The topic of food television is near and dear to my heart, because, frankly, I love it!
The discussion board What would you do to fix the Food Network? keeps getting bumped and people are suggesting ways the network can improve its programming. Supposedly, the Food Network’s ratings have steadily declined since they fired Paula Deen. I feel invested in the Food Network because I’ve probably watched it since its inception in 1993. Here are six changes I would make to improve its programming:
- Less competition shows, please!
One of the posters on the Chowhound board claims the Food Network offers so many competition shows because they gather the highest ratings.
As a grade schooler in the 90’s, I remember staying up late and watching the original, subtitled Iron Chef, the only cooking competition show I knew of. Now there’s Chopped, Chopped All Stars, and Chopped Canada. Jake and I love Chopped the most, but seriously, we only need one. Sorry Chopped Canada.
The Food Network has also frantically birthed Food Network Star, Guy’s Grocery Games, Food Truck Wars, Food Court Wars (OMG so much war!), Worst Cook in America and Rachel vs. Guy, to name a few.
A recent article on Deadline lists the 35 new shows the Food Network and Cooking Channel plan to add to their lineups. As you can see, a whopping 10/18 of Food Network’s new daytime and primetime shows are cooking competitions and two are undercover shows similar to Bar Rescue.
I haven’t even mentioned the baking-specific competition shows which brings me to my next point. . .
- Curb the baking competition shows.
I’ll admit, I am a little biased because I lean savory over sweet. However, I do love baking and I do so very frequently. I just don’t find it that interesting to watch people bake for extended periods of time.
Cupcake Wars & Last Cake Standing are two of my least favorite shows. I generally don’t like cupcakes and find Last Cake Standing confusing. Do those cakes even taste good? So much rice crispy sculpting and shiny, weeping fondant. I’d rather eat a hideous-looking but delicious-tasting cake, than a structurally-sound cake with fondant-covered rice crispy sculpting that shoots fireworks.
And what’s up with the judges making the pastry chefs carry their giant wobbling cake sculptures across the room to the podium? That’s just mean.
- Choose hosts with a good balances between personality & cooking talent.
It seems like Food Network values noisy personalities over cooking savvy, which I don’t’ understand because it’s possible to embody both.
How many Guy Fieris do we need?
Before you think I’m anti-Guy, allow me to share that I have seen every single episode of Drive-ins, Divers & Dives at least twice. I love the concept of the show, and, although his over-the-top presentation can grate on my nerves, he’s mostly ok in this context (although I feel bad for the featured restaurant chefs when he visibly acts nauseated when they prepare traditional dishes with ingredients like offal).
Now, there’s a second Guy. Jeff Mauro won season seven of Food Network Star and his delivery is like a caricature of Fieri with cartoonish reactions and his rhyming, slammer jammer phrases.
There is a subsection of America that is demanding more Guy and more Jeff and now they’re hosting everything from competition shows to The Kitchen talk show. They even have their own specials where they go on vacations with their families and eat stuff.
I want to see people cooking and talking to me like they would in real life. It is possible to find hosts that strike balances between cooking and putting on a show. My favorites include Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson of the Two Fat Ladies series. Their witty banter always kept me on my toes and they also seemed to be so authentically at ease with themselves in all of their quirks. Personalities aside, I can’t watch an episode without wanting to eat everything they prepare.
The same goes for Food Network’s Sunny Anderson, Amy Thielen, Aarti Sequaria and Chin-He Huang of Cooking Channel’s Easy Chinese. Say what you will about Ree Drummond. After watching The Pioneer Woman, not only do I want to eat everything she makes but I feel like I’m actually a part of her family. That’s got to count for a lot, right? I also think Alex Guarnaschelli is wickedly talented and appreciate how she doesn’t seem to put on airs.
I fell in love with Jose Andres after renting his PBS Spanish cooking series Made in Spain from Netflix and, honestly, Anne Burrell and Gordan Ramsey are subdued and endearing when producers let them cook in the kitchen by themselves instead of nudging them to scream at reality show participants for ratings.
- Continually aim to add more diversity to the hosting talent.
The Food Network likes to feature restaurants of all culture and ethnicities on shows like Restaurant Impossible, Drive-Ins, Diners & Dives, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate/Made. They also like to show their current lineup of hosts cooking a wide variety of foods. So why not increase the diversity of hosts?
For example, I’d like to see them hire more Asian hosts. I’ve seen Guy Fieri feature many Thai restaurants on Drive-ins, Divers & Dives and I’ve watched Giada De Laurentiis, Ree Drummond, Tyler Florence, Rachel Ray, Trisha Yearwood and even flippin’ Sandra Lee make Thai food. So why not hire a Thai host?
