As this impromtu video suggests, Michael Symon, grows increasingly comfortable in front of a camera.  And he seems to love to do TV.  He’s filmed a series of webisodes for the Wisconsin Cheese board which are actually kind of interesting (in his first, he pairs Wisconsin parmesan with shrimp; I’m curious to see how well such cooking videos do on the web and what they’ll become in the future).  He’s a favorite at the Food Network. While his ratings as host of “Dinner: Impossible” edged by those of Robert Irvine, the network continues to have faith in the Cleveland Boy with a couple of new shows, “Food Feuds” and “Cook Like an Iron Chef,” in addition to “Iron Chef America” and judging on the latest “Next Iron Chef” competition.

As many of you who followed the original “The Next Iron Chef” three years ago know, I personally anointed Michael winner because he is a friend and a fellow Clevelander; I also helped him write his book, and we remain friends, so take the following as you will.

The Food Network has created a second channel—and I’m finding this very interesting. The Cooking Channel (NYTimes story here) is devoted more to how-to cooking than to travel and entertainment, and also is attempting to capture a younger audience with shows like “Food Jammers,” a truly bizarre concept that has absolutely zero appeal as far as I’m concerned, I being a 47-year-old jaded writer, old enough to be the uber-food-geek hosts’ dad.  But the one show I saw,  in which they stuff and roast a turkey, freeze it, slice it in cross sections, build a dehydrator for it, all in an effort to have a thanksgiving dinner while camping, would surely have appealed to my sixth grader son.  A guy named David Rocco, who lives in Italy, creates a dump-and-stir show, “La Dulce Vita,” that actually has a narrative line and characters.  It creaks a little under the weight of creating that narrative, but I admire it for trying to take the how-to cooking show in a new direction.

And Symon has his own dump-and-stir,  “Cook Like an Iron Chef.” In each episode, he works with a single ingredient, as he would on Iron Chef, and he has two assistants helping him prep and who trot up at the end of each dish, tongues a wagging, to taste and ohh and ahh.  I have no idea who these characters are, but I’d much rather see Powder, the Lola chef de cuisine (one of Cleveland’s best cooks in fact—can you say crispy bone marrow?) and other chefs we’ve seen on “Iron Chef America,” than these two blameless young cooks, but the show is finding its legs.

What is cool about “Cook Like An Iron Chef,” besides the very good production quality, the dark, industrial set (as opposed to a studio made into an improbable home kitchen), is the fact that Michael is very much himself on the show and his food and what makes it distinctive really comes through (making a vinaigrette for seared scallops, for instance).  Yes, he’s a little more hopped up and cheery than he is in person, as he’s no doubt directed to be when he’s filming for TV, but the food and the info is not dumbed down in any way that I could see, or in any way compromised.

Except for the fact that brass at Time Warner made me pay extra to subscribe to The Cooking Channel (perhaps as some sort of fuck-you to the Food Network after battles earlier this year over carriage fees), I’ve liked what I’ve seen and hope, given that it is experimental by nature, that the channel and the man in charge of programming there, Bruce Seidel, will take advantage of this and actually take some chances.  Hey Bruce, how about an opinion show, something that took a moral stance on cooking, the importance of teaching every single child at least the basics of feeding oneself decent food, and the importance of, not necessarily of how to roast a chicken, but rather the importance of knowing where that chicken comes from in our increasingly complex and confusing food world?  A show on the moral imperative of cooking, and how cooking keeps us not only healthy, but human.

I’m oddly encouraged—and honestly didn’t expect to be—by this new channel and will be tuning in for more.

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66 Wonderful responses to “The Cooking Channel”

  • Carol Blymire

    The best part of The Cooking Channel, for me, is the fact that they’re airing the original Galloping Gourmet series. And the very first Julia Child series. But mostly, Galloping Gourmet. Man, I loved that show when I was little. Love it even more now.

    • Christine Norris

      Same here, add to that the “Two Fat Ladies” reruns. I was disappointed to see some of the retreads from the food network. That Italian guy is way too boring, and though Chuck is cute, I’m not too impressed with his recipes and cooking style. Too bad they didn’t import some of the BBC cooking shows, or other imports like Big Chef taking on Little Chef. That one has all the excitement, back-stabbing, cooking finesse, and corporate insider doings, it had me from the beginning. It’s on the Green Channel, of all places, and it is compelling. I was really looking forward to some challenging stuff on the Cooking Channel, but maybe later on.

