Semi-Homemade

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.

Review: Big Daddy’s House

Originally posted on August 5, 2008.

What can I say about the premiere episode of Big Daddy’s House starring NFNS winner Aaron McCargo Jr?  There was nothing special about it.  The same problems that plagued Aaron during the contest are still there – he is hard to understand, seems fake when he tries to force energy, and he still is not friendly with the camera.  His kid was cute, though.

The menu was nothing special.  He coated chicken tenders with crushed tortilla chips.  That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that . . . again.  Seriously, any idea that has ever graced the pages of one of the those $1.00 cooking mags at the check out of your local grocer has no place on the Food Network.  Plus, TFN already has one show that derives its menu from those, Semi-Homemade.

At one point, he spent about 15 seconds with his back turned to the camera while he fished through a utensil drawer talking to the back-splash.  Not all of it was Aaron’s fault.  The editing seemed choppy.  Maybe they did the best they could with the takes they were able to get, I don’t know. It felt like a rookie show, with a rookie host, and a rookie production team.  Aaron took a pot of steaming broccoli off the stove and when he removed the lid he let out a whoop like he had just popped the top on a boiling vat of Cajun crawfish.  Steamed broccoli is tasty, but there is little about the steam to get one excited.  This was a classic case of Aaron trying to force personality and it just came across as strange.

I will venture to say that Aaron actually gets more than six episodes.  FN will try to spin the show as “well received” and allege that it “earned” a second season.  This is only window dressing because there has been so much made of the shady nature of this year’s contest and the fact that they have only found one true star in four tries.  And who knows, it may get better.  Giada was a little hard to watch at first, too, but now she is a star.

The bottom line: I’ll watch it if nothing else is on, but it will not earn a slot in the old DVR.

UPDATE: Despite poor reviews and worse ratings Big Daddy’s Kitchen has been renewed for 13 more episodes.  Read HERE.

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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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