Saturday, July 31, 2010

Food Network vs Cooking Channel

Lately when I'm in front of a TV with cable (which is not often)*, I find myself watching less and less of the Food Network, and more and more of the Food Net-affiliated Cooking Channel. I've been trying to suss out why I am liking the Cooking Channel so much more now. I recently hashed out why on Twitter:

Now why isn't Food Net showing half the stuff that the Cooking Channel is? Caribbean Food Made Easy? They need stuff like this!

The chef is cooking a stew of something with his little old Jamaican mama.

Ah, NOW I know why this'll never be on Food Net - this show is FOOD driven, not PERSONALITY driven.

Correction: FOOD and CULTURE driven. The chef is chatting up a little old Jamaican man reminiscing about the old country.

[We need] More UK cooking shows in the US!

Another thing I like about the shows on this net: they weave together a story. It's not just people yelling at the camera about food.

Eat THAT, Guy Fieri!

Correction: Food Net is most[ly] just people yelling, giggling, guffawing or schmoozing at the camera about food.

That must be why Nigella Lawson's show is now on the Cooking Channel instead of the Food Net. She didn't embarrass herself enough.
So this is the main conclusion I've come to: the Food Net is more personality driven, with food, whereas the Cooking Channel is more food driven, with personalities. Of course there are exceptions. Various Food Net shows end up on the Cooking Channel eventually, though it's not usually the BIG personalities - the Bobby Flays, the Paula Deens, the Guy Fieris, etcetera, and when Bobby does wind up there it's one of his less "in your face" offerings. Also, a small handful of the personalities on the Food Net really would fit in much better on the Cooking Channel. Ina Garten is that rare chef that would probably work best in either venue, as well as Giada DeLaurentiis to some extent. And some people just seem too flashy and flamboyant for the Cooking Channel altogether (qv Paula, Guy, Duff, etc., above).

I really have to stick by this FOOD/CULTURE vs PERSONALITY hypothesis. A lot of these Food Network shows really are more about the star making food, not so much food being made by the star (please try and convince me that Ace of Cakes, which I will always love, is about the cakes and not about Duff and Company - not that this is a bad thing since the show is meant to be about the people and not the food, but I digress). I think that's why we don't see Nigella Lawson on the Food Net so much anymore (thank God she's alive and well on the Cooking Channel, as is the woman who started it all, the late, great Julia Child).

And I think it's why NFNS winners like Dan Smith & Steve McDonough (who really got a raw deal I think with their cooking show) and Amy Finley (yes, a personality of cardboard but her food was lovely) were not the best fits for the Food Net while Guy "The Male Rachael Ray" Fieri was: Guy can make his shows about himself, while Dan, Steve and Amy really made it more about the food. It's also why I am continually surprised that somebody as unassuming and not-irritating as Ina Garten can remain on the Food Network. And yes, it's also why I am not at all surprised that Sandra Lee will always have a place at Tuschie and Sue's table.

Yes, this is why.

That leads me to my next hypothesis: so many of these Cooking Channel folks are not annoying people! You learn something about Caribbean food from Jamaican-British chef Levi Roots (of Caribbean Food Made Easy), and the hard-to-pigeonhole dishes from Montréal chef Chuck Hughes (of Chuck's Day Off). And Food Net cast-offs like Ingrid Hoffmann, Dave Lieberman and Michael "I was also on Top Chef Masters!" Chiarello have found comfy homes here, along with some of the more digestible and homey offerings by Bobby, Rachael and Emeril.

And as for Dan & Steve, the Hearty Boys? I only hope that handsome couple will get married in New England somewhere and settle down in a nice comfy neighborhood on the Cooking Channel.

* This is also why I no longer live-blog Top Chef or Next Food Network Star, and why I am blissfully oblivious to what is happening on either show. True, I miss out on the in jokes. But still, it's so nice to only pay $11 a month for your "limited-limited" basic cable. Especially when you watch so little of it at home.


The Trinigourmet said...

I'm loving the Cooking Channel as well. Wish Nigella wasn't on it though, I consider her the most insufferably self-involved on-air personality. Julia Child and Graham Kerr more than make up for it, as does the new programming they've been unrolling such as Cook Like An Iron Chef. Michael Symon was much too underutilised on the Food Network. Glad to have Sara Secrets again :)

John said...

I do love Nigella but I hear ya on everything else!