The improbability of a 24-hour cable TV channel devoted to food, running all through the year and attracting millions of fans worldwide, including men, yes, men, is a reality that has come to stay on TV menu. Food Network channel on DSTV is perhaps one of the most ardently followed channels on the cable TV content provider, enriching the culinary skills of viewers and, most importantly, turning cooking into a joyful art.
The programmes are based on food but these are turned into entertainment to delight, captivate and engage viewers. Can a food-based reality show attract and retain viewership? Food Network says yes and some of their most followed programmes are reality shows in which cooks and budding cooks test their skills against one another, with a winner emerging to wide acclaim.
Indeed, one of the most recognised faces in the entertainment industry is Guy Fieri who headlines some programmes on Food Network. He won one of such reality shows and has since gone on to anchor interesting programmes both on Food Network and outside the channel: he has appeared in advertisement for brands not related to food and also anchored other reality shows that were not in the least related to food.
And with the sharp, clear and rich visuals of DSTV’s HDPVR decoders, the tiniest details of chopping vegetables and mixing different ingredients and much more are brought into sharp relief, not only to enable viewers see all the actions but to also record episodes for use in the event that they wish to try out some of the artfully served dishes on the show. An avid viewer said the impact of Food Network on her culinary skills and adventurism with food is profound, even if most of the dishes on the show are not local to Africa. In fact, in some cases, the dishes are so exotic that viewers in Nigeria may have to go far into the rural areas to find the materials to prepare, say, python soup served alongside chilli pepper sauce, vegetables and rice, a favourite meal among certain Orientals. It is this varied, sometimes exotic, exciting and highly entertaining nature of the programmes on Food Network that have ensured its millions of audience spread across the world glued to their TV sets, using PVRs and, most recently, HDPVRs to record episodes for future viewing.
Although the cable TV channel was originally launched in the United States of America, its audiences now spread across the world, including Nigeria. In an entry on the history of the food channel, it was stated in Wikipedia that Food Network was launched in 1993 as Television Food Network. Within a few years, it shortened its on-air brand to Food Network. Created by Reese Schonfeld, one of the founders of CNN, the channel has undergone a lot of makeovers so as to keep delighting viewers across the world. Food Network programming is divided into daytime coverage known as “Food Network in the Kitchen” and primetime coverage it calls “Food Network Nighttime”.
Generally, “In the Kitchen” is dedicated to instructional cooking programmes while “Nighttime” features food-related entertainment programmes, such as cooking competitions, food-related travel shows, and reality shows. Many of the channel’s personalities routinely pull double-duty (or more) – hosting both daytime and nighttime programming – and the channel regularly offers specials which typically either follow its personalities on working vacations, or bring together a number of personalities for a themed cooking event. It was from one of these reality shows that its biggest personality who commands a cult-like following, Fieri, emerged in 2006.
After winning the second season of The Next Food Network Star in 2006, Fieri was awarded a six-episode show on Food Network. Guy’s Big Bite was premiered on June 25, 2006 and was then renewed for a second season that began airing in early 2007. The show continues till date. Other programmes include Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives; Ultimate Recipe Showdown; Guy Off the Hook, among others. It was reported that by 2010, Food Network had made Fieri the “face of the network”. The New York Times reported that Fieri brought an “element of rowdy, mass-market culture to American food television”, and that his “prime-time shows attract more male viewers than any others on the network”.
As the face of the TV network, Fieri has also appeared on shows such as Dinner: Impossible; Paula’s Party; Ace of Cakes; and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Earlier this year, Fieri was one of the two team captains (along with Rachael Ray) in the Food Network reality series Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off.
However, Food Network is not all about Guy Fieri. There is Unwrapped and Good eats, two programmes committed to food science (food science is defined as a study concerned with all the technical aspects of food, beginning with harvesting or slaughtering, and ending with cooking and consumption).
The two programmes provide unique insights into food chemistry, packaging, preservation, microbiology and even gastronomy.
Good eats is anchored by Alton Brown, a former video director who left the film business to train at a culinary institute. He also writes and his cook books have been bestsellers. Alton’s exceptional delivery and knowledge of food science makes his show a rather captivating experience, taking viewers on a journey through the dissection of a cow or fish to explaining particular details on the exceptional qualities of different parts of the meat, and may sometimes include a history of beef!
Unwrapped, on the other hand, is headlined by Marc Summers, an American television personality and former game show host. He explores the technology and manufacturing of large-scale food production. He goes behind the scene of kitchens and production outfits to reveal the secrets of mass production. Episodes of the show have explored food technology, packaging and product development. He brings alacrity and comedy (serious, mind you) to food production.
Aside the aforementioned programmes, perhaps the most exciting show on TV channel is the Food Network Challenge, which showcases some of the biggest and intriguing food battles from around the world. Anchored by the delectable Claire Robinson, the show offers bragging rights and huge cash prizes to winners of the various contests, ranging from the makers of the tallest pastries, sweetest pies, the spiciest chilli and the most savoury BBQ ribs. Some of the recipes from the show include Red Velvet Cake, Lemon Cake, Spaghetti Sandwich, Fish and Shrimp Sandwich in a Lemon Yogurt Sauce, Roasted Lamb Sandwich, Clinton Meets Delaney, and a host of other mouth-watering, exotic meals. Robinson combines her passions for food and television in 5 Ingredient Fix, another show that features eclectic recipes made with five ingredients or fewer. She believes the best dishes feature carefully selected fresh foods with distinct flavours and a straightforward cooking style that also promotes healthy and seasonal eating.
Then there is Chef Duff who, together with his team at Charm City Cakes, bakes the most incredibly shaped cakes ever, continuously pushing the limits of cake design and decoration. His sugar craft is an inspiration to many cake bakers who regularly tune to Food Network to see Duff at his imperial best. He is described as one of the most-sought-after bakers, routinely baking 20 cakes every week with some of the cakes taking 29 hours to decorate. His bakery is a hit on the Ace of Cakes, which also features other bakers that show dexterity in their sugar craft.
The only drawback in the fascination with what is on offer on Food Network is that the dishes are out of reach and their tastes can only be imagined than experienced. But then this limitation does not apply to the adventurous viewer who could try his hands on a few of the dishes on Food Network. In the final analysis, the channel is more of a leader than just a show, and the DSTV’s HDPVR decoders help subscribers to record shows of particular interest for later viewing and instruction.