/back established stars (Jamie Oliver, Anthony Bourdain) who connect with a younger crowd…you already have Nigella Lawson lined up! And just let Alton Brown do whatever the heck he wants. He’s the Martin Scorsese of the Food Network. Even if he was to turn in a stinker every once in a while, the prestige of the great work he does more than makes up for it.

But don’t give me racing crabs.

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Crumbs – 8/24/06

Late August, and it’s very, very quiet. But we do have some crumbs…
  • Food Network is looking for an Iron Chef America contestant at the Taste of Atlanta festival.

  • AskMen.com has 13 questions for Alton Brown.

  • Genève does her Martha Stewart impression – minus the icy cold demeanor – with a Minestrone Salad video recipe.


  • Baltimore Sun: Daughter embraces the lost art of cooking: “A college student, she watches the Food Network on school afternoons the way a previous generation watched soap operas. Paula Deen, Ina Garten, Rachael Ray and Giada de Laurentiis populate her universe the way Susan Lucci once filled mine."

  • Mario Batali names Virginia resident “America’s Ultimate Tailgater.

  • The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has an article about cruise lines focusing on food. Mentioned is the Food Network Caters Your Hawaiian Wedding contest, which will be hosted by Giada De Laurentiis and covered in depth over at GiadaFan.



Gordon Ramsay is Going Downscale
Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | posted by Mike

Gordon RamsayThe British press has its bangers in a mash over news about Hell’s Kitchen and The F-Word star Gordon Ramsay’s latest culinary entrepreneurial endeavor. Rather than expanding his upscale UK restaurant empire, word on the street is that he is on the market for a number of neighborhood pubs that he will turn into a chain of food-and-ale establishments. Coverage is in The Independent, The Guardian and The Scotsman.

This is interesting because, here in the US, most of the “branding” and marketing that takes place around TV chefs is centered on food products, kitchen equipment or general lifestyle items like magazines. I can only think of one chef-branded chain, and that would be Wolfgang Puck’s Express locations. Of course, those were built specifically for the purpose of becoming Express restaurants, so buying existing places and turning them into a chain is something altogether different. I think it’s a strategy that we could see work well in major metropolitan areas here in America.

As you would expect, there is some question as to whether a man known for Michelin stars can make food for the people. But you have to remember the Beef Wellington. I say that for two reasons:
Reason #1: All of the talk about Gordon Ramsay bringing back the Wellington makes you think that he can go beyond the latest trends and overly-fancy plating and put together a menu of food to eat with a lager. Criticize his personality all you want, but he seems to know how to make food that people love.

Reason #2: You’d be shocked by the number people who come to this site after Googling the words “Gordon Ramsay Wellington,” and I’m not at all above compromising my editorial integrity by including them in this post to drive up traffic.
Seriously, though, this is something totally different than products like Emeril bottled sauces because Ramsay doesn’t have to worry about losing control of the quality when it enters the home kitchen. He can create restaurants with very good, inexpensive food and do it in a location that allows people they’re getting a chance to eat at a celebrity’s establishment. Plus, it has the added bonus of being an authentic restaurant rather than a pre-fabricated McPub.

Of course, to really seal the deal, they’ll need to install a loudspeaker near the kitchen which will, at random times, blurt out obscenities and insults to the customers and staff. No sense in cutting corners on the full experience.



Rachael Ray Tries to Make It 2-for-2 at the Quill Awards
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | posted by Mike

The Quill AwardThe nominees for the second annual Quill Awards, which were created and are sponsored by the folks at Publisher’s Weekly, NBC and a couple of other outlets (according to the Wikipedia entry). The awards were designed to raise awareness of literacy and “pair a populist sensibility with Hollywood-style glitz and have become the first literary prizes to reflect the tastes of the group that matters most in publishing-readers.” I think that means they’re a cross between the PEN Awards and the People’s Choice Awards. But, hey…anything that encourages reading!

As I said, Rachael Ray is up for this year’s Cooking entry for Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners. Ray-Ray took home the coveted “crystal-stylized-feather-thingy” at last year’s event for Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes. There is no truth to the rumor that the award is simply given to the book with the longest title.

Based upon her popularity, I wouldn't be shocked to see a repeat winner. However, Rachael does face competition from some food TV heavy hitters this year. Also nominated is Heat by Bill Buford, which recounts the author’s time under Mario Batali’s tutelage and My Life in France by Patron Saint of Food TV® Julia Child (and completed by her grandnephew, Alex Prud’Homme).
If you have a strong feeling about any of those books, you can go ahead and vote for the winner at www.QuillsVote.com. Voting runs through September 30th and the winners will be announced on October 10th, with the awards ceremony aired on NBC on October 28th.



Review: "Bourdain in Beirut"

I can’t think of a food show in which the food itself has played such a small role. But I guess that is what happens when you’re filming a television show about traveling the world and a war breaks out.

Actually, food does play an important part in “Bourdain in Beirut,” which aired last night on the Travel Channel. Food serves as chef Anthony Bourdain’s introduction to the people and culture of Beirut, it becomes a reassuring presence while the crew is holed up in the hotel, and the tuna-noodle casserole completes the picture as the sign that they have made it out and are on their way home.

But make no mistake that everything is secondary to the star’s concern for what happened to the people and place that he was just getting to know.

The real strength of the show is that Anthony Bourdain essentially plays three “characters.” There is the Bourdain that is featured in the footage shot in Beirut, where he explores the city, comes to the realization about what is happening and then agonizes as he tries to get out. The chef is also featured in a talking-head interview that appears to have been conducted right after the ordeal. The shock of the situation has worn off and he is able to fully articulate his anger over what happened. Finally, there is the Bourdain that recorded the voice-over narration, probably some time after the events and with the benefit of perspective on the situation. All three are presented throughout the program, and each complements the other with the visceral, emotional and intellectual point of view that the others lack.

