Shame on the Food Network

Dear Food Network,

I was there with you at the beginning, when the Two Hot Tamales shared their excitement for the food of Mexico and the Southwest. I tuned in every time to Ready, Set, Cook! I loved David Rosengarten’s Taste. I learned a lot from Emeril. Ditto Mario Batali, who brought to the screen a rare blend of smarts and the ability to talk about his subject in a comprehensible way.

I even stayed with you through Good Eats, but that was before Alton Brown behaved dickishly toward me in the Four Seasons Georgetown in Washington, DC. (Governor Schwarzenegger, who stood a few feet away during the encounter, asked who that man was. I said, “I watch him on the food channel and I was trying to give him a compliment but he was kind of a dick.” Schwarzenegger’s sage reply: “Some people have a hard time with celebrity.”)

In complete honesty, I did not love watching the rise of Rachel Ray and Paula Deen, neither of whom is a good teacher and both of whom annoy the hell out of me. Then again, I didn’t watch their rise much because I tuned them out. But I don’t doubt the validity of the demographic studies and the advice you received at great expense from marketing experts that led you to dump large buckets of money upon them.

I will not question the business decisions involved in turning the Food Network into a 24/7 cook-off. Fastest Cook, Meanest Cook, Cook With the Most Seriously-ill Offspring, Cook With the Whitest Smile, Cook Who Makes Our Staff Cooks More Famous: you did what you thought was right. I stayed tuned in mostly out of inertia, out of hope there would be valuable nuggets just as late-arriving miners hoped they’d find gold in 1850s California. My standards lowered such that I regularly tuned into Prime Time Knife Skills Challenge and Best Route 66 Egg Poacher.

And what did you do? You took the gift of my time and you squandered it.

Tonight on Chopped you introduced one of your judges – someone I hadn’t seen before on that program – as a chef and consultant for Outback Steakhouse. A moment later, your host – that Ted guy – announced that one of the first-round secret ingredients was moonshine.

Odd but whatever, is what I thought. It’s all I thought until the first commercial break.

What ho! Outback Steakhouse advertising its new Moonshine Mop or some such thing on its steaks and ribs. Outback. Judge. Moonshine.

WHAT. THE. HELL.

As I was shaking my head from side to side, hoping to wake myself from this bad dream of horribly unfortunate coincidence, the baskets of secret ingredients for the second round of Chopped were opened.

WHAT. DO. YOU. KNOW.

Moonshine again!

And then, another Outback commercial touting its Moonshine Meat Mop.

Outback. Moonshine. Outback-employee judge.

Look, Food Network. Don’t even THINK of saying to me, “Oh, we put a disclaimer in the final credits indicating blah blah blah.”

This was low and shifty and wrong.

Shame, shame, shame on you.

Best regards,

Clay

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