The Food Network seems to understand that America loves to watch hosts feature Asian restaurants and prepare Asian food, but it just doesn’t seem to want to hire Asian hosts to prepare Asian food. The same could apply to many other cultures.
- Rerun the old classics.
The Food Network uses much of its air space to show rerun marathons of Chopped & Diners, Restaurant Impossible, and Drive-ins & Dives. Why not add more variety by airing some of the old classics? I hope I’m not the only one that would tune in to watch Julia Child, Two Fat Ladies, Molto Mario, Door Knock Dinners and Sara Mouton!
- And then I just don’t get the point of these shows:
10 Dollar Dinners
There’s no way I could make any of these dinners for $10 even if I shopped at Dollar General, Aldi’s, or Walmart. Take a sampling of ingredients from the recent episode Appetizing Savings: Butter, blue cheese, milk, cream cheese, yellow bell pepper, olive oil, white wine vinegar, yogurt, fresh basil, a whole pound of ground turkey, raspberry jam, panko, one egg. . .
Where on earth are you shopping Melissa?
Who’s doing this math?
Lisa Lillian cooks like my parents tried to eat healthy in the 90’s.
Real cream and real butter are the devil, but let’s stuff our faces with artificially sweetened desserts and fat-free products.
Her recipes will probably include any given combination of sugar-free hot chocolate mix, garlic powder, FiberOne cereal, Laughing Cow cheese wedges and shirataki noodles, either cooked in the microwave or sautéed in a pan with exactly one spritz of cooking spray.
They’re “guilt-free” of course, because we should all feel really guilty about eating foods like entire eggs (instead of fat-free liquid egg substitute), olive oil, honey and whole milk mozzarella.
I record her shows for the same reason as I do Sandra Lee. Morbid fascination and curiosity. Who knows what strange and fantastical foods they’ll come up with next?
In closing, I’d want the Food Network to embrace the philosophy that variety is the spice of life. I’m not saying they should get rid of Guy Fieri, never feature cupcakes or ditch ALL of the cooking competitions. Just, try to mix it up and add more diversity in programming and hosts.
How do you think the Food Network could improve its programming or are you happy with it the way it is? Some friends recently shared their thoughts and ideas on my Facebook page.
Preach it, sister.
I agree, there’s far too many competition shows on Food Network and they’ve got to give us a break from Guy Fieri and Bobby Fway, I mean Flay. I know in their eyes Fieri, Flay and De Laurentiis are the trinity of chef hosts, but enough of them already! And Cutthroat Kitchen? It’s just plain stupid and they should all be embarrassed for airing that. How many shows can you cook certain ingredients in x amount of time and have pompous judges grade the results and actually expect any?
Over at Cooking Channel, even though they have more in the kitchen shows, they’re dredging up no-talent has-been TV stars as cooks and hosts to their own shows. Please!
Maybe we’re just suffering from food related TV show burnout. We used to love PBS cook shows, but they didn’t play all day and now that there’s Food Network we’ve become bored. Plus, there are other cooking shows and chefs elsewhere like Gordan Ramsey on BBC America and Fox, there’s also many Internet streaming cook channels accessible via Roku and other players. As MTV has proven, you can have too much of a good thing or just ruin it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You make a good point about TV show burnout and what can happen when you air it 24/7. I also loved the PBS shows.
I loved the Food Network! When we decided to cancel our cable, that is the one station I missed the most. However, like you said, there were far too many cooking and baking competitions! I worked all day and would watch in the evenings and weekends (before dvr was widely available) and the only thing on were the competitions. My all time favorite still is Barefoot Contessa. I also loved Giada De Laurentiis and Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals. Bring back the teaching programs where I might actually learn a new technique rather than watch a bunch of frantic chefs run around for an hour.
I agree with whoever had said the daytime Food Network is better than the evening. I do like Barefoot Contessa. I also liked Giada and Rachel Ray’s shows more when they first started out. I tried to watch some of Rachel’s newer shows and she just seems tired out and her voice is so worn! I did grow up though learning from those three.
I totally agree with everything you said. I suspect the Food Channel this vedy day has alienated all of us who loved to leatn how to cook alongside great personalities such as Rachel Ray, Ina Garten, Giada, Mario Batali. Bobby Flay. Today, for the first time since I have been regularly watching since 2000, all I am seeing this Monday afternoon is Divers, Drives and Whatnot…. For the first time in 16 years, I will probably stop watching the Food Channel! ?
