Joan Nova loves food as entertainment, but she’s less happy with some of the new food tv-shows.
By Joan Nova
A heads up. This post contains no recipe. Not even a photo. It’s a RANT!
I believe ‘food as entertainment’, specifically TV shows, started years ago with PBS broadcasting a few top chefs on a somewhat limited basis. Coincident or not, as the years passed, the global population became very food-centric or shall we say obsessed? The resultant
interest passion in all things ‘food’ gave birth to celebrity chefs, food bloggers, food photographers and terms like “foodies”, “foodgasms”, “food porn”.
And it catapulted the concept of ‘food as entertainment’ into a force to be reckoned with. Today there are as many food shows on TV as there are of any other genre of entertainment. In the U.S. they’re on 2 dedicated cooking networks 24/7 and are featured on other networks like Bravo, Fox, Travel and PBS.
I love the concept of ‘food tv’ just as much as anyone. It’s not only entertaining, it’s illuminating, instructional and inspirational. Some of it.
Because, a far cry from Julia Child and James Beard instructionals of yesteryear but very much in sync with the times, today the channels are filled with shows like Bizarre Foods, Man vs Food, Extreme Chefs, Food Truck Wars, Cupcake Wars, and Worst Cooks in America (who would ever watch that I’ve often wondered).
Some of the newer home chefs who have scored their own show are too much schtick (The Neely’s, I’m talking to you) and the rest are no better than us in the kitchen. But, that’s o.k. That’s what the remote control is for.
What really has me riveted these days is the food competitions. I love the challenge and am fascinated to see how people deal with mystery ingredients, extreme circumstances, and time constraints. Many times it has me at the edge of my chair — just as the last quarter in a football game has the sports enthusiast rooting or a suspense movie has you biting your nails.
Yeah, I’m hooked. From Iron Chef with established pros…to Chopped with aspiring chefs…to Master Chef with talented wannabes — and quite a few in between.
What has me riled is…who are the people producing some of these shows? Why do they think it’s good TV to have chefs like Gordon Ramsey yell, curse and totally abuse contestants? After one or two episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, I totally swore off that show and wouldn’t watch again if it was the only show on TV.
But, I really like Master Chef and I don’t want to stop watching just because Ramsey and his cohort, Joe Bastianich are RUDE and CRUDE. [The third chef/judge, Graham Elliot, is not (or is less) offensive. Headed down a similar path is Rocco DeSpirito’s new show, Dinner Party, which is serving up similar dialogue.
Why do these chefs agree to engage in conversation that shows them as rude, stilted and, frankly, somewhat cartoonish? Is this their real personalities? Do focus groups really give thumbs up to this kind of format as entertainment? Are the producers 12-year-old middle schoolers who like bathroom jokes and bad behavior?
It does not make me want to eat in any of their restaurants.
It’s not good TV.
And it’s giving ‘food as entertainment’ a bad name.
What do you think?