My Views on Food Network Stars. Just Being Straight Up.

2 Aug

Recently, I was looking at past blog posts on Getinmebelly, when I realized that I’ve never really weighed in on the ever popular question “who do you like to watch on Food Network?”  I’ve been watching Food Network since probably the fourth grade.  I’m familiar with the oldies but goodies (Ina Garten, Giada Di Lorentis, and Alton Brown), the oldies but badies (Paula Deen, Sandra Lee, and Mark Summers), and the advent of new ones (Guy Fieri, the Neely’s, and Sunny Andreson).  And you know what?  The network it is a’changin’, but, unfortunately, I feel, for the worse.

Let’s start with the oldies but goodies–the Food Network stars about whom I give a damn, deep in the black hole that should be my heart.  For me, sitting on the couch after a long day at school and watching Every Day Italian followed by the Barefoot Contessa was therapeutic as hell.  Even though I feel like Giada makes the same damn thing every time (pasta, pesto, lemon dessert with mascarpone, chocolate-hazelnut concoction, period.), she makes everything look great, and the look of her show is very aesthetically pleasing.  No, no–I’m not referring to the fact that Giada is the hot mama of the Network; rather, everything is organized and  clean in her TV kitchen.  The colors are soft and appealing, all her ingredients are in clean glass containers, and she never makes a mess.  Every Day Italian has a feng shui-like aura.  Watching it is like yoga–the routine may seem repetitive, but it is nevertheless calming.

My other two favorite stars are Ina Garten and Alton Brown.  Goddamnit, Ina, I really wish I was your neighbor, because the other day your made amazing food for your friends when they returned from vacation so they wouldn’t come home to an empty fridge.  Ina is this rockstar of everything hedonistic–in a good way.  She loves cooking, she makes everything look beautiful (amazing flowers, anyone?), and she is always happy being around the people she loves (like her husband, Jeffrey, who married into a very advantageous situation, with all that great food).  Who doesn’t want to party with Ina?  She makes everything look amazing, and then she’s all like, and it’s even better if it looks home-made, because who wants a cake that looks like it cae from a factory? And I’m like, “I feel you, Ina, my cakes certainly look homemade!  But because of you I feel better about that little detail now!”

OK, Alton Brown.  How does America love you?  Let me count the ways.  Seriously.  This crazy man, with his staged scenarios and whatnot, has made the science of cooking fun for all!  Brining a turkey?  Here is how the brine penetrates the meat, making it juicier!  Making fillet mignon?  Let me show you where it comes from on this strange model of a cow I can take apart, muscle by muscle.  This Alton Brown is a bro, and I know, when I watch him host Iron Chef America, that many of us secretly wish we had his life.  He just knows so much about food!

OK…So now for the bad stars who have haunted my life since my childhood.  I have to say first, that although I have included Paula Deen, she is the mildest offender, and I sometimes do enjoy her show.  She is a seemingly lovely person, and she makes some good food, but Jesus lady, why do you have to put in so much mayonnaise?  And although I haven’t watched her show in a long time, I remember instances in which Paula just took too many shortcuts with store-made products.  Shame.  But, there are two Foodnetwork Stars that really make me just turn off my TV.

Mark Summers, host of Unwrapped, and Sandra Lee, of Semi-Homemade, are a duo of evil spirits that haunt the Foodnetwork around 9 PM and 5:30 PM respectively.  I don’t know why, but Unwrapped is just such a poorly made show.  It may just be the old school setting where Summers starts and ends the show, or it may be Summers’s tool commentary.  Corny jokes, strange clips of old ladies having death by chocolate parties, and gross looks into vats of corn syrup and red food dye in candy factories have made me queazy and exasperated.  Unwrapped is no show of mine.

As for Sandra Lee, there is little to say.  Why does the Food Network condone a show about the opposite of cooking: 30% cooking?  Seventy percent of this bitch’s food is not homemade.  So why doesn’t she get less air time?  Like 30% of the time everyone else takes to make HOMEMADE food?  I, too, can use a boxed mix to make cakes, but I don’t take 30 minutes.  Furthermore, what is with wasting half the show making hokie decorations and having drunk-lady sesh?  I swear–every last ten minutes is like, And now, since it’s already  three in the afternoon, I think I need a margarita.  And look at this cookie I decorated to look like my niece! I don’t doubt that Sandra Lee is a great person; I’ve seen her promoting foundations to fight hunger in America on TV, but her personality cannot make up for the crap that is her show.

Alright, now for the newbs.  Although there is an abundance of new Food Network stars, the three who I see most often are Guy Fieri, the Neely’s, and Sunny Anderson.  Guy Fieri is perhaps the most credible of the newbs.  Maybe that’s because I’ve never watched him cook, but he’s pretty fucking amazing at eating!  On a more serious note, he does seem very in the know about food, and I really enjoy watching him explore the uncharted waters of many hidden gems on 3X D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives).  He’s honest (he admitted to not knowing what mofongo was on one show), he’s personable (always talking to the owners and chefs at the locations he visits), and he shows how fun good food can be, whether its fancy-pants food or just satisfying soul food.

On to the Neely’s.  Now, I enjoy this show to a certain extent, because lots of times, the food looks good.  However, I really don’t enjoy the bullshit that goes with the food.  Even though I enjoy the Neely’s happy personalities, I don’t love the wifey-hubby-lovey-dovey crap.  It’s really not cute.  And I also don’t like the competitive nature between them, even if it is playful.  During one episode, which had to do with grilling, Pat was all pulling out the “grilling is a man’s job crap”, and Gina was going along with it!  Now, I appreciate the manly tradition of grilling, but I enjoy grilling, and a network dedicated to teaching people to cook has no business intimating that women should stay away from the grill.  OK?!  Oh, and their kitchen is messy.  Ew.

How about that Sunny Anderson on Cooking For Real?  I feel like she can’t be for real with some of the crap she pulls out.  While I support having a young personality on the Food Network who cooks simple and sometimes healthy food, she sometimes whips up gross shit.  The worst thing ever was this dessert with a pretzel crust, Jell-o, chocolate mousse, and whipped cream.  I’m sorry–what?  Salty, gelatinous, fruity, chocolaty?  No.  Even though it’s not all bad, I have raised an eyebrow or two at some of her dishes.

All in all, the Food Network was a place of comfort for me when I was younger, but I’m not sure I will always be glad watching it.  What with the rise of amateur and sometimes immature stars, I don’t feel like the Food Network is the channel I once knew.  Luckily, the Cooking Channel, the new foodie TV channel, seems to have more informative and interesting shows.  So while I’m disappointed in my old flagship TV network, I may have a new place to run to.


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