Dear Food Network

Open letter to the Food Network:

I like watching the chef challenges on Bravo and the Food Network. The shows where cooks of all types pit their skills against each other and ultimately one wins out. I consumed the last several episodes of “The Next Food Network Star” last year, and  saw the last episode, where the winner was announced.

I watch these shows because of the personalities and only occasionally because of the food.

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Rachael

After watching that final episode, I went online to look up when the new show would air, with the winner as host. While I was looking at the schedule I thought, for the heck of it, let’s see what else is on that channel that I might not have seen.

I counted 62 shows that appear to be all “how to” recipe shows. Many chefs host more than one show. When I hunted for recipes on the Food Network site, I found several that were listed as “vegetarian” and all of 11 tagged as “vegan”, one of which actually isn’t vegan; it just happened to star on a show that featured some vegan recipes.

It strikes me that there is room on this network for one, just one, vegan chef. If you take a look at the wealth of amazing cookbooks out there now that are entirely vegan, you’ll surely be able to find a chef or two with the personality and desire to host a show.

Why would you do this?

Most importantly for a network like yours, for people’s health. There are some idiotic articles on your website on “how to be vegetarian and stay healthy” (assuming all meat eaters are healthy??). Many of the episodes by various chefs that feature vegetarian food start out by saying “vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring”. These statements reveal your prejudices and, more importantly, your ignorance.

Study after study shows that statistically vegans are healthier than omnivores. Let’s not belabor it. It’s not up for debate. So why do we keep seeing these misleading articles and hear this misinformation on your network? I assume it’s because so many people still believe the myths that vegetarian food is boring and tastes like cardboard, that it’s hard to “get enough protein” on a vegan diet, and so on.

Frankly, if this is the case, if your chefs keep repeating untruths because that’s what your viewers believe, then all you are doing is perpetuating these myths. How about stepping out in front and offering something bordering on reality instead?

If it’s too scary to start right out with a vegan chef (if the marketing department won’t go for it), then have one of your chefs interview several vegan chefs (preferably do a small series of interviews) and see how the viewers react. Take it from there.

9 Responses to Dear Food Network

  1. C.V.,

    Currently working for a Food Network show (this is my first time working for the network), I have learned a great deal about how food and television works. The lack of vegan/vegetarian hosts/shows is based on two factors: credibility and economics.

    Economically, the shows need to make money. Right now, the Food Network makes the most advertising dollars from their prime time shows that aren’t really “how to cook” shows but are more “food porn” shows. The “how-to” shows are usually on during the day. The Food Network also has a vast male demographic, which explains the abundance of BBQ shows, and no vegan ones.

    The other factor is that the Food Network tries really hard to maintain credibility in the culinary world. Most of the chefs and hosts of the show aren’t regarded very highly in the industry with the exception of the big guys. You can’t be a trained chef without learning how to cook meat. It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of hosts who aren’t trained chefs, but they are at least “foodies” who want to learn and taste everything from all over the worl.

    The network is catering to “Foodies”, people who are food enthusiasts and will eat anything just to try it! This concept doesn’t apply to Vegans or Vegetarians who limit their diets based on whatever criteria they have chosen (ethics, health, etc). People don’t really watch the food network to learn how to cook, they watch it to see people cook and eat. That’s the problem these days, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

    Foodie Too

  2. Hi Foodie, Thanks for your comments!

    I do get this, although I did not know that the network has a huge male demographic.

    I understand the “taste” priority, because it seems to mirror the gourmet chef position – anything is worth tasting, all about the taste.

    Time and again I am amazed at the remarks – we need more salt, more fat, more meat! As if this network exists in some parallel universe where these things do not harm your health. But of course it isn’t the health network or even the health food network.

    Still, seems like there might be room for the vegan chef during the day…given that the dollars don’t come from there anyway. Such a show might well garner a devoted audience.

  3. I, too, wanted to write a letter to Food Network requesting a vegan cooking show. I would watch it! As a newly turned vegan (4 months ago), I am disgusted and repelled by the glut of cooking shows based around animal flesh. And then, when you think you’ve found one recipe without meat and labeled “vegetarian,” it always uses and stars dairy products! Since becoming a vegan, I’ve found how much incredibly delicious food there is out there that doesn’t relay on animal products, and I want to see that food represented on TV. Ok, so we are a small portion of society — but we are growing and we are vocal and influential! Bring on the Vegan Network!!

  4. I think the time has come. People would be curious, some would be derisive and would watch it to see how freaky the food is, and maybe learn something as a result. I can think of several cookbook chefs who could host this show beautifully. We can dream.

  5. On December 11, 2010 a gentleman gave out a recipe for sweet potato and banana pudding with a pecan streusel topping that I was not able to copy. Could you find it for me? Many thanks, Richard Wine

  6. I made soup and accidentally put to much salt, what can I do to counter act the salt?

  7. Carmen, depending on the type soup, it might help to add some cut up potatoes.

  8. Thank you for writing this post. I think the Food Network doesn’t seem to like any chef not coating everything they cook with CHEESE! Even my favorite, Giada, swims in it. As for the person responding the credibility issue….there are actually vegan culinary schools, and some of the most inventive, food loving people I know are vegan. It really is a lack of knowledge all around. But I mean, where is cupcake Chloe?! Not even she got a spot. Frustrating.

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