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The Rocco Switcheroo
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | posted by Mike

Thanks to everyone for the links and notes about our Sandra Lee interview last week. Obviously, we love to be able to bring you exclusive content like that, and we greatly appreciate your support. (Sorry to sound like a PBS pledge drive there...)

Anyway, have you ever been swindled or misled and not even realized it? It's the kind of flim-flam that's over before you realize it's going on, leaving you wondering what just happened. Apparently, that's what happened last week when the producers of Top Chef pulled a Rocco Switcheroo on us. Maybe I'm just a little slow on the uptake, but I just realized this the other day, thanks to an article on film.com.

Yes, last week's episode of the popular chef competition featured the old fall-back...the clip/recap show! And this after teasing us with the newly taut visage of Rocco DiSpirito during the previews the week before. I suppose that, since they say, "On the next Top Chef," or something like that, this sort of thing is fair game.

The show featured not one but two ironic tuxedos! We got Ilan with the too-short pants and no socks in the front row. But even better was Michael's "Dean Martin after six martinis, tie undone" tuxedo, which was considerably ironic-er. (Here, scroll down past the completely un-ironic Padma)

As you can guess, the fact that I'm talking about tuxedos and incorrectly using the comparative version of words means that the episode was pretty darn boring. As you can see at the two links above, my opinions fell well within the consensus.

Why am I writing about this now? Am I that eagerly awaiting Rocco's actual appearance tomorrow? Was I that offended at the bait-and-switch?

Or maybe I miss The Next Food Network Star more than I thought I would...

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TVFF Interview: Sandra Lee
Friday, July 27, 2007 | posted by Mike

I'm the first to admit that, here in the TVFF household, we don't make everything from scratch. There's the frozen pierogi, the jarred Indian simmer sauces and Goya flavored rice, all of which make regular appearances at my meals. But I do try to bring something original -- be it sautéed onions or fresh cilantro -- to make it just a bit more flavorful, healthy and fun.

This, of course, is the mantra of Sandra Lee, whose Semi-Homemade philosophy has made her a best-selling author and Food Network star who appeals to busy mothers and fathers and whose run-away success confounds self-professed foodie purists. Regardless of your position, Lee's lessons and recipes appeal to a large number of people who otherwise would solely rely on nothing but processed foods and take out.

A regular in the Food Network lineup, Sandra Lee will be debuting a new special this Saturday, July 28th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

In Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Grilling, Sandra throws the ultimate waterfront BBQ blowout. She shares her grilling tips and techniques along with clever outdoor entertaining ideas that everyone can do! The show has vehicles for everyone – from a slick motorcade of flashy hot Harley’s to a furiously fast convertible corvette that Sandra races around in while whipping up a tasty array of great grilled foods. The menu features fabulous recipes for Savory Sausage, Shrimp, and Veggie Skewers, easy spice-rubbed slow-smoked Chicken and a bourbon-marinated Tri-Tip steak that is grilled to perfection as well as much more. Later in the day, Sandra’s BBQ sauce competition heats up her guests’ taste-buds, just in time for a refreshing “Cocktail Time” served as the sun sets. It's all engines "go" when the party rolls up for a fun bonfire feast by the water.

This is all very, very good timing as I just bought a four-burner propane grill, despite the fact that I have close to zero experience with propane grilling. Should be interesting.

TV Food Fan had a chance to chat with Ms. Lee about her upcoming special, her influence on the Food Network and the importance of a signature cocktail. We caught her on the busy (and noisy!) streets of New York City, just after she wrapped up an appearance on Good Morning America.

TV Food Fan: Why are grilling and cookouts so important to America's food culture?

Sandra Lee: America is "known for its barbecue," perhaps more so than any other place in the world. Maybe Australia, but nowhere is it as "beloved" as it is in the U.S. The attraction comes from the western..."Bonanza, John Wayne movies around the campfire."

The draw of the cookout is that it's "quick, easy and enjoyable," and that it lets people take pleasure in the "joy of summertime."

TVFF: Grilling can be intimidating to the home cook. How do you get people to overcome that fear?

SL: "You need to jump in with two feet and do it," with an emphasis on making sure that you're properly prepared. "My grilling book walks you through this," and it's all about becoming "knowledgeable and being educated." In other words, "read your instructions!"

The important things to learn include which gadgets can enhance the grilling experience and creative ways of "adding flavor to your food by using things like woodchips."

TVFF: What is your best shortcut technique for grilling?

SL: "You know...a good marinade." Also, "making sure that your grill is properly heated, which will give you the grill marks and seal in the juices." Using alcohol in the marinade can cut three-quarters off of the marinating time, and can impart "great flavors," with the sugars in the marinade caramelizing for added taste.

She also suggested using the grill for other cooking methods, including poaching. Her sister's recipe for poached salmon includes the fish wrapped in sheets of aluminum foil and features butter, brown sugar and beer (an ingredient close to TVFF's heart!). The key thing to remember is that most of the ingredients where just "something you can grab out of your fridge."

TVFF: When it comes to ingredients, grilling can get a bit expensive and complicated. What gives you the best bang for your buck in terms of time and money savings?

SL: "There are so many things you can do with the good, old-fashioned American hamburger." This includes things like adding blue cheese from a previous meal's salad and using things like McCormick seasoning packets that include all of the necessary ingredients without "costing you something like $50 if you bought them individually."

Lee countered the common criticism about using pre-packaged ingredients by contending that "restaurants use the same packaged ingredients" and that it was silly to think that they don't find time-saving shortcuts.

"People are often afraid to experiment...but you can embellish, tweak and personalize and there is no rule that says you can't take credit for it."

TVFF: Food Network has moved toward shows for the home cook. As one of the first, how do you feel you've influenced Food Network's programming?

SL: "Rachael [Ray] and I headed that initiative up, which is why the shows were back-to-back when we launched." Lee stated that many shows for the home cook tend to "gloss over" which brands to use in recipes. "People used to say that Julia Child's recipes didn't work, but that was because they didn't know what [ingredients] she used."

This is why Lee makes it a point to recommend specific brands for her recipes. "We don't get paid by the brands," she said. Her job is to "be a guide through the grocery store," to make sure that the home cook is able to accurately recreate a recipe. "ReddiWip and Cool-Whip have very different consistencies."

"Open a can of broccoli soup...a can of Campbell's and a different brand...and look at it. They're different...it's a better quality ingredient. My job is to tell [the audience] which to use."

TVFF: Looking around the Internet, you generate quite a bit of commentary, some of it in good fun and some of it a bit more critical. Do you pay any attention to this and, if so, what is your reaction?

SL: "When it's personal, it's unnecessary." These are people who "haven't spoken to me" and "does anyone really care about it?" However, the discussion does bring attention, and with it viewers, who are able to "make up their own minds" about Lee and her show.

