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Beginner's guide to good food on TV


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Though I love television dearly, I rarely watch food programming. Except for the bits and pieces I've caught while changing channels, I haven't seen any of the current crop of Food Network shows, and I don't even know what food programs are on the other channels.

So I'm asking, from the perspective of someone who has no current experience with food television and who is interested only in high-quality programming with meaningful food content, what should I be watching? Is there anything great out there, or is it really all as bad as the snippets I've seen on the Food Network?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You know, when FNW was new, I was all over it! I was so excited, bummed when I moved to a place that didn't offer it. I don't watch TV much but I ALWAYS waatched the Food Network.

It has been, literally, YEARS since I have turned it on.

What happened? :huh:

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I think the best quality COOKING shows are on PBS. There can be a lot of variability in what you get in your particular market, but if there is a place to look, that's it.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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YES! Absolutely PBS. Lord knows, I'm blessed enough to live in Southern California, where I can get (thanks to satellite TV) 4, count 'em 4, PBS stations. Cooking most of the day on Saturday, and about 4 hours worth on Sundays.

REAL cooking. Jaques and Lidia and Rick Bayless and America's Test Kitchen and Joanne Wier and Caprial and Ming and other people whose books I want to buy and whose recipes are calling for me to make.

And sometimes, if we're very very lucky........JULIA. Yes, Julia lives on PBS in Southern California. That is all *I* need to be a happy, happy TV viewer.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Adding my voice to the chorus of PBS, PBS, PBS!

Rick Bayless - Mexico One Plate at a Time

Jacques Pepin - Fast Food My Way

Charlie Trotter's Kitchen Sessions

are some of the standouts.

I don't have cable, so I don't have much to say about the Food Network, but suffice to say that every time I stay somewhere with cable, I watch a few shows and come away with no desire to get cable.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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The Food Network's timeslots are filled with dreck. I usually only make a point to watch on Sunday at 1pm to catch Nigella Lawson. That's when they show episodes of either her Bites or Feasts shows.

There have been some new PBS shows added in my area (New Jersey/New York)

Food Trip with Todd English

The Best Recipes in the World with Mark Bittman

Mario Batali makes many appearances on these Bittman episodes, I believe.

These both are a travel show of sorts - with some cooking - I find them to be an informative and enjoyable watch. PBS does it so much better than FN.

Chef's Story is a favorite - a 26-Part Public Television Series Featuring Interviews With Today’s Culinary Legends -

I've caught the first two episodes. The first, with Rick Bayless and last week Anthony Bourdain was the chef/guest. Today's guest chef (according to my listings) is Lidia Bastianich. Next week is Andre Soltner.

* Another brand new show that I caught (by accident) last week - Secrets from a Chef with Hubert Keller. It wasn't mentioned in my listings. It aired when Simply Ming was scheduled to be on.

Still looking forward to seeing Sara Moulton on PBS. Does anyone have any info on that. I thought that it also was to air April 2007.

Edited by msfurious1 (log)
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Diary of a Foodie.  Only show I bother making time for anymore.

Okay, see, I need a lot more help. I've never heard of "Diary of a Foodie" (or many of these other shows), I don't know what channel it's on or when, I don't know what it's about, I'm very suspicious of any show that makes "foodie" claims, etc. Can you help me out here?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Diary of a Foodie.  Only show I bother making time for anymore.

Okay, see, I need a lot more help. I've never heard of "Diary of a Foodie" (or many of these other shows), I don't know what channel it's on or when, I don't know what it's about, I'm very suspicious of any show that makes "foodie" claims, etc. Can you help me out here?

"Diary of a Foodie" is a "brand" of Gourmet magazine. There is some general theme for the show. There will be some travel to various parts of the world to talk about the theme, profiles on chefs or restaurants. Maybe people cooking at home. There is a segment at the Gourmet test kitchens with usually either Ruth Reichel or John "Doc" Willoughby.

http://www.diaryofafoodie.org/

Sadly, I'm not getting it on my PBS station anymore, TiVo is not picking up any episodes.

Thanks to a previous poster who mentioned Mark Bittman's new show. I need to setup a Season Pass for that on the TiVo.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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I like some things for a while, it's always changing, but the only ones I'm watching regularly now are Ming's Quest on Fine Living is about the newest Ming I can find, Lidia's and Rick's on PBS, nothing else(on my cable here that is) really interests me over the long haul.

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I am a real newbie and I watch the Nigella Lawson on food network, thats about it anymore. I use to watch a lot more, but lately it's hasn't been that great...I hang more with PBS these days, too.

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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I don't watch food shows on TV any more, although I miss the PBS shows like Lidia and Rick Bayless. Our TV antenna fell off the roof this winter. So all we get now is cable, and the food network looks like endless rounds of Rachel, Paula Deen and Giada, over and over.

However, I just purchased the "Boot Camp" DVD from the Culinary institute and it is great!

CKatCook, I just love your photo!!!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I don't watch food shows on TV any more, although I miss the PBS shows like Lidia and Rick Bayless.  Our TV antenna fell off the roof this winter.  So all we get now is cable, and the food network looks like endless rounds of Rachel, Paula Deen and Giada, over and over.

However, I just purchased the "Boot Camp" DVD from the Culinary institute and it is great!

CKatCook, I just love your photo!!!

You don't get PBS from your cable TV system?? That's odd. Get that antenna back up there!!