We saw quite a bit about this conflict on the news, but never were we presented with such a personal account of what was happening. Bourdain pulls no punches, with pointed and particular criticism for the President and embassy. But he also praises those who demonstrated strength and selflessness, including the crew’s Lebanese driver (who stood by them even as his family was in danger) and the Marines who were more than just rescuers.

This is an emotional show. And the emotions we see are raw, but they are focused and perfectly articulated, just as you would expect from someone who makes his living explaining the nuances of food.



Duff Goldman Interview Video

Duff Goldman CakeJust because Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman is a big-time Food Network star now doesn't mean he's left the folks of Baltimore behind. He's keeping it real with an interview on WJZ TV, the local Baltimore CBS affiliate. And now you can check it out on the station's site.

As I said before, we get a lot of Duffers visiting us here at TVFF.com, and a lot of them are coming from the Maryland area. He's certainly a local hero, and the charisma that he shows in this interview certainly hint toward mass appeal now that he has a national platform.



Happy Birthday, Giada De Laurentiis!

Giada De Laurentiis
Guess who turns 36 today. That’s right…and I’m sure that the birthday girl’s biggest wish was to get a b-day shout out from TVFF.com.

I know that whatever insanely expensive gift Todd gives her will pale in comparison to this honor.



"Food Network Re-Slices the Pie"
Monday, August 21, 2006 | posted by Mike

The TVFF.com research gnomes (We use gnomes rather than elves because they work much harder and require less sunlight. Don’t worry, we’re a Union shop.) turned up an article from TV Week titled “Food Network Re-Slices the Pie: Celebrity-Making Channel Seeks Share of Stars' Non-TV Endeavors.” The article outlines a new strategy for signing talent at the Food Network, a strategy that includes agreements with food personalities that would give the Network a piece of the action on non-television opportunites, such as cookbooks. Presumably, these would be branded with the Food Network logo as well.

Over at food network addict, the focus is on the dubious marketing opportunities that this sort of arrangement could generate.

But another thing to keep in mind is how these contracts may impact the relationships the stars have with FN. ; Obviously, anyone on the upswing of his or her career will probably benefit greatly from the added marketing muscle. But there may come a time when the star gets big enough and wants a larger percentage of the money. This is where things could get interesting.

And,Musicians sign terrible deals with managers (think Billy Joel in his “Piano Man” exile) and sports stars quickly become unhappy and disruptive when they feel that they have outperformed the deal they signed (I’m looking at you, Terrell Owens). Quite often, the “talent” is not particularly fond of seeing such a large part of the money that they’re making end up in someone else’s pocket. unlike sports, where the guy to become a free agent and go somewhere else, the options for food celebrities are limited, and there’s no way they’ll make that kind of money at PBS. If the Food Network knows that it’s the only game in town, how hard a bargain will they be willing to drive?

Again, most signs (i.e. not Sara Moulton) point to a tremendous relationship between the Network and its stars. But this is all about money, and money makes everything more complicated.



“Bourdain in Beirut” Tonight on Travel Channel

Anthony Bourdain: No ReservationsIt’s funny what you miss when you spend a whole weekend not paying attention…

Sorry for the short notice, but the Travel Channel will be airing the Beirut episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT. You can see a short video preview of the special on the Travel Channel’s site.

According to the show’s web site:
In July 2006, Anthony Bourdain and his crew traveled to Lebanon to film an episode of No Reservations. They discovered a beautiful country filled with proud, generous people and delicious food. However, within 24 hours of arrival they suddenly found themselves stuck in the middle of an intense, uncertain, and violent conflict. From their initial glimpse, to the destruction that followed, Anthony Bourdain in Beirut is the story of what Anthony and his crew saw and experienced during their nine days in the country.
Obviously, we spent a lot of time on this topic back when it was “breaking news,” so it will be interesting to see Bourdain’s perspective on the events. Be sure to tune in if you get the Travel Channel (I think we get it at TVFF.com HQ…I can never keep track of everything I get on digital cable).



Do What You Want with Montel, But Don’t You Dare Touch Guiding Light!
Friday, August 18, 2006 | posted by Mike

Guiding LightWading through the many (many, many) local stories about the debut of the Rachael Ray Show means reading a lot of less-than-interesting stories from the East Jabip Times or Podunk Herald about how Barnaby Jones will now air at 5:00 pm instead of 4:00 pm.

David over at PhilaFoodie tipped me off to some drama happening out in Pittsburgh. Rachael Ray is having a bit of her spotlight stolen by fellow Oprah protégé Dr. Phil, who is stirring up a fuss in ‘Burgh, according to the Post-Gazette. It seems that he’s moving to KDKA and into The Guiding Light’s timeslot, and the flurry of calls and e-mails means not everyone is happy. Not to worry, GL fans, your show is moving to 10:00 am. Of course, that is the time slot of Ray-Ray’s new show, so you’re going to have to make some choices.

Hmmm…Madeline, the proprietrix of Everything Rachael Ray was just vacationing in Pittsburgh. You don’t suppose she was there stirring up trouble for some site publicity, do you? :P

It’s Friday – go home! (And be sure to tell someone this weekend to visit TVFoodFan.com!)



Maybe Not Everyone Likes What Jamie Oliver is Doing

I’m sure you’re all devastated by the lack of an Ace of Cakes review. Well, I was busy last night and flat-out missed it. Sorry. I’ll get off my Duff (pun intended) and catch it at some point. Expect a short review then. Of course, if there is an enterprising guy or gal out there saw it and wants to submit a review, send it along to tvfoodfan@gmail.com and I’ll post it. (Be sure to let me know how you’d like to be credited)

We linked to those charming photos of Jamie Oliver in the fat suit the other day. If you didn’t check them out, be sure to look at the new ones that the Daily Mail has, including the one with the Vespa. Was that really necessary?

