cooking channel reviews

Review: FoodCrafters

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around FoodCrafters.

aida mollenkamp on WannabeTVchef.comFoodCrafters is what Road Tasted wanted to be.  Super sexy Aida Mollenkamp travels the country trying the best artisanal foods to be found.  This is not a profile of the partially synthetic, highly processed foods featured on shows like Unwrapped and Food Tech but rather a testament to the small business owners who chose their course not because of profitability but out of passion.

Mollenkamp, who’s stand and stir show Ask Aida always seemed stiff, is completely at ease in this vehicle.  And why not?  She is a genuine foodie – a certified chef, blogger, editor for mega food site CHOW, TV host and world traveler.  FoodCrafters is like tagging along with Mollenkamp on a road trip.  Her graceful yet hip attitude is tailor-made for for this show.

The production value on FoodCrafters is sleek, like a really well made documentary.  The food porn is among the best you will see on television.  The lighting and cinematography are as good as I have seen on a show of this nature.  It’s a great looking show.  Mollenkamp’s sultry look and modern sensibility only accentuate the quality of the production.

FoodCrafters stylish approach to it’s subject makes it far superior to the aforementioned Road Tasted.  The later always had good core content but never seemed to flow well.  Whether hosted by the Deen’s or the Neeley’s the transitions were always equal parts clumsy and corny.  FoodCrafters on the other hand is food porn at it’s best.

Review: Spice Goddess

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around Spice Goddess.

Bal Arneson on WannabeTVchef.comThe first thing that jumps out at me watching Bal Arneson is just how hard to understand I find her.  It’s her accent I believe.  She routinely puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable and it is distracting.  I’ve not had problems with Indian accents on other cooking shows so I am guessing that it is something unique to her or the village she grew up in.  She does has a very warm smile that makes you receptive to her entering your home.  As a writer, Arneson is the author of the nationally bestselling cookbook, Everyday Indian (available at amazon.com) as well as being the National Post-The Appetizer’s West Coast culinary correspondent.

The production quality on Spice Goddess is hit or miss.  The cinematography is nice but a little poorly lit at times.  The editing on the other hand leaves something to be desired.  Some transitions are too abrupt giving the show a slightly amateurish feel.  The style is consistent with what I have seen from a lot of BBC cooking shows which tend to have great images of ladies suckling strawberries and vegetables sizzling in a pan but also have very choppy editing.

My main issue with Spice Goddess is the title which implies a show where the host introduces the viewer to spices from all over the world and from varying cuisines.  Surely Indian cuisine is famous for it’s use of spices but there are lots of other cultures just as renowned for their use.  The show’s name is inconsistent with its culinary point of view; it’s misleading.  This is a show strictly about Indian cuisine and I do enjoy how Arneson applies Indian flavors to non-Indian ingredients like salmon and sweet potatoes.  I am anxious to see how it stacks up against the Cooking Channel’s other Indian themed show, Indian Food Made Easy with Anjum Anand.  Spice Goddess is definitely worth a watch.

I do wonder, with two Indian cuisine shows on the Cooking Channel and possibly another resulting from NFNS 6 on the Food Network, is Bob Tuschman going overboard with a cuisine that most Americans still find unappealing?  Only time will tell.

Review: Food Jammers

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  Time to experience Food Jammers.

Thanks, Cooking Channel, that’s 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.  At first I thought Food Jammers was a show about molecular gastronomy not unlike Planet Green’s Future Food which chronicles the creative process at Chicago’s Moto but it isn’t.  It should be, but it isn’t.

Food JammersFood Jammers is more like Mythbusters, no Robot Wars than a cooking show.  In fact, actual flavor is not a goal.  In one episode they decide to make a cake in the image of an old car.  Host Nobu Adilman comments, “I could care less what this cake is going to taste like.”  If you enjoy food and TV shows about food there is really no reason to watch the show.  Like Justin Bieber, this Canadian import is best left north of the border.

