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Three Ways to Make an Audience Hungry

17 Apr

To find oneself sitting in a studio on a nearly-empty stomach with Michael Bonacini, Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons is a bit torturous. The smells wafting forth from the stove over the course of 30 minutes are pretty intoxicating. J and I sat through the taping of a Cityline show featuring the three chefs using a variety of fresh herbs, wishing we could sneak up and steal bites off the plates. Chef Bonancini featured rosemary in a beautiful branzino dish; chef Capra made a creative BBQ pork and chive pancake; and chef Parsons used chervil in a light lamb loin dish.

Chef Capra and me

Chef Capra and me

Chef Bonacini and I...just hangin'  with some herbs.

Chef Bonacini and me…just hangin’ with some herbs.

In addition to the plates the chefs put up, the show discussed planting various herbs for use at home. We have sage, thyme and lemon thyme ready to go and a basil plant that has miraculously lived for months on our windowsill (apparently I left my black thumb of death back at our old apartment!). This show got me motivated to get out into my garden – now that I have one – and plant some rosemary, mint and maybe some chives, too!

herbs

The beautiful array of greenery on display.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some planting and cooking to get to..

He’s baaaaaaaaaack…

21 Oct

The Mexican food chain, Chipotle, is trying to set itself apart – and contribute to awareness of an important issue – by offering one of their most popular options, the burrito, at a significantly reduced price. The catch? You’ve got to come in on Hallowe’en dressed as, “a horrifying processed food product.” Check out their site: http://www.chipotle.com/en-US/fan-antics/boorito/boorito.aspx

Apparently they do this sort of promotion every year, but in the past they’ve asked people to come dressed as their *favourite* item on the menu. What brought this change about? This year they are working with Jamie Oliver and his “Food Revolution” program to promote healthier eating in North America. I have heard good things about the Chipotle franchise though I’ve never actually tried it. I’ve surfed through their website and it certainly appears that they are committed to providing food – not food-like products that only bear a passing resemblance to the animal from which it came.

It seems as though Oliver has found a way around looking sanctimonious in the eyes of Americans: all it took was a funny costume! If only he’d thought of that on his last adventure through the States which rattled a LOT of cages, especially in the blogosphere.  Teaming up with a popular fast food place that uses…y’know…actual food? Good plan. Exposing people’s food ignorance on national television? Not so much. I still stand by my belief that Oliver has excellent intentions, fame-whoring aside. He is using his celebrity to bring attention to the fact that the generation behind us is maddeningly – and frighteningly – unhealthy. He’s trying to help solve this problem and, evidently, has no qualms about looking like a doofus in the process. I like the “whatever works” attitude he’s adopted and this costume plan is similar to his demonstration for children in England, where he presented and blended up the ingredients of a chicken nugget. It was re-volt-ing. Nothing like a little dose of reality that even children can understand.

What do you think, readers? Do you think Oliver should hop back across the pond and keep to himself? Does teaming up with a fast food franchise decrease his credibility or is it a good idea to get the public’s attention?

Finally! New shows on FN!

1 Sep

As I suspect has become clear, I am totally addicted to the Food Network. I will watch just about anything, with the exception of Robert Irvine who lied about his entire resume, Laura Calder who puts me to sleep and that idiot from Road Grill. I have watched, ad nauseum, episodes of Restaurant Makeover, Chef At Home, Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (British, not US), DDD, Giada, etc. I have seen every episode of I Do…Let’s Eat! at least 5 times.  (Weddings and food: what’s not to love??!) But, over the summer, with the exception of The Next Food Network Star, everything is a re-run. EVERYTHING. This gets tiresome pretty quickly, though I’m pretty sure I can watch Lynn Crawford get jumped on by lambs endlessly: check it out at the 12 minute mark or so.

But now?  Top Chef? Check. The Opener? Check. Dinner Wars? Check. Shows are returning with new episodes and new shows are hitting the airwaves and it’s about freaking time. Of the reality shows, Chef is unquestionably the best. Talented people doing what they love. It’s a bunch of Type A’s competing against and living with each other. The judges are knowledgeable and, often, hilarious. It’s infinitely better than Top Chef Masters, though I did enjoy watching some of the best chefs in the world do their thang.

I got a chance to check out David Adjey’s new show, The Opener, last night. All in all, not bad! Adjey is entertaining and very passionate and is clearly modeling himself on Gordon Ramsay right down to the leather jackets….and skin.  (Hard livin’, my friends. It shows up all-too-clearly in glorious HD.) He was always fun to watch on Restaurant Makeover and I anticipate that Opener will do well.

As for Dinner Wars, I’m excited about the concept but I actively loathe Corbin Tomaszeski. He was alright in the short-lived Crash My Kitchen but his episodes on Restaurant Makeover are my least favourite by far.  He’s condescending, rude and generally obnoxious. Maybe he’ll be able to tame his crapulent attitude a bit this time around. I’m all for snark – in fact,  I often delight in it – but he’s too freaking much.

How about you guys? Anyone excited about returning or new shows?

Guy Fieri: Ruler of the FN Universe

17 Aug

I cannot stop myself from watching Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. Y’know, that show where a florescent orange man with spiky white hair drives around the States checking out the favourite spots of the locals. Of course you know: if you ever watch anything on the Food Network, the likelihood is that it’s DDD.  The appeal of this show is not limited to foodie-types: everyone can watch it and get a kick out of it. Sometimes the food looks unbelievably tasty, sometimes it looks straight up unbelievable. (Peanut butter on a burger? Um, no thanks.)

Since winning the first season of The Next Food Network Star, Fieri has been on a roll. (And let’s not forget that in addition to the multitudinous shows, he also has two restaurants. He has his own cooking show, DDD, hosts a competition show and appears in various other FN shows as a guest star. (And let’s not forget that in addition to the multitudinous shows, he also has two restaurants.) He’s Rachael Ray without the incessant perkiness. I could – and do – watch this man for hours every week. I watch repeats of DDD and have been known to change dinner plans based on what the episode’s theme. I know people who have done diner tours based on his show and friends who had lived or are living  in the States gleefully report that their favourite spot was featured. (And I become a lovely shade of envious green.)

I envy his job 98% of the time. In turn, I’m also happy it’s not my job to try pig ear or menudo. I don’t share Fieri’s loathing of eggs, but I appreciate that he reacts the way I think I would: with a mix of trepidation and determination. It would appear, though, that the vast majority of the food is just damned delicious.

The show is so pervasive that one chef saw another make an amazing burger and he decided he had to have that on his menu, too. It was interesting moment when Fieri realized that he’d seen this burger before and the second chef fully admitted to swiping the idea from the earlier episode. You know a show’s a hit when that kind of thing happens.

Ultimately, Fieri’s massive success is based on what I’m sure is a carefully cultivated persona. He is a huge presence on screen, but is able to step back and let others shine, too. He is eminently likeable and seemingly self aware. He’s not super perky, nor is he a snark. (Though I have a special place in my heart for snark. I *heart* Anthony Bourdain a whole lot.)

Really…how could you just not dig a dude who looks like this:

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