Searching for Tony Bourdain

Foie gras taste on a Big Mac budget

no more good eats

I have tremendous respect for only a few chefs on television. Tony, obviously, has my reverence, as do Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Mike Symon, Morimoto (do I really need to refer to the zen master any other way?) Emeril (see previous comment, interchanging “zen master” with “godfather”), Jamie Oliver, and Rick Bayless.

And then there’s the Mad Scientist, Alton Brown.

Alton Brown is not just a chef. He is an educator. His passion for science, partnered with teaching his viewers/fans which equipment to use for which jobs (and insisting that the only unitasker in a kitchen should be a fire extinguisher), the history behind foods and methods, and a good bit of humor, became the Food Network’s flagship.

Today, I came across an article on Facebook from the Chicago Tribune, announcing the ending of Brown’s wildly popular series, “Good Eats.”  Several television shows I enjoy are either cancelled at the end of the season (The Chicago Code) or on the brink (Detroit 1-8-7). When I saw this, however, the feeling was not one of normal irritation with the lack of respect advertisers show to good television. It was straight-up disappointment.

“Good Eats” taught me how to fry an egg to over medium, fry a chicken in a cast-iron pan, and make a better cake. It even taught me how to pick which cheeses should go on a cheese plate. In short, the show was my culinary education.

He made 249 episodes, beginning with the pilot airing in Chicago in 1998. I haven’t seen many of the newest installments because I no longer have cable, but I’ve seen most of them through last year. The show will be in reruns for years and his career is not over, since he still hosts “Iron Chef America” and its “Next Iron Chef” spinoff.

Good Eats, and its miniseries offspring, “Feasting on Asphalt/Waves,” defined intelligent programming for Food Network. As far as I can see, the only truly quality shows are “Iron Chef America,” “Throwdown,” and “Ace of Cakes.” Almost everything else on the network  is one of three fundamental concepts: instructional, half-hour travel show, or competition.

And that, my friends, is exactly why Alton Brown began doing food television in the first place: to battle the monotony and lack of substance in cooking shows. What cooking shows need now is not an obnoxious host shouting irritating catchphrases into the camera as they take an oversized bite (“Yum-O” and “Off the hook” come to mind). They need passion. Because that’s food. Food is passion and love and happiness. All three of these are traits that Alton Brown instilled in his viewers, as well as the knowledge to cook well and with confidence.

I hope somebody else steps up on Food Network and creates a show that lasts as long, and sucks as little, as “Good Eats.”

-Adam

Fargo

Good Eats on Wikipedia (not totally current)

Alton Brown’s Wikipedia page

Alton Brown’s Website 

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