A history of food television

With a side of acerbic wit

February 22, 2013

Russ Parsons, the Los Angeles Times food writer, has been chuckling a good deal over the sarcastic history of food television penned by Andy Greenwald on the ESPN website Grantland.

Greenwald pegs the 1990s rise of Emeril Lagasse as the fulcrum between old-school food TV (think Julia Child, standing behind a counter) and the current school of hyperactivity: reality shows, cooking competitions, travel extravaganzas, and the like. According to Greenwald, the Food Network in particular decided to emphasize TV over food:

The schizophrenic network seemed committed to the idea of separating its viewership into either cartoony warriors or overmatched civilians, presenting the kitchen as either a battleground or a ticking time bomb. Food itself was either impossibly out of reach or beside the point, like fat floating on the surface of a broken sauce.

This choice, says Greenwald, accounts in part for the career of Anthony Bourdain: “He was never half the chef Emeril was — something he’d be the first to admit — but he was twice as good on camera.”

So if you want to watch food TV, go for it — just don’t expect to learn how to cook. Rather, hold out for the likes of Padma Lakshmi, “that stoned and regal puma,” or, yes, the return of Emeril, now “a Wookiee in winter.”

There are no comments on this item
Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice