television tagged posts

Chefs NOT Wanted: the New Food Network Paradigm

Food Network doesn’t really care if you can cook. I don’t mean to be overly cynical, but that shouldn’t come as any great revelation. This has been the case for some time, but the network doesn’t seem to be hiding it as much anymore. The network which used to almost expertly balance its talent between personality and ability seems to have tipped the scales in favor of the former, with little regard for the latter.

I should begin by saying that yes, I recognize that there is a Cooking Channel, and that the balance of programming has shifted to make Food Network more about food and entertainment. Both are owned by the Scripps Network and it is certainly a smart programming move, similar to the TBS/TNT split between comedy and drama. I get it, but here’s the problem. TBS and TNT are in roughly 85% of homes, and Food Network is available in 87%. The Cooking Channel is available in just over 53%. Kind of hard to create a brand split if most people aren’t able to watch regardless of the programming plans. (If you’re curious about the stats, check out this article from late Aug 2013)

Until the Cooking Channel becomes more available one would think that the Food Network would at least try and keep things balanced, but no. The imbalance has cropped up in several places though many will probably – and rightly – point to the ubiquitous Next Food Network Star as exhibit A. The use of “star” in the title suggests that the show is more concerned with cultivating pure celebrity than it is establishing the next great tv chef. But this isn’t a lesson in language intentionality so we’ll let that go. The more damning evidence comes in how that show has evolved over the years with the ways it measures and tests “talent”.

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Messing with BBQ: The Evolution of BBQ Pitmasters

There are many ways to make BBQ and even more opinions on sauces and side dishes. Yet, regardless of geographic allegiance the one key to making good barbecue that everyone agrees on is “don’t mess with it.” Dress the meat however you want, put it on the smoker and then leave it alone.

That mantra hasn’t been part of the production of BBQ Pitmasters – a show that began on TLC in late 2009. Now in it’s 4th season, the show has undergone significant changes each year. What started as a reality show following some of America’s best BBQ chefs to competitions around the country has morphed into a more familiar competitive cooking show in the vein of Chopped. While constant changes and tinkering with the format might signal a show that has lost its way, BBQ Pitmasters has emerged from its growing pains with quite possibly the best format in competition cooking. So how did this happen?

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Food Court Wars Recap: Detroit Crunch City

Life intervened and prevented my recapping of last week’s episode of Food Court Wars, but this week we’re back on track so let’s get right to it. We’re in Midland Michigan at the Midland Mall.

Our main man, Tyler Florence , who has been in the restaurant business for a quarter century (that sounds much more impressive than 25 years) remains dapper looking in the middle of the mall. Quick fashion note, his pocket square doesn’t match the rest of his outfit, but let’s just move onto the teams.

Chip N’ Wich – run by Jonathan and Craig, both from downtown Detroit. Friends for six years, they developed a gourmet sandwich shop that puts their own potato chips right on the sandwich, giving them “the sandwich with the crunch.” They both have jobs in kitchens in Detroit, but are looking for other ways to support their families.

Oasis – Diana and Melania serve international food at the World Cafe, which specialties in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. They already have a restaurant, but the food court kiosk would be called “Oasis” and would be the “quick service” version of their main restaurant. Melania formerly worked in retail, and after moving home to be with family she reinvented herself as a chef relying on culinary experience that came from working in restaurants as a teen.

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Food Court Wars Recap: Slanging Tacos and Island Flavors

After a charming, but relatively unremarkable premiere episode Food Court wars continues – in a new time slot. The show now airs before Food Network Star rather than after it. Also, just a quick note. The episode guide calls this “Season 1, Episode 3” because of the original pilot airing back in 2012, but that is nonsense. As far as I’m concerned, this is episode two.

Tyler Florence continues on his journey to host every type of alternative cooking show imaginable. At this rate, next year he’ll be hosting “Lemonade Stand Wars” by next summer. But this week, we’re in Spartanburg, SC at the West Gate Mall. We waste no time getting to the teams.

Tirado’s Empanandas, run by the mother daughter team of Jen and Trisch. As they explain, an empanada is “a stuffed savory meat pie.” It is “tasteful, but not spicy.” They already run a food cart, and while Jen was on her way to becoming a manager at a bakery, the family always wanted to have a family business, so she quit her job to pursue the dream. As she notes, because you can’t cook on the cart itself, they’ll never have a profit business.

Taco Spot, with owner JB and manager Michael is a “whole new brand of tacos” given the Southern twist that gets put into each taco. JB started the business over 4 years ago with his then friend Lindsay, who is now his wife – yay taco love. Taco Spot actually has two locations, a small 16 seat restaurant and a smaller delivery/pick-up only locale. JB really wants to win to provide extra financial security for his wife, and provide Michael with the chance to be a “business owner”.