      • Rhonda

        Christine,

        I too loved the Two Fat ladies and I find it completely ironic that Clarissa, who introduced us to the “Bubble and Squeak” with two pounds of lard, is alive and her co-star, Jennifer died of a massive heart attack.

        I also agree that Heston Blumenthal’s Big Chef, Little Chef series was OUTSTANDING!!!!!

        I hope that series eventually gets aired in the U.S. It sure was educational for me.

    • Al W

      I’m a 53 year old man who loved watching “The Galloping Gourmet”. As a child, I learned the difference between a sip, slurp and gulp of wine. Important things to know growing up. His later healthier shows, while sincere and educational, were no where’s near as fun.

  • ruhlman

    yes, carol, thanks for pointing that out. very good move on their part! hook old farts like you and me.

  • Chris

    Besides cook like an iron chef, the other show on there I like to watch is Chucks day off. That La Dulce Vita show is just unwatchable. I hope they will add some new talent though and not just run re runs of the old shows like they have been doing. And not a plug for DIRECTV, but its free on there.

  • Mike Vrobel

    Darn it, darn it, darn it.

    I don’t want to pay extra for the channel. (I have Time Warner too.) But I keep watching the snippets from Cook Like an Iron Chef on the web, and I’m weakening…

  • Phil

    I think the channel is going through growing pains, but it’s definitely headed in the right direction. Just as MTV did with MTV2, a spin-off reservoir for stand-and-stir shows was inevitable. The minute MTV became more about personalities than actual music, the writing was on the wall. I have to wonder if Food Network felt the same way.

    Sucks that you have to pay extra for it, however. I’m not sure I would.

  • Frank

    I find it funny that you Americans get a new network that is showing a whole bunch of tired Canadian retreads years after we were first subjected to them. It’s a reversal – for years in Canada we have had to settle for seeing Food Network shows up here a year or two after you first got them.

      • Natalie Sztern

        Chuck certainly isn’t…his resto in Montreal is a favorite and the term ‘what a nice guy’ isn’t even close to what a truly nice guy he is. (yes we have the same tattoo artist and yes I have two but am not at liberty to say where) :))

        • Didier

          Nice guy or inexperienced chef/unstable cokehead with good television connections?

      • Syd

        Looks like they are carrying Laura Calder’s show, which alone is probably worth the subscription fee (maybe, not sure what they’re charging). If they decide to add Martin Picard’s show (recall him salting a side of moose with a shotgun) you’ll have the best of Canadian talent…

        • Ed

          I think Frank is referring to the fact that “Food Jammers” was a fixture on Food Network Canada for a few seasons not long ago, though it hasn’t been on for a couple of years (and I don’t think that new episodes have been make in about that long), and it looks like the episodes listed on the Cooking Channel site are all reruns…
          David Rocco has also been on up here for years.
          Maybe it’s just that the Canadian spinoff of Food Network has maintained more of a focus on cooking shows, and the mother network figured this was a good way to make use of its right to air them.

  • Jill

    I really really want to like The Cooking Channel, but they’ve been repeating the same 10 episodes of the shows they’ve chosen to air. I really like Canada’s Roger Mooking but they seem to have only two week’s worth of his show, Everyday Exotic, and have been showing them in rotation for the last few months.
    I do appreciate their programming for the most part, but after the first month of being on the air I seemed to burn through everything they had to offer and now I find myself almost giving up on them.

  • Tags

    Geez, d’ya think they’ll dig up “Crazy for Food” with John Mariani on USA Network in the mid 80s?

  • Michael

    What I miss from the new Cooking Channel is the presance of any ‘chefs’ aside from Symon. There are more than enough blindingling white smiles to go around. Everyone looks like they are in a fashion show, and act so enormously fake. I’ve watched bio’s of both Giada and Taylor for existance, and they were both noteworthy chefs at one point in time, but decided to take a path that lead them behind a camera. Good for them, I think that is great. The question is does every yahoo stiring a pot behind bright lights and camera deserve such respect?

  • Chris

    The reason Robert Irvine has done better in the ratings for Dinner: Impossible is simple, Symon is just too good at the challenges they give him. He handles everything with such deft and a smile on his face that it takes away from the drama of the show. Contrast that with Chef Irvine, who often struggles with time, budget, and his help.

  • tuabaxl

    The channel has a very fresh feel while still having great production quality. I am really digging some new faces – in particular, I love Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam show. Something that wouldn’t get a chance on Food Network but belongs on television!

