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August 28, 2015

In the Anthony Bourdain vs. Sandra Lee battle, I side with Sandra Lee

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 14th 2009 7:03PM
Bourdain and LeeI could probably write something about politics, sex, healthcare, education, or religion and it wouldn't be as controversial as what I'm about to say: Anthony Bourdain is wrong and Sandra Lee is right.

If you haven't been keeping track of the things Bourdain has been saying about the Food Network host, here's a quick summary. Bourdain wrote some unkind things about Lee and her Semi-Homemade Show (and some other Food Network hosts) a couple of years ago. Among other things he called her "pure evil," a "hell spawn," and said "she must be stopped." Ouch. There's also this video of Bourdain at a food festival dumping on Lee, and now Bourdain has written on his blog about his recent brief encounter with Lee. at the premiere of Julie & Julia.

The thing is, Sandra Lee would be the first person to say she's not a chef on the level of Bourdain (though I wonder if he even does any real cooking these days, considering the TV shows he hosts and the books he writes). She's a cook who helps regular people make regular meals. One of the reasons why I like her so much is because I liked Peg Bracken, who had a similar way around the kitchen. Her 1960 book, The I Hate To Cook Book, showed housewives how they can use packaged foods and canned foods and frozen foods to make meals for their families, so how is that different from what Lee does?

People who dislike Lee dislike her because of things beyond the food she makes. Maybe they don't like the phrases she says over and over again or the tone of her voice. Maybe they don't like what she wears, which can range from sexy to cute (she often dresses to match the kitchen she has redone to match the theme of the show she's doing and the "tablescapes" she creates for each episode). Maybe they don't like her for some reason.

Me? I don't have a problem with any of it. But I wonder if people's dislike for Lee comes from other things, and they use the fact that she's using prepackaged foods and using a microwave and making meals quickly as a way to get in a dig at her when it's not really about the food at all. As a cook myself I can honestly say that I'm much more likely to make and eat something that Sandra Lee has had on her show than something that Bourdain makes or has eaten on No Reservations.

Lee has invited Bourdain over to her house so she can make him a comfort food meal. I don't know if that will ever happen, but I'm sure Bourdain will blog about it and we'll read all about it some day.

There's plenty of room for both Lee and Bourdain in the world of TV cooking. Should we even be comparing the two? They seem to be working in two different food realms, and I'm not quite sure what point Bourdain thinks he is making by dumping on Lee all the time. Bourdain is a funny guy and a good writer (he has an entertaining blog and his mystery novels are quite good too), but I think he's way off base here. What, people can't like a fine bottle of Cabernet and exotic food while at the same time like finding ways to make easy meals at home for their families?

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If you are "much more likely to eat something that Sandra Lee has had on her show than something that Bourdain makes or has eaten on No Reservations" then there is something seriously wrong with your head and palate.
Sandra Lee is by no means a cook or a chef. He meals consist of pre-packaged food thrown together and arranged on a nice plate and table. I mean, why cook a raw chicken when you can buy pre-cooked frozen chicken, thrown together with pre-cooked frozen pasta and sautéed with some store bought sauce? I mean, why go through the effort of a satisfying home cooked meal when you can take every short cut imaginable? You're only sacrificing taste and nutrition! But then again, Sandra doesn't really care about those things.
And another thing, her Kwanza Cake and Hanukkah Cake were absolute abominations! Her Kwanza cake couldn't have less to do with Kwanza. I mean, store bought Angel Food Cake iced with store bought icing, and then filled with a can of apple pie filling, topped with acorns and pop corn and Kwanza candles? Are you serious? I can't believe they even aired that. And if no one believes me, check it out on youtube. The Hanukkah Cake really takes the cake (pun intended)! Store bought Angel Food Cake, iced with store bought vanilla icing dyed blue, stuffed with marshmallows and topped with a T-A-C-K-Y home made Star of David. Yup, I don't know about you, but that cake almost screams Hanukkah were it not for the marshmallows that ARE NOT KOSHER!!
Bourdain has every right to criticize. He knows good food. Why don't they just re-name the show for what it is "Cooking for the lazy fat ass who doesn't want to learn to cook." Do that, and I'm sure all this debating would end.