When it comes to criticism of the Semi-Homemade way of cooking, she contends that it's a great way to make sure that parents are available for their family. "Families are going through a fast food drive-through four times a week...but they would rather be able to make a home-cooked meal."

This is why her show was paired with Rachael Ray. Their programs provide "two ways of getting to the same message."

Lee also made sure to note the amount of work that she puts into her program. "You could write up a menu and record a show...but I really work on it. I'm only comfortable if I'm giving 120%."

TVFF: One thing that always gets mentioned is the signature cocktail. I know that the special features one. Why is this an important part of entertaining, and how can the home entertainer come up with their own?

SL: "I'm from the Midwest, and it's always cocktail time in Wisconsin, right?" The cocktails are just a "cute, fun" segment. Although she said that she enjoys a nice glass of wine, "who doesn't like a cocktail?"

TVFF: Finally, since your show focuses on entertaining, which three people would you like to have at a dinner party?

SL: "Kathy Griffin, who would be there to tell the jokes...Wayne Brady, to sing...and [Dirty Jobs star] Mike Rowe for the expressions on his face. He has the best reactions!" It would be a fun and interesting group and, of course, there would have to be some cocktails: "I think three a piece."

"And we'd have you on the grill!" Thanks for the invite...but let me get a little practice in first, OK?


FoodCandy Bootlegs Bourdain's "No Reservations" Premiere
Thursday, July 26, 2007 | posted by Mike

Our old buddy dB at FoodCandy has some information up about a recent trip that he and a couple of lucky FoodCandiers had to the screening of the season four premiere of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.

Where does the "bootleg" come in? Well, he managed to snag a whole bunch of photos of the screen during the episode. He also gives a rundown of some of the NYC foodies who are part of the show.

The rest of us are going to just have to wait until July 30th to catch the first run episode. Of course it's on Travel Channel, so I'll likely forget that it's on and end up missing it. Figures. This is why everyone is getting on my case about getting TiVo (or the generic DVR from Comcast). Any thoughts/advice/encouragement from DVR aficionados would be welcome in the comments!



Crumbs - 7/25/07
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | posted by Mike

A little while back, Mrs. L posted a comment and asked whether they'd be rerunning last season's Feasting on Asphalt before the new episodes. We managed to catch a promo the other night and it looks like they are! They'll be showing next week, Monday-Thursday, at 8:00 pm (ET/PT).

Be sure to check out Thursday's episode and catch Friend-of-TVFF Chris Cognac as he demonstrates why you don't want to mess with a cop who carries a pepper-ball gun.



Can't... Escape... Food... Network... Star

I was going to go for the Pacino line in Godfather III about getting pulled back in, but I figured it was a bit cliché.

Hey...I didn't see this (perhaps I was asleep at the switch), but did Amy spill the beans about winning the whole shooting match while appearing on local television? An anonymous commenter below pointed us to this video of a local news appearance, which features her saying "on my show...if I win" the week before the final episode. She also mentions the fact that the show had already been taped.

The spot aired on the 19th. It's one thing to say "if I win" or "if I'm lucky enough to get the job" or whatever when you actually don't know, but let's just say she was treading dangerously close to the line on this one.

On another note, Jen (a.k.a. Spooneroonie), a regular at the Television Without Pity forums and a reader here, pointed me towards a blog entry found by fellow TWoPer Ravenna McBride. The entry, which appears on the site run by the food editor of The Record of Bergen County, NJ (and the hometown newspaper of Mrs. TVFF) points out the extreme lengths to which Rory backers went to get her elected. I'm all for campaigning, but the advertisements seem a bit much.

I always think about how politicians feel after losing an election and spending all that money. Especially the ones who self-finance their campaigns. Isn't rule number one of movie-making that you never use your own money? I think they're on to something.

Finally, there's been quite a bit of chatter about how JAG was shown the door, and the question of whether he resigned/was tossed off/got off easy/whatever. The sentiment I've been seeing is that FN should have come down harder on him. While I understand the urge for a pound of flesh, there are some things that you have to keep in mind when scrutinizing the handling of this sort of thing by a high profile organization. And, oddly enough, two recent scandals in sports are helpful in illustrating the point.

When an organization like the Food Network has to publicly deal with a situation such as JAG, they have to do it in a way that allows the departed to save face. They have to ignore the urge, either internal or external, to heap on a helping of embarrassment in addition to the walking papers. Why? Because, regardless of how good it might feel, you have to preserve your ability to deal with other individuals in the future.

If you become known as a loose cannon organization that will toss any "problem" overboard at the drop of the hat, it's going to be very difficult to get other people (even fine, upstanding people) to do business with you if they feel that they have to be constantly worried about being dumped and made into a scapegoat. Often, the organization has to go over and above in offering the face-saving exit, and it is frustrating to the public who wants a high-profile repudiation. But that's just how these things work.

Which brings us to the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick. They are honoring the NFL's request that Vick not take part in team practices, but have still retained the "innocent until proven legally guilty" path with Vick. At the same time having the owner publicly state that the charges themselves are revolting.

But if the Falcons were to jettison Vick at the first word of the scandal and send him off with a "don't let the door hit you on the way out," how would that look to future free agent players who are considering signing with the Falcons? Good organizations will eventually do the right thing, but how it's handled is looked at by potential future employees. Why not sign with a team that doesn't embarrass you? With other television networks out there as options for possible talent, Food Network has to keep this dynamic in mind.

The exception to the rule is now being played out with the NBA Tim Donaghy referee scandal. This is a perfect example of the situation where it it perfectly permissible -- even necessary -- to send the offending individual out the door with a swift kick in the rear. The reason is that what he did (allegedly fixing games for gamblers) calls into question the very credibility of the game. If the problem cuts to the core of the organization and if it has the ability to shake the public's faith in the organization to the point that its continued success (or even existence) could be put in jeopardy, you have to vocally and vociferously condemn it. It's like a cancer that requires you cut off the arm lest it spread throughout the rest of your body.

The Food Network wasn't in that sort of situation. JAG's transgression didn't even go far enough to call into question the validity of the competition on the show. His offense against his organization pales in comparison to Vick's, and it's not even in the same universe as Tim Donaghy's.



The Iron Eight
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | posted by Mike

I made a couple of short mentions recently about the upcoming The Next Iron Chef, but I've been a bit negligent in giving you the goods on any of the details. Sorry about that.

A press release from the Network has the lowdown (That dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty lowdown. Sorry, I love that song and couldn't resist.):

The title of Iron Chef is synonymous with the world's foremost culinary masters; and with the announcement of eight finalists, Food Network has begun production for The Next Iron Chef, the newest reality competition created to identify the next master to join the existing exclusive club of superstar chefs Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto. Representing some of the nation's best culinary talent, the finalists will battle for the chance to be crowned the next Iron Chef America. Hosted by Alton Brown (Good Eats, Iron Chef America), The Next Iron Chef will premiere Sunday, October 7th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network.

