Food Tech

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: Food(ography)

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 Food(ography).

This is another rehashing of a tried and true formula – the food documentary.  It is much in the vein of Food Tech and Unwrapped, though decidedly better than either since it does not promote the mechanization of food as a positive development.

Food(ography) on WannabeTVchef.comThe show is hosted by comedian Mo Rocca (more on him later) and a handful of food writers, food anthropologists, professors and other learned people.  In an episode entitled “Outdoor” one of these great food thinkers, Frances Lam of salon.com, gave one of the best quotes ever about our fast food nation, “You go to your fast food place and you go through the drive-thru and you know what?  It’s never any faster than if you just park the car, walk inside and ask for your cheeseburger to go.”  Lamb continues, “It’s a perversion of the beauty of the drive-in.  The drive-thru is enslavement; the drive-in was freedom.”

There is a reason that Rocca has never been more than a B-list entertainer; it’s the same reason he is only serviceable as a the host of Food(ography) – his voice is terrible.  It’s a shame really because he possesses a dry, quick wit.  He drops a few great one-liners each episode but after a while his voice starts to grate.  I think that is why the producers intertwine so much footage of the aforementioned food experts, to give the viewers’ ears a break.

From a production stand point Food(ography) doesn’t particularly stand out as it uses a ton of stock footage.  Some of it good, some of it not so much.  But it does pack a lot of great information into 60 minutes from a plethora of knowledgeable experts like Lam, Dr. Krishnendu Ray (Professor, Food Studies, NYU) and Southern Folkways Alliance director, the esteemed food writer John T. Edge.

Food(ography) is a very informative show that is entertaining with a ton of upside.  I can easily see killing a rainy day with a Food(ography) marathon.

Review: Kid in a Candy Store

Adam Gertler on WannabeTVchef.comThis is going to be a very short review.  Because the show isn’t any good?  No, not really.  It’s because the newest show from Food Network, Kid in a Candy Store, isn’t new.  Adam Gertler is just as charming as he was when he (and three other people) should have beaten out Aaron McCargo Jr. on NFNS 4.  It’s the format of the show.  There is nothing really new about it.

If you liked Food Finds, Will Work For Food, Unwrapped, Food Tech, Road Tasted (with either the Neely’s or the Deen’s), Man vs. Food, FoodCrafters, Unique Eats, Follow That Food or How’d That Get on My Plate? then you’ll like Kid in a Candy Store.  It is pretty much those shows.  Only it’s just about desserts.  I’m sure for those of you with strong sweet teeth it will be a fun variation of a tried and true formula with an amusing and talented host.  As for me, I’m not a big dessert guy.  My idea of the perfect dessert is a second cheeseburger.

It is certainly better than Cupcake Wars.

Be sure to check out this recent interview with Adam Gertler.

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Review: Food Tech

Technology is an amazing thing. It is the reason that when the animals are living with adverse weather conditions we sit warm and toasty in front of our 70″ LCD’s watching “24” on Tivo. But one place I’m not comfortable with an over abundance of technology is at the dinner table.

The History Channel’s new series, Food Tech, is a tour of the nation’s food processing facilities. It shows the things we eat as they are transformed through the magic of bright shiny conveyor belts and auto-robotic presses. Suspiciously absent are the images of disfigured animals crowded together in cages until the blissful release of death.

So Food Tech is less documentary and more like a celebration of progress.  There is no attention paid to the repercussions of food processing just a childlike appreciation for bagging 75,000 tons of chips a day.  It’s like Food Network’s Unwrapped only longer.

The episode I watched was entitled Cheeseburger & Fries but it wasn’t about real burgers.  It was about those drive-thru things that pass for burgers.  Technically to be a burger the patty must be 5 ounces or more.  Anything under 5 ounces is called a slider.  These were the ubiquitous quarter-pounders that are machine-made and designed to go straight from freezer to assembly line.

Host Bobby Bognar tours the imitation cheese plant where dairy bi-product is molded into one 1000 foot long sheet of cheese-food.  He narrates how it is cut into uniform slices and automatically wrapped and sealed. Then they move to a laboratory to “prove” that processed cheese is better than natural cheese because it provides a more even melt.  There is more to cheese than even melting like say taste.

Bognar then heads off to a Salinas, California lettuce farm to show how it is harvested for use in the drive-thru.  He even says that lettuce is all about the crunch and nothing is better than Iceberg.  Except Romain, Green Leaf, Red Leaf or any other green lettuce.  Why not just tell the truth, “Sure Iceberg is devoid of flavor and nutrients but it is extremely cheap to produce.”

I know the goal of the show is to trumpet innovation but I have to wonder if at anytime Bognar thinks, “maybe that’s something I shouldn’t eat.”  Just because something can be chewed, digested and passed does not make it food.  All I am asking is a little equal time on the subject rather than a series of propaganda films for agri-business.  This series is a glorification of everything that is wrong with America’s food system.

Cheeseburger & Fries

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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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