Gusto is going to kill off the Food Network

I wrote some time ago about the declining quality of the Food Network (the Canadian version) and it has since continued to get worse. It is increasingly overrun with reality shows and the actually instructional cooking shows that you see are not just reruns, but often pre-high definition re-runs from a decade ago. I love Chef Michael Smith, but if you are going to show reruns of his show, do you have to show me the low budget standard definition reruns from 2007? They had a fantastic high definition, well produced version a couple of years ago but that wasn’t picked up and the channel seems strangely reluctant to even show the re-runs. The same goes for Roger Mooking’s show. I was starting to think that it was just me; that everybody with an interest in food would rather watch competitions where people try to make soup without pots rather than an old fashioned cooking shows where someone explained how to cook things. Then this new channel called Gusto appeared on my TV.

To be clear, I am in no way connected to Gusto or anyone involved with the channel. There have several shows which are completely uninteresting, such as one about British people buying or fixing up rural holiday homes or whatever. The Wine Show sounds like it should be great but isn’t at all. But the channel is actually making an effort to provide some shows that are of some practical use for the home cook. All of Jamie Oliver’s shows are on the station, as is Martha Stewart’s, and I think the only show I’ve seen on it that isn’t in high definition is Julia Child’s show. I love that they have thrown this black and white show from the 60s right in the middle of all these high definition shows.

I have a feeling that I am not alone among cooking enthusiasts in being sick of all these cooking reality shows and wanting some old fashioned cooking shows. People who watch reality cooking shows are more fans of reality shows than cooking, and there are much more interesting reality shows out there than what you will find on any cooking channel. The people who actually have a serious interest in cooking, who would be the most coveted audience for advertisers, are going to watch shows that are both entertaining and help them cook better. Someone who likes watching people sabotage each other in a kitchen may not have any interest in any of food related commercials during the show. In year or two I have a feeling that the Food Network will either disappear or start showing more new, practical cooking shows.

What Happened to the Food Network?

Am I the only one who has noticed a sharp deterioration at the Food Network in Canada? When I first subscribed to the show, there were all kinds of useful and enjoyable shows with chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Smith explaining how an average home cook can prepare a simple and tasty meal. Recently though,  the channel has been showing nothing but reality competition shows like Chopped, Chopped Canada, Cutthroat Kitchen, an endless succession of Guy Fierri shows, and something called ‘You gotta eat here”, which has the feel of paid programming dressed up as a TV show.

I generally dislike reality TV cooking shows. When I cook, I am generally not doing so with someone yelling at me or telling me I have to make a main course in 20 minutes using only green jello powder, veal, and mangos. I want someone to show me how to cook something that is delicious yet not overly complicated and perhaps provide a few helpful tips. For some reason, I appear to be in the minority. Most people who subscribe to cooking channels apparently just want to watch strangers compete to prepare meals under extremely stressful conditions. While I don’t get to watch the American version of the Food Network, it is obvious that the same obsession with reality completion shows exists south of the border.

For me, these shows represent the complete opposite of everything I enjoy about cooking. For me, cooking is something that is relaxing. I like experimenting, finding a way to use up some leftovers, and getting my young children to help out with the pouring and the stirring. Watching people frantically scamper around madly trying to throw together a meal with randomly selected ingredients make cooking look like a traumatic experience.

I would be fine with all of these reality shows if the Food Network still aired Chef Michael’s Kitchen. Chef Michael’s Kitchen was the best cooking show I have ever watched. Most people in the US and the UK have never heard of him, but his show had the practicality of Jamie Oliver but with a much more relaxed pace. His show is still listed on the Food Network’s show, but there hasn’t been a new episode since 2013. He does still appear occasionally as one of the celebrity judges on one of the reality shows.

I like to eat and I like to cook. The reason I watch cooking and food related shows is because I want to eat better and cook better. I would have thought that I would have been representative of the target market for a network totally focused on food, but it appears I am mistaken.