Hit me with the good stuff, TVFF's Favorite FN Exec® Bob Tuschman!

"We have chosen a group of chefs who we believe to be at the forefront of the culinary landscape, each of whom could stand proudly beside Bobby, Mario, Morimoto and Cat as a new Iron Chef," says Tuschman. "In our quest, we are looking for an individual to complement the current group and bring a unique blend of innovation, creativity and passion to the show, which is currently the highest-rated program on the network."

So, who are the contestants?

  • John Besh (New Orleans, LA) Executive Chef, Restaurant August, Besh
    Steak, Luke and La Provence.
  • Chris Cosentino (San Francisco, CA) Executive Chef, Incanto
  • Jill Davie (Santa Monica, CA) Executive Chef, JOSIE
  • Traci Des Jardins (San Francisco, CA) Executive Chef & Co-Owner,
    Jardiniere, Mijita and Acme Chophouse
  • Gavin Kaysen (San Diego, CA) Chef de Cuisine, El Bizcocho at the Rancho
    Bernardo Inn
  • Morou Ouattara (Washington, DC) Executive Chef & Owner, Farrah Olivia
  • Aaron Sanchez (New York, NY) Executive Chef & Owner, Centrico and
  • Michael Symon (Cleveland, OH) Executive Chef & Owner, Lola and Lolita

Wait a second...that wouldn't happen to be the same Jill Davie that's currently appearing on Fine Living's Shopping with Chefs, would it? Why, yes it is!

You already know that we're fans of SwC, but maybe you don't get Fine Living in your neighborhood. Or maybe you're just too good to watch shows on your full screen television (well la-di-da!, Mr./Ms. Fancy Pants). If that's the case, you can actually get a couple of clips of the series as a podcast on iTunes (don't bother clicking unless you have iTunes installed). Hey, you have to justify the $599 you spent on that iPhone somehow, right?

Also, you can check out Jill and her cohost David Myers on the video below.

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I'm Confused...
Monday, July 23, 2007 | posted by Mike

...Did Giada De Laurentiis get sprayed by a skunk or something?

Nope...just Esquire having some fun.

h/t to Slashfood



There's Got to Be a Morning After

And there is, although it is a rainy and gloomy one here in New Jersey.

But I'm sure it's sunny in San Diego or wherever Amy is right now. She got to share the moment with her considerable family (minus her conspicuously absent husband) and -- if she's smart -- she's already hard at work figuring out exactly how to prepare each of her recipes without referring to her most recent trip to France.

OK, let's get this over with...

The producers of last night's finale of The Next Food Network Star just might be fans of our ongoing Monday series of musical tributes to the lacrimonious (Is that a real word? Don't think so. But it sounds good.) events of the night before, because they were good enough to tee up a montage of teary departures as part of the season highlights. And so, from the Great White North, I bring you The Guess Who...

We got an anonymous comment in last night's post regarding JAG that I think made a great point. When given the chance to elaborate on his regret by Marc Summers (good to see him again!), he didn't offer up the most honest and forthright apology I've ever heard. It's kind of like when you say, "I'm sorry you feel hurt by what I did," instead of just saying, "I'm sorry for doing what I did." There is a significant difference between the two and the first signifies a serious lack of understanding or acknowledged culpability.

Although the folks behind TNFNS certainly didn't intend it going in, this season provided drama, deception and a significant bump in traffic to TVFF (for which we are greatly appreciative...any chance of a fugitive from the law in next year's group?). The producers addressed what could have been a disastrous public relations situation in a way that actually heightened the tension and enjoyability of the endgame -- even going so far as to reference it in the teaser for the finale. Well played, Food Network, well played.

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And So, It's Amy
Sunday, July 22, 2007 | posted by Mike

More on the final episode tomorrow, but I suppose that congratulations are in order for Amy. I'm still not 100% sold on her cuisine, but I do feel a bit better about her on-camera presence. See you on Saturday mornings in the fall...

Rory has to feel like she got a kick in the pants. She's in the finals against someone who (a) tried to quit a few weeks back and (b) was eliminated in the penultimate episode. For her to lose the popular after all that vote has got to feel lousy. She didn't look like she was handling it particularly well after the announcement of the winner.

Maybe this is some kind of cosmic payback for something she did. If anyone in Texas sees her walking around with an Earl Hickey karma list, let us know.



The Return of Rocco
Friday, July 20, 2007 | posted by Mike

First off, a little housekeeping...

I'd like to welcome a whole bunch of new regulars that we have here at TVFF. Lots of folks came by to check out the JAG stuff and I'm very happy to say that lots of them have decided to stick around. I know I sound like a broken record, but all you newbies could do us a huge favor by telling your foodie friends about us. The "professionals" call this viral marketing. I call it begging.

I got home late the other night, so I had to catch the rebroadcast of the latest Top Chef, which was just nominated for an Emmy. That means I was watching from 11pm to midnight. In other words, it was pretty late by the time we got to the teaser promo for next week's episode. And that's why I had to question exactly what I saw...

As they usually do, they showed the guest judge who will come on and provide the challenge for the contestants. In this case, the guest judge certainly looked familiar. Like someone we used to know, but who now only conjured up feelings of déjà vu and a vague feeling of dread. It couldn't be...it couldn't be...

It was.

Yes, our old buddy Rocco DiSpirito will be making his triumphant(?) return to reality television as this coming week's guest judge. And, based on the pictures on the Village Voice article, he'll be sporting a snazzy new haircut, about 20 fewer pounds and (according to a friend of mine) possibly some plastic surgery. Yes, that last part is complete conjecture, but apparently the commenters on the article page agree.

Once upon a time, Rocco's show actually appeared on Bravo, so it would appear that relations between the network and chef remain relatively good.

As far as I know, there is no truth to the rumor that Rocco spends the entire episode hitting on Casey instead of doing whatever he's supposed to be doing.

Also: While you're checking out that Village Voice article, be sure to check out the writer's hilarious list of new rules for next season. We couldn't agree more, especially about the sweating...which was also addressed in Ted Allen's latest blog entry.

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Getting to Know a Little Bit About Zane Lamprey
Thursday, July 19, 2007 | posted by Mike

Maybe you're like me. (For your sake, I hope not.) Maybe you read our article the other day and thought to yourself, "Who is this Zane Lamprey who'll be hosting a show on Food Network?"

With that burning question haunting my every waking moment, we turned to the TVFF Research Department (i.e. Google) to get to the bottom of it.

Lamprey is an actor and comedian who is the current host of Three Sheets , which is available on MOJO HD. My TV is decidedly low-definition, so I don't even think we get this in the TVFF Household. Never fear, as the show's website provides this concise description:

Can you say “I’m buying” in 12 languages? Embark on this international drinking tour with comedian Zane Lamprey who takes you around the world to master the local drinking customs.

Now, I know that the idea of watching someone get drunk may not be appealing to some of you. I enjoy it, but mostly because I wish I was there with them. I'm also basing my opinion on the fact that I loved Dave Attell's Insomniac, which ran on Comedy Central a couple of years ago.

