Chelsea Market

Food Network Canceled?



Alton BrownNew York City – The E.W. Scripps Company announced today that after 19 years in production their popular Food Network will cease programming at the end of April. The move took many in assembly by surprise. The press conference was held at Chelsea Market on 75 9th Avenue, home of the Food Network Studios.

Milton Funderburk, Acting Assistant Vice-Chairman of Cable Programming for Scripps was asked why the media conglomerate was closing the doors on its most popular cable franchise, “The time is right. After all when we purchased TFN back in ’97 we thought it would fail miserably.  That was the plan.

“We acquired the Network as a tax right off. We never dreamed anyone would actually watch it. Our thought was why would anyone want to watch someone else cooking on TV? I mean if they wanted to see someone cook, they could just go cook something.  Apparently we under estimated the American public’s desire to live vicariously.”

Comments from Guy Fieri on Food Network’s pending demise.  Article continues below.

Since the Food Network began programming in 1993 viewership has continued to grow though it was shaky in the beginning.  Those first shows featured chefs who were virtual unknowns like Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Emeril Legasse.  Now it is one of the most successful cable channels in television history which fueled more questions about why Scripps was giving TFN the axe.

Funderburk explained, “It wasn’t long after we took the Network over that we realized, we may have stumbled onto something here.  Viewership was growing exponentially and other vicariousity networks were springing up.  Not only were viewers watching people cooking instead of cooking themselves but they were watching the Travel Channel instead of going on vacation, eschewing exercise for the Fitness Channel and watching HGTV in living rooms that were literally falling apart around them.  I’ve heard that Time Warner is actually planning on unveiling the Sleeping Channel for people who are too lazy to fall asleep for themselves.

“The trend even crossed over into mainstream media.  Instead of keeping up with politics America was watching The West Wing.  There was no reason to invite the annoying neighbor over when you could tune into Jay Leno.  Why watch fact-based news programming when there was MSNBC?”

When asked about the future of Food Network Canada Funderburk replied, “That’s toast, too.  Not that anyone will notice, it’s Canada.  I know it’s the largest state in the US but hardly anyone lives there.  Let’s be honest if it wasn’t for the band Rush America would have never bought Canada from the Alaskans.”

The ultimate reason Funderburk offered for 86’ing their most popular holding was it’s very popularity.  The demand for food programming is so high that not only have other cable channels like Bravo and TLC entered the market but so have mainstream networks NBC and FOX.

Funderburk, noticeably angry, proclaimed, “If there is one thing I can’t stand it is being copied.  If everyone is going to dabble with food programming then we’ll just wash our hands of the whole thing.  It doesn’t matter to us.  We’ve always got our newspaper division.  That’s not going anywhere.”


Our thought was why would anyone want to watch someone cook.  I mean if they wanted to see that, they could just go cook something.

Review: The Pioneer Woman

I have been really excited about one of Food Network’s newest shows, The Pioneer Woman with fellow food blogger Ree Drummond.  Like millions I have Ree Drummondbeen a fan of Ree’s uber-popular blog also entitled The Pioneer Woman.  Ree’s tale is about how she made the switch from, “spoiled city girl to domestic country wife.”

Sure her story is interesting.  Her early days were spent enjoying a cosmopolitan lifestyle – high-end restaurants, boutiques and day spas.  But then she met a cowboy.

Now when I say she met a cowboy it’s not a euphemism for fella and I certainly don’t mean she hooked up with some Yankee who relocated to Texas because that’s where all the jobs are.   Ladd Drummond is an honest to goodness hat wearing, boot sporting, horse riding, gun toting cowboy.  That in and of itself makes the show worth a watch but that wasn’t what drew me to it.

Being filmed in the middle of Oklahoma miles from the nearest town of any size and considerably further from any town of perceived consequence is refreshing.  Most cooking shows are produced in cities with access to virtually any ingredient one can imagine.  Guess what – you’re not likely to find durian or harissa paste in Wichita, Kansas.  It makes for a nice change of pace but that’s not why I was excited about The Pioneer Woman either.

