I was reading over at Slashfood that there's going to be a Top Chef spin-off series called Top Chef Masters. I have wanted forever, and may have even mentioned in my podcast, for just such a thing: a Top Chef style reality tv show, but with established and well-known chefs doing the cooking. The problem with Top Chef is that, as a non-chef, I'm really not entirely sure if the contestants are all that competent, or if the challenges really are absurd. It mirrors my delight at the beginning of Dinner Impossible, because it was meant to be something basically like Top Chef but with someone who is not trying to establish himself, but is already known to be great. Of course, with Dinner Impossible, we had the little kerfuffle with whether Robert Irvine was really what he had claimed to be. Also, Anthony Bourdain at one point poo-pooed Dinner Impossible, calling it something like "Dinner Somewhat Difficult." Even ignoring all of that, the challenges on Dinner Impossible really were different from the Top Chef challenges, and most of the tension had to be manufactured by the primary contact for the episode. With Top Chef Masters, we get to see not whether the chefs are competent, as they are presumed to be, but whether the challenges are truly a good measure of a top chef. We get to see if the dependent variable that the experimenters are measuring (top chefness) is truly correlated to the independent variable (the challenges). Is the study valid?
FoodVu is a food site with a definite video bent. They host a number of different styles of short-format, food related video, including instructional and humorous videos. The flagship video series is The FN Crazy Show, which explores what's happening at the Food Network. Not to be confused with FN Dish, which is a Food Network-owned blog that occasionally intersects the television network. The FN Crazy Show follows Food Network shows, people, and trends in a way that shows they really do enjoy aspects of the Food Network, but it's the flaws that make for good copy. There's an underlying plot to the series of videos, generally having to do with a power struggle around the hosting of the series. Speaking of hosting, the show's primary host, Sarah East, is adorable, which is a French word meaning, "adorable." Oh, wait. Those actually look the same written out, don't they. Sigh. The delivery is fast and punchy, much like an older film where they wanted to fit in a lot of dialogue in a short space, and imitated in more modern times by The Hudsucker Proxy, Pushing Daisies, and The Middleman. Given the choice between delivering meaningful insight or making a joke, FN Crazy will go for the joke. That is not a criticism; the show is funny, and there are plenty of commentaries hidden in there, but if you're looking for a video show that's trying to change the fundamentals of inequality in society, this is probably not the one for you. So: I certainly recommend.
I would probably have skipped this story had I not made a big deal of it before, but it should be noted: Robert Irvine is returning to Dinner: Impossible. The official story is that Iron Chef New Guy was just filling in until, I dunno, Irvine was contrite enough or something. Probably most of it was that he has a very vocal fan base who thinks that what he's done is not so bad. The press release says that he has worked hard to ensure that the record is straight and that he is sorry. I look forward to more abuse of him by the producers, and I hope that this is the end of whatever controversies surround his past. I still think he should go up against an iron chef one-on-one, though. Perhaps Symon, as a kick-off to the new series. That seems appropriate. via FNCrazy
Okay, this is actually a little old, but there's this great commercial of Ray Bradbury, author of many classic science fictions stories such as Fahrenheit 451, personally appearing on a commercial for prunes. Speaking of Fahrenheit 451, many people presume that the point of the book is the censorship of books due to governmental control. Not so, says the author. Apparently he was actually making the point that television was going to kill off the book, which is why he predicted giant televisions that cover entire walls. Can you imagine? A television the size of a wall? Some people are just crazy. In any case, the people who do ban Fahrenheit 451 from schools and libraries do it because they think that the book is about, well, burning books. That is always a fine source of irony when someone does an article about it. I think it would be fun for people to come up with other great author / shilling for the man combinations in the comments. Either imagined situations or links to actual commercials. Bonus points for it being food related. Via Boing Boing.