Although MOJO HD is unavailable to me (and maybe you, too), we were able to track down a clip from the show on YouTube:

I'm not sure how much the Food Network show will differ from Three Sheets, but Lamprey's brand of wacky humor (as evidenced in this clip of him bagging groceries for stunned and appalled customers) promises that we'll probably get some more of the same, except with food. Although there are some humorous individuals on the Food Network (George Duran and the guys at Charm City Cakes -- especially Geoff -- for example), they really don't have a dedicated "comedy" show, so it will be interesting to see what kind of tone the show ends up having.



Review: "Shopping with Chefs"
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | posted by Mike

Despite what you may think, the Food Network isn't the only member of the Scripps family of channels to feature quality culinary programs. Shopping with Chefs, which premiers July 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT (it will run regularly on Weekends at 1:00 p.m. ET beginning July 28) on Fine Living provides useful information about how to buy equipment and ingredients in a fun, energetic format.

We were lucky enough to catch an early peek courtesy of a screener from the folks at Fine Living. The disk was accompanied by a very cool and handy reusable shopping bag and magnetic shopping list. The giveaways were not only a cute gift, but they also had a good tie in with the tone and content of the show itself. Shopping with Chefs features Jill Davie and David Myers, two chefs who have previous on-camera experience thanks to appearances on Food Network Challenge and Iron Chef, respectively. The viewer gets to accompany Jill and David as they go to the farmer's market, supermarket and restaurant supply store, where they provide their insight into how to pick fresh herbs and fish and what immersion blender would be the right choice for the home user. Both are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic, with Jill approaching Rachael-esque levels of perkiness from time to time.

The show seems to revolve around themes for each of the segments, which begin and end with each of the commercials. The first was a trip to the farmer's market for greens and herbs. The second act had them helping a couple entertain guests, explaining how to choose fresh salmon, the best kind of indoor grill pan and the right fish turner for the job. Segments on peppercorns and pepper mills and how to choose and care for knives and mandolines rounded out the episode. Occasionally, little "pop-ups" will occur during the show, providing insights. They'll also pause for a "Chef's Tip du Jour," where they offer a "secret of the kitchen" to help you get that restaurant taste at home. Both examples provided in the "du jour" were new to me, and sounded like good ideas. The show also has a cute method of letting you know what's coming up next by providing a list of the segments in "shopping list" format along the side of the screen, accompanied by the sound of a cash register as they move on to the next segment.

The selling point of the show is that you get the feeling that Jill and David really know what they're talking about when it comes to the equipment and ingredients. Other shows that have tried to use this format seem to go with a generic "host" type who offers bland assessments of the products, sounding as if they're reading off the package itself. Not so with these folks. Check out David's assessment of garlic presses, an item that Mrs. TVFF and I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on (hint: I'm with Dave on this):

The one other show that does this sort of thing well is America's Test Kitchen, and the reason for the success of each is that they take an honest look at the products. They'll tell you when you're wasting your time and money on a lousy product. They'll also tell you when you're spending too much on features that would only make a difference in a restaurant setting. The end result is that you really get the feel that you're learning some valuable lessons. It does move a bit quickly at times, and it might have benefited from slowing down just a little bit, but they do a good job of actually demonstrating the tools.

The only thing that missed the mark was the "real couple" they use to demonstrate the salmon segment. They seem nice enough, and they were a believable couple, but it felt a bit tacked-on and unnecessary. The photo of them entertaining at their dinner (which was given authenticity because it looked like it was taken with their own digital camera) didn't do much, and the whole thing was superfluous. They could have couched the segment as a hypothetical dinner party scenario for the home viewer and it would have worked just fine.

The show is at its best when it relies on the charismatic hosts and the real life experts with whom they interact as part of their shopping. I got a lot more from David's talk with a knife shop owner than I did from the couple. It also reminded me that I need to get my knives professionally sharpened (the show said it should be done every six months), since my 8" Wüsthof can't slice peanut butter these days.

Ultimately, Shopping with Chefs succeeds for the same reasons all good food shows succeed: It presents information that is useful to the home chef, and it does it in a way that doesn't dumb it down for the viewer. Davie and Myers provide expertise without being intimidating and the show provides insights that will benefit everyone from the beginning cook to the master home chef.



Crumbs - 7/18/07

Short and sweet. Why? Because we have another post coming later today!

  • Taping at the CIA for the upcoming The Next Iron Chef.

  • Gordon Ramsay's restaurant has been accused of racism.

  • A little bit of satire for your Wednesday: "Rachel Ray Launches Microsoft Xbox 360 Cooking Show."

  • A New York Times article that mentions Lidia Bastianich's restaurant in Kansas City.

  • Judy Girard, the president of HGTV and a big part of the success of Food Network, is retiring.



A Smörgåsbord of Information!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | posted by Mike

Admittedly, that title might be a bit much, but I really wanted to use the ö and å. It also reminds me that I need to make a trip to IKEA.

Don't know about you, but we're just about ready to begin the post-JAG era. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that it appears as though JAG didn't take the honorable way out after all. According to the Military Times, who was the driving force in investigating the situation:

In a bid to preserve his shot at a six-episode Food Network series deal, Garcia revealed in those interviews that he was one of the final two contestants. Military Times did not include this claim in previous stories because it was not clear whether this was another lie, and to protect the integrity of the show. Garcia even offered to trade the name of the other finalist — a big reality television no-no — in exchange for keeping his background a secret.

“I’ll tell you if you help me out with this,” he said in June.

Also in that article...if you look right below the paragraph we just quoted...we found out that TVFF is a "popular" blog. Who knew!?! Seriously, though, the mention is greatly appreciated!

The folks at Food Network sent around a note saying that last Sunday's episode was the highest-rated and most watched show in network history. Congrats for that.

Anyway, Broadcasting & Cable (whose blog has excellent taste...OK, enough with the self-promotion) has a cover story profile of the Food Network and its plans for future growth and profitability. This is an interesting point as they now have near ubiquitous presence on cable systems around the country. So, if you can't add that many new viewers, you have to figure out new ways to be profitable. The profile points out how they're doing that by pursuing other marketing and branding options, and the article spends a lot of time talking about the Kohl's product line. The author seems to like the looks of the products.

If you're in to the dollars and cents, check it out.

The article also had a couple of bits of programming info that we hadn't heard before, including:

...De Laurentiis is looking far beyond Food to expand the reach of her name. Come September, she says, she will co-host the new fourth hour of NBC's Today show for one week each month under a one-year contract. Already a contributing correspondent for the show, De Laurentiis will become one of a rotating roster of co-hosts for all of the hour's segments.

We knew that Giada was doing the Today thing and that they were looking to make it a more "permanent" gig, but I guess you can now count on her to be there for a week at a time.