October 27 2009 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

She can do that, because all the women sitting in front of the tube watching are lazy and want an easy way out to look good to a husband that is no wiser, except his meal is on the table when he arrives home. They must eat out on weekends to keep up the charade or dine on the leftovers from the week's doctoring up already prepared foods. Makes you wonder what else is fake; hair, makeup, nails, wonder bra, not just cooking. I feel for her duped husband.

October 13 2009 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sandra Lee is hardly a cook, she's a faux cook. She masquerades as a cook. Just add a little whip cream and top with fruit to a pound cake and call it homemade and you too can have a TV show if you're pretty and blonde.
Schwan's and Costco are probably her mainstay, it's already prepared and you can add a finishing touch to it and call it your own. Just another example of how blonde and pretty can get you by and no real talent, cooking or otherwise.

October 13 2009 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elise Giarimoustas

I like both Bourdain for his in your face no nonsense attitude travelogues but would like to see him cook too; and Lee for her everyday cooking for everyday people except for the fancy stuff.

October 13 2009 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara Welder

I just watched another memorable rerun of Bourdain's classic show on Sri Lanka.. remember.. the crows? I could see it ten more times. Why? Here is a master chef who is weaving a story about food, a country, the people, and all of the other nuances any viewer shoud appreciate. He works hard at capturing the history and the evolution of each dish. Each show is a total jewel. Um.. sorry, I have never heard of Sandra Lee.

October 12 2009 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna Cabrera

No, I don't care for Sandra Lee's recipes much either, but it beats the hell out of bologne sandwiches and Chefboyardee spegetti. She has good ratings and that's what counts. Can you do that? Evidently Bourdain couldn't.

October 12 2009 at 11:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love Anthony Bourdain. I admire him for his culinary talents, I find his shows to be very enjoyable, and I love his books. I like Sandra Lee, too. I don't search out her show, but I find it enjoyable when I happen across it. i like her even more now after having seen her story on Chefography.

However, there is no point in trying to compare these two. It's like trying to compare a romantic comedy and a thriller at the movies, or a biography and a mystery in book form -- yes, they are in the same format, but they are entirely different in tone, and if I am in the mood for one, the other may not satisfy.

I think that Sandra Lee's show must be a blessing for people working sixty hour workweeks, raising kids, and tending a home. They may love making a fine meal on Saturday nights, but for nights when there is just no time to run to the store and make a lovely meal before doing homework and getting the kids to bed, Semi-Homemade meals may be just the thing.

And besides, as another poster mentioned, Food Network is not Chef TV or the Gourmet Channel. They offer something for many different people in different circumstances.

September 11 2009 at 6:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"As a cook myself I can honestly say that I'm much more likely to make and eat something that Sandra Lee has had on her show than something that Bourdain makes or has eaten on No Reservations."

Glad I'm not dining at your house, Bob.

August 24 2009 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't like what she does. I don't like the "cute", I don't like the "tablescapes", I think it's a waste of effort to buy something pre-made just to disassemble it into something else, like when she turned pie into tarts. As mentioned in the first post, the Kwanzaa cake is legendarily bad.

However, I'll also cop to not liking her as a person. There's something about her I find extremely offputting. She comes across as pretentious to me, something that Peg Bracken (who I still greatly admire) never did. I tried her show a couple times, but she's now on my list of people I actively don't watch on FN.

I'm curious as to why you're so convinced that people dislike her for who she is, not what she does. As I said above, I dislike her for both. However, there are plenty of people who think what she does is a travesty, without any thought or consideration of her as a person. And no, they're not all nose in the air chefs either. (And neither is Anthony Bourdain, who spends a lot of time eating the "just plain food" of the cultures he visits.)

August 18 2009 at 5:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Patrick R

"People who dislike Lee dislike her because of things beyond the food she makes."

Um, no. Actually, I dislike her specifically because of the food she makes. I'm sure she's an average person in most other respects, but I'm not going to sit here and defend someone who thinks the first ingredient in macaroni and cheese is "1 package of macaroni and cheese mix" and calls it cooking.

August 17 2009 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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