We’ve been taking it for granted that The Naked Chef’s program to improve the diets of British schoolchildren has been a good thing. Silly us! According to Claire Fox, who is the Director of something called the Institute of Ideas has a different take on what Oliver is doing. From a speech to the Showcomotion Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, England:
Oliver’s Channel 4 programme has been a convenient - if unwitting - Trojan horse for pushing Department of Health messages. Oliver and other broadcasters have proved to be an invaluable asset for a government keen to launch a mass campaign of behaviour modification.

…Likewise, when Oliver proclaims to the nation’s children that processed food is bad and organic food is good, are children fully informed that the evidence for this claim comes from the Soil Association, the main advocacy group for organic farming in the UK?
Oddly, Fox makes no mention of the threat posed to our precious bodily fluids by fluoridating water.

OK…Fox does have a point that we don’t know with certainty the long-term effects of processed foods or “unhealthy diets.” And, in many instances, those with a financial incentive are the ones supplying the evidence that is being put forward.

But the clinical and anecdotal evidence certainly points to unhealthy weight and diet issues, and it’s not like everyone is getting fat off free-range chicken. I don’t know Fox or the Institute, but these are the same terrible arguments put forth by John Stossel here in the U.S., which strike a chord with the viewer because they imply that you should go ahead and do whatever makes you feel good…why should “they” to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong? And who do you think is pushing that line of reasoning? Hint: McDonald’s and Archer Daniels Midland’s lobbyists are better funded than the organic food lobby.

Is this issue one that requires personal responsibility? Of course, but if kids are going to see Ronald McDonald four times a day on television, they need someone giving them a different perspective. And, in schools, kids have a very limited amount of choice when it comes to their lunch diet. If that means that governmental agencies use the support generated by the campaign to justify new, stricter regulations on unhealthy foods, how is that any different than food-handling regulations that came out of the writings of Upton Sinclair?



Mario Batali and Courtney Love!?!
Thursday, August 17, 2006 | posted by Mike

Courtney LoveWho knows, but the New York Daily News seemed to feel that the evidence was compelling enough to run with the rumor in its “Gatecrasher” column. The info:

During one recent bacchanal, which lasted almost until sunrise, the red-headed restaurateur told his companions he was leaving to "drop in on Courtney Love."

See, that’s the thing about celebrity chefs. They’re still chefs. But now they’re celebrities, too, and that means they get the full Brangelina treatment. When asked, Mario’s people said there is no truth to the story. For the sake of everything good and holy in this world, I pray that they’re being honest.

Also: Gawker has a funny (warning: R-rated) take on the story, too.



Crumbs – 8/16/06
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 | posted by Mike

Think of Crumbs as the fond that makes TVFF.com so good…
  • Genève has been cooking up a storm recently, working on dishes created and inspired by TV chefs. This time, she takes on Jamie Oliver’s Seared Scallops and Crispy Proscuitto with Roasted Tomatoes and Smashed White Beans.

  • Anthony Bourdain speaks his mind (shocker!) on many topics, including Nigella Lawson and Mario Batali.

  • America’s Test Kitchen gets a new underwriter: Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi.

  • The Hell’s Kitchen finale won the ratings crown for the night.

  • The Food Network does some good deeds: Sandra Lee will cook dinner for one lucky military family and the Network is supporting the Share Our Strength program through public service announcements featuring Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray.

  • Are you in the Bay Area? Do you want to have lunch with Guy Fieri? Here you go.



Review: Dave Does

Dave DoesI don’t want to spend a whole lot of time reviewing this new Web-based series, which we previewed some time ago. I’ll just go ahead and say that the content is interesting (the first two episodes are up, one is about school meals, currently a crusade of Jamie Oliver in the UK) and star Dave Lieberman is in his element. As usual, he excels when he’s out talking to “real” people, and his interactions with the kids are great. I like him more and more, and Dave Lieberman is someone who I actually would like to see more of outside his usual Good Deal show. Just go ahead and watch it…it’s really very good.

What I do want to talk about a little is the way this is being presented. You’re getting a whole lot more than the video when you tune in. There are “deleted scenes,” tabbed content that comes up at the appropriate time during the show and links to many of the people and places that Lieberman visits. Recipes and additional photos are also available. The video is usually clean and clear (a little bit of choppiness) and the audio is strong. I will admit that the interface can be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you’re trying to watch the video for the first time. No worries…you can always “rewind” it using the scroll bar under the video. (I had some problems in Firefox. You might want to stick with IE.)

Similar to the experiment that ABC ran with a number of its shows (on-demand episodes of Alias, Desperate Housewives, etc.) last year, Dave Does requires you to watch a short commercial before the video. I think this is a real win-win that may translate to more shows (both web-only and on-demand regular episodes) showing up in this format. I win because I know I’d happily sit through a few ads for the opportunity to catch that episode that I missed or can’t see on television. And, of course, it’s a win for the advertiser, who gets a highly targeted viewer for their spot.

It's good to see Food Network taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by the technology.



Is Good Eats a "Boys" Show?

Good EatsI’ve been kicking around some thoughts about gender and cooking ever since we posted that review of Heat, which stated that we really only got interested in cooking as an art form once men got involved. Is there “male cooking” and “female cooking?” If so, are there “male shows” and “female shows?” Sandra Lee and Duff Goldman both make cakes, but there sure is a heck of a difference between those two.

What really got me thinking was an article in the Lansing State Journal that proclaimed Good Eats one of five “good shows for boys.”
3. "Good Eats" — Another perfect combination: Science and food. Host Alton Brown skillfully mixes science facts with cooking, making the entire mixture the most entertaining show on the Food Network. In case you haven't figured it out yet, my son likes science. Of course, we'd actually eat very little of what Brown makes, but we like watching the process anyway.
Anyone have thoughts on this? The writer mentions the fact that science is involved, and that’s just the kind of gender stereotyping that has caused girls to fall behind boys in subjects like science. Do any of you watch with your kids, and do you see gender preferences in which shows they like?