No, my interest was predicated on the fact that Ree is not a chef lucky enough to live within a cab ride of Chelsea Market.  Nor is she a pampered New England socialite who’s only credential is being Martha Stewart’s pal.  Ree is a food blogger from middle America.  Food Network is finally starting to get the picture that cyberspace is a largely untapped Eden of foodie talent.

The Pioneer WomanAs I’ve said before – mainstream viewers would much rather watch the comical antics of Average Betty’s Sara O’Donnell as opposed to the butter battered butter deep fried in butter of Paula Deen if only given the chance.  They can learn far more about food from the brilliant Jadan Hair of Steamy Kitchen than they will the culinary atrocity that is Extreme Chef.  There’s more genuine cooking going on in a single episode of Food Wishes than in an entire season of Semi-Homemade.  And the best part of all – this online talent have established brands with built-in fan bases.

The Pioneer Woman wholly captures what it is like to be a foodie.  I know those who do not follow food on the net may think to themselves, “who does that?” whenever Ree pauses to take pictures of each meal she prepares.  The answer is I do, Sara does, Jaden does, Aarti does, Aida does, Chef John does and as we know Ree does.  I love that the show offers a glimpse of what being a professional foodie is like.  I also like that it shows that TV execs are starting to get the picture that the future of food TV is already established on the web.

After years of shows shot in New York or LA it’s nice to have one that is shot miles from Suburbia.  Now if they could film a show in a midsize town (like say Mobile, AL) that would be perfect.  The Pioneer Woman is great food porn with ample teaching moments.  It also airs Saturday mornings at 11:30 Eastern Time/10:30 Central time on Food Network.

Food Network Star 7 EP1

Ready, get set, cook!

Alicia Sanchez Next Food Network StarFifteen Wannabe TV Chefs are vying for the golden ring, six episodes of their dream show.  A gaggle of chefleberities, drama as far as the eye can see (some genuine and some contrived, but drama just the same) can only mean one thing – it’s time for another season of The Next Food Network Star (NFNS).   Bobby Flay is back as are Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson and they are joined by several culinary stars from the Network led by Giada De Laurentiis.

Giada is no longer acting as mentor to the contestants but rather she is joining the judges table.  Giada is a perfect example of the evolution of a Food Network Star.  If you saw the first season of Everyday Italian you would assume she got the gig because of her looks.  Granted she was fun to look at but laborious to watch.  Now she is a complete star.

Last year I was confident before the first episode that Aarti would win.  I knew Aarti from her work with Good Bite, I had seen how warm and natural she was on camera.  I also knew that Bob Tuschman really wanted a show of Indian cuisine on the network.  All she had to do was not screw up and she was a shoe in.  The fact that Herb and Tom made it as close as they did at the end is a testament to just how good both were.  But as seasons four and five showed us, if the finals are close, need will decide the winner.  The last three winners,  at least in part, were decided by demographics.  They plugged holes in the FN line-up.

This year I’m not so confident.  Based solely on the audition videos, Jyll Everman is my early favorite but anyone can win.  Whitney Chen looks like an another favorite because of both her resemblance to Rachael Ray as does Howie Drummond because of his experience in the media.  “Vegas” has been on a few episodes of Food Network Challenge and although I can’t quite figure out what demographic he satisfies apparently someone at Chelsea Market likes him.

This year I have added the WTVC (WannabeTVchef) Next Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former NFNS competitors.  Be sure to check them out HERE.

The first challenge was breakfast to show your POV.  The second was some what I thought was a stupid tag-team promo thing that honestly left me feeling a little bored.  It produces drama so I guess that was the point but it wasn’t cooking.  When everything was said and done I got it.  Here’s something else I get – 2 hours is brutally long.

After one episode here are my thoughts on each contestant:

Alichia Sanchez – She’s got to work on a TV voice.  Needs a lot of help.  And Alton gave it to her.  Penny bashed on her and the judges asked about her accent.  Once he talked to her, gave her direction she came on strong.  But her thin skin may still be a trap in the future.

Chris Nirschel – He has a LOT of confidence doesn’t he?  He damned well better cure cancer in the next few weeks.  Blew the first cooking challenge and the presentation.  Second challenge was not much better.  Should be safe but only because others were worse.

