It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Food Network. I can still remember right after I started my first "real" job, racing home after work to catch two episodes of Rachel Ray (the 5-6pm slot), working out during Emeril (not my favorite - the 6-7pm slot), and then settling in with dinner for some Unwrapped and The Secret Life of Food.
But actually, Food Network holds a dear spot in my heart, because I attribute a lot of my love of cooking to watching it. And I can say, somewhat wholeheartedly, that if i hadn't watched so many cooking shows when I first emerged in the "real world" and needed to make my own food, I wouldn't know a lot of the cooking techniques I know. It sounds melodramatic, I realize. And of course I learned from watching my mom - but she & I never had a sit down where she said, "ok, this is how you saute; this is how you braise; this is how you julienne" - I was taught all that stuff by Rachel, Giada, Ina, Alton, Tyler, Bobby, and Mario.
I jumped on the Food Network bandwagon at an exciting time, as well (circa 2005). Anyone who is an avid viewer can certainly agree that in the past 5 years (but even more, the past 3) the network has exploded. Its expanded, tried new things, explored new paths, hired new chefs - and has been pretty successful, I think.
So I love the success - I absolutely think more Americans should be watching something (even a reality show) that teaches them to cook, vs watching any of those real housewife shows or bachelorette-type things. But my own personal preference doesn't lean towards the reality shows on Food Network Nighttime. They're fine - and I'll watch them if I'm bored - but I can't get into The Next Iron Chef or The Next Food Network Star or Chef vs. City, just not my thing. And additionally, as my own cooking has evolved, there are certain chef cooking shows that aren't that relevant to me anymore. I love Paula Deen & the Neelys, for example, but their shows aren't really teaching me anything - I think they're appealing more to new cooks or people who don't care about calories.
So what's a girl to do?
Enter Food Network's newest, fantastic, cooking-centric branch of their company: Cooking Channel. I'm quickly falling in love with this the more & more I watch it. Tons of new chefs with fresh ideas. Nighttime programming that isn't a reality show. Shows about food & food origins that don't have cartoony graphics in the into and aren't visiting typical, mainstream food producers. Sleek, streamlined logos and self-promoting ad time. It's basically a grown up/artistic version of the Food Network - and I love it!
It's not in basic cable (it's channel 248 for us). But I highly recommend you guys tune in if you have it in your area (and maybe if you don't want to watch it, you could just keep it on when you're not home so the ratings are high, because ohmygosh I would hate to see this concept fail).