Also: ”We’d actually eat very little of what Brown makes…” Really?!? Good Eats is one of the shows where I would probably eat just about anything they make. It’s a distinct possibility that this guy just has no idea what he’s talking about.



Rachael Ray Brings Out the Big Guns: Oprah
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | posted by Mike

Oprah Winfrey and Rachael RayThis shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, considering Oprah's Harpo production company is behind the new Rachael Ray Show, but People magazine is reporting that the talk show queen will be appearing on her protege's show within the first week.

Apparently, it's an especially big deal considering the fact that Oprah "rarely appears on other people's shows."



Jamie Oliver Makes a Point by Pretending to Be Morbidly Obese

Jamie Oliver in a fat suitIn case you haven't noticed, Jamie "The Naked Chef" Oliver hasn't been seen much on television here in the states. You may not know this, but he's busy saving the world. OK...maybe he didn't set it sights quite that high, but he is on a crusade to improve the health of the United Kingdom's schoolchildren by reforming the meals that they are being served.

School Dinners was his first series, and news out of the UK seem to indicate that some pretty big changes were made after it aired. Now he's filming Back to School Dinners, a new show that will look at the changes that were made (or weren't made) in the system since the first show.

Enough with the serious stuff, let's look at the funny picture! Over there on the left, you can see a picture that appears in the Daily Mail under the headline, "Jamie Oliver's shocking obesity warning." The accompanying text:

His obscenely chubby jowls hide his normally sprightly smile, and his garish red-checked shirt is straining over his gargantuan stomach.

And as he waddles out of a shop eagerly grasping two packets of burgers with sausage-like fingers, Jamie Oliver sends out a powerful warning about the dangers of junk food in one shocking image.

I'm assuming that Jamie has a good reason to be dressing up like a Mike Meyers character. And what does it say about our country that I see a guy that looks like this at least three times a day?



Mario Batali Needs a Good General Contractor

Unless you're a Hell's Kitchen winner, it's highly unlikely that someone will just hand you a fully-built and decorated restaurant. It's gonna take money (a whole lot of spending money), time and effort if you want that new "mozzarella bar" and "pizzeria with a wood-burning stove" in West Hollywood.

Eater has an update (with pictures) of the current state of construction of Mozza/Osteria del Latte, Mario's soon(?)-to-be-opening restaurants in Los Angeles. As you can see, it promises to be much nicer once it has amenities like walls and seats.

Of course, however nice it will be, it can never top Mario's first kitchen experience, TVFF.com's favorite stromboli place in New Brunswick, NJ. Yes, it's called Stuff Yer Face. And, yes, it really is good.



Hell’s Kitchen Post Mortem

Gordon RamsayLast night’s two-hour episode put a lid on this, the second season of Hell’s Kitchen. I’m assuming that you all saw it (or that you made a conscious decision not to see it), so I’m not feeling up to recapping the whole thing. If you want a full accounting of what happened, check out Foodite’s recap.

A couple of thoughts do come to mind, though:
  • At the risk of incurring the wrath of Adam over at Men in Aprons, I have to admit that I’m now officially a Gordon Ramsay fan. I was on the fence for a while, but the last line of the show (which is also the title of Foodite’s recap) pretty much solidified the fact that Ramsay is in on the joke, and that he has a good sense of humor behind all of the bluster. Again, I know some of you feel differently. Feel free to rip me in the comments.

  • They have already announced that there will be a third season. Judging by the way Fox likes to capitalize on its reality shows (see: American Idol), we can probably expect the next season to debut in about six weeks.

  • Virginia is just plain dumb. Why would you choose people who you know don’t like you, then proceed to tell them that they were chosen because they were “weak?” Did you really think that you were going to get them to give full effort by promising them some money? Plus, Tom was a complete waste of space. Actually, he was worse than a waste of space because he managed to cut himself, thus creating a distraction and having to leave his station. Is it any wonder that Heather won because Chef Ramsay thought she had control over her kitchen?
All right. Time to get ready for the next season of Top Chef.



Hands Down: Jeffrey Steingarten is Our Favorite Iron Chef Judge
Monday, August 14, 2006 | posted by Mike

Jeffrey SteingartenYou might think that the food and the chefs are the stars of Iron Chef America. Heavens, no! Any regular viewer can tell you that, for all the culinary wizardry taking place in Kitchen Stadium, the real show begins when everyone’s favorite cranky judge, Jeffrey Steingarten, bestows upon us his opinions on the night’s meal.

In fact, the only thing better than hearing Jeffrey’s thoughts on the dish before him is when he decides to turn his criticism on one of his fellow judges. Invariably, they manage to put some morning show host or Broadway actress on the judging panel and then, LOOK OUT! Apparently, in Jeffrey’s mind, non-James-Beard-finalists need not apply.

The snarkiness reached new heights last night as Jeffrey got into to a bit of a tiff with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy food expert Ted Allen over his lack of enthusiasm (or maybe his lack of vocabulary, depending on who you believe) towards one dish. He also took a moment to rip the aforementioned morning show host next to him. Jeffrey is nothing if not fair in doling out his abuse.

Needless to say, the fellows in post-production knew that they hit the jackpot and managed to cross-cut the video throughout the judging process as Jeffrey and Ted took verbal shots at one another and repeatedly made faces at one another’s comments. I highly recommend you just tune in for the judging segment of this battle (puff pastry…for a competition between two Greek chefs…way to think outside the box, Chairman!).

We’ll have some more things to say about Iron Chef America soon, but Jeffrey is one aspect of the show that I think they really nailed. It seems like every reality/competition show has a judge that drives people batty (Simon Cowell, Janice Dickinson), and Jeffrey is the perfect food snob that you can love to hate.

