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Chef in the Box

February 20, 2008

You’ve got to be among the more gullible of viewers if you think there’s much measurable “reality” in “reality TV”, and Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” has always been among the more obviously pre-rigged.
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The Next Iron Chef Scorecard

October 9, 2007

I don’t know why I’ve got a weak spot for TV chef “reality” shows. I’ve watched Hell’s Kitchen (both the US and UK versions — the UK is much better, btw), The F-Word (UK), Top Chef, and I’m a big fan of Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

I also watch Iron Chef every now and again, mostly because I enjoy Alton Brown, but it’s about my least favorite “cooking reality” show.

On Sunday, the Food Network served up their newest effort, “The Next Iron Chef”. The format is roughly akin to Top Chef’s (short early challenge, which gets the winner an advantage in the main challenge), albeit with the usual Iron Chef ingredient goofiness.

As a seasoned Iron Viewer, here’s my scorecard:

  • Airing a new show in lo-def when they’ve got a hi-def channel: -20 points
  • Hosted by Alton Brown instead of Padma Lakshmi or a cardboard US version of Gordon Ramsey: +30 points
  • No “Glad Family of Bags” or other in-your-face product placement: +20 points
  • No contestant as hot as Casey Thompson: -15 points
  • No contestant as annoying as Marcel Vigneron: +15 points
    (may be revisited as we get to know the contestants more)
  • Michael Ruhlman as a celebrity judge: +10 points
  • No Tony Bourdain as a celebrity judge: -15 points
  • Lack of profanity: -10 points
  • Lack of excessive bleeping: +15 points
  • Lack of (so far) off-the-wall challenges such as cooking on a hot rock while hopping on one foot: +15 points
  • Lack of Big Brother-esqe induced drama: +15 points
  • Apparent lack of restaurant-skills challenges: 0 points

+60 points, at least thus far.

Not bad.

(spoiler warning, for those who haven’t seen the first episode)

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Tony Bourdain calls out Food TV

February 9, 2007

Not the kind of guy to pass up a guest opportunity on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, Anthony Bourdain takes a swipe at Food TV, and as usual with Tony, if anything is being minced, it ain’t the words.

I knew that he was a Mario Batali fan, but it’s nice to see that he likes Alton Brown, too. He even found a few nice things to say about Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, and Emeril.

Of course, it’s tough to disguise his utter disdain for the network, its policies, or some of the other so-called chefs…

PAULA DEEN: I’m reluctant to bash what seems to be a nice old lady. Even if her supporting cast is beginning to look like the Hills Have Eyes–and her food a True Buffet of Horrors. A recent Hawaii show was indistinguishable from an early John Waters film. And the food on a par with the last scene of Pink Flamingos. But I’d like to see her mad. Like her look-alike, Divine in the classic, “Female Trouble.“ Paula Deen on a Baltimore Killing Spree would be something to see. Let her get Rachael in a headlock–and it’s all over.

Pink Flamingos? That’s hysterical, albeit a little indirect for Bourdain.
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TV’s Geekier Chefs..

December 4, 2004

By some sort of eerie geek cooking synchronicity, it turns out Salon has an article up singing the praises of TV’s Geek Chefs. (warning, as usual for Salon, this is hip-deep in Flash ads)

The author has kind words for both Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” (Food TV) and bow-tie bedecked Christopher Kimball’s “American Test Kitchen” (PBS), as well as ATK’s parent magazine, Cooks Illustrated.

“Brown and Kimball seek neither novelty nor authenticity but rather aim for good food via a non-onerous recipe. If “Iron Chef” is fantasy and the pretty-chef shows are food porn, “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Good Eats” are science nonfiction. Instead of an elite arena for high priests, the kitchen, as they see it, is another lab. And they make for excellent lab partners.”

(found via Backup Brain, where I also agree with Tom that both Rachael Ray (Food TV’s “30 Minute Meals”) and Giada De Laurentiis (Food TV’s “Everyday Italian”) are decidely worth checking out watching… )

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Learn to Cook – Geek Edition

December 3, 2004

Some people have known they were geeks their whole life long. For others, the realization comes more slowly, but the signs are always clear. Too many gadgets. A tendency towards obsessiveness. You read posts on obscure blogs. Whatever…

So you’re a geek? So what? It’s the new millennium. Being a geek is almost cool. There are geeks among the rich and famous. Well, the rich anyway. Geekhood is the new black.

So, why should you learn to cook? Excluding the infamous Robert Rodriguez quote for a minute there are lots of reasons:

  • Eating raman noodles three times a day just isn’t healthy (it’s the coconut oil)
  • You don’t have to learn the chemistry and physics involved to do it, but you’ll be a lot more versatile if you do (think "the difference between script kiddies and code ninjas")
  • There is a sense of amazement and accomplishment when a dish comes together, just like any other good hack.
  • It tastes good.
  • It’s another thing that you can feel superior to the mundanes about.
  • It’s another thing that you can feel superior to your peers about.
  • You can involve a lot of cool tech and gadgets.
  • Being a good cook can help attract a mate, and you probably need all the help you can get.
  • You’ll astonish relatives when you show up for family get togethers with amazing edibles.
  • Like a tableless three-column CSS layout, it looks impressive despite being simple when you know how.
  • It’s easy (or it will be for you, anyway)
  • It’s fun.

Okay so there are some good reasons to learn how to cook. Let’s face it, though — even if she was a good cook, you’re not going to ask your momma to teach you, and you’re not going to take a home ec. course. Just how does one learn to cook the geek way?

Well, funny you should ask…

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Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen (review)

July 11, 2004

Alton Brown's Gear for Your KitchenAlton Brown may be the patron chef of geeks — if being featured in an article in Wired magazine and discussions on Slashdot aren’t enough to qualify him for the title, then Good Eats — his program on the Food Network probably is.

In addition to showing the viewers how to cook, Brown spends a lot of time covering why things work like they do — how different chemicals and proteins interact with each other and heat to produce specific results. He also spends a lot of time debunking bad kitchen gadgets, and showing viewers how to get better results with fewer widgets — many from the hardware store or the garden shop. Think of him as a cross between Julia Child, MacGyver, and Mr. Wizard.

In his newest book, "Gear for your Kitchen", Brown shows you how to clear away the useless junk and get the most for your kitchen dollar…
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