The story also features a sidebar stating that there are plans for 13 new shows next year, and it appears that The Next Iron Chef is going to be one of the tent poles. It also mentions one show that was unfamiliar to us, Zane's World:

While trying to expand its brand, the Food Network hasn't lessened its focus on broadening its television programming, continuing its successful strategy of instructional fare during the day and entertainment-based shows at night. The network plans at least 13 new series this year, including The Next Iron Chef, a reality competition to find a new regular pressure cooker for its highly successful Iron Chef America showdown.


Other shows in the works include Cater Dudes (working title), debuting Aug. 16 at 10:30 p.m. ET, which profiles two young, L.A.-based caterers; Zane's World, Sept. 3 at 10:30 p.m., covering the weekly travels to food destinations around the world by comic Zane Lamprey; and America's Best Recipe, wherein everyday cooks will compete to have their concoction crowned the best in a variety of categories.

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Susie Fogelson Comes Thiiiiiiis Close to Cursing
Monday, July 16, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hey...the JAG confrontation wasn't the only thing worth mentioning on last night's episode.

First of all, it was good to see the Food Network Public Relations department get some screen time! The contestants were escorted to their various interviews by Carrie Welch and the extremely cool Lisa DelColle, who does a fantastic job and who has been very good to us here at TVFF.

Secondly, did anyone else notice when Susie almost said one of George Carlin's magic words? I think it was when she was giving it to JAG about his mysteriously appearing/disappearing personality. She did manage to avoid the TV-M rating by going with "flipping." Part of me really hopes she was frustrated enough to go the whole nine yards and that what you heard was actually dubbed in later. The image of Ms. Fogelson in a recording booth trying to loop "flipping" into her line would be priceless.

Also, there's voting to be done! Head over to the Food Network site to make yourself heard.

And, finally, you didn't think we'd get through an episode without some crying, did you? Of course not! So we're proud to continue our ongoing tradition of a tear-stained song to accompany our tear-stained contestants. This time, we're going with a clip from HBO's Flight of the Conchords, which we in the TVFF household didn't get to see last night because of some flaky cable service. Thanks, Comcast!

Favorite line: "I'm making a lasagna...for one."



"I've Been to a Whole Lot of Places, But Afghanistan Wasn't One of Them."
Sunday, July 15, 2007 | posted by Mike


We've been covering the JAG Situation for some time now. For the longest time, all we had was conjecture and speculation when it came to the question about how it would be handled. Well, it all went down tonight...on screen.

After hashing out the week's pros and cons for each of the contestants, they came back from the cliffhanger final commercial and kept Rory and JAG, eliminating Amy.

Then came the curve ball.

After a few screens of text explaining the story and stressing that he did not clear up the situation during a press conference, they brought JAG back in for a sit-down with Bob and Susie. JAG came clean about the situation and, emotionally, stepped out of the competition. The judges accepted his resignation and they brought back Amy for the final competition.

It was an amazing thing to watch. Obviously, the story has been getting quite a bit of play here and on some other websites, but I wasn't aware of it making the leap to other large media outlets. For the Food Network to treat the issue with this much seriousness, and for them to respect their audience enough to deal with it in the manner that they did is very, very impressive.

There's no telling how "voluntary" JAG's resignation was, but the fact that it played out the way it did in front of the cameras and the with judges not hesitating to accept the resignation, it was clear that if a resignation wasn't forthcoming, it very well may have been mandated. You have to hope that it was voluntary. JAG spoke about being honorable, a value that is prized among all veterans and particularly among members of the Marine Corps.

There was no good possible ending for JAG. There was no way to save himself after going too far down a path of lies.

Perhaps, though, he gets some semblance of redemption from his final act.



Bourdain Clears His Throat...and the Internet Reacts
Friday, July 13, 2007 | posted by Mike

There are a couple of sure things in life. There's the old stand-by, "Death & Taxes." There's day following night. And there's the fact that, when Anthony Bourdain has something to say about anything food related, it will cause a stir within the blogging community.

Recently, it was his guest post at ruhlman.com wherein he revealed that, he is beginning to find The Next Food Network Star pretty compelling. This post comes after bashing the show and much of Food Network for quite sometime. He even had some love for TVFF's Favorite FN Exec® Bob Tuschman and thoughts on JAG (or, as he calls him, "Rambo Junior"):

I find Tuschman's comments refreshingly honest, acknowledging the gruesome reality of network realpolitik over cooking ability with unflinching candor--yet erring on the side of mercy for the devastated JAG. Which, by the way, paints the judges into a real corner:

JAG can't be allowed win. His alleged problems remembering whether or not he's a war hero--or whether he graduated from culinary school could be...controversial. In a bad way. He comes off as an unstable fantasist--already referring to himself in the third person (which is NEVER a good sign). And his overloading of the grill with chicken parts--causing (surprise!) smoke and flame--was something any backyard griller knows to avoid.

Personally, I'm really glad he has arrived at this viewpoint, because I have much the same outlook on what TNFNS is and what it's not. Check out the rest of the post...unless you're not a big fan of some salty language. Obviously, this was a big surprise and it was reflected and recounted in posts here, here and here, as well as many, many other places.

Why is that? Why does he have this ability to send food bloggers (present company included) into a frenzy? The simple answer (and, I believe, the correct one) is that Bourdain is the preeminent food writer around. It's true. His knowledge is unsurpassed, his experiences many and varied and his bona fides fully documented, thanks to his own writings. And all of this is true whether he's talking about food in general, the way restaurants are run or the state of food writing and entertainment. So there is every reason in the world to pay attention to what he says.

But there is another thing about Tony Bourdain that makes not reacting impossible. He is a master at manipulating your expectations. This is only natural. This is what chefs do. They manipulate.

Banish the pejorative nature of that word for a moment. What chefs do...what any artist does...is take the raw materials and manipulate them until they become something else -- something bigger, better or more meaningful than they were before. Rodin manipulated bronze. Picasso manipulated paint.

Bourdain has the dual gifts of being able to manipulate both food and words. And, in both cases, the way the impact is felt is similar. It's all about how that food and those words make you, the observer, feel when you encounter them. In the case of his writing, he revels in confronting the reader with the truth (or the truth as he sees it, I suppose), disquieting and discomforting the way we think about food. And so what better way to up the ante than to recognize and present a point of view on this that the reader never sees coming? Again, none of this is to say that he's waffling or being disingenuous in his beliefs. A true intellectual always challenges his or her own beliefs. There is real value in being a contrarian, even if you are the person you're contradicting.

It's no big surprise to see him in his Ramones t-shirt or hear him talking about the Clash. Punk rock was a backlash, an explicitly and emphatic contradiction of the prevalent music scene. At its best, it was a thoughtful indictment of the status quo and the "go along to get along" crowd. Punk rock is the very essence of Bourdain's writing.