So, stay tuned for future episodes of our new feature: The Jeffrey Steingarten Condescension Watch.



Rachael Ray and the Wikipedia Guy
Sunday, August 13, 2006 | posted by Mike

100 Most Influential PeopleJust in case you weren’t convinced that omnipresent TV chef/talker Rachael Ray was the nicest person on the face of the earth, we get confirmation from The News Courier in Athens, Alabama.

Huntsville native and Wikiepedia founder Jimmy Wales gets a profile in the paper (and proclaims fame “really cool”) after recently being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

As much as an honor as that must have been, a call to his mom from the world’s perkiest chef may have been the real highlight:
For Mrs. Wales, one perk of her son’s fame stands out.

“Rachael Ray called me,” she said. Ray, host of a popular cooking show on the Food Network, was attending the Lincoln Center event honoring Time’s 100 Most Influential People, where he walked a red carpet to enter.

“Jimmy met her and said ‘I don’t know if my mom is more proud of me getting the Time 100 honor or meeting you,” Mrs. Wales recalls. Ray offered to call Mrs. Wales on her son’s cell phone.

“He said, ‘Mom, I have someone who wants to talk to you — Rachael Ray.’ So she talked to me, told me I must be so proud of my son. That was my highlight,” said Mrs. Wales.



Friday Happy Fun Time - 8/11/06
Friday, August 11, 2006 | posted by Mike

You know, it was getting late and I thought I wouldn't have anything for this week's edition of FHFT.

But then...what pops into my inbox?

It's Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman dressed as a...ummmm...ahhhhh. Just go look. I'm getting to like him more and more.

God bless you, Flickr. God bless you.



Good Publicity Makes All the Difference

PigAnd, no, I’m not talking about the publicity TVFF.com gets from interviews on big food sites or from you guys telling friends about TVFF.com (although I KNOW you are!).

No, I’m talking about the fickle nature of the press and how quickly one can lose positive coverage, only to regain it…just in time to lose it again in an unfortunate pig-killing incident (hogicide?)

First, Gordon Ramsay catches flak for going sans-seatbelt on his show.

Now, earlier today, we got word that Gordo got right with the people of the UK by taking out some karmic insurance and serving as a celebrity spokesman for blood donations. A truly worthy cause, and something I did two days ago!

You thought we were going to have a happy ending, didn’t you? Nope. I just picked up my copy of Farmer’s Weekly (I read it for the crop reports) and found out that this week’s episode of The F-Word featured two pigs becoming bacon right before the viewers’ eyes. Of course, Channel 4 is getting a bunch of complaints, and even Chef Ramsay took it hard:

Even the chef from hell looked queasy after witnessing the animals being butchered. “F**k, I’m going to get the hell out of here,” he said.
Later Mr Ramsay, who relishes his tough guy reputation, admitted: “I felt sick as a dog in there. Not pleasant.”

See? Good press one minute… And the next -- even TVFF.com is piling on with a blatantly manipulative photo.



"Mardi Gras Jambalaya in Space"

We posted a few days ago that a meal created by Emeril Lagasse was going to be sent up to the International Space Station. The menu consisted of "Mardi Gras Jambalaya, Kicked-Up Mashed Potatoes with Bacon, Green Beans with Garlic, rice pudding and mixed fruit." Yesterday was the big day, and P.J. Bednarski of Broadcasting & Cable was one of three journalists invited to watch as Emeril spoke with the astronauts. (Hmmm...TVFF.com's invite must have been lost in the e-mail.)

In his blog entry on the event, Bednarski talks about how thrilling an experience it was to be able to sit in on the conversation and said that, "I must admit it was a great day to be an American with an appetite."

No word on whether or not Emeril found a way to "kick up" that dehydrated astronaut ice cream.



London Review of Books Looks at “Heat”

Heat by Bill BufordThe London Review of Books has a great in-depth look at Bill Buford’s Heat. Written by Steven Shapin, the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, the article reviews Heat through the lens of the historical role of food (from Aristotle’s beliefs on diet to European royalty to the commercialization of food in the 20th century), and spends a bit of time on today’s celebrity food culture.

I should probably take a step back…I’m not sure how many of you have come across Heat, but it’s written by the former fiction editor for the New Yorker, Bill Buford, and it tells his story of becoming a “kitchen slave” to Mario Batali in order to learn what it really takes to become a chef. I would have more to say about the book, and I do plan on giving it more attention later, but I haven’t managed to find time to read it. (Just being honest)

The review, though, is a good read in its own right. Shapin makes mention of a number of high profile TV chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. He sees their rise to fame as a result of larger trend, the culinary renaissance that has taken place over the past few years. I think he makes an excellent point when he draws on the history of cooking to show that the current trend is, in part, the result of greater equality in the workplace and the fact that many more men are cooking in the home these days. “And when men began to do the cooking it became worth thinking about and very much worth talking about.”

As I said, it’s an interesting read…and don’t skip it just because it may have a bit of an “academic” tone to it. The author still takes the time to rip Emeril Lagasse for his “immense quantities of garlic, pork fat and his proprietary Cajun seasoning powder, Emeril’s Original Essence™: $3.59 for three ounces.”



Gordon Ramsay Won’t Serve Raw Chicken, Will Drive Without Seatbelt
Thursday, August 10, 2006 | posted by Mike

Gordon RamsayAfter watching Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay dress down one of his contestants/punching bags recently for potentially killing a dinner guest with an undercooked chicken, one would think that the chef is hyper-aware of personal safety and that he always takes the proper precautions.

