I love eating food, cooking food, photographing food and writing about food. I also have a love of TV that developed at a very young age, despite all my dear mother did to try to limit my exposure to something she considered “noise.” My love for food on TV developed later, as an adult, once I really started cooking.
I remember my early days watching Food Network and learning how to chop an onion. It was a revelation. I went to The Flying Biscuit in Atlanta after seeing the now ubiquitous Rachael Ray eat there on “$40 a day.”
Now I can’t seem to get enough food programs. From Top Chef on Bravo to The Best Recipes in The World on PBS, my DVR is constantly overflowing with all types of cooking shows. Food Network is one of the few networks I will just leave on rather than watching pre-recorded shows. (Of course there are still shows on FN I record to ensure I don’t miss an episode – Easy Entertaining, Everyday Italian – I have a total girl-crush on Giada, Healthy Appetite, Barefoot Contessa- Ina Garten is my personal food hero, Iron Chef, and Good Eats to name a few)
When my friends and I were discussing the reality food trifecta – Top Chef vs The Next Food Network Star vs Hell’s Kitchen. I was a vocal advocate for Top Chef and argued against Hell’s Kitchen. Yes some of the challenges in Top Chef are a little unrealistic - "make a meal from food you buy in a vending machine" but I think it does the best job of making good tv while highlighting the beauty of cooking and food. It is the show that actually makes me want to try the recipes I see them prepare. I still enjoyed The Next Food Network Star even if it didn’t inspire me to cook. Hell’s Kitchen, however, I found completely grating and Gordon Ramsay seemed like an over-hyped bully.
During my trip to Denver, my hosts Brooke and David made me sit and watch a show with Gordon Ramsay on BBC America called “Kitchen Nightmares.” I begrudgingly gave it a chance because they were letting me stay in their beautiful home, but I really didn’t have high hopes. Well much to my surprise, the show was fantastic. Gordon was a superior chef and business man who brought a fresh perspective to failing restaurants. The stories were not sugar-coated or overly-dramatic and Chef Ramsay seemed to truly care about the people he was helping and the food they were serving. Yes, he still revealed harsh truths and used foul language but it all seemed to come from a good place. Sometimes the restaurants turned around, sometimes they failed - it seemed like a real look into their kitchens rather than over-produced "reality tv."
Last night, Kitchen Nightmares premiered on Fox with an American version. I was excited to give Gordon Ramsay another slot on my DVR record list. Unfortunately, the Gordon Ramsay on this show is hardly recognizable from the BBC America version I had grown to love. Back was the bully I met on Hell’s Kitchen. Reality TV producers swoop in with contrived antagonism (putting the owner in the kitchen as a chef), extreme kitchen makeovers, and staged dramatic interviews. I may give the second episode a chance but I’m not terribly optimistic.
Of course I’m not the first food blogger to talk about Food TV – The Amateur Gourmet, expresses his love for Mark Bittmann in a post that takes the words right out of my mouth. Allergic Girl makes mention of both Top Chef and two other programs on her blog. Where else is Food TV making a splash in the blogosphere? What do you think of Chef Ramsay?