Here’s the gist – three slackers with a backyard full of junk try to McGyver creations that can only loosely be considered food. Or as the network’s web site puts it:

Far from the ordinary stand-and-stir cooking show, Food Jammers features a high-impact, low-fi culinary contraption conceived, designed and constructed in the Jammers’ warehouse studio. Food Jammers are artists, inventors and dudes who can really cook. Each week these three offbeat adventurers come up with a crazy scheme to rock the food world. With bold ideas, heavy machinery and a taste for the extreme, they turn up the heat and bring on the inventions. Follow along on this tasty, madcap food odyssey that’s sure to satisfy your craving for an unusual viewing adventure.

I really cannot understand why the Cooking Channel chose to air this show.  Sure hosts Adilman, Micah Donovan and Chris Martin display some amazing ingenuity for creating things but they neither create nor try to create good food.  Even if they did, I’m not sure you would want to eat it as all three apparently believe bathing should only be done in moderation.

The production value of the show is poor as lighting, cinematography and editing, like taste, are only afterthoughts.  Frankly I have seen much better work on youtube.  The animations between scenes are humorous.

Now after all this Food Jammers-bashing one might think I dislike the show but I don’t.  It is entertaining, or at least could be with a jug of cheap wine and a bag of Amsterdam’s finest.  It just isn’t a food show.  In fact it is an affront to foodism (is that a word?) and perhaps that is the point.  But since the purpose of the Cooking Channel is to appeal to the foodies who have felt alienated by Food Network’s recent direction it comes across as a slap in the face to their target audience.  After watching it I’m left wondering what Bob Tuschman was smoking when he selected Food Jammers as part of his inaugural line-up at the new network.

Review: French Food at Home

I finally got a little quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time I’m watching French Food at Home.

French Food at Home is another import from Food Network: Canada starring Laura Calder.  At first the thought of a show about French cuisine that is shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia didn’t appeal to me until I remembered that the title isn’t French Food in Chamonix it’s French Food at Home.  Home is anywhere so I pushed that prejudice aside and clicked the start button.

Laura Calder on WannabeTVchef.comHost Laura Calder has a neat back story.  She gave up a nondescript office job in Toronto and moved West to study the culinary arts.  While working in California she was invited to move to Paris to help with a writing project about wine and food; the trip was scheduled to take nine months.  Seven years later Calder was a full on Francophile having remained in the City of Lights.  Her companion book to the show also entitled French Food at Home was first published by HarperCollins Canada in January 2003.  It was later followed by French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating both are available at amazon.com.

Her accent is very distinct, it’s not exactly Canadian and not exactly French.  Does that make it French-Canadian?  There’s an almost British lilt to it.  She is definitely attractive with a pleasant face and a Giada-esque figure.  She also has mischievous eyes that suggest she knows something she isn’t telling you.  She has an unbridled love of food which makes her an excellent host.

The production quality is not quite as solid as what I have seen of the other FN:Canada productions like Everyday Exotic.  The lighting at times is a little dull or dank while the editing is way too jerky.  Sometimes visuals flip by so quickly that they should have a warning for epileptics during the opening credits.  It can be unnerving.  It’s more like a BBC show than a Food Network caliber program.

The style of the show strikes me as being very Cosmo – topical, sleek and just a tad grandiose.  But it is not stuffy at all.  The thing about a show on French cooking is less about recipes and more about philosophy.  French cuisine, like Italian, is built around finding the best possible local, seasonal ingredients and letting imagination do the rest.  Where French cuisine differs from Italian is in technique.  The French have mastered most of the world’s notable techniques while Italian food is more rustic.  French Food at Home does an adequate job of demonstrating this but would benefit from spending a little more time on it.

Here’s the network description from the web site:

French Food at Home invites you to share in a lifestyle that brings the magic of contemporary French food home. Witty and charming host Laura Calder makes cooking French easy, from bistro desserts to savory tarts to scrumptious sautes. Laura’s enthusiasm inspires viewers to make simple and irresistible dishes like herb-crusted leg of lamb, smooth and smoky squash soup and light-as-a-cloud chocolate orange mousse.

All and all it is not a bad show with ample potential.

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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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