Well, not when it comes to wearing a seatbelt during an episode of The F-Word, his Channel 4 program (or, should that be programme?). According to the Glasgow Daily Record:
"Ramsay is seen picking up twin midwives Alison and Joanne from a nightshift. Before pulling away, Ramsay turns to his passengers and says: 'Seat belts on please, ladies.' But he fails to take his own advice before speeding off in his Ford people carrier."

Of course, this has drawn criticism from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which rightly points out the importance of seatbelts and the fact that wearing them is a learned behavior that needs to be reinforced by folks who appear on television.

I’ve mentioned how the British tabloids can be tough on celebs, but this is strictly small potatoes. Call me when Ramsay starts driving around without a seatbelt and with Sean Preston Spears Federline on his lap.



DIY Food Television: Genève's Grilled Tuna Steaks with Pesto

Geneve StewartYou probably remember that we mentioned Genève's Kitchen a few days ago in a post about how the Internet is having an impact on TV cooking and food entertainment. Genève usually blogs on her latest dishes and posts photos to accompany the description. Lately, however, she’s started experimenting with video and started her own “do it yourself” version of food TV. Now, she’s armed with a brand new camera and has posted another episode.

This video is actually a product of two of TVFF.com’s favorite food bloggers. Adam over at Men in Aprons has been running a “Carnival of the Grill” and Genève's Grilled Tuna Steaks with Pesto is her submission. Genève, an absolute natural on camera, says in her post that she was inspired by a Giada De Laurentiis dish.

Speaking of Giada and Adam, there’s a new post on his other site, GiadaFan, about an interview he gave to Details magazine “about the emergence of the domestic goddess in TV culture and pop culture.” Can’t wait to see it, and congratulations on the publicity that is sure to follow. I just hope he happens to have a post with a link to me near the top when the issue hits newsstands!

So…Adam starts the Carnival, which elicits a submission from Genève, who was inspired by Giada, who is the subject of Adam’s other site. It’s the circle of life, people!

Rachael Ray Show Website Promos
Wednesday, August 09, 2006 | posted by Mike

RachaelRayShow.comWe haven’t checked in on Rachael Ray much recently. This is mostly because much of the media coverage has abated now that she’s not doing press promotion and she is now busy actually taping the shows. We are only a little more than a month away from the big debut, and they're making sure they have plenty of pre-taped segments in the can for when the show airs.

But this doesn’t mean that Rachael’s people aren’t hard at work promoting the upcoming show. It seems that one way that they’re doing it is by trying to “syndicate” the promotional materials from the show. Specifically, the websites of a number of local stations which will be carrying the show have incorporated content and artwork about the show, including the trademark orange color. KMBC in Kansas City features a grilled flank steak recipe and WPVI in Philadelphia includes the station’s logo along with a link to the RachaelRayShow.com website. The fact that the local sites are promoting it so actively tells you they have high hopes for the show. And this is a good thing from RR's perspective, because it reinforces the "brand" that she is creating for the show. Very smart...very Oprah-like.

Speaking of her site, I have to say that RachaelRayShow.com is pretty well designed. It does a very good job of using Flash and it includes a full listing of all stations, so you can check out where the program will be playing in your market. It also has a call for submissions (videos and artwork) and a list of “stories” you can share with Rachael, presumably to be booked for an appearance. The list gives a bit of a preview of what the show will be like. I think you can pretty much determine if you’ll be a fan by perusing the list, which includes:
  • Did you make the mess of the week?
  • Do you look like Rachael?
  • Enough about bad brides...know a GROOMZILLA? (Don’t even think about it, Soon-to-be-Mrs. TVFF.com)
  • "Arrggghhh...I'm turning into my mother!"



Crumbs – 8/9/06

Just thought you’d like to know…

  • Add Los Angeles to the list of cities where Gordon Ramsay will be opening restaurants.

  • Duff Goldman, soon to be the Ace of Cakes, designed a fish-shaped cake for the 25th birthday of the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

  • “The 'Hot Spot Culinary Extravaganza' to Debut at the 2006 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo.” Appearing at the expo, which will take place August 26th-28th in Los Angeles, will be Iron Chef Cat Cora and Big Biter Guy Fieri.

  • Bobby Flay donated $58,000 to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which got him options to breed two top thoroughbred stallions.

  • Have you ever wanted to try Mama’s meatballs? Well, Rocco DiSpirito gives up the recipe to The Napa Valley Register.



The Best Show You May Not Be Watching
Tuesday, August 08, 2006 | posted by Mike

America's Test Kitchen LogoEver since I started TVFoodFan.com, the site has been coming up pretty often in conversations with friends, family and coworkers. (Hey – I have to drum up traffic somehow) And, when it does come up, the discussion invariably turns to favorite shows and personalities. As you would imagine, many of the same names (Giada De Laurentiis, Rachael Ray, Mario Batali) come up time and again.

But I always make sure I mention another show. And it often catches them off guard, because it’s not one of the “glamour” shows of the Food Network.

For the serious foodie, PBS’s America’s Test Kitchen is a must-watch.

There are a lot of things that ATK is not. It’s not flashy, it’s not peopled with looks-first chefs and it’s not full of innovative or original recipes. It is a show that features good chefs showing you how to be a better cook.

ATK’s episodes center on a common theme, and the main segments feature the “perfect” recipe for a dish – one that has been tried and tested and deemed to be the best by the test chefs behind Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The chefs do a great job of explaining the decisions they made about ingredients and techniques, and no show on television spends as much time actually showing the cooking process. There are very few “through the magic of television” swap-outs.

And, speaking as someone who has tried a number of their recipes, their dishes translate well to the home kitchen. You won’t find a groundbreaking new concoction, but you will find a way to keep your chicken and dumplings from turning into a gloppy mess.

The non-cooking segments on the show are just as interesting and helpful to the home cook. The show (and the magazine) is funded entirely by underwriters and subscriptions, just like Consumer Reports, and they provide evaluations of kitchen equipment and ingredients. They often provide a “money is no object” winner along with a “best buy” recommendation. I’m buying the Muir Glen Organic canned tomatoes thanks to ATK.

