Sunday, February 11, 2007

Anthony Bourdain: Pearl Clutcher

Anthony Bourdain thinks Food Network is pandering to hoi polloi. (Thanks elbee, for sending the link.)

He and I have come down on the same side of the coin on several issues (if by issues, I mean Sandra Lee) but he is much meaner about the whole thing. At least, I hope I wasn't that mean. And he addresses the trend discussed in the New Yorker article--the network's moving away from using classically trained chefs to more personalities who cook, such as Rachel Ray, Lee, and Paula Deen. I, in general, applaud this trend. I'm just not fond of some of the personalities they've chosen.

Bourdain gets all uppity about the shunting aside of the chefs and does some hand-wringing about how Mario Batali and Bobby Flay are treated. Gimme a break. Like somehow focusing on what will help home cooks is necessarily pandering to the lowest common denominator or something. He refers to Bobby Flay's show Throwdown, in which Flay is regularly beaten when challenging an amateur cook at his or her specialty. Indeed, Flay was in St. Paul last year, competing with the guy who runs Izzy's ice cream parlour--they each had to create a new flavor. (In a lovely not-everybody-has-cable moment, the Izzy's guy did not know who Flay was.)

Here's Bourdain on the whole concept: "Now…does ANYONE actually believe that Bobby Flay can’t make a better chili than a supermarket ground beef bearing amateur?" I believe that the amateur could make a chili that someone besides Bourdain would think was better--not everybody has your overwhelmingly sensitive palate, Tony. He mentions how Emeril and Flay are good chefs who run good restaurants, as though that's relevant to whether they'd make for good television or whether they'd be useful to the viewers. It's called the Food Network, not the Chef Network.

He also seems to believe that these chefs are being humiliated against their will. Bourdain on Batali: "Is there any more egregiously under-used, criminally mishandled, dismissively treated chef on television?" I think the key words there are "on television." He's one of very few, and there's no evidence to suggest he's shackled to his cutting board.

A trained chef doesn't necessarily make a great cooking-show host, nor does haute cuisine appeal to everybody. Imagine my presumption at liking shows with accessible hosts that are about simple-to-prepare meals with easy-to-find ingredients. Excuse me while I put down this ham sandwich and go find some foie gras.

Oy, do I appear to be unhealthily obsessed with food TV? I'm putting a moratorium on this topic for a while.

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