I feel like now is sort of the best of times and the worst of times for food-centric shows on tv. As a child, I remember the only options were watching low-budget how-to shows on PBS or reruns of Julia Child. Now that food is trendy, the Food Network machine has exploded into every home in America via Rachael Ray’s face on a box of Ritz crackers. The upshot of this trend are shows like No Reservations or Top Chef. The downside is that the Food Network’s programming seems to get worse, and worse.
For instance, now that Tyler Florence is too fat to be a viable host for Food 911, they’ve reworked the same format into this new show called Rescue Chef, hosted by some guy called Danny Boome. Based on the endless promos currently running on the Food Network, Danny is cute, British, and most importantly:
1. A former hockey player
2. An ex-model
3. And, lastly, a chef
Is this guy’s food any good? Who cares! We see images of young, attractive women pouting into the camera and helplessly sighing, “I am a total mess in the kitchen!” You can just imagine the next line of this show: “Please, Danny, come rescue me!” It’ll be like Take Home Chef, except with even more overt flirting. If only Tyler Florence had a foreign accent, it would have given him that extra edge with the “culinarily challenged” ladies.
I think what I find so gross about this whole marketing scheme is that it smacks of some damsel-in-distress fairy tale. Like, women (who, let’s be honest here, have historically done most of the common home cooking) need some big strong man to teach them how to use a spatula. I understand that the supposed message of the each show is going to go along the lines of, Cooking is actually easy and fun! (Especially if some hunky chef stands next to you while you slice onions.) But in order to sell this concept, you first have to make cooking seem too hard to do it by yourself. However, this show is clearly aimed exclusively at women, so I feel like the implicit message here is that young women today don’t know how to cook and are just lost without Danny Boome to “rescue” them. (Side note: What kind of last name is Boome?!)
You need to eat food to live. Therefore, cooking is a survival skill. Somewhere, some day, you might not be able to or afford to go out to eat or buy something pre-packaged. The basics are not that hard–for goodness sake, children can do it. Secondly, food is a pleasure. People love to eat delicious food; it makes you feel happy. So I find it nauseating to see the Food Network working the sex(ist) angle so heavily with this show. It’s insulting to my intelligence, not to mention the every female member of my family that had a hand in my culinary education.
It may be true that more young women today don’t know how to cook compared to earlier generations. But I think it’s generally true that many young people of both genders don’t know how to cook. So why isn’t Giada De Laurentiis traveling the country in her deep v-neck sweaters teaching helpless men how to cook pasta? Or, better yet, why isn’t Mario Batali traveling the country in his giant orange crocs teaching men and woman of every age how to make Pasticcio di Bietole al Forno or a host of other barely pronounceable dishes? Food Network, why must you dumb everything down to it’s most shallow, stereotypical level??? Ahhhh!
I think I need to go watch some “Baking with Julia” reruns on WETA.