So, when we're hanging on his every word and he offers up a post that plays the rhetorical equivalent of "crack the whip" with our expectations, we're all left off-balance and scrambling to recapture the Anthony Bourdain we thought we knew.

On second thought, maybe he's less like the Clash or the Ramones and more like Bob Dylan, the folk rock poster-boy who confounded both his fans and his critics by embracing electric rock on Bringing It All Back Home, country music with John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline and deeply personal and emotional songwriting with Blood on the Tracks...all within a period of ten years (with a motorcycle accident, possibly the greatest rock song of all time and seven other albums thrown in for good measure).

Regardless of who he most resembles, if you can make comparisons to the Ramones, Clash and Dylan, then there's probably one really good way to characterize someone:

Rock Star

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Alton & Gang Going Upriver
Thursday, July 12, 2007 | posted by Mike

As you might know, we were big fans of the last Feasting on Asphalt. It have us Grizzly Alton (the beard was fantastic), some interesting stops and a show that actually felt like it was a road trip. Most of those other travel shows just feel like the host parachutes in for the taping. With Feasting, you actually felt like you were taking part in a cross-country journey. It also gave Alton a chance to flex his cinematographer muscles, which is always a good thing for the viewer.

Well, August is going to bring us a second road-trip and we got a little bit of additional information over the past few days. We already knew that they were going to be following the Mississippi this time, but now we have some more specifics about their route, thanks to an article on Broadcasting & Cable:

The motorcycle trip takes Brown and his gang (the "Hell's Angel Hair Pastas" of TV travelers) through Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, stopping at alligator farms, donut shops, and barbecue joints along the way.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also has a short blurb announcing that Alton will be making a stop in Wisconsin. I wonder if there will be cheese involved.

Speaking of travel shows, Glutton for Punishment debuted this week. I started to watch it...and my cable completely wigged out. Oh well. I did see enough of it to confirm one thing: Bob Blumer certainly has energy!

Wow...he certainly dives in with both feet. You can tell he's an old television pro, and his presence on camera is something that should be shown again and again to the eventual The Next Food Network Star winner.

Oh, and his hair deserves its own show.

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Crumbs - 7/11/07
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | posted by Mike

I'm tired. Feel free to instert your own witty intro here.

  • Wondering why Emeril is now on at 7 p.m. on weeknights? Wonder no more.

  • We're on a bit of a movie premiere kick lately. This time, it's Duff Goldman at the new Harry Potter. And...just like last time, Masi Oka (a.k.a. the dude from Heroes) was there. Doesn't this guy have anything better to do?

  • British police have arrested somone in connection to those threats agains Jamie Oliver.



Suspicion Confirmed: Gordon Ramsay Isn't Always Completely Insufferable
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | posted by Mike

First off, for those of you who have been following Hell's Kitchen closely, the individual who received an inordinate number of online wagers is still in the running. Should be interesting...

As you know, we at TVFF like Gordo. Although we suspected that we might be deluding ourselves, we always believed that the whole "abusive personality" thing was just an act and that -- deep down inside -- there was a heart of gold. The only thing that kept us going was tales of a show called Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

Much like the Loch Ness Monster (supposedly from Gordon's homeland of Scotland) and the Jackalope, we had heard about this elusive show but never actually witnessed it. This was because, for a while, we lived in a location that didn't receive BBC America. Then, after we moved, I was just too lazy to find BBC America among the 1,084 cable channels we now receive.

But I can now assure you, dear reader, that Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares does exist, and that our faith was well-founded.

Actually, we've had quite a number of commenters weigh in on this and the consensus is correct...RKN shows a side of Gordon Ramsay that bears only a passing resemblance to the character that we see every week during Hell's Kitchen and which we will undoubtedly see on the version of Kitchen Nightmares coming to US television (they've begun running promos for it on HK and it looks like more of the same).

Let me be clear that this is not a warm and cuddly version of Ramsay. There's still the cursing, the frustration and the quick temper. But the tone is just so different. You do honestly get the feel that he cares about the restaurant owner that he's trying to help. It's a good show, and the voice-over provided by Ramsay gives insights into his character that you'll never get from his 30-second dissertation on why the latest contestant was shown the door on HK.

Enough of this...why listen to me recap the show when you can just check it out for yourself? I wish you better luck in tracking it down than I initially had. They feature RKN on Thursday nights on BBC America.

The one question I do still have is this: Why the different personalities? Is there some sort of transformation that takes place when you cross a line of longitude somewhere over the Atlantic?

At the risk of letting Ramsay off the hook (I'm sure he deserves some criticism for allowing producers to play up his worst traits), I think it might be a safe bet to point the finger at the FOX Network -- the folks who brought you Temptation Island and Joe Millionaire. I'm no snob, and I completely enjoy some lower-brow television programming every now and again, but I wouldn't count on any FOX reality shows taking home a Peabody any time soon.

This has always been the puzzling thing about FOX for me. The same network that stayed with perhaps the smartest comedy on television (Arrested Development) for three seasons despite sub-par ratings regularly serves up some of the most intellectually deficient programming ever.



Even I Know They're San Marzanos...and JAG's Crying Jag
Monday, July 09, 2007 | posted by Mike

So, how did we celebrate our record breaking day on Thursday? By breaking the record again on Friday, thank in no small part to the folks at the Good Eats Fan Page, who got a kick out of our post about Chris Cognac on the red carpet. Thanks for the link, guys!

I think it's all but official at this point...we'll be having our first female The Next Food Network Star winner. Even if JAG makes it through the next round, I can't see him taking the top prize. Especially after he displayed the poise and grace of a three year old when he pitched a fit about tanking in the Iron Chef challenge. After pulling the Johnny Fontaine routine, I really wish Alton or someone would have slapped him around and told him to act like a man.

But, yet again, tears were shed. And so:

As for the elimination, I feel kinda bad. Paul really seemed to want it. But, he was a perfectly nice and likable guy who I will completely forget about in 3...2...1...

Seriously, though, the San Marzano thing bugged me, and I think it's indicative as to why none of the remaining contestants are particularly enticing as candidates to host their own show. Two questions were asked by Alton Brown during the Iron Chef segments. One of them was why a dish was "Moroccan" and the other was where the canned tomatoes came from. In both instances, they simply didn't know, displaying a stunning lack of knowledge and/or preparation.

Here's a hint: Moroccan dishes use spices like cinnamon, cumin and coriander. That would have been a good place to start. Or you could have -- you know -- just asked the chef. As for tomatoes, when someone asks you where tomatoes come from, it's a good bet that they're going for San Marzano. Do I expect Joe Blow off the street to know this? No. But I do expect someone who has their own food show to display at least a familiarity with an ingredient that continually shows up.

The judges have been hammering home the notion of having a culinary point of view, and they're right to do so. Because, the fact of the matter is that none of them have demonstrated enough knowledge or virtuosity in the kitchen to convince you that you should listen to what they have to say.