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Food Court Wars Recap: Scars Before Stars

“Owning a food court restaurant could make you a multi-millionaire”. With that surprising statement, Food Network’s latest challenge competition show, Food Court Wars is off and running. Hosted by Tyler Florence, formerly of The Great Food Truck Race, each week two teams of “aspiring food court entrepreneurs” compete against one another with the winner earning a food court restaurant rent free for one year.Like the Great Food Truck Race, the two teams compete in both concept and marketing plan to make the most money over a single day.

It should be noted that this isn’t actually the first episode, despite the “series premiere” label. A pilot episode aired in August 2012, with the winning team – Kettle N’ Sprouts – earning a rent free spot for the whole year. However, as of late February 2013, the storefront had mysteriously closed.

The show moves around the country, and for this premiere episode we’re at the Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian Mississippi.

We’re introduced to the two teams, who both have a lot riding on the chance to launch their own food court restaurant. Po’ Boy Station is run by Erica and Stevo, two best friends (from the age of 3) looking to serve authentic New Orleans inspired sandwiches. Erica formerly spent time in New Orleans, but lost everything and was forced to move home to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

The other team, Suck the Shuck, is run by Thomas and Mary Jordan, former restaurant owners in Chicago in the 1980s who now serve Tamales and wings out of a gas station, in exchange for cleaning the bathrooms. They’ve been working on their tamale recipe for 45 years and are still holding onto the dream of getting another shot at running a restaurant.

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Game Of Thrones: Season 2 Teaser – “Cold Winds”

I am very, very excited about the next season of Game of Thrones. Maybe excited enough to finally get around to reading the books. Either way, everyone needs to catch up – like by preordering season 1.

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The Great Food Truck Race 2 Recap: The Finale

Last night marked the finale of the Great Food Truck Race 2 and maybe it was the state of exhaustion I was in having helped prep a few dozen cupcakes, or maybe the grilling of veggies and steak for lunch this week, but for a finale it didn’t seem that exciting. The combination of over the top editing made the whole thing feel artificially neck and neck.

Hodge Podge and The Lime Truck faced off on the streets ofMiamiand the real challenge was simple: first truck to earn $15,000 would win the grand prize of $100,000. Plus more than a few speed bumps along the way to mix up the game a bit.

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The Great Food Truck Race Recap: Welcome to Hotlanta

It seems like no one else is talking about The Great Food Truck Race, but people seem eager for some information on it. So with the penultimate episode airing yesterday, it’s worth recapping what has happened in quite possibly the greatest food-themed reality TV show on the air (though Restaurant Impossible is a close second). I mean, where else can you see stunningly adorable vegans compete against some Korean BBQ that will go as far as cheating to stay in the game? No where!

After traveling across the country with some bumps and bruises, three trucks remained in this episode: Lime Truck from the OC (don’t call it that), Hodge Podge from Cleveland and Roxy’s from good old Boston (I might be a tad biased [also, I’m sorry for all these asides in parentheses]). It’s been crazy, but this week the trucks were in Hotlanta, a city I’m slowly become more familiar with.

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Top Chef Just Desserts 2.1 Recap: Little Red Riding Hood and the Thrown Under the Bus

Remember when I had Wednesday nights free because Top Chef was finally off the air for the first time in months? Well, all was fine and dandy until I remembered at the last possible minute that Top Chef Just Desserts started last night. So I grabbed my ginger beer and rum and made a nice big Dark ‘N Stormy to get through it.

Just like every first episode of Top Chef, there are far too many people to even care about and all the chef’testants pretty much mix together. There’s sassy black woman, poised to be the villain Orlando and grossly incompetent Craig who can’t seem to do anything but sully the good name of Harry Potter. So the ever lovely Gail and Johnny show up with the first quick fire before anything has really begun.

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The Great Food Truck Race Recap: Trucking Ain’t Easy

Last year’s Great American Food Truck Race was a short-run reality series that tapped into the growing popularity of food trucks in America. One year later, the series now returns with more trucks and more wrinkles. Oh, and they’ll now be competing for $100,000 instead of last year’s prize purse of $50,000.

Tyler Florence, who is the definition of neutral returns as the host. I like Tyler, and always enjoyed his Tyler’s Ultimate show for not having a lot of bells and whistles.One of the first shows on Food Network shot in HD it’s just him in a kitchen making simple American food. That being said, “his staff has no color”.

Eight trucks appear this season, running the entire spectrum of cuisines and geographic locales. They all have one thing in common, they describe themselves as “gourmet”. There is also an incredible California slant to this collection of competitors with 5 of the 8 trucks calling California home.

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