Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recent Interesting Articles About Food Part 2 (food, rambling, economics/politics, entertainment, tv)

There were a couple of very interesting articles about food in mainstream media recently. I wanted to share them with everyone because they are thoughtful, interesting reads. I'm also going to offer up my opinions on certain points discussed in the articles because this is Rambling$ and Gambling$ after all and I haven't done any rambling in a while.

This second article is from Grantland on the state of food TV. For Part 1 click here.

It was no longer enough to...instruct. The new goal was to entertain.
Another example of this way of mixing instructing/entertaining that has proven successful is Jim Cramer on CNBC. I think it says more about the way people consume media than about food TV itself.
And so the TV part of the equation began to outweigh the food. Legit cooks...went out the door.
While this is true, the Food Network did spin off the Cooking Channel. There may be no more new episodes of "Good Eats", but you can find reruns, along with new shows that still actually teach cooking, on the Cooking Channel. While I might agree with the conclusion, I don't think it's fair to focus exclusively on the one Food Network channel.
Bourdain was...a thoroughly undistinguished line cook lifer
I'm pretty sure this is just plain wrong. I did read Kitchen Confidential, and I remember he was already executive chef when he wrote it. This just sounds like what someone who watches too much Top Chef would say. They think all real chefs are these endlessly creative artist types. Every real restaurant kitchen has line cooks, and actually running a successful kitchen is a legitimate big deal, especially for a place that did as many covers as Les Halles.
Look, it's perfectly fine for Bourdain to cash in
Yes it is, although my belief is that this happened well before The Taste. The last couple of seasons of No Reservations and The Layover show focused way more on already-known critical darlings than the earlier seasons.
Slumming alongside Bourdain as judges/mentors are Ludo Lefebvre, an actually gifted French chef....
I actually did not like Ludo when he first appeared on Top Chef Masters. I thought he was playing a character. But I think he's rediscovered his passion for food and has won me over, especially with his appearance on the Burgundy episode of No Reservations. I do watch The Taste (it's an easy show to have on in the background), and he's the only guy on there whose taste I trust even a bit. I think Bourdain's taste buds have been killed off by the all the alcohol he's drank over the years.
Bourdain's Rolodex is put to good use, too, as a dazzling assortment of legitimate geniuses, from Gabrielle Hamilton to David Kinch....
Those are some nice names, but did you know that "Master Chef", the Fox show about HOME COOKS, once featured Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse, and Daniel Boulud as judges? That's a combined 33 Michelin stars. (Recent review of Boulud's restaurant Daniel here)
The main takeaway here is that amateurism just isn't all that interesting.
That to me was the best part of the article and my main takeaway as well. Unfortunately, he then loses me when he heaps praise onto Chopped and Top Chef. While the contestants on Top Chef do tend to be stronger as a whole than other shows, let's not get too carried away. There's a reason that every fcking season someone gets reprimanded for not seasoning their food. As for Chopped, I'm just not a fan of the whole food challenge thing. It goes back to this focus on chefs as artists, and forgets about chefs running a restaurant and feeding people. Even though Fox focuses too much on the whole cursing Gordon Ramsay schtick, both Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares do illustrate what it's like to run a kitchen professionally. The BBC versions of these programs, where the Ramsay character is dialed down a bunch, are very watchable.

Again, I think this article speaks more to how people (Americans in general) consume TV media than specifically to the state of food TV.

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