There was a time when MTV actually showed music videos. Then came the reality show pioneer The Real World and that was that. Voyeur television took over the channel (and eventually the world). MTV2 was launched to provide musical content but it too befell a similar fate. They started MTV3 in order to provide an outlet for music…
The Food Channel is the new MTV. Unfortunately the new Cooking Channel is already going the way of MTV2. What began with a line up that focused on food and cooking the two networks have devolved into a mix of reality competition shows that teach nothing about cooking and a showcase for a handful of “celebrity” chefs whose celebrity begins and ends within the confines of the Food Network itself. Having long ago run out of simple ideas for the average kitchen, the absurdly titled Everyday Italian with Gaida De Laurentis continues on (actual show titles: Visit to a Vineyard, Island Hopping, Gaida’s Spa Weekend Brought Home, and Apres Ski). I’m not sure if Bobby “[Insert Protien] with [Insert Fruit] and [Insert Hot Pepper] Sauce” Flay even has his own show or if he just exists as guest on Iron Chef and other vehicles of circular fame the network provides. His protege Tyler Florence long since abandoned any hope of respectability in regards to food and recipes when he sold his face to Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill. How do those Wonton Chicken Tacos taste? Paula Deen’s food looks awful, but at least she has fun making it. I have no idea why Guy Fieri is there though I feel certain that he knows at least more about food than Rachel Rey.
Among the nonsense there are the occasional programs that are cooking demonstrations. There is French Cooking at Home with that lady with the barely noticible accent that can only mean French Canadian. I like her recipes but the pace puts me right to sleep. She also has a way of saying things like “Doesn’t that look wonderful?” while holding the pan at such an angle that you can’t see the food. Jamie Oliver has a knack for simplifying the challenging. I used to love his shows for the free form, cooking can be fun, and isn’t it easy attitude but his newest show is one part sermon on the (supposed) virtues of organic food, one part a pat on his back for being such a outdoorsy farmer type guy now, and then the food.
Enter Nadia G. What began as a series of Youtube five or so minutes long cooking demos out of Montreal, launched what might be the best offering The Cooking Channel has. The set, accent, attitude, and comedy are all over the top. She’s been called punk rock, rockabilly, retro, and demented but what she is is entertaining. Something has happened among those that consider themselves gastronomes. The tone has shifted from enjoyment and experimentation to smug satisfaction. Too many shows are now more about the conditions something is grown in rather than the taste of the final product. To quote Aunt Stabby, “Whither the whimsy?”
Nadia G’s Bitchin Kitchen is chock full of whimsy. Whether the spice agent is complaining about his unicorn, or Hans is making off-the-mark double entendres, or Panos is waxing on about proscuitto the main focus somehow stays the on the dishes, and the dishes are very impressive. Food is fun and should be presented in a fun manner. As simple as that sounds, Nadia G seems to be the only show on those two networks that gets it, which is why, tatoos and stilleto heels aside, she has more in common with Graham Kerr and Julia Childs than any of her peers.