You watch cooking shows for one of two reasons. Either the point of view or "hook" of the show is compelling (meals you can cook in under 30 minutes, authentic Southern cooking, etc.) or the host is an expert or just a general force of nature (Mario, Emeril, Giada, etc.). You can be one, the other or both (Rachael), but you can't go "0 for 3."

I will say that I have no doubt that Food Network will be able to polish the eventual winner into someone who can, at the very least, get from point A to point B on a recipe in front of the camera. They're professionals and their brand is so strong, they'll be able to plug the winner in and turn out a watchable show. But for the show to be inspired, it's going to take a dramatic leap from the winner that I'm not certain is possible.



Chris Cognac: White Tux on the Red Carpet
Friday, July 06, 2007 | posted by Mike

Happy Friday, everyone!

We're in a very good mood today, as (a) it's the end of the week and (b) we blew away our daily record in traffic yesterday, thanks in no small part to The Huffington Post linking to us. Let me tell you...it's a bit of a surreal feeling when your article is linked to from the Media Page that also includes an article by the guy (Eric Alterman) who wrote the book you happen to be reading.

Anyway, we figured that we'd follow up our very serious interview yesterday with a return to the silliness that we usually bring you, and that we'd do it with a guy that we interviewed a while back.

It looks like our buddy Chris Cognac broke out the fancy duds and scored himself an invitation to the premiere of Disney's Ratatouille! Yup, that's Chris rockin' the white tux and what looks like a tray of food for photographers. The photo comes from an article on iF Magazine, and the image itself is the copyright of Sue Schneider. They have a whole mess of pictures from the carpet including the dude from Heroes (sorry...don't watch it so I don't know his character's name), the girl from Heroes (same deal) and Henry Rollins. I wonder if Chris had a chance to talk to Henry...I think I'd actually pay money to sit in on that conversation.

Apparently, Ratatouille is fantastic. I'd probably agree and give you a review, but that would necessitate me actually making it to the theater. Maybe Chris can pass along his thoughts on the movie.

Speaking of The Culinary Detective, we noticed a comment from Mr. Cognac on the story about the Simpsons from earlier in the week asking if we've ever seen his Homer tattoo. I have to admit that I haven't, although I would gladly devote a post to it if he'd like to share photos/stories. Maybe if we ask nicely in the comments, he's give us the low-down

I do, however, reserve the right to accept or reject photos depending on tattoo placement. This is a PG site.



TVFF Interview: Paul Rieckhoff on The Next Food Network Star's JAG
Thursday, July 05, 2007 | posted by Mike

Last week, we had a post on the JAG situation which referenced an updated Military Times article and recapped a bit of the reaction that we were hearing regarding JAG's background. In the course of the post, we mentioned that Paul Rieckhoff had weighed in on the controversy and was quoted in the MT article. As I said at the time, Rieckhoff is an extremely high-profile advocate for veterans' issues, and his group, IAVA, has been very successful at bringing a number of important issues to the media's and public's attention. He's also the author of Chasing Ghosts, which takes a pull-no-punches soldier's perspective look at policies and decisions surrounding the war in Iraq.

According to the biography on his site:

Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the first and largest organization for veterans of the War on Terror. During his time in the Adamiyah section of central Baghdad, he led his light infantry platoon on hundreds of combat patrols with the 3rd Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions. He continues to serve his country as an Infantry Officer in the New York Army National Guard.

Rieckhoff is a nationally-recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting our troops, military families, and veterans at home. He is a frequent TV and radio commentator and has appeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, NBC Nightly News, 60 Minutes II, CNN's Paula Zahn Now, ABC's World News Tonight, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Air America's Al Franken Show, and NPR's All Things Considered, among many other programs. He and IAVA have also been featured across the country in numerous major national newspapers and magazines. He was named one of "America's Best and Brightest of 2004" by Esquire.

Prior to his deployment to Iraq, Rieckhoff worked as a high school football coach and an investment banking analyst on Wall Street, and later spent several weeks contributing to the rescue effort at Ground Zero after 9/11. He is a graduate of Amherst College, where he studied political science. He lives in New York City's East Village.

We were lucky enough to hear from Mr. Rieckhoff after the post and he generously agreed to take part in an interview regarding the JAG situation. His perspective, as a leader of his organization and as someone who has recent combat experience, provides a point of view that not many of us possess.

TV Food Fan: How did the situation with Josh Garcia's record come to your attention?

Paul Rieckhoff: I first read about Garcia in the Army Times. A reporter from there called our group requesting a comment soon after the news broke regarding his record.

TVFF: Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. Some of the posters on the Military Times boards said they knew him, that he is a good guy and that he just got swept up in the moment. Beyond the fact that Garcia is being dishonest with the show's audience, what is the greater harm when these kinds of misrepresentations are made?

PR: It diminishes the service of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. And veterans of all generations. A key value that we all learn the US military is honor. Being honorable means telling the truth. Lying, embellishing or exaggerating your service record is not an honorable thing to do—no matter how you cut it. Veterans of this war have been received incredibly well by the American people, regardless of how they feel about the war, and we want to keep it that way. Mr. Garcia has undermined a sacred trust the the American people have with our nation’s veterans—especially in a time of war. There are no acceptable excuses here. Attempting to further your career on a falsified military record is not only shameful, it is also illegal. The type of cowardly behavior demonstrated by Mr. Garcia was a major problem after Vietnam, and was authoritatively described in an important book titled “Stolen Valor,” by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley. I urge Mr Garcia and the executives at the Food Network to check it out.

TVFF: Other posters, both at Military Times and here at TV Food Fan, have voiced strong condemnation of Garcia's actions. As someone who served in combat, what is your emotional reaction to hearing misleading stories like these?

It pisses me off. Big time. I take it personally. And I am sure that most other vets feel the same way. I have friends in Iraq and Afghanistan now. I have friends that have died in combat. And I work with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans every day. Our service members are honorable, heroic, dedicated people. Many have been wounded during their service. Mr. Garcia’s act of pretending to have experienced combat to further his career disgusts me. Our troops have earned the right to call themselves combat veterans through dedication and personal sacrifice. Mr. Garcia has not. He should be ashamed of himself. I don’t expect he’ll be showing his face at Fort Dix again anytime soon. If he does, I think our soldiers there will give him a very different reception than he received during his last visit.

TVFF: We mentioned in the original post on this subject that the issue of fraudulent claims of military service and honors has received significant press lately. Why is this issue getting so much attention recently?

PR: First, because it is a very serious offense. Lying about combat service is not something to be taken lightly. Especially when it is so egregiously for personal gain and fame. Second, we are a nation at war right now. Hundreds of thousands of America’s sons and daughters are in harms way every day. Over 1.6 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. 3,570 have died (as of July 3rd). That is nothing to be taken lightly. Third, veterans work aggressively to take care of our own. We will unite and mobilize quickly when our integrity is threatened. Vets all over the US have responded to this news quickly, alerted the press, and contacted the Food Network demanding action.