I’m totally with you on Guy, sorry to hear that about Jeff (I liked him when he was competing!), and am totally with you on $10 meals.
I used to watch the channel a lot but now find myself rarely interested. You’re right, too much of the same!
I might just have a thing with Jeff. I missed his season of Food Network Star so maybe I would think more fondly of him if I watched it.
I used to watch the channel a lot too, but find that I rarely watch it anymore. I am not a fan of multitude of cooking competition shows–seems like they overdid it on a good thing. I like Guy but really am in agreement on how many Guy do we need. I like instructional shows with easy to follow demonstrations with a little background on the dishes that are being prepared. Hopefully someone out there is listening…..
I agree. Nothing wrong with cooking competition shows, but they are just running with it like crazy.
I do not watch the Food Network much (unless I am staying at a hotel, then I am sure to get my fill), but would 100% agree with your comments. The programming seems kind of redundant, similar shows running all the time.
I do wish I had better access to it to catch a few episodes of Amy Thielen’s “New Midwestern Table” – have you seen it? I do love her cookbooks.
I am SO glad you mentioned Amy Thielen! I love her!!! I am going to add her in. She is so fantastic.
I would love to see more travel worked into the shows! Food is such an important part of travel/culture…I wish they would air more shows like Jose Andres’ Made in Spain.
Also…MORE PIONEER WOMAN! I love her!
I agree! The Travel Channel was smart to embrace No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. Also love what Bourdain does on Parts Unknown.
The Food Network fell into the same trap that other channels did a few years back when Trading Spaces was popular: If one show of this type works, then let’s copy it to death. I only really like Food Network Star and Iron Chef America.
When nothing else is on that I want to watch, I’ll usually flip it to the Food Nework–unless Hungry Girl is on. What she makes can barely be called food. It always seems to me to be a bad science experiment.
They are like science experiments! I think they look unappealing but fascinating:)
LOVE this post. I agree on many parts. I actually do like Guy a lot in his DDD format. But that’s enough. I don’t care for the undercover sites or the restaurant/bakery rehabs. I watch a lot of Food Network!
I also like DDD, but Guy’s Big Bites is a waste. Everything he makes requires 30 ingredients—to much like work.
I rarely watch the Food Network any more — and you’ve hit on all the reasons! I wish barefoot Contessa would record new shows!!
Me, too. I have always liked her recipes, too.
I like the FOOD NETWORK!!! but I agree ditch the competions shows and put shows on like they used to have : the best of, more bobby flay, sandra pinckley tyler florence. During the holidays put shows on where they travel to different parts of the counrty,to see how they celabrate christmas..
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts! It is fun to see how different people celebrate the holidays. I enjoy that too.
I use to watch Food Network all the time. Now, I just watch Pioneer Woman, Giada, Ina Garten, etc. Shows that seem to be talking to me. All the others seem like reality shows which I don’t watch. Compitive shows I don’t watch. Not interested. I want to learn new recipes not cupcake wars and programs like that. Food Network has changed so much, that I don’t like 75% of the programs! when I use to like 100% of programs. Who is the boss or bosses at Food Network anyway?
I like those shows too. I’m not sure who runs the network-I can try to find out.
I agree! Both Food Network and the Cooking Channel run the same 2-3 shows all day. Unwrapped for 6 consecutive shows, then Unique Eats for another 8 consecutive shows. I don’t care for either. So they have lost me. I like Chopped, but not all day. I enjoy different personalities like Ree and Ina and Debi Mazer’s adorable Tuscan husband, Gabriele! Giada, however, has become way too stuck on herself….. same with Alton.
The really good chefs are clear in speech with good recipes. Trisha Yearwood talks too fast and some words are garbled in the process. Ina Gardner and Ree Dremmond are my examples of two people who know how to speak to an aduience.
That’s a good point. Ina and Ree are pros.
I have two gripes. Get ride of most of the game/competition shows. As my youngest son is a culinary school grad, I tend to like straight forward cooking shows (Giada, etc) and “themed” Chopped shows, e.g., Lunch Ladies, courses with beer, holidays, etc. I still like the original Iron Chef episodes (Japanese) that compared 2 of the 4 different cuisines. I was always amazed by the French Iron chef’s knife skills.
Secondly, I hate when the wise ones at the network screw around with the programming schedule. One week a new episode of particular show is on, say, Wednesday at 9pm; two weeks later it then runs on Monday at a different time. It keeps me guessing when the show will run (if at all) and replaced with 6 straight episodes of DDD.
I am totally with you on your gripes!
