He needs a worthy successor. Soon. But now would be better. When he was at the top of his game, his food shows shined a big bright light into each and every foodie’s heart. I used to love to watch his show during cocktail hour. The food images inspired me as well as helped me prep mentally for making the upcoming evening meal. And his conversation, sarcasm, and witty banter was done comfortably, which sometimes felt much like having a drink with an old friend.

He had three especially fine episodes: Madrid, another one he did in Spain, and the one in Rome. Food show classics.

But there were some failures. You can’t film a food show – albeit even if it is a food travel show – in a place that has no food culture. There isn’t enough bantering backfill in the entire world, or enlightening commentary on the local politics or customs, nor are there playful background stories sufficiently charming to hide the suspicious absence of food.

So who is presently out there that can fill the void?

Youtube’s ‘Munchies’? No. Who else but other egomaniacal twenty-something year olds would want to watch other equally young chefs doing the whole self-congratulatory thing backgrounded by their multi-tatooed hipster friends all doing the pose, looking cool and saying the word ‘fuck’ a lot?

Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern? Sorry. He does some things okay but his overall smarminess and ‘don’t try this at home’ attitude is a deal killer. Besides, how many times has he used ‘mineraly’ to describe a taste? Lame.

Rick Stein? Again, sorry. His accent makes me positively cringe. And he talks too much. Too many words, softly spoken like he’s a doctor who really cares. So much so that it’s condescending. And I can only watch a few minutes before wanting to reach through the screen and throttle the bastard.

Gordon Ramsey? No thanks. I don’t need a huge helping of anger and attitude with my meal.

Two Greedy Italians? Too much useless prattle and not enough food.

What we really need is a food show that is clean and lean. Less on the theatrics and more on the food. I have a couple of proposals that would include using an intelligent but mostly benign narrator.

Like how about a food series taken from literature? Like meals prepared from the novels of Hemingway? Or Ian Fleming? Zola’s ‘The Belly of Paris’? Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’?

M.F.K. Fisher anyone?

Or do an entire series on restaurants that does one thing really really well.

Or a series of a dozen or twenty-four episodes on ‘last meals’? Chefs always wimp out here and beg off to childhood comfort food. Me? I could throwdown an easy dozen last meals that would put your taste buds in a twist. Give me another hour and I could write you a dozen more.

Or a comprehensive series on countries that have a food culture. Japan? France? Italy? Yeah, it’s kind of been done but never done right. I refer you all to the splendid ‘Time Life Foods of the World’ series of books (24 of them) that were published beginning back in the late ’60s. Those books were awesome. And before I gave most everything away a few years back I had managed to collect all the important ones.

Regardless, someone – and someone soon – needs to rethink the whole food show thing and deliver up something that less resembles entertainment and more resembles food.

 

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