I believe we’ve touched briefly upon Dinner: Impossible on the podcast before. I quite enjoyed the first few episodes, with its reality-tv-like challenges, but presumably with a proven chef at the helm etc. As time went on, I ditched its Season Pass from the Tivo, because the challenges didn’t really become more interesting, and the more I saw of Robert, the less charismatic he became. The best part of the show was trying to figure out exactly what the producers said to the people who were Bob’s primary contact to get them to feel comfortable giving the man grief. “Okay, now ignore the fact that he’s got a neck bigger than your thigh, is 2 feet taller than you, and that he’s carrying a knife that could go through you and your closest friends if you were all standing one-in-front-of-the-other. He’s a pussycat; he really is. Besides, we have people standing by with Tasers, and he knows it, so it’s cool. So, what I need you to do right now is to say that the bread that he’s making right now is about as weak, and you’ll want to use these exact words, is about as weak as his mother was last night after she thanked you for the best time she’s had since the 60s. No, no, I swear, we do this all the time. It’s good natured ribbing, and we’re very quick with the tasers.” Something like that, I’d imagine. In any case, Robby’s going through a bit of trouble. According to the St. Petersburg Times (the one in Florida, not the one in Russia), Chef Bob has made a few things up about his past career. Cooking for Queens and Presidents? Not so much. I mean, kinda, if you squint, it looks a little like it, but not actually, you know, being the Chef in charge, as one might imagine. Being a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order would be really cool, if it were true. Not just any Knight, mind you, but the highest level of Knight. The Super-Knight, if you will. The St. Pete Times asked around and did some interviewing, and all of their comments are available in the links. For my part, I can’t be bothered to call people up about a controversy that’s months old, so I did the easy bit of research. The bit that even the Food Network could have done with no trouble, had they been of a mind. If you check his résumé, you’ll note that there’s a bit on there that says, “Recipient of the James Beard Award, 2005-2006.” It’s right at the top of the Awards and Honors section. So I went to the James Beard web site and did a search for Irvine. There’s nothing. I check for Alton Brown, just to make sure the search works, and I see that he won an award for his first cookbook and was nominated for at least one more. You could check this yourself, but the James Beard folk just modified their web site , and now the award search is broken. It should be up soon, though. Well, I say soon, but it’s been down for weeks now, so maybe not. So, if I were a proper reporter, I’d call up the James Beard folks and ask if they had any idea what he meant. I mean, after all, it’s possible that he was working at some restaurant where he was executive chef, and the restaurant won the award, or something like that. Something where he may have won the award, but not had his name attached to it. I’ve done much the same. But on my resume, when it says that I won the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences award, it mentions the year and the name of the product that I worked on that won the award, which is conveniently listed in the list of projects section of the resume. That makes it easy to verify. However, I’m not a reporter, so it’s all gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip. In any case, The Food Network has decided to go with someone else for the next season of Dinner: Impossible, and they’ve pulled his bio from the site. Interestingly, there’s been a fan-backlash, with people saying they don’t care how much he lied, they like him on the show. They’ve even started an Internet Petition to bring him back, because, you know, internet petitions work. People will post to comments on articles about his lies and complain that people are being mean to him. And, yes, we are being mean to him, but that’s what he gets. Not necessarily what he gets for lying, though that’s part of it. That’s what he gets for being famous. There are upsides and downsides to fame, and one of the down sides is that people are going to examine what you have said. If something seems suspicious, they’ll pounce. And if it seems as if everything that you said in order to get your Big Break was a tissue of fibs, then people are not only going to find out and tell other people, they’re going to delight in doing so. That’s one of the reasons that Alton Brown is obsessively cautious about what he does by way of sponsorship. It’s why Anthony Bourdain can be a rude, fowl-mouthed, and generally unpleasant person, but not have the sorts of troubles that Irvine has: because he’s genuinely rude, fowl-mouthed, and unpleasant. You know what you’re going to get going in with Bourdain, and he certainly delivers. So the upside of it is that Iron Chef New Guy, Michael Simon, apparently has some time in his schedule between appearances on Iron Chef, so he’ll be taking over the helm. I’m not convinced that this is entirely proper behavior for an Iron Chef, but hey, it’s better than posing for cheesecake photos.
It is my opinion that Alton Brown is one of the best things about the Food Network these days. Rachael Ray jumped the shark when she teamed up with Oprah and I can not deal with the train wreck that is Sandra Lee. But Alton continually provides great programming that expertly pairs education and entertainment.
He'll continue to produce his fun and informative content for another three years, as today he signed a new contract that will keep him emceeing Iron Chef America and manning the stove at Good Eats. Additionally, he'll be taking his 'Feasting on Asphalt' concept to the water with a program called 'Feasting on Waves' that will air this summer. In this show, he'll explore the waterways of the Caribbean, eating, joking and exploring in his trademark way. I can't wait!
[via Food Network Addict]"