I’m something of a Food Network junkie. I’ve watched the channel for years and have spent countless Saturdays on the sofa enjoying the company of Giada and Racheal. When I’m sick, the only thing that makes me feel better is Ina Garten cooking something delicious for her friend the photographer-florist Miguel. My dad and I have had many a father-daughter bonding moment thanks to the culinary genius of Bobby and Tyler. A Friday night at home isn’t lonely when I have Anne teaching me her restaurant’s secrets.
However, lately I’ve found myself increasingly disappointed with the network. Every time I turn on the TV, instead of seeing the familiar cast of culinary faces, I’m met with a motley crew of wannabes on a reality cooking show. It’s always Chopped or Cupcake Wars or Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives or Restaurant Impossible. The “In the Kitchen” programing series that features new episodes of classic network shows every Saturday and Sunday morning used to air from 7am to 2pm. Now it just airs until noon. A new crop of lovable stars, like Claire Robinson and Marcela Valladolid, debuted with promising shows, only for the later seasons to be banished to the 7am time slot. I understand that a channel must evolve to survive and maintain viewership, but I’m sick of cooking competitions with chefs and bakers I’ve never heard of. Call me old-fashioned, but I like stand-and-stir programs where the host teaches the viewer how to make a specific dish.
Luckily, there’s the Cooking Channel. The Food Network’s sister site has quickly become my go-to place for culinary inspiration. Not only does it air reruns of many old favorites (Easy Entertaining With Michael Chiarello! Nigella Kicthen! Everyday Italian!), it also has exciting new comers with awesome cooking shows. I can not get enough of Chuck Hughes. I love this guy! I’m dvr-ing every episode, so I can have my very own Chuck marathon. What’s great about Chuck is that he makes super chefy dishes look incredibly uncomplicated. The Food Network tried to copy his show format with Alex Guarnaschelli’s Alex’s Day Off, but it doesn’t succeed the way Chuck’s Day Off does. Where Alex cooks on a set and mentions the people she works with, Chuck cooks in his restaurant’s kitchen (or what looks like a restaurant kitchen) and invites the people he works with to dinner. Alex makes cheese on toast; Chuck makes veal stock. Alex makes a comforting meal for her young daughter; Chuck makes a sophisticated meal for a trio of hot firefighters. Watch the two shows and you’ll get the picture.
Another Cooking Channel program I’m crazy about is Simply Baking with Lorraine Pascale. What’s not to love about a beautiful British model turned baker? She cooks in a crisp, yet sexy white collared shirt all the time, I mean, who does that? While I want my sister to date Chuck Hughes, I want to be Lorraine Pascale. She’s always popping over to Paris for macaroons and chorizo bread. Only six episodes of her show have aired, but I’m hoping they shoot more soon. Her recipes are both sweet and savory and range from baked garlic and camembert to mascarpone and ginger creme brûlée. Everything Lorraine makes, I want to make too.
Slowly but surely, in my heart, the Cooking Channel is replacing the Food Network. Last Friday night I took a trip to France with Laura Calder on French Made Easy. My dad and I are dying to make the ranch-style eggs and chorizo we saw on Brunch @ Bobby’s. And the next time I feel sick, Chuck’s cheesy smile and mad chef skills will probably be the only thing that can make me feel better.