Carolyn Klarecki: I hate Food Network

BY CAROLYN KLARECKI
Daily TV/New Media Columnist
Published January 17, 2010

I don’t really like Food Network. In fact, I pretty much hate it. This seems to be a very unpopular opinion as food-centered shows like “Top Chef,” “Iron Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen” are incredibly fashionable, with similar new ones popping up all the time.

I’ve given Food Network plenty of chances to win me over, but through it all I’ve maintained my general indignation toward the channel. And I’m not just grumpy; I have my reasons.

I love interactive television. I enjoy bidding along with the contestants on “The Price is Right,” answering the questions on “Cash Cab” and most of all, formulating my own opinions about the contestants on shows like “Project Runway” and “Dancing with the Stars."

When I see crazy outfits on “Project Runway,” I can comment on the movement of the fabric or color choice and decide whether it’s wearable, artistic or just plain bad. I can admire the routines contestants perform on dancing shows, knowing I could never be so graceful. And before “American Idol” became tiresome, I enjoyed debating who had the best voice. The best part of these shows is watching and enjoying the result of the contestants' hard work.

And that’s where food shows fail. I can admire the appearance of the final product, but I can’t taste it. Food is meant to be eaten, and without savoring the taste of the dish, I can’t fully appreciate all the pain and suffering the contestants go through. Hell, I can’t even smell the meal. TV is visual. Food, in its most essential sense, is not. This dilemma forces me to depend on the judges' snarky comments, which eliminates another element of reality competition fun.

When my opinion matches the judges, I feel validated and a little more like an expert. Maybe I could be a reality competition judge someday. But even when I disagree, I can back up my opinion. I still think Daniel Vosovic should have won season two of “Project Runway.” He didn’t make a single ugly outfit the entire season and won more challenges than any other contestant to date.

Taking the judges' word as fact makes me uncomfortable, especially when there are dissenting opinions. To root for a competitor in a food show, you have to base it on personality. And in my experience, the most tolerable people are the worst at cooking, which brings me to another grievance with food programming: Chefs are assholes.

Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey, Anthony Bourdain and other foodies are simply dicks. Now, it’s no secret that most people on TV are these days, but that can be overlooked if they’re talented. Sometimes the most abrasive personality leads to the most creative outcome. But, again, because I can’t appreciate what they’re making, I’m just watching a bunch of arrogant jerks in a kitchen, throwing spices into pots, arguing with one another and thinking they’re hot shit.

I understand there are lots of shows about food that aren’t competitions. While they don’t grind my gears nearly as much, the same lack of sensory enjoyment keeps me from truly appreciating these programs. How-to shows are an easy fix to that problem, but they aren’t forgiving to those who lack talent. I can’t cook — at all — so I can’t follow along with Rachael Ray or Emeril Lagasse unless they’re making Ramen, and even then the finished product would be disgusting.

Still, there's one Food Network program that makes my heart melt like butter. I really enjoy “Ace of Cakes,” and that’s probably because it has everything most food shows don’t.

Chef Duff Goldman is less of a prick than most other hosts, no one is making qualitative statements about the outcome and his cakes are so extravagant and pretty that I don’t really care what they taste like. No one is trying to instruct me. No one is trying to out-cook someone else. And most importantly, no one is making me feel like I’m missing something because I can’t taste through the TV.

My friends and family can’t get enough of Food Network and similar programs on Bravo. They huddle around the television in excitement while I pout and try to explain my scorn. However, my infallible logic cannot penetrate the happy-go-lucky shield Food Network creates. Whatever, I just don’t get it. Food Network hates me and I hate it back.