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Four Niches the Food Network Is Missing

by Chris Harnick, posted Jun 2nd 2010 1:00PM
Bob Tuschman and Susie FogelsonThe Food Network and its bevy of stars have a lot of culinary bases covered, but they are missing many, especially some pretty trendy ones. Given the economy, the focus as of late is on budget cooking, but there are more than a few niches the Food Network and its new sister network, the Cooking Channel, are missing.

At a screening of 'The Next Food Network Star' (Sun., June 6 at 9PM ET), judges Susie Fogelson, senior vice president of marketing, creative services and brand strategy, and Bob Tuschman, senior vice president of programming and production and the newly announced general manager of Food Network, discussed many aspects of what makes a great food program.

Coming into the 'Next Food Network Star' competition, Tuschman said he and the producers do not have a show idea in mind. This season features many contestants from very different walks of life. There are chefs, lawyers and bloggers all vying for the top prize, their own Food Network series.

"I think we like the fact that we never know what the show is going to produce," Tuschman said. "So, what we're looking for is just somebody we think could be a breakout star."

Tuschman and Fogelson said they're not looking for a chef who specializes in a particular type of cooking or a travel type of program, they're always just looking for a person they can make into a brand.

However, one particular segment that has long been ignored on Food Network is that of a vegetarian/vegan. Tuschman said a vegetarian cooking show would work, but it has to be under the right circumstances.

"I think if we found a great, break-out personality, yeah [a vegetarian show would work], but our food shows are driven first and foremost by our talent," Tuschman said. "So when people go to the Food Network, you think of the talent you love on it, whether it's Bobby or Paula or Giada or Ina, whoever it is you love ... I think if we found a great personality, then sure."

So, all the Food Network needs is a great personality to launch a vegetarian show? Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your attention to 'Top Chef' season five finalist Carla Hall. Here's my pitch for a vegetarian show, as well as a few others that would fit into the Food Network line-up ...

Carla Hall'Everyday Vegetarian'
Host: Carla Hall (left)
Concept: Carla Hall, a finalist on season five of 'Top Chef,' proved she has the chops and vegetarian know-how to cater to herbivores. While not a vegetarian herself, she made it known during the show that vegetarians shouldn't be regulated to eating only side dishes. On this program, Hall, whose engaging personality and cooking with love philosophy won many over on 'Top Chef,' would make easy, accessible vegetarian dishes, including main courses, appetizers and a vegan desert every now and then. For some reason, many omnivores get very, very defensive when others reveal themselves to be vegetarians (I'm speaking from experience). This show would be a good way to sort of breakdown some of those barriers as well. Come on, just look at Hall's pecan and oat crusted tofu from 'Top Chef' season five, episode 10 and tell me it doesn't look great.

'Real Secrets of a Restaurant Chef'
Hosts: Various
Concept: Sorry, but Anne Burrell's ill-fitting clothing and attitude do not make me want to learn secrets from her. Instead, this show would feature rotating restaurant chefs providing little tips and tricks for everyday cooking. They'd also share some real secrets of how to cook signature dishes from their restaurants. This could be gold, especially if it boasted high-profile chefs like those on 'Top Chef Masters.'

'Foodie Finds'
Trio of bloggers
Concept: Sort of like Rachael Ray's '$40 a Day,' but younger and hipper. Take a gaggle of food bloggers (no more than three) and send them around the country to find the little-known cafe with awesome French fries or the best gelato ever. Then, Food Network could have a branded foodie blog, something very hip and attractive to the younger crowd. Make the bloggers vastly different, like Lolo of Vegan Yum Yum and Deb of Smitten Kitchen

Colin Beavan'Organic Adventures'
Hosts: Colin Beavan and Chef Al Rosas
Concept: Organic is hot right now. So is sustainability. In this show, Colin Beavan (right), of 'No Impact Man' fame, travels across the United States to sustainable farms and farmer markets, highlighting the organic regional products from fruits and vegetables to grains and meats. After each little farm adventure, Chef Al Rosas makes a meal out of the local products.

Tell us: What kind of food programs do you think Food Network and Cooking Channel are missing?

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Even though I enjoy the Cooking Chanel but somewhat less the Food network, most of the time the Cooking Chanel doesn't seem so contrived or as much showbiz. That was and is my big objection to the Food Network programming. The beginning of FNC wasn't so show biz and rushed with gimmicks such as were provided by Emiril Live as compared with what many may regard as bland Sarah. But with Sarah viewers could learn something. What can someone learn from the persona he projected? ON his 1/2 hour cooking show he did display knowledge and techniques, but FN execs decided show biz was more important. When are many of the TV cooks going to grow up and treat wine and liquor as an ingredient rather than something puritans railed against? Thank you for letting air my gripes as a retired chef.

July 06 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The people Food Network should get rid of
are the Neelys. They make my stomach turn every
time I see them, They have no class.

They look like they are having sex on TV. Tell them
to please turn it down.

June 08 2010 at 5:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need a gluten-free show! There are so many people out there with Celiac Disease and also the trend out there that gluten-free diets help children with Autism. This would be a very popular show!

June 07 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara C

I would like to see some of the very old cooking shows reaired, like Julia Childs, the Cajan etc...

June 07 2010 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd surely like to see the nutrition information (calories, fat grams, carbs, sodium, etc.), for one serving of the menus that are prepared on the food network & cooking channel. We need to be informed to make choices. I can usually figure it out after a lot of looking up in nutrition books, but would be a great service of these channels.

June 07 2010 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The food network needs a show that actually teaches people to cook starting from learning how to select good food at the market, teaching about new and different foods to eat, unique spices and ingredients instead of the same old tried and true stuff they always feature. Offer the viewer unique tips on how to cook in different ways. I am so sick of the stupid food challenges and the stupid "Chopped" show. It teaches me absolutely nothing and I could not care less about who wins some ridiculous cake challenge, or some chef who can pair mashmallows with artichokes. No home cook will ever do these things and it is not entertaining. I want to see actual experienced chefs cooking and teaching me how to cook, not just celebrity cooks doing the same old thing over and over again like Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, the annoying Neeleys, and just about every other celebrity cook on that channel.

June 07 2010 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd love to see a version of Vegetarian Times on FN or even Ani Phyo for a Raw show-she's definitely got the ego to launch a tv food show and her 'cook'book creations are awesome tasting and supper creative(this from a non-raw, non-vegan, non-vegetarian). Both VT and A.P. focus on local organic produce and sustainability. Leave the gluttony to Paula, the carcinogens to Bobby and the overexposure to Giada. Bring in someone who can get us viewers thinking about the tasty and satisfying possibilities of real food.

June 07 2010 at 4:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would love to see a show with Mexican food, but Mexican food as Americans enjoy it. Salsas, burritos, various tacos... with lots of appetizers and main courses.

June 07 2010 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If Food Network wants to use Guy Fieri so much, I think they should clean him up. I wouldn't want him touching anything I intend to eat.

June 07 2010 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The "foodie" show sounds like "Diners, Dives and Drive Ins". Already done.

June 07 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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