I hate Bobby Flay. Does that seem harsh? I put him in the same category as Ashton Kutcher and John Mayer, which I call “People Who Make My Blood Boil”. The list is short, but still far too long. Excuse me while I collect myself.
Food Network wasn’t always what it is today. In the beginning, it was something far different, and far better. Just starting out, Food Network was like the new kid on the block. It was reserved, humble, and had all sorts of heart. Back then, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel, Iron Chef was in Japanese, and the most annoying show was Emeril Live. They had a lot to prove, and there was no room for arrogance.
My family used to turn to Food Network for helpful cooking tips and priceless entertainment. As I said, Alton Brown was a hidden jewel with his quirky show, Good Eats. His show was the perfect balance of fun and instruction. My father regularly turned to him as his food guru. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well, Alton Brown says to…” Many a Saturday night, my family and I watched the original Iron Chef. If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out. It is truly a spectacle. There are cooking “battles”, theme ingredients, and some of the worst voice overs since Godzilla vs. Mothra. We often found ourselves laughing to the point of tears. And I even had a favorite chef to root for, Chen Kenichi!
Food Network had a heart, and back then it felt like it belonged to us. These were our shows, and these people were our people. Even when Rachel Ray annoyed me with her chipper personality and asinine sayings like, “EVOO Extra virgin olive oil”, at least she was ours, and at least she was harmless and not an uber-celebrity like she is now. Heck, I could even look past Emeril’s “bams!” and the off-putting sight of grown men cheering at the word “garlic”. I understood that the network as a whole had their act together, and like one burnt potato chip in a large bag I wasn’t going to let a few people sour me against the rest.
That was then.
You know, I can pinpoint the exact moment in which the Food Network began to take a turn for the worse. A while back, the original Japanese Iron Chef joined up with them to make a special featuring Bobby Flay. They would have a “battle” and it would be a ratings super-storm. Well, they had their battle, and it looked like everything would be just fine. That is, until…
Start watching at 3:20
When Bobby Flay jumped up on that cutting board, he unapologetically offended the sacred tradition of his opponent. He “raised the roof” of his arrogance and ushered in a new era for the Food Network.
Food Network now has reality shows, like The Next Food Network Star, and Extreme Chef. These shows are stressful, and a far cry from the relaxed kitchen settings of what we are used to. They go for forced drama, and certainly lack the heart that made Food Network what it is. But even more offensive than these is the Americanized version of Iron Chef. It has replaced the classic show, and you can no longer find it in their current roster. It also lacks the heart and charm of the original since it has all of the intensity and none of the personality. I find it painful to watch. I can’t stand to see Bobby Flay as the star of this monstrosity. And speaking of Bobby Flay, I have to mention his show, Throwdown, which is pretty much him trying to beat people at what they do for a living. You make good cookies in your simple bakery? Well, I’m a jackass so I’m going to try to do what you do even better. I’m boiling.
Sure, Food Network still has plenty of fine programming. Unwrapped is a personal favorite, and I get a kick out of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. But Alton Brown is known by everyone, and Rachel Ray has her own talk show. It’s now too popular for its own good, and like a band that you used to love before they made it big, has sold out in the name of fame and profit.