  • kate

    Agreed, it’d be awesome if the cooking channel shed some light on modern, industrial “farms”, the unnatural processing of foods, and where our food is coming from. Can’t watch La Dolce Vita guy…way too cheesy

  • Gale Reeves

    I enjoy the Cooking Channel. (I’ve become a fan of Rachel Allen Bake, just to name one of the shows.) It offers an extended/international perspective to the Food Network programming.

  • Ben

    I like “Cook Like an Iron Chef.” Michael Symon seems down-to-Earth with a presentation that is right in my wheelhouse: not the gee-whiz, hammy, mugging type that is so abundant on Food Network. And the food he cooks looks great. I like the set, as well. I also appreciate the fact that The Cooking Channel shows “Molto Mario.”

    I’d also like to point out that the two most interesting food shows on TV aren’t on Food Network or The Cooking Channel: “Top Chef” is on Bravo and “No Reservations” is on The Travel Channel.

  • Dot

    I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised at all the new shows. My favorite is Luke’s Vietnam and Unique Eats. I found “Chinese Food Made Easy” by Ching-He Huang at Barnes and Noble for $9.99 since the cookbook was created in 2007 on Clearance!

  • barbara

    I think they have a group of shows with chefs from other cultures that adds a great dimension to what you can find on food tv, vietnamesse, indian, carribean etc… its a great addition for a home chef like me

  • elizabeth

    Michael Symon was far too good for Dinner Impossible and I really like him on How to Cook Like an Iron Chef. Maybe he’s a little more amped up than he is in person, but unlike many of the hosts on the FN who are told to “add personality” and giggle and say silly phrases, his presence still feels very genuine and artless. He tells you what he’s doing without needless babbling, he looks like he’s having fun while doing it and his recipes are interesting–and that’s all I need from a good cooking show.

  • Dine O Mite

    I think it sucks that I have to pay extra for it, but all it really takes is one smash hit to send this channel into respectability. (I don’t think they have that show yet.) I’m not even sure what the demographic of the Cooking Channel IS. Who are they programming for? That might be there biggest limitation.

  • JoP in Omaha

    I really like Symon’s Cook Like an Iron Chef. I love to watch him cook and talk about food. I love to hear him laugh. I’m pretty much just in love with MS. I’m glad we’ll see more of him on FN.

  • Kelly

    I agree about the two sous chefs. The show is getting better and I will continue to watch because I am a big MS fan, but I would love to see him cook with fellow chefs. He is best when he is truly interacting with others.

  • Wilma de Soto

    • Time Warner should not charge extra for this channel. Comcast just added it to the line-up. Unfair.

    • By the clip you’ve shown us Michael Symon sounds like he’s been spending a lot of time in the ‘hood and/or in South Philly!

    • TWC NC Customer

      I think that it’s only up there in Ohio that TWC is charging extra for the Cooking Channel. Here in the Carolinas it’s part of TWC’s regular digital lineup.

  • Janet in Maine

    I am enjoying the new channel very much. I agree about the repeats already. I wouldn’t expect repeats so soon after the start up. Apparently I watch A LOT of tv. I like watching cooking shows for the information, not for the personalities.
    My only complaint though with the network is that the music in the background (actually too much in the foreground) on a few of the shows is too loud and irritating when I am actually trying to listen to the host and learn.

  • Brian

    You’re never going to see that opinion show that you want. Op-ed, as a journalistic form, is inherently tied to the time and place that it’s talking about. The entire focus and strategy of FN (and, by extension, the Cooking Channel) is to create reusable media, so they can take anything they make, and dig it out of the archives to reuse it whenever, at no cost.

  • Natalie Sztern

    This has to be a first..(and Daily Candy knows what I mean)

    Those shows you mention: Food Jammers and La Dulce Vita are Canadian based shows that emanate out of Toronto. You are right on point with the Food Jammers and David is not a trained cook but a lover of food and the show highlights his living in Italy only in the second year of filming. BTW each of these shows are years old because that is how we do it here: make a show and air it for five years. I know, I was one who filmed a Reality show which still airs and I don’t even look like that any more.

    So the odd thing about my post is that The Food Channel as of my writing this is not even a channel that for now, we will not be getting in Canada.

  • Natalie Sztern

    oops and I forgot there is another show airing in your side of the woods called French Food At Home who is hosted, in my opinion, by the most
    boring ‘no-personality’ woman on the Canadian Food Network so when I heard The Food Channel bought her show I thought ‘wow she must have one hell of a good agent”.

    Michael Symon doesn’t even come close to the level of these shows and I bet the first year in they get cancelled. Just saying…(but then I always am…)

    • Rhonda

      Wow, Natalie, that is a bit harsh on Chef Symon, no? Or, did I misunderstand your comment (it has been known to happen :)? Your comment read that Chef Symon wasn’t as good as the other folks. Did I mis-read?

