The Food Network has redeemed it self by creating The Cooking Channel. Here a fresh line-up of wonderful, real cooking programming and not a bunch of of what Anthony Bourdain recently described in his book, RAW, as "cynical, fake-ass, soul-destroying, lowest-common denominator shit shows," as one of the dreariest destinations on your remote control. For the time being we don't get the endlessly boring and old line-up of Giada, Rachael, Ina, Paula, Sandra or the tacky shows on how to make candy corn or the even worse shows about competitive cake baking (no more cupcakes contests, please) or the ubiquitous Guy Fieri and his unhealthy Diners, Drives and Drive-Ins. The Cooking Channel features the original Iron Chef, but even that can be ignored. All that has been blessedly jettisoned on The Cooking Channel.
Instead we can celebrate the return of Jamie Oliver. Other than Lydia Bastianich, there is no better cook on TV than Jamie. He's got his old Jamie at Home series plus his new hour-long Jamie's Food Escapes, where we can watch him on his food travels around the world. The original Naked Chef has grown up to be one of the most compelling food personalities on television. Nigella Lawson has a new show where we can admire her voluptuous personality as she effortlessly cooks for her family and friends in an atmosphere of cozy tranquility. Laura Calder is the effortless host of French Food at Home, where this attractive and accomplished cook presents delicious French food in a low-key but authoritative manner. There's a divinely zany new program called Bitchin' Kitchen, starring the hilariously wacky Nadia G. With her over-the-top fashion sense, downtown vibe and commanding culinary abilities, plus several equally bizarre off-set contributors. Nadia G is both a life guru and therapist for our times. Her rants and riffs on dating, dumping your boyfriend, or dealing with his mother are far more entertaining than watching another show about cupcakes. I like Chuck Hughes, host of Chuck's Day Off. The actress Debi Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, make marriage so much fun, as they live out their culinary and marital lives in Extra Virgin.
How wonderful to have Two Fat Ladies back on TV. Jennifer Patterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright gleefully jumped into their two-person motorcycle and travelled all over the UK in search of culinary adventure. It was always fun, outrageous and instructive to see these two unglamorous, mature, but ever-so-entertaining ladies show us how to cook great food without fuss and with loads of humor. They always closed the show with a cocktail or glass of wine, and deep sense of satisfaction that they had given their best. They did Welcome back, Ladies! Ditto Sara Moulton on her good show, Sara's Secrets (though strong, it lacked the panache of her Cooking Live series). Why this wonderful food personality isn't on TV is a mystery to me.
Rachael Ray has a new show, Week In a Day, which I have yet to see. Nor have I tuned into Hungry Girl, brunch at Bobby's, Chinese Food Made Easy, Indian Food Made Easy, Spice Goddess or Kelly's Essentials. I'm looking forward to tuning into Mark Bittman's new program, and Unique Eats is a lot of fun in its very unhealthy way. I want to go to that restaurant the specializes in fried chicken or meatballs.
But I can do without Mo Rocca lolling on furniture like some demented pin-up model as he narrates a show called Food(Ography). There's something smug and a bit above it all in Rocca's delivery and in two shows he completely wore out his welcome with me. Don't that this deter you from checking into this new food network that has restored interest in food shows for me. It's wonderful to see chefs back in the kitchen doing what they do best rather than a bunch of nobodies competing on the dreary Chopped or The Worst Cooks in America over on The Food Network. I don't expect to see this kind of programming enduring on The Cooking Channel, but while it's here, I'm at least grateful that there's programming for people who care more about food than show biz.