Howie Drummond – A natural at communicating.  I’ll be anxious to see what kind of chops he has.  Not good for the 7 Questions alum on the first challenge.  The second challenge didn’t go well either at first but he finally nailed the promo.  Then needed help getting his dish done.  Doesn’t look good for Howie.

Jeff Mauro – Good food knowledge but he’s going to have to work on communicated with a little more energy.  Funny guy.  Good energy.  Food remains a question mark.

Juba Kali – New Orleans is one of the best cities in the world to have a meal so it’s shocking that Juba is the first NFNSter to hail from the Crescent City.  After the first challenge he may be the last.  The second didn’t help.  So likable but so weak on camera.  If he survives he has some huge upside.  So far, the best pure cook on the show.

Justin Balmes – Scoring with the chicks at the disco is not the same as competing on NFNS.  That may be a hard lesson for Justin.  He had some serious trouble in the second challenge but the first went alright.  He knows his stuff and he can absolutely cook.

Justin Davis – Another person that needs to work on communication.  There’s only room for one Ben Stein at the Food Network and Ina has that all locked up.  Not very memorable yet.  He’ll need to improve.

Jyll Everman – Attractive and likeable.  Jyll seems to have two of the big three.  Only thing left is can she cook?  Did well on the first challenge.  Second challenge got stressed but wasn’t’ bad.

Katy Clark – The love child of Heba Mesa and Melissa D’Arabian?  That much energy cannot be healthy.  You know what else can’t be healthy?  A cooking show.  FN has tried them but the reality is no one wants to watch food TV and see someone cooking brown rice and tofu.  No one.  Not being a likeable personality doesn’t help.

Mary Beth Albright – She knows a lot of famous chefs including Art Smith who seems to be a fan of hers.  Lot to be said for clout.  She’s a critic now in the position of being critiqued.  How she handles that may be the difference in how well she does.  Bombed first challenge.  Second was a little better.

Orchid Paulmeier – A BBQ cook from South Carolina.  Job one – work on your knife skills.  Won the first challenge with great food and personality.  I like her as a dark horse.  She’s so warm on camera and a better cook than she gives herself credit for.  Does that sound familiar, Aarti?

Penny Davidi – She is one hot lady.  Really, really hot.  Don’t believe me?  Then ask her.  Early love-to-hate candidate.  Then again, she is fun to look at.  No, not really.  She’s a psycho!  She sabotaged and terrorized Alichia for no reason the entire episode.  Please, Penny, forget the head games and venom; just cook and be likeable.  If you are a student of body language pay attention to Giada when she tells Penny she is safe.  Her head tips back so that she is looking down her nose at Penny and then her eyes look down – her body language expressed contempt.  I love me some micro-expressions.

Susie Jimenez – Oh my.  A lot of work needs to be done here. . . and that’s just with walking.  A living puzzle.  First challenge was a bomb.  Her second round was better.  Her ceviche killed but now she can’t do that dish again.  One ceviche per season.

Vic “Vegas” Moea – Hmm.  Maybe I spoke too quickly about Penny being the favorite for love-to-hate contestant.  Nope I didn’t.  Vic is quite likeable.  Didn’t finish first dish.  Not a good sign,  great presentation though.  He is a classic example of don’t judge a book by its cover.  He reminds me a bit of season 6’s Herb Mesa – the gentle giant.  He didn’t finish his food again on the second challenge but this time is was because there was a last second accident.  But I am starting to like him.

Whitney Chen – Ah!  She’s just so adorable.  Her resemblance to Rachael is uncanny isn’t it?  She may be the most polished cook in this contest.  Good energy and her Chinese ancestry could help her fill a vacancy the network has had since it parted ways with Ming Tsai (has it really been a decade since Ming’s Quest?).


“In it to Win it” type quotes – 1.

Number of people crying – 3.

Number of WTF moments – I lost count -Justin blowing his promo all four times and every bit of bile that came out of Penny’s mouth.

Who should win based on what we’ve seen so far: Whitney or Orchid.

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Whitney or Orchid

Winner(s) first week: 1st challenge: Orchid.  2nd challenge: Team: Juba, Orchid and Jeff.