America's Test Kitchen CastThe show is hosted by Christopher Kimball, the founder of Cook’s Illustrated. In the show, he serves as an “everyman,” working with a number of chefs and acting as a stand-in for the home viewer. He’s not afraid to make the dumb mistakes and ask the dumb questions, because he knows that the corrections and answers are useful to you and me.

Now, if I’m making this sound like a chore to watch, it’s not. Kimball is very likeable…the slightly goofy smart kid in class who found a topic he loves and somehow got to host a TV show about it. There are also a number of running “gags” on the show, including Kimball’s terrible record of accurately choosing the tasters’ preferred ingredients in the tasting kitchen. Just like ATK’s PBS cousin Sesame Street does, it teaches you while entertaining. Unlike Sesame Street, the large bird usually ends up perfectly roasted with a nice pan sauce.

America’s Test Kitchen certainly isn’t the most glamorous TV food show, and it’s probably doesn’t have the most dynamic cuisine, but it’s probably the most useful half hour a foodie can spend in front of the television.



What Mario Cooks in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

Las Vegas Sands Corp., which runs a number of hotels and resorts in Nevada as well as in other locations around the world, announced their second quarter earnings a few days ago. Included in the call, and reported today online, was an update on news that the company is partnering with Mario Batali to open two new restaurants in their Venetian restaurant. All signs are pointing towards a 2006 opening for Mario’s two locations.

From the earnings call transcript:

Mario Batali, the award winning chef, will open two new restaurants at the Venetian this year. The restaurants will be modeled on its highly successful New York creations of Babbo and Lupo…

Batali’s places are just the latest in the growing trend of celebrity chefs opening restaurants in Las Vegas. Of course, this is all part of Vegas’ move from gambling destination to family resort town. For a good rundown of the celeb chef landscape there, check out this USA Today article with info on the spots owned and operated by folks like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck.



The Stuff on Duff
Monday, August 07, 2006 | posted by Mike

We had a post last week on the next big show debuting on Food Network, Ace of Cakes. I was a bit less than enthusiastic about the idea, and a couple of you picked up on that. As you can see from the comments on that post, Duff Goldman has some pretty rabid fans, so I decided to take a look around to find out what I could about the goateed baker.

There is quite a bit of info out there on the Baltimore-based Goldman, particularly local stories about his shop, Charm City Cakes. You can expect to see more in the national media in the coming weeks, as the debut of the new show approaches. But these local stories from a few years ago, including one from the City Paper, provide a good look at this early career, including training at the CIA and early experiences in Napa Valley, Vale and under Todd English at Olives in Washington, D.C.

Another article, this one from the Baltimore Business Journal, focuses on Goldman’s success as an entrepreneur. It does a good job of illustrating his creativity, including a hand-painted gold cake depicting Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss.” (You’ve seen the painting before…the poster was probably hanging on your college girlfriends dorm room wall.) It also talks about the role that the Internet had in the growth of his business, working in conjunction with word-of-mouth and avoiding the costs of more expensive print advertising.

Both articles are worth a read, and I do admit that I am now a bit more excited about Ace of Cakes. I still can’t shake the goofiness of the promo commercial, though. I really wish Food Network’s web site had some preview footage or something. Ah well…it will be here soon enough.

Of course, by then we’ll be on to the next premiere.



Breaking News: Bruce Seidel Named Senior Vice President of Program Planning and Special Productions at Food Network

Broadcasting & Cable and TV.com bring us word that the Food Network has a new head honcho of programming. Bruce Seidel will be the man paid to make the big decisions, which means he will be in charge of what you see. The article mentions that Seidel was previously responsible for bringing a number of shows through the production process, including The Next Food Network Star and Iron Chef America. He also spent some time at Discovery and HBO.

So, what does this mean? Will we see more of these reality/competition type shows? How will this impact the slow but steady creep away from cooking shows towards lifestyle and travel shows? Why doesn’t the Chairman wear those awesome sequined jackets like his uncle? We need answers!



Greetings, FoodCandy Visitors!

Just a quick note to greet everyone coming to TVFoodFan.com from the link in my interview on FoodCandy.com. Feel free to take a look around, catch up on some of the old posts and be sure to bookmark us or add us to your newsreader! (And, yes...that's really what I look like)

For everyone else, FoodCandy is a great site and one of the online places where you can always find me hanging out. It's all free, and you can create a profile and talk food with others. Think of it as a Friendster for foodies...putting us in touch with like-minded gastronomists.

A special thanks to dB, who puts a ton of time and effort into FoodCandy!

You’re Not Famous Until You Guest Star on “The Simpsons”
Sunday, August 06, 2006 | posted by Mike

I really didn’t mean for TVFF.com to become all Gordo, all the time.

But, world-renowned chef and “Hell’s Kitchen” star Gordon Ramsay will now receive true immortality, according to the Mirror. He’ll be appearing as a guest star on “The Simpsons.”

It’s good to know that Chef Ramsay has his priorities in order regarding his appearance on the show:

"I don't know how they're going to do it, but I hope they keep the swearing in."



Friday Happy Fun Time – 8/4/06
Friday, August 04, 2006 | posted by Mike

I’ve heard from precisely none of you about the lack of Friday Happy Fun Time last week. I had originally planned to do it every week. Then, after two weeks of doing it, I realized that the world of online food…not really that funny. So, from now on, it will be a semi-regular feature.

We’re wrapping up the week here at TVFF.com HQ, and I have to thank you all for making it another winner! I’m glad to see so many repeat visitors. And, again, I’m going to encourage you to write, call, fax or telegraph one or two of your foodie friends and let them know about our site.

