Gourmet Magazine, the 65-year-old monthly glossy devoted to all things epicurean, now has a TV show. The 10-episode series, "Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie," launched last week on public television stations around the country; locally, it rolls out this Saturday, Oct. 14, on PBS affiliate WETA (Channel 26) at 4 p.m.
An early look at the show's first three episodes has me in viewer limbo-land. According to an official press release, the idea behind the show is to "look at the world food first," which I guess is a way of saying it's a food-travel show. The debut episode travels to China, from remote villages where dumplings are made by hand, to the fancy kitchen of a big-city restaurant serving up pan-Asian plates. The photography is stunning; in fact, it's likely the first time I've seen food treated like a movie star -- and that's a good thing. If the idea behind the luscious photography is to get you hungry, it worked on this viewer.
However, in spite of the mouth-watering, romantic imagery, the show's attempt to be a silky smooth puree has a few chunks to pass through the food mill one more time. The show's opening sequence, which is a collage of images with a narrated voiceover is a wee too preachy or perhaps self-proclaiming for my palate: "We are called foodies and the food world is where we live" sounds more like a mantra and more like something you'd hear at a religious service.
When not on location, the camera travels to Gourmet's test kitchen, with editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl at the helm, bringing a how-to component to the show. Unfortunately, this is the show's weakest link. Reichl, who's an engaging writer and passionate, highly respected epicure, needs some help in the on-camera department. Although I appreciate the departure from the formula-winning kitchen sex kitten approach (a la Nigella Lawson, who's just launched a new show on Food Network) of other cooking shows, Reichl's trademark mussed hair is no longer charming and iconoclastic. It's in Reichl's face -- in the kitchen -- and it's not appetizing.
I tried in earnest to follow her lead for making stir-fried snow peas with preserved cabbage, but instructions were vague, even for someone with cooking background. Thankfully, all aired recipes are available on the show's Web site, in magazine-standard detail.
In the show's third episode, which focuses on the growing home cooking movement of Italy, Reichl makes the really salient and interesting point about the different flavors of parmigiano cheese, depending on its date, but fails to deliver what those differences are.
Washington viewers will see a familiar face in the second episode, which features Jose Andres, chef of Jaleo, Zaytinya, CafÃ© Atlantico and Minibar by Jose Andres, where the episode is filmed. A six-seater bar tucked inside CafÃ© Atlantico, Minibar offers a tasting menu of 30 bite-sized experimental courses. The show gives an inside look at Andre's approach -- how cotton candy-coated foie gras came to be or what "white wine on a plate" really means -- showing his chefs hard at work creating in his "lab." This episode is scheduled to air Saturday, Oct. 21.
Fans of Anthony Bourdain's shows "A Cook's Tour" and "No Reservations" may notice familiar camera stylings in "Diary," as both are the handiwork of Zero Point Zero Productions.
Will I keep watching? Probably. I'm curious to see how this ten-course meal comes together.
Got a favorite (or not) food/cooking show to share with the class? Or maybe you live outside of Washington and already have seen the first "Diary" episode...or Nigella's new show. Sound off in the comments area below.
Also: Check in with me at noon today for a live hour of kitchen klatsch.
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