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Alton Brown Explains Three Of The Most Disappointing Moments In US Food History

Alton Brown isn’t a man who minces his words, so any takes he’s got are bound to generate some friction. His latest thoughts on the most disappointing moments in food TV, for example, may not be music to Food Network’s ears.

The food industry’s Bill Nye broke down these poignant events in a recent interview on First We Feast’s Hot Ones. Brown talked host Sean Evans through each instance in detail, revealing how the drive to be popular and viral has harmed the industry more than helped it. The three he dissected on the show may have been small stones at first, but snowballed into consequences nobody could have anticipated.

Whenever a region of the US claims a dish to be their own…

To Alton Brown, the best Buffalo wings aren’t in Buffalo, and it’s hard to find a good Cubano sandwich in Tampa. Before residents of those cities take up their pitchforks and torches, though, they should know that Brown’s issue is more about quantity that it is quality.

“When a region thinks that their identity is kinda locked and that ‘We got this,’ that’s when they start making too much of it to tourists that don’t know the difference. And then…. pretty soon, you’re Del Taco.”

While Brown needs to put more respect on Del Taco’s name, the analogy fits. Finding the one golden needle in a haystack of mediocre copycats can prove frustrating, especially with online “reviewers” throwing you off in every direction.

Food Network’s transition from specialty to mainstream TV…

Brown’s spent 20 plus years in the food TV show business, and to him, Food Network’s rise to the mainstream came at a price. The channel now had to play the same ratings game as everybody else to compete, and Brown detested becoming one of the players.

“That game at the time was called reality television, which I abhor at large and dislike immensely. Don’t like what it’s done to the industry, don’t like what it’s done to people’s minds.”

Numerous food reality shows, like Hell’s Kitchen and Chopped, are on the air today. They’re fun to watch, sure, but are we viewing them to witness culinary masterpieces come to life or to see who’s gonna try to talk back to Gordon Ramsay next? It’s more of the latter these days, so now, food TV is no longer being watched for… well, the food.

The launch of Iron Chef America…

I almost fell out of my chair when Brown called this show a downside. He’s the host, after all, so to boldly proclaim its faults is something you’d never expect. ICA is a double-edged sword for Brown, though. While he loves its portrayal of the fine dining chef’s prowess, he despises the generation of Hollywood-aspiring chefs that it spawned.

“But it’s also a very, very bad thing because it made so many young cooks want to be a cook so that they could become stars. Way too many kids during the 2000s decided to go into the culinary field so that they could become TV stars.”

Iron Chef America brought a lot of hype to the career of a fine dining chef, especially when they toppled celebrity giants like Masaharu Morimoto and Bobby Flay in ICA’s comestible combat. But entering the culinary world should be done out of a love for food, not an attraction to the limelight. It means there’s less focus on the craft and more on the camera, and while visual appeal is great, taste and quality are always paramount.

By Constantine Spyrou

Constantine's life revolves around eating, studying, and talking about food. He's obsessed with eggs, gyros, and the future of food.