Sky Full of Bacon

International Michael Nagrant Day

Normally, no doubt at the cost of my advancement in the foodblogosphere, I try not to suck up to local fellow writers. (Someday I’ll find a WordPress template that actually shows the damn blogroll, I promise.) But today has been International Michael Nagrant Day and homage must be paid.

In the Sun-Times, he does a piece on Ming whoever, that chef guy with that TV show on PBS, which contains a perfect little precis of how and why FoodTV stopped being for people who can cook, and started being for people who can’t:

A 10-year veteran of food television and a former personality of the burgeoning Food Network, Tsai made his move to PBS because it allowed him more control over the end product.

“Back in the day, we [at Food Network] were all really boring. Emeril was horrible. Bobby [Flay], Sara [Moulton], we all admit this, we jumped on Emeril’s train,” Tsai says. “When ‘Emeril Live’ took off, it brought us to the next level. We could do whatever we wanted. I was making foie gras shumai, roasting whole duck and whole fish. But then, it [Food Network] became such a big business all based on Nielsen ratings and all on advertisers. Some of those advertisers don’t want to see the head of a duck or foie gras because of PETA activists. You started getting boxed in.

“There’s like two chefs left. No one cooks. It is opening cans of this or that … and it’s ‘yummy’ that. Look, that’s fine, their Nielsen ratings are high as hell, and that’s what middle America kind of wants. But that’s not for me…”

Nailed, it’s as simple as that. But the nail gun is set aside for a chainsaw in New City, as he rips into a ghastly-sounding Cajun chain import from Indianapolis, which I predict will come close to this year’s open/close record after this London restaurant reviewer-style evisceration. I hate that kind of thing when it’s routine, like it usually is in London, but when someone who’s normally thoughtful and fairly generous sees fit to get his Old Testament Prophet on, it’s always a worthy read.

(BTW, I saw the first on my own when I picked up a Sun-Times to ignore my kids with at Johnny’s Grill this morning, but I didn’t see the second until Helen linked to it and was similarly impressed at MJN’s righteousness.)

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