The slow decline of the Food Network

The slow decline of the Food Network

It’s an end of an era. Emeril Lagasse, the chef who made The Food Network what it is today, is ending his long-running live show, Emeril Live. (They will still produce new episodes of Essence of Emeril.)

I didn’t watch it regularly, but Essence was one of the first Food Network shows I watched. For the first time, cooking on TV wasn’t just a couple hours on PBS here and there, but it was a dedicated channel all its own.

Even though he’s technically not leaving the network it still feels like the end of an era. Over the past few years, Food Network has been changing, becoming less about cooking and more about “food lifestyle,” whatever that is. There seems to be more attention to Giada di Laurentis sensuously tasting her recipe and less on honest cooking. It’s become more E! and less Julia Child, and that’s a shame.

At least there’s still some good shows on PBS, like Lydia’s Table and America’s Test Kitchen. And while Alton Brown can still be found on Food Network, I’ll still be watching.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • And Emeril was a signature part of that decline and shift in emphasis – it was about showmanship, not cooking technique. He personally helped to accelerate the American fetish for Big! Bold! Flavors! that is the mask for mediocre quality.

    When David Rosengarten left years ago, FN started slouching to be born this way.

    PBS shows are, sadly, also full of lifestyle – of Tasteful People in Tasteful Towns(TM) like Winchester, Lexington, Weston, Lincoln, Concord, Carlisle and Bedford. The desired contributor demographic… Post-everything.

    Victory Garden sank after Bob Thompson (who, while he was not the immortal Jim Crockett, took seriously the needs of ordinary cottage gardeners). This Old House too. Lidia has good technique but seems to have been forced increasingly into the MaryAnne Esposito mode of travelogue – Lidia’s usually down to 2 recipes per episode.

    America’s Test Kitchen – despite its rigid schtick (which is designed to temper its geekiness but only ends up reinforcing it) – still is a good place for people to learn many things.

    Master Class was also good.

    I miss Two Fat Ladies. Those chicks rocked! The travelogue-ish moments were clearly momentary and contrapuntal to the overall arc of each program.

    Note to PBS: Bring black the B&W;French Chef series. Rerun *Crockett’s* Victory Garden. French cooking and cottage gardening have NOT changed that much in a generation. (Only the products to promote have….)

  • I think FN strikes a good balance between cooking the personalities.  For example, I think “Dinner: Impossible” is very entertaining but it also gives you cooking ideas.  I also like Ina Garten and she is not flashy at all, just cooking.

    By the way, Giada cooks??

  • Hey, don’t pick on Giada. She’s no Batali but She’s the best of the current generation. She can cook. Unlike, say, Robin Miller who my wife thinks is terrific.

    The question is how much longer will Bobby Flay stay around? I think subjecting him to humiliating losses in those throwdowns is just a ploy to make him move on. Of course Bobby Flay can make a better clam chowder or whatever than 99% of the pros nevermind some amateur?

    It’s simply not about great food anymore despite bright spots like the next iron chef.

  • Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” and “Iron Chef: America” are cool shows.  But I cannot stand Rachel Ray (except for her one episode when she was in Blegium).

    The Travel Channel also has Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and Zimmerin’s “Bizarre Foods” which are both a hoot.

  • I thoroughly enjoy Lydia and the Test Kitchen on PBS. I really enjoyed Emeril Live when I first got cable about 7-8 years ago, his schtick cracked me up, but that wore out quickly, I think because I started cooking regularly and became more interested in actually using recipes and trying to learn how to do things.

    While I find Rachael Ray annoying at times, she really does make a few things with easy-to-find ingrediants that you can cook for a family.

    I do appreciate what Alton Brown does on Good Eats, but does anyone else feel like he overcomplicates things? I remember when he made pad thai he went to like 3 different grocery stores and used 20 different ingredients. I think he also brought his wok out onto a grill for some reason. When he made fresh pasta, he covered an ironing board with wax paper to roll it out on.

    Barefoot Contessa may have the personality of a dishrag, but I find her recipes more approachable. And I wish they’d put Mario Batali back in prime time.

    I have to admit, I am a sucker for travel shows, so I do like some of the “food lifestyle” programming.