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If I ran the Food Network...

Spuriouscake Let's talk. Pull up a chair, pour yourself some tea, perhaps you'd like a slice of cake?

I was over at eGullet, snickering at the (twitter) oh-so-awesome (flutter) project's ideas for some new Food Network shows
and it triggered this thought that has been floating around in my head ever since the last round of eating competitions hit my radar and left me ranting. Now, I realize that when it comes to thoughts on the Food Network I am a rank amateur compared to some people, but I do have a few ideas I'd like to put forward.

The Real Iron Chef — A true Iron Chef steps forward in the arena to face tonight's challenge. The secret ingredient is the contents of the kitchen of a family living at the poverty line in the US on the 28th of any month. Sous chefs consist of three hungry children (between 2-14) who have been sitting still in class all day. Rachael Ray wll phone each of them twice at randomly selected times to ask how things are going and if they would like to buy a subscription to her magazine. Five minutes before the hour ends, the judges will announce that they brought an extra judge with them.

Ban eating competitions — Do I have to tell you how ugly this is? On a planet where a child dies of hunger every six seconds I am ashamed to be from a country and culture that celebrates people because they can shove a grotesque amount of food down their throats really, really fast without puking. In exchange, I offer the following suggestion.

Feeding Competition — Teams are each given $1000 and a set amount of time to put together a nutritious and satisfying meal for as many people as possible. Each team partners with an organization that feeds hungry and low-income people and works from their facilities. The winning team is the one that feeds the most people. (Extra food to be supplied by sponsors so that all participants have a good meal — even after the cooks run out of food — and take home healthy food as a thank you for playing.)

One show per person...uhh, personality — I know that all those TVshow baubles are very pretty, but you have to share. There are at least 24 undiscovered talented people out there who deserve an hour a day to expound on their food philosophy. I nominate Aki and Alex as the replacement for any single Rachael Ray show; I don't even care which one! Either give the woman her own network and be done with it, or lose one of the many faces of Rachael. Or give the semi-homemade Sandra Lee a semi-show and let her do bits on other shows. Imagine her running around Paula Deen's kitchen color coordinating the decor with the food and wardrobe or creating a 30-second tablescape to go with Rachael's 30-minute meal. (side note on that last link — the instructions include this gem, "Fill a vase 3/4 full of water...and insert the rose, stem-first." I realize it's not me, but exactly Who is the targeted demographic for this stuff? Aren't they just a wee bit insulted?)

That's my short list. How about you, what would you do if they gave you the FoodTV reins for a day?

Postscript: Sometime life makes things too easy. I went to the Food Network site to see whether they are officially called Food Network or FoodTV and noticed a poll on the front page (lower left).

Today's question is "What makes a great chef?" (Um, I dunno...cheffing ability?)

The answers so far:
    Passion for food            65.7%
    Good recipes                12.1%
    Personality                    4.7%
    Culinary know-how        13.9%
    A well-stocked kitchen    3.5%

Can we talk about this for just a moment? A passion for food is critical for a number of things — most of which, unfortunately, aren't jobs — but it isn't at the top of my list for chefs. Sure a chef should love food, but come on, culinary know-how is a distant second in this poll and has a lead on "good recipes" that's as thin as Sasha Cohen's after the short program. The other numbers I agree with: recipes I can do without, well-stocked kitchens are nice but I've had (and made) wonders out of an almost empty pantry, and personality is...well, personal. (One might also wonder if this is missing the word "TV" between "great" and "chef," because a chef is usually hidden away back in a kitchen and lacking in things like television cameras and the corresponding need for a personality that wins web polls.)

But I really have to protest that huge gap between passion and everything else. After all, when it comes right down to it, passion is nice, but passion without the skill to create makes one a consumer, not a creator.

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