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The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Howie.  Check out my exit interview with each departed Wannabe TV Chef HERE.

7 Questions with Chef Amanda Cohen

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

Amanda Cohen’s motto is “Anyone can cook a hamburger, but leave the vegetables to professionals.”  This is the moxie that has made the vegetarian chef with the movie star good looks a hot commodity in the Big Apple.  Reservations are recommended if you want to grab one of the 18 seats at Cohen’s Dirt Candy.

John Del Signore of the Gothomist describes Chef Amanda’s food thusly:

Her mission is to seduce everyone from carnivores to breatharians with luxuriously adventurous vegetarian—not vegan—cuisine. To that end, the menu features such hits as Jalapeno Hush Puppies with maple butter, and Stone Ground Grits, pickled shitakes and a tempura poached egg.

Cohen’s odyssey started out at the Natural Gourmet Institute a mostly vegetarian cooking school.  Afterward she began the practical learning by working at several of New York City’s best vegetarian restaurants which included working with Matthew Kenney at Pure Food & Wine and a stop at legendary Angelica’s Kitchen which has specialized in organically grown plant-based cuisine for over 25 years.  Surprisingly it was at Spanish Harlem’s DinerBar that she gained notoriety for her Buffalo Wings.  Pop star Moby opened a cash-only vegetarian tea room in the early part of the decade and it was only natural (pun intended) that he picked Cohen to be his chef at Teany.

Cohen is actually a pescitarian meaning that though she won’t stick a fork in a cow she has no qualms about scarfing on a red snapper.  She refutes the suggestion that she is not a fan of vegan food by offering, “two versions of every single dish on the menu, one vegan and one non-vegan.”  Cohen’s mammal-less menu is not political it’s just what she prefers – as it should be.  No one should open a restaurant to make a political statement.

Since opening the hippest vegetarian eatery in the city Amanda has seen her fair share of accolades.  Metromix: New York named her Chef of the Year for 2009. also jumped on the Cohen bandwagon naming her one of their 2009 rising stars.  But Amanda Cohen has her sights set still higher.

Recently she ventured down to Chelsea Market to square off against Iron Chef Morimoto in Kitchen Stadium for an episode scheduled to air this weekend.  Even more recently she agreed to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Amanda CohenI don’t remember, but I come from a house where leftover salad became salad stir fry which then became salad soup. So from an early age I realized that if I was going to receive basic nutrients I would need to get a handle on this cooking thing myself.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

I was living in LA and sort of drifting through life and I figured that I needed to do something and so I fell back on the one thing I’d ever been interested in, which was cooking.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?
I never had what you’d call a mentor. For me, the place I learned a lot was from reading cookbooks and I always felt close to the people who wrote them like Julia Child, Diana Kennedy, Marcella Hazan and Elizabeth David. But also, there are several people I’ve worked in the kitchen with who aren’t brand name mentors that I can rattle off to give myself some of their credibility, but they’re people who’ve taught me a lot. Glory, Jessica, Georgia – I’ve learned something from all of them and wouldn’t be the chef I am today without them.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?
Accounting. It’s amazing how good an accountant you have to be to run a restaurant.

5. So how did one of New York’s most prolific vegetarian chefs become famous for Buffalo wings?
I needed a job, and DinerBar up in Spanish Harlem was the only place hiring. I was there for years, and it was usually myself and Cliff working the line for up to 200 covers a night. You’d be surprised at how much you can do with touch and smell.

6. “Dirt Candy” is a great name; how did you come up with it?
Thanks! You only get one shot at opening a restaurant and so many names sound the same to me. There’s the number name (2121), the foreign word name (Ribottolini), the proper noun name (Amanda’s) and the cryptic word name (Fork, Spoon, Table, Salt). I wanted a name that grabbed people and that they talked about. Every time someone brings up the name in an article it’s like they’re giving me a free ad. And I’ve seen it taking off online – poke a round a little and you’ll see more and more people using dirt candy as slang for vegetables.

7. What’s next for Chef Amanda Cohen?
Do you know any investors? I’d be happy for them to come in and have a meal. I’m very clean and nice.

Be sure to check out more on Chef Amanda on my weekly Iron Chef pregame.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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