      As a fellow Canadian, I can vouch that we make shows on the cheap and air them over and over and over ad nauseam.

      Some are great, like the “At The Table With” series.

      We do, as Canadians, make good shows, just not enough of them.

      I really like Laura Calder. In fact, hers is one of the few shows I do watch. She does have technique and speaking as a woman in her mid forties, enviable photogenic ta-ta’s.

      Yes, the show glazes over 4 or 5 steps needed between you and the success of your dish but it is a 22 minute entertainment program. Not a CIA Boot Camp.

      She has not committed any crime that the others have not.

      Plus, I think she has “chops”.

      Best,

      Rhonda

  • Stephanie Hancock

    I’m happy to see cooking shows that teach you how to cook again. I learned my love of cooking not just at my mother’s knee, but also from watching great shows on PBS. I grew up with The Frugal Gourmet, Justin WIlson and some woman who baked a lot who’s name is lost to me now. That show also did segments on how the food was produced. I learned the difference between flours and sugars during those segments. These shows made me want to stretch beyond the way my mother cooked (not that it wasn’t good – but there was just more out there).

  • Bradley

    You all should hopefully get Uverse sometime soon, they don’t charge extra for this, there’s only a few tv levels and it’s far cheaper than TW or CCast. Not an employee or anything, but a very impressed consumer. But I agree with Foodjammers, I first thought it might be interesting, but why reinvent the wheel instead of make something better? Why don’t they try to use their ingenuity on improving what we already use? They should have a Ratio show!!!

  • Susan

    Well, for those who are experienced cooks and foodies, the new and more advanced cooking shows are going to be of interest. Those
    who are new to food prep or have only recently begun to get some interest in it, the Food Network, with it’s hyped up personalities and contrived enthusiasm, provide some of the motivation that gets many interested in getting in the kitchen. Anything is better than choosing the pre-prepared, too stupid to cook, stuff that Michael and many others take issue with. At least there is something for everyone, at any stage of their interest and skill level, to help them prepare healthier meals…and isn’t that the point?

  • Christie

    I, like Jill, love Roger Mooking. He’s a fantastic teacher. Michael Symon’s “Cook like an Iron Chef” is coming around. I am not getting the two assistants. I liked Molto Mario’s format with friends. Off topic, but I wonder how Bourdain likes Rachael Ray’s $40 A Day added to the Travel Channel’s lineup – lol.

  • Lisa

    I’m also enjoying Chef Symon’s new show. I love his philosophy to teach viewers techniques rather than recipes. Also love the set for the show.

    And a second kudos for DirectTV having the Cooking Channel :)

  • Earl Schiffke

    What’s the deal with Symon’s nasally intoned voice ? Does he suffer from Northern Great Lakes Vowel Displacement Syndrome ?

  • Jeanne

    Thank you for your transparency in reminding us of your personal and professional connections to the subject of your writing! I really appreciate it when writers do that. Thanks!

  • Jamie Barger

    I think the best thing about the Cooking Channel (there’s free preview this month for DISH Network customers) is the re-running of the original “French Chef” series. That, along with Symon’s show, might get me to pay up for the next tier of service…

  • EDCinci

    We have Time Warner in Cinci. Cooking Channel is no additional charge if you have an expanded tier (the one with Bloomberg, CNBC Worldwide). But any additional Time Warner charge is irritating given their self-back slapping ads about controlling costs/charges. EES

  • averagebetty

    Like others have commented, Roger Mooking is certainly one to watch. I got to talk with him briefly at Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine. He’s so personable and approachable. And he loves eating soup on a hot day. My kinda guy…

  • Mantonat

    I’ve been watching a fair amount of the new channel, but unfortunately have not caught Symon’s new shows. I’ll have to set the DVR. A couple of random observations:
    – Canadian accents come off horribly on TV, especially those Food Jammer guys. (Disclaimer: my entire family is Canadian).
    – I wish Roger Mooking’s show was called Cooking with Mooking, but I guess that doesn’t quite rhyme. I love his built-in spice rack with the glass-block drawers and plan to build one in my own kitchen. Need them to be airtight though.
    – Too many re-runs of stuff from their other channel. If you have to put that much filler in, maybe you should reconsider have two separate channels. Why not just show a little editorial ballsiness and cut some of the tired old crap to make room for the new shows.
    – My favorite recent food show, by far, is actually on another network: Future Food, featuring Homaru Cantu and the staff of Moto in Chicago. These guys are truly passionate, entertaining, and telegenic. The shows were very well paced with great guest features and tie-ins to the Chicago community. I hope they do more; only a handful of episodes right now.

