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Celebrity Chefs of the Food Network

Aug 17, 2007
It's hard to imagine how televised cuisine exposition got by in the days before the Food Network. Founded in 1993 and owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, the Food Network is a round-the-clock American cable TV channel devoted to food: mostly cooking it, and eating it. In its first ten years, it has single-handedly given rise to a new class of television personality, known as the 'celebrity chef'.

Habits of highly effective celebrity chefs:
They give details about ingredients, and emphasize simplicity and utilize the natural flavor of ingredients. They give you useful cooking tips and explain why and how they do things. Some chefs tell you the recipe and give you a cooking formula. To many, knowing why you are doing something is just as important so that you can make up your own recipes.

They have their own style. Chefs who don't have any particular cooking style or add their own individual mark to a dish don't last long. Great celebrity chefs add some piece of themselves to a dish that marks it as their own unique creation, whether that is a particular cooking style, a form of presentation or combination of ingredients.

They add subtle variations to traditional recipes. In some ways this could be classed as one step before fusion cooking, or the mixing of different regional ingredients. Great chefs can modify what we are used to to add some new life and different flavors. This often means lighter, fresher variants of the dishes we already know..

Last, the great celebrity chefs show passion.

The top four chefs and their shows

The celebrity chefs that rise above the pack typically go on to establish commercial empires featuring their own line of cookware, cookbooks, utensils, and even produce or aprons. Many of the top chefs have several TV shows which have spun off from their first show.

Emeril Live
Hosted by Emeril Lagasse, Emeril Live features many of the same elements as Emeril's other show, 'Essence of Emeril'. The show is traditionally taped in front of a lucky live audience in New York whom Emeril will sometimes allow to taste the food he prepares. Emeril Live began production in 1997, and in the same year it won a Cable ACE Award for "Best Informational Show".

The show features a wide variety of cuisine from Cajun to stir-fry and often features well-known chefs appearing as guests. Celebrities that have appeared on the show include Charlie Daniels, Michael McDonald, Joe Perry, Sammy Hagar, Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Buffett. Without Emeril, we wouldn't have catch phrases such as "Pork fat rules," "Kick it up a notch," and possibly the most well known phrase "Bam!", which he uses when adding seasoning to the food he's preparing.

So great is Emeril's fame that you can hardly venture into a grocery store without seeing his face on a few labels of the products.

30 Minute Meals
A Food Network show hosted by Rachael Ray, who debuted on Food Network in the fall of 2001. At the beginning of each episode, the unfailingly perky Ray opens with the greeting: "I'm Rachael Ray, and I make thirty minute meals. Now what that means is, in the time it takes you to watch this program, I'll have made a delicious and healthy meal from start to finish."

The series usually lives up to that promise, as Ray pulls ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry, even doing her own prep work, and gets them on the stove and eventually onto plates in under her 30 minute time limit. The series focuses on preparing fast, healthy foods at home while minimizing labor spent in the kitchen. Ray will usually prepare a salad or use various greens and vegetables to complement her dishes.

One of Ray's trademarks is her tendency to reinvent the classic dishes. To date, she has shown her own versions of clam chowder, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, chicken a la king, and various other comfort foods and traditionally slow-cooked recipes. She often includes tips and tricks to speed the cooking process.

Barefoot Contessa
Hosted by Ina Garten, who premiered on November 30, 2002. Each episode features Garten assembling dishes of various complexity, and she often will give the viewer tips on decorating on the side. The show is set in Ina Garten's home in East Hampton.

The show follows a similar format to other lifestyle cooking shows found on the Food Network; it caters to people looking to easily entertain while enriching their palates with little expertise required. A typical episode would have Garten preparing a multi-course meal for friends, colleagues, small parties and, often, just for her husband Jeffrey. Her recipes often include fresh herbs, which she hand-harvests from her backyard garden.

Paula's Home Cooking
A recently arrived show hosted by Paula Deen. Deen's primary culinary focus is Southern cuisine and familiar comfort food that is popular with Americans, with classic dishes such as pot roast, fried okra, and pecan pie. Overly complicated or eccentric recipes are usually eschewed. Dishes that are flavorful and familiar are spotlighted, with a focus on rich cuisine without much concern for calories. Deen also shows off vignettes from her hometown of Savannah, Georgia.

Deen is a personable and amusing host, and combined with the set's comfortable furnishings, she has helped make the show immensely popular, even leading her to a small role in the feature film 'Elizabethtown'.

Despite its seemingly Southern atmosphere, Paula's Home Cooking was taped in upstate New York until 2006; only recently will her new shows be taped at Deen's new home near Savannah. Deen often has her sons, Jamie and Bobby, as guests on the show. Deen's husband, Michael Groover, also appears sporadically as a guest, and Food Network taped the Deen-Groover wedding in 2004 as a special edition of the show.
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Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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