As I think more about it, I would like more shows that discusses techniques, (knife skills, why some ingredients are folded in instead of mixed in, etc.) and how/why to pair certain foods with libations, some of which I get from watching Chopped. The judges often critique mistakes (this ingredient should have been done such a way or inserted before a second ingredient, etc).
I am a “foodie” and travel quite extensively internationally so that I would like to see more international cuisines that don’t get much exposure (Hungarian, Czech/Slovak, Caribbean) besides the overwhelming exposure of Mexican, Asian, and Italian items. This is where Bourdain has the big appeal. He’s not affraid to try anything, no matter how disgusting the item is. Like the Chopped judges, I give them all credit for at least trying things that I draw the line at.
Despite my interest in the culinary arts (I give a guest lecture every year at a local college’s culinary program and help instruct that day’s menu as the students’ “test” about my lecture), I don’t pretend to be a cook or chef, as I have several food allergies and I don’t like the taste of (gasp!) salt, so I would not be able to tell if a particular dish is seasoned sufficiently. To me, that is why restaurants (god forbid) have salt and pepper shakers on the table so I don’t understand why the judges harp on the salt/pepper (under)seasoning. Nothing can be done to rescue an item that is over salted, but the salt shaker can be used to bring the level up one’s desired taste. As we have seen many times, not all the judges are in agreement about “seasoning.”
Bourdain has always been one of my favorites! I love how he and Andrew Zimmern do explore those international food cultures that don’t get as much attention. There’s a lot I’d like to learn about food and culture. I think it’s funny too how the Chopped judges deliver such harsh criticism given the time/ingredients. However, it’s still one of our favorite Food Network shows. I don’t pretend to be a cook or chef either.
I truly loved reading this. you made great points in this. if I see one more celebrity cook show or doing a Guy Fieri imitation of Drive-in Diners and Dives ill scream. Cooking Channel is going to now have Kix Brooks doing the same thing. Dont forget that we now have Cutthroat Kitchen ugh. I love Alton, but I cant watch this show. I also love PBS shows like Test Kitchen and got my love for cooking by watching Julia Childs. i agree hating but watching Hungry Girl. its like watching a train wreck in slow motion; you dont want to but you just have to look. I love Chopped, Korean Made Easy, Chinese Made Easy, Please get rid of You’re Eating It Wrong (No Im not.)
“You’re Eating It Wrong (No I’m not).” LOL!
I am so tired of watching guy Fiery show sum ready o explode!!!! He is OK. But enough is enough. Food Network used to be my favorite Chanel but all YOU SHOW IS GUY. Sick of seeing his shows. Please find a new show and I might start watching again???
I SO miss the circa 2001 thru 2006 Food Network. I’m past sick of the competitions. Like tonight, there are those kids competing with their unwashed little fingers making sugary boredom. It’s almost as if someone fell asleep in the Food Network cockpit and hasn’t awakened in YEARS. Just loops of Guy Fieri stuffing piping hot food into his pie hole, aforementioned competitions & inserts of shows we desperately wish would take us back to the good ole days, when the Food Network made us want to COOK, experiment &, well, watch.
I’m so glad I found this article – it shows I’m not the only one ‘fed up’ (pardon the pun) with the silly competition shows. Enough already! I really like Chopped! but that one is enough for me. The endless baking contests and all of that is just plain boring — I now have to tune into Create TV to see actual cooking shows. Some of the few left on FN are over-produced, film-quality show , which to me doesn’t make the food more appetizing-looking. It actually makes it look too dark and subdued. I prefer the good old 3 camera, super-bright studio cooking lesson – I don’t really mind if it’s edited to condense time, I just like the “live” feel. I also want to actually learn how to cook some simple dishes– and see it done.
I love puns:) Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree – nothing wrong with an old fashioned, straightforward cooking lesson.
I agree, I’ve just about quit watching both channels. I still watch Rachel Koo, Rhee, reruns of people who can teach me something. I think they traded real food programs for entertainment. Why else all the has-been actresses, one of whom has represented a diet company for the past 10 years, which would have precluded her from having to cook anything, competition shows, and even with the real chefs, tons of cleavage?
Bring back people who know how to cook.
Goodness I couldn’t agree more. And the newest trend is all of these “kiddie” cook shows. Come on, I don’t want to watch 10 year old kids cook. Then cry when they get “chopped” or eliminated somehow. They’ve got kids baking competition, kid food network stars as well as Chopped for kids. Please, stop. I agree with above poster, the FN shows in the early 2000s were the best. Competitions wear me out. Chopped, and DDD in limited doses is entertaining. But not marathons of them. Will FN listen?????