TVFF: Have you or your organization had any direct contact with either Garcia or the Food Network? Have they responded to your calls to make a donation to a veterans' charity in the event that Garcia wins?

PR: No. Not yet. But I hope that they do. We look forward to hearing from them. They can call our office anytime. I am also in contact with plenty of veterans charities that could use some help from the Food Network. I hope they will do the right things to resolve this issue and make amends immediately. Millions of veterans and their families will be watching.

We'd like to extend our thanks to Mr. Rieckhoff for his time and encourage any of you who are interested in his book or the IAVA to check out the links above.



Crumbs - 7/4/07
Wednesday, July 04, 2007 | posted by Mike

First off, Happy Fourth of July to all of our American visitors!

Secondly, I'd like to thank Jacob at food network addict (and everyone else) for the well-wishes for our one-year anniversary here at TVFF. Jacob also just celebrated his first year, so we'd like to send our congratulations right back at him.

Also: Be sure to stop back tomorrow for a very special post.

  • A fashion run-down of the ladies of Food Network.

  • Janeane Garofalo likes Food Network.

  • Apparently, Bobby Flay is determined to take part in ever pro sport all star game this year. First basketball, now baseball. Does anyone know if he can ice skate?

  • ClickZ isn't a fan of the production quality of the Dave Lieberman Hellman's videos.

  • The New York Post reports that life isn't all peaches and wellington for Hell's Kitchen winners.

  • Gordon Ramsay gets in a dig at Rod Stewart while accepting an award on his behalf. Unsolicited TVFF music critique: Rod Stewart -- from his time with Faces until Never a Dull Moment -- awesome. Ever since then, steadily down hill. (Seriously, check out Faces. You get Rod as well as Ronnie Lane on vocals and a pre-Stones Ron Wood on guitar. Good stuff.)



Tuesday, July 03, 2007 | posted by Mike

Often, when I'm working on the house (or, for that matter, goofing off) on a Saturday afternoon, I use either the Food Network or PBS's cooking lineup as "background." It's usually during this block of time that I end up catching parts of an episode of Food Network Challenge. I'm always surprised when I end up getting pulled into a particular episode, considering the fact that I do little-to-no baking myself. The appeal is, I think, the struggle of the contestants who dare to think big with their designs and then have to scramble to realize it.

In a way, it's a little like Name That Tune. Just as that show makes you sit back and think, "He's never going to be able to name that song in just one note," Food Network Challenge has you thinking, "He's never going to be able to pull that cake off." Part of the fun is watching them crash 'n' burn, but there's something fun about rewarding the big thinker who is able to actually pull it off.

Just in time for the upcoming The Simpsons Movie, there will be an episode of Food Network Challenge focusing on the long-running animated series. The episode will debut on July 25 at 9pm ET/PT. According to the press release:

Ay Carumba! In this episode of Food Network Challenge, four professional cake designers try to capture the spirit of one of television’s craziest families – The Simpsons! Just in time for the release of the feature film The Simpsons Movie, the designers have to try to bring the animated characters to life – in cake. The winner will receive $10,000 and have the opportunity to have their cake featured at the star-studded movie premiere in Hollywood! (The Simpsons Movie hits movie theaters on Friday, July 27th.)

Perhaps the best thing to come out of Food Network Challenge is Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman. In the spirit of the post, that's Duff up at the top there, Simpsons-style. I'll admit he came off a little too "hoodlum" and not enough "rock and roll," and the soul patch probably needs to be scaled down, but that was the best I could do. Of course, the "Duff Beer" t-shirt was a nice touch. I agonized over the eyebrows for something like twenty minutes, so I hope Mr. Goldman appreciates this if he ever Googles himself.

In case you're wondering, the other one is me. I checked with Mrs. TVFF and she confirmed that it kinda bears a resemblance. I'm not sure that's a compliment. I do like me some donuts, though.

Can you tell I spent way too much time on the Simpsons avatar creator on the movie site?



Padma Splits From Rushdie
Monday, July 02, 2007 | posted by Mike

CNN is reporting that Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is divorcing her husband, author Salman Rushdie. They indicate that she is the party that initiated the divorce proceedings.

We've made our feelings about Lakshmi known, as have former contestants, but we obviously don't wish any ill will.




What does it mean when the guy who already has a cooking show can't make his way into the final four? Considering the performances put on by the others -- both this week and throughout the season -- we have to think Adrien blew a golden opportunity.

The thing is that the performances during the on-camera demos this week were problematic for two reasons. One was that many of the issues with the demos illuminated some underlying problems with their candidacy for the winner's title. But, more than that, the contestants nearly all made some bizarre choices that really leaves you questioning their judgement. Do you think it might be a good idea to actually show a dish being prepared, rather than just describing it? This is, after all, television and not radio. Alton certainly seemed on the mark with his assessment that we might be better off folding these cards and starting with a new hand.

So, is this an accurate portrayal of where we stand, or are we getting the "worst case scenario" thanks to some creative editing on the part of the producers? If there is one thing that reality competition shows like to do, it's ramping up the "they'll never pull this out" feeling with the audience, only to show the protagonist triumph in the end. I'm wondering if there is a little bit of a bait-and-switch here, since we'd likely be getting a sugar-coated version if things were really bad. On the other hand, they run the risk of alienating the potential audience for the winner's show if they are portrayed as bumbling fools. I guess this is my way of saying that I have no idea where we stand. I just know that none of them are pulling me in.

And now, I'd like to continue our new Monday tradition. Since last night's episode featured three people crying and Amy breaking down multiple times, wanting to go home (are the beds that uncomfortable at the Carriage House?), we will again present, for your entertainment, a suitably themed song. A little Mick and Keith:



Happy Birthday to TV Food Fan!
Sunday, July 01, 2007 | posted by Mike

Hey, guess what. Believe it or not, today marks the one-year anniversary of our very first post, so I guess that makes today the site's birthday. The idea came to me only a day or two before that. In a way, that was a good thing, since if I had time to think about it and consider how much time it was going to take up, I might not have taken the plunge.

But it's been an extremely fun year. You guys have been great about following along and taking part in the discussion (via e-mails and comments), and that has really kept me rolling. We got a snazzy visual update (which I'm sure everyone appreciated after having to look at our old site for months) and we're looking to add a few tweaks of functionality in the coming weeks. Nothing big...just a couple of things to make the experience a little more enriching.

What can you do to help us celebrate? Well, you could send money.

Seriously...as always, you can let someone know about us. If you have your own site, a MySpace or Facebook account or regularly post to any message boards, a little write-up and link would be greatly appreciated. If you don't, you can always just let you foodie friends know about TVFF.

Regardless, your continued visits to TVFF and your active participation in our community here is more than enough for me. I hope you've enjoyed the first year. I hope you still find it as interesting and entertaining now as when you found us. And I eagerly look forward to having the site be even more fun in the future.




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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