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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IMO, Food Network has too many shows where they TALK about food, and not enough of actually preparing it. And when each host has 2-3 shows, they all kind of run together.

The novelty has definitely worn off for me. Now I'm watching PBS or other cable channels for some variety.

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Colameco's food show on PBS.

The program usually opens with Mike Colameco visiting a

couple of restaurants and talking with the chef tasting several dishes.

Then "inspired" by the chefs he has visited with, Colameco prepares a

meal in his kitchen.

Colameco is very engaging and knowledgeable (he has been a professional chef)

and is focusing on restaurants where the chef or owner is in the kitchen. Last program focused on Little Owl and Peasant (he has done Jean Georges and Per Se)

also Sea Grill and Oceana as well as many others.

A nice aspect to this program is the second part where Colameco prepares a meal.

As opposed to Bittman who cooks a dish as more of a challenge, Colameco prepares a meal to show how eating at a restaurant can inspire one to cook something simpler and in the same vein at home.

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Alton Brown's creations notwithstanding, there are no decent shows on Foodnetwork except for the occasional re-run of the original Iron Chef series, and I'm not even sure that those are on anymore. (Also, once in awhile, Sara Moulton's show, "Sara's Secrets" seems to be broadcast in the middle of the night, according to my Tivo). In general, the programming on Foodnetwork is so horrific that I refuse to watch it anymore.

PBS has the best food-related shows, including Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie". That is a great show - probably my current favorite. (BTW, prior episodes are available as free podcasts: click here).

If you have kids, on PBS you might enjoy the latest season of "Chef's A Field - Culinary Adventures that Begin on the Farm", which will feature "Kids on the Farm".

On PBS, Food Trip with Todd English is also good, as is Simply Ming, Ming's Quest, Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, Fast Food My Way with Jacques Pepin, etc.

On the Travel Channel, there is Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" and Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods". These shows are entertaining once in awhile, as long as you have them recorded and don't have to watch the endless commercials.

P.S. Anyone interested in the food served at Alinea, Moto, Fat Duck, etc. should check out Episode 20 of "Diary of a Foodie"here: episode 20.

Edited by kbjesq (log)
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CKatCook, I just love your photo!!!

Thank you!

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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i really like the gourmet show: it is really smart and well-edited, like a good story brought to camera. I also really like something called "New Dotch Cooking Show" that shows up Sunday nights on our Japanese channel (subtitled). it's ostensibly an "iron chef" type competition between two cooks, but there's a lot more emphasis on off-site videos on where ingredients come from and things like that. the last show was on ramen and it was quite an education, including a trip to some mountainous rain forest area where they went hunting wild young bamboo tips.

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As someone who looks to TV for entertainment and not education, I maintain it's hard to do better than Iron Chef America.

What it boils down to is that you get to watch real, well-known chefs create something out of nothing -- not to teach but with the intent of showing themselves at their best -- trying to wow tasters and outdo their competition. The time limit adds genuine excitement to the process. Many of the tasters are well-known food professionals too and are fun to see.

As I see it, the main reasons people put down this show are:

1) they find the whole idea of competitive cooking stupid -- fair enough

2) it's not as "good" as the Japanese original. Matter of opinion. It's certainly not as "campy" as the original, and some people enjoyed the original mainly for that. You'll find people arguing that the participants on the American show are somehow not of the caliber of those on the Japanese show. I think objectively this is indefensible.

3) there is a *small* chance that some of the outcomes are not on the level. (The Japanese show is, I believe, more suspect in this regard.)

With the exception of 1), I don't think these are dealbreakers. Just don't sweat the verdict -- heck turn it off before they announce it and get back 5 minutes of your life. Don't sweat some of the less-qualified judges. And pick the episodes with participants that interest you.

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That's a good take on it Leonard, I guess I don't think of it so much as a cooking show however, even though there is a lot of cooking and technique my time would be better spent on another channel if I simply wanted to learn to make good food. Though with the diversity of the challengers brings with more information. And getting Alton Brown to play Doc's part was smart. He's definitely more entertaining and has a great knowledge base. All justification aside, I watch it, Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef more for the entertainment than learning anything besides some little tricks.

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Another fan of PBS (I sometimes just watch whatever is on) and Nigella Lawson; almost no interest in Food Network. I like to watch barbecue contests like that one Luckylies was in. (On OLN, I think.) I am more interested in little tips or general menu ideas than in someone walking me through a recipe. I have even been known to get ideas from the food parts of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Top Chef is fun but almost never makes me want to cook anything, although I do watch Lee Ann Wong's demos on the Bravo site.

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Not being ridiculously critical like most of the posters in this thread, I enjoy most of the programming on Food Network. Some of the better ones that are actually useful include:

Iron Chef America

Molto Mario

Boy Meets Grill

Throwdown (very entertaining IMO)

Good Eats (usually)

Everyday Italian (mmmm Giada)

I'll watch pretty much anything besides Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee, although it's usually just a background to being on the computer/studying.

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I like Good Eats and ICA, one for education, the other for entertainment. Molto Mario is on around noon I think. I used to watch it when I went home for lunch but they moved it earlier now.

I keep meaning to check out Bourdain's show, but with a 3 month old it's just getting added to the list of things I keep meaning to do :)

To each their own, I'm not going to chastise someone for watching a particular show.

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