Since it is Fun Time, I’m going to point you to a friend-of-TVFF.com and first-class blogger, Adam from Men in Aprons. It seems that Adam is not a big fan of Chef Ramsay. It also seems that Adam likes to play with a site called Stripcreator, which lets you write your own comic strip using their graphics. I think you can see where this is going.

Adam started up the “Hell’s Kitchen” comic strip a few weeks ago and, when he noticed our story about Gordon’s crying fit, he decided it would make for a good episode. Check out his post, and be sure to click through to explore all of his comics.



Would You Buy a Lincoln MKX from Rocco DiSpirito?

I know that the first thing I picture when I think of TV food chef Rocco DiSpirito is a large, American-made SUV.

Well, that’s exactly the marketing angle the folks at Ford are taking with the upcoming “Dreams” ad campaign for the new Lincoln Navigator, MKZ sedan and MKX crossover, according to The Detroit News.

The new spots will play on the “Dreams” theme by showing people “achieving success on their own terms,” according to Ford’s president of sales and marketing. I suppose that the “on their own terms” part refers to Rocco following up his crash-and-burn on "The Restaurant" with a phoenix-like rebirth as Dr. Phil.

First time Lincoln buyers will also receive three-dozen frozen meatballs (hand made by Momma, of course). If that doesn’t get you into the showroom, nothing will.



NASA to Shoot Emeril Lagasse’s Food into Space
Thursday, August 03, 2006 | posted by Mike

OK boys and girls…stop laughing. I can hear the wisecracks from here: “…which is where it belongs.” “Are they sending him with it?’ “Maybe it won’t come back.”

Anthony Bourdain may be right -- Emeril may be a "furry little Ewok.” But he is very popular, especially with the part-time foodies.

NASA, he people who brought you the moon landing, are now hard at work on possibly their most important project: sending Emeril’s food to the crew on the International Space Station. Unfortunately, to ensure the safety of their equipment, crewmembers will not be allowed to haphazardly throw seasoning around the cockpit.

Actually, this is a pretty nice thing for the crew, which features one America, one Russian and one European Space Agency astronaut. As fun as it might sound to be up there, it’s a physically and psychologically demanding job, and they can get pretty homesick.

Station crews usually live and work in space for six months. "Our research has indicated that quality, appetizing food is important for the health and morale of astronauts during space missions, especially long ones," said NASA's Vickie Kloeris, who oversees the development and distribution of food on the space station.



Is Gordon Ramsay Bringing Back the Wellington?

The Hartford Courant (which, coincidentally, is the new flavor from Absolut), has an article today about the renewed popularity of Beef Wellington at a number of local restaurants. This includes the return of the traditional tenderloin/paté/mushroom version as well as slightly different takes on the dish, such as an appetizer version called “Beef Wellington Bites.”

So, who gets the credit for saving Wellington from the world of “old people” ordering from a “country-club menu?” The Courant thinks that TV chef Gordon Ramsay has something to do with it. As regular viewers of “Hell’s Kitchen” know, when he’s not screaming for the “bloody risotto,” Gordon can be heard berating his trainees for screwing up the Wellington.

A quick note to home chefs: As we found out in episode 205 of “Hell’s Kitchen,” covering your overcooked Wellington in extra sauce will not fix anything.

What other food trends have been started by TV chefs? If you can think of one, share it with everyone in the comments below!



Crumbs – 8/2/06
Wednesday, August 02, 2006 | posted by Mike

It’s an uncommonly quiet week in TV Foodland. I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up to the oppressive heat, which has everybody looking for an excuse not to cook. Just a few Crumbs this week…
  • I love reading small-town newspaper stories about local people and places appearing on Food Network. Here is a story that will put your mind at ease about the brain sandwich that appears in next week’s “Feasting on Asphalt.” At least Alton’s not going to tell us how delicious it is.

  • Lidia Bastianich made an appearance in San Antonio, a town which “gives her show extremely strong ratings.”

  • Penguin will be publishing a new book from Jamie Oliver during the second half of the year.

  • Mario Batali will be on the judging panel of an heirloom bean cook-off in San Francisco. Like I said, it’s been a slow week.



Who is “Ace of Cakes?”
Tuesday, August 01, 2006 | posted by Mike

Or should it be what is “Ace of Cakes.” Whatever.

Since the Food Network runs on a rolling premier schedule, we’re averaging a new show debut every week and a half these days. Next in the hopper is “Ace of Cakes,” which will hit the airwaves on August 17.

The promo ads haven’t gone into too much detail, but there seems to be pastries and power tools involved. TVFF.com’s crack research department (i.e. Google) found a description of the show from what looks like a document for prospective advertisers.

He hates culinary schools, nouvelle cuisine, snooty chefs-and cilantro. Other than that, Duff Goldman loves everything about food. And it shows in Ace of Cakes, our new series featuring one of the country's most sought-after decorative bakers.

Sporting his signature goatee and armed with a blowtorch and drill saw, Duff may seem out of place in a kitchen. Until you see him cook. He operates on the outlaw fringes of the culinary world, combining skills as a sculptor, rock musician and welder for a decidedly "hard rock" approach to cooking. Our cameras enter the chaos of Duff's own bakery-staffed with fellow rockers – to watch him ace on everything from a 7-tier wedding cake to a near perfect replica of Wrigley Field, ultimately transfixing viewers with his energy and artistry.

So, as the title implies, the show will focus on desserts. We can add “Ace” to the nearly-unwatchable “Sugar Rush,” that baking competition where they have to carry the cake up and down stairs and “Sweet Dreams,” which I didn’t know was even on the network (seriously…when is this on?). In other words, they could use a decent dessert show.

We’ll take a closer look as the debut approaches. I’m going to reserve judgment for now, but I’m not so sure about yet another bad-boy chef thing. We’ve seen that before. And I don’t know that having him bake a cake will make it interesting enough.



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.

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