Ok, I admit it: I’m a Food Network addict. I don’t watch everything (I do work and have a life) but I frequently have the channel on in the evening as background noise. This allows me to tune in when there’s a program on that captures my attention.
I LOVE the Guy Fieri show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It’s such a great vehicle (no pun intended!) for publicizing the authentic mom and pop type restaurants throughout the country, and I’m happy to see these small operations get great free press. And Guy’s enthusiasm about the dishes he samples is fun to watch. I also like the quick demos that accompany the dishes that are profiled. Even if you don’t plan to attempt a knock off recipe, it gives you a basic idea of what goes into the dish if you want to incorporate either flavor or technique into your own cooking.
I also enjoy some of the contest shows like Iron Chef America. That’s kitchen theatre! Some of the featured ingredients are pretty standard, but now and then, I’ll admit there is a theme ingredient that I’ve never even heard of. I’ve learned a lot about cooking methods watching the chefs and their staff work on the show. The speed of the preparation and the imagination that the chefs put into their dishes is amazing.
Another favorite program is Chopped! The premise of this program is that four chefs tackle a surprise basket of ingredients for an appetizer, entrée and dessert. After each course, one of the chefs is chopped from the competition. The variety and increasingly bizarre nature of the ingredients in the chefs’ baskets gives an interesting twist to the show. There is also the interaction among the chefs as they vy with each other for the winning spot (and the $10,000 cash prize). A three judge panel critiques the dishes, and their interplay with the chefs is the best part of the show.
Probably my favorite has to the be Alton Brown “Good Eats” series. This is a seriously zany production, to say the least. The premise of the show combines the scientific backdrop of what is actually occurring in the various cooking processes, how the ingredients are interacting with each other, etc., but the really entertaining factor is the unique plot line that Brown uses for each show. Lots of characters, props, and interesting factoids make the show a little off-beat, but ultimately entertaining and educational. And the recipes and cooking methods are given in very precise terms…no chance of getting lost in jargon here!
Most of my leisure for tv time comes in small segments, so I often watch only a few minutes of these programs. But this fare is far more interesting to me than traditional game shows, reality shows, soap operas…after all, the main theme of the channel is FOOD, and there’s not a lot that’s more interesting than food that is well prepared and entertainingly presented. Add larger than life hosts, and the formula is magic, as the Food Network has taken to the bank.