I still watch the Food Network, although the love affair has been gone for a while.  What sealed the deal for me was the latest viewing of only half of a new show.  Restaurant: Impossible is another underwhelming, unoriginal idea from this network.  If it were an original idea, it might have been good.  But clearly, the producers of this network are running out of ideas.  And fast.  Restaurant: Impossible has a simple premise.  Robert Irvine, the infamous chef of Dinner: Impossible, takes a fledgling restaurant and tries to turn it around in 24 hours.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s already been done.  It’s been done superbly by the BBC’s original version of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  The only difference of the British version is that Gordon Ramsay takes 7 days, rather then 24 hours to turn a restaurant around.

I’ve never been shy about stating that I’ve never worked in the food industry.  Never walked into a professional kitchen.  So all of these opinions I have do not come from any experience in running or cooking in a kitchen.  These restaurants, as far as I can tell, are real restaurants with real hard working people.  To try and turn it all around in 24 hours is not serving these hard working families because it takes weeks, if not months to do this in the “real world”.  As it were, Gordon Ramsay has already stated that it’s a gut wrenching show for him as he has developed ulcers in trying to turn these kitchen nightmares into successes.  And some, after he has put his stamp on them, have even closed after he leaves.  I fully understand that the people sign up willingly to be on a show like Restaurant: Impossible, but for Food TV, it feels less about the owners of the restaurants then it is trying to put Robert Irvine front and center in its Americanized, watered down version of Kitchen Nightmares.  And to take people’s livelihoods and try to change it all in 24 hours and then leave to have them “sink or swim” is both maniacal and self serving.  This is the latest hackneyed concoction of another unoriginal idea from the Food Network.

While Anthony Bourdain may have his own flaws, he correctly stated that while the network deserves all the successes they’ve had, they are indeed an evil empire.  When he was approached by the network to do a cross country trek to rate the best BBQ fairs in the US after he hit it big with “A Cook’s Tour”, he clearly saw the light.  He turned that down and realized that no one wanted to see him trekking cross country in his cowboy boots, eating BBQ ribs and brisket and determine which fairs are the best.  But more importantly, he never once wanted to have anything to do with that.  But “they” kept pushing him.  And then he found a new home in the Travel Channel to do what he really wanted to do.  And the rest is, as they say, history.

A lot of these shows are rehashed ideas over and over again with different makeup.  Iron Chef America is clearly a complete and utter rip off of the classic Japanese Iron Chef [at least they’re not shy about that].  No more needs to be written about Restaurant: Impossible.  The now defunct Tyler’s Ultimate is a knock off of A Cook’s Tour with a twist at the end where he cooks the dish he’s traveled the world to eat.  Barefoot Contessa, Everyday Italian, Giada’s Home Cooking all seem the same to me.  Take a successful woman, put her in a fab house and let her cook, all the while having orgasmic reaction to food while saying, “How easy is that?”  The Next Food Network Stars and The Next Iron Chef America are very, very poor versions of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, respectively.  Is it just me, or isn’t it telling that it’s “The Next Food Network Star”, rather than “The Next Food Network Chef”.  And poor Robert Irvine and Ann Burrell.  To have them slave away at a show called “America’s Worst Cooks” is almost agonizing to watch.  And don’t get me started on Cupcake Wars.  Really?  When did cupcakes ever float up to the top of the food chain?  And the judges make it seem like it it’s haute cuisine.  It’s a freakin’ cake.  But smaller.  Next!  The thing they did get right was to finally cancel Ace of Cakes.  While a few episodes of what they can do with fondant is cool, we get it.  You can artistically make anything out of cake and fondant.  No need to bludgeon us to death with it.

So, where do we go from here?  As far as I can tell, Food TV has left the building.  It left the building about 3 years ago.  Even Bourdain’s early hatred of Emeril Lagasse has disappeared when FoodTV dropped the most popular show it ever had without a public “thank you” to the one chef who made the network.  That’s the true shame of it all.  So here’s to you Food Network and your tepid and unoriginal shows.  Because while the producers are around a meeting room trying to convince Mario Batali to do another knockoff of Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown”, I’ll be watching Top Chef on Bravo.

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