  • Jeff from Cleveland Hts

    I enjoy Michael Symon’s show but I HATE when he says you can find the recipes at some web address. So crass. They need a narrator or title card or anyone OTHER than Symon saying the web address. /rant

  • john v phipps

    Michael, I am a Cleveland expat that has lived in Seattle since the 70′s, and in the upper left hand corner of the map we get the Cooking Channel in our Basic cable package.

    You can come over to my house and watch it any time you want. The key is in the fake rock at the bottom of the porch steps.

  • SWoody

    At our favorite gastropub here in Rehoboth Beach, the Pickled Pig (http://www.pickledpigpub.com/home), two of the widescreen tvs are always tuned to the Cooking Channel, particularly the super-large screen above the open kitchen’s window. Chef Stigz used to have them tuned to Food TV, but prefers the Cooking Channel’s emphasis on cooking, rather than cooking competitions. (ESPN and news are on the other screens).

    I suppose Cooking Channel is still finding it’s legs. Symon has found a good home. Good show.

  • Jeff White

    It seems as if the Cooking Channel is just Food Network Canada. David Rocco’s show, and the silly Food Jammers have been staples of the Food Network up here for years. Also looks like French Food at Home and a few other Canuck shows as well. Classic Julia and such would be great though. I already get that on my WGBH feed though. PBS is where it seems to be at now.

  • Rhonda

    I don’t know what to think about this.

    The dump and stir shows will teach you no more about technique in cooking food than watching “Breaking Bad” will teach you about how to cook meth.

    Yes, I am curious. A cook is a cook and have you seen what Chefs get paid?

    Tony, what are your thoughts on this (because you must have READ about it somewhere)?

    I am happy for Michael Symon. I will support him in anything he does. Partly because he is a great Chef, partly because I completely stole his soup recipe and charged WAY more money for it than he does (Ruhlman gave it to me).

    In any event, I WANT TO SEE POWDER and a demonstration on how to remove marrow from the bone (he did post on this but I need more).

  • Rhonda

    I have been wanting to say this for some time:

    Ruhlman is the new Julia Child.

    Let’s face it. The technique is there, the teaching is there, the experience is there. The critics are there (not only food bloggers but Chef/Teachers like Pardus & DelGrosso)

    And Ruhlman may possibly have the same hairstylist as Julia Child. That can’t hurt.

  • HankShaw

    Dude, I don’t care what else is on the Cooking Channel, so long as they keep airing the Two Fat Ladies (Saturday nights. Yeah, I know. I am a food nerd.) Love me them fat ladies!

  • JW

    Anyone know where you can find old episodes of “Off the Menu” previously airing on the defunct Turner South? That was a terrific show featuring Frank Stitt from Highlands Bar and Grill, Tori McPhail from Commander’s Palace, Bob Wagoneer from the Charleston Grill, and Wally Joe ? from Memphis. They show was terrific as they would create daily specials after a foraging adventure. Recall one hilarious episode where a sous chef from Commander’s was sent to capture some crawfish with some bayou locals…miss that show. The cooking part was very similar to “Great Chefs”. They could bring that one back as well :)

  • Tags

    If you Google “Riddler” and “Robin Williams”, you’ll get over 31,000 hits, ranging from “Robin Williams Wants to be the Riddler” to “Robin Williams Denies He Wants to be the Riddler” to “Robin Williams Would Kill for the Riddler Part in the Next Batman Movie.”

    He just better hope Michael Symon doesn’t want the role, because nobody is better suited to it, not even the artist formerly known as Mork.

  • Bill

    Since you brought up Food Network/Cooking Channel, is it true, as Bourdain says, that you’ve been banned from Food Network (in part caused by him)? Can you say why?

  • ruhlman

    They were pissed about the golden clog awards tony initiated, but they’ve since invited me back to judge a few iron chef americas. suffice it to say though, it’s unlikely I’ll be hosting any dump-and-stirs of my own. (which is probably a good thing for all concerned.)

  • LisaCD

    Is Food Network even showing Good Eats? That was the last (along w/ Ina Garten) show that I even bothered to flip by to watch.

    I really hate the trend in 2nd channel to show the retreads. How long before the Weather Channel starts a second to show just the forecast? ugh..

  • Cathie McGinnis

    I want to know where to get the t-shirt Michael Symon wears that says Eat More Meat! Anyone?