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The New Food “TV”

Homemade is the name of the game these days: for cooking, for content, and now for food television.

Everyone is spending more time at home than ever before – those of us who aspire to be half-decent in the kitchen, increasingly talented (or at least well-practiced) home cooks, and professional chefs alike. With the inability to go into studios to film new episodes with skilled crews coupled with a massive spike in consumption of digital programming online, the food personalities, viral sensations and chefs we know and love are now coming to us straight from their houses.

Fancy sets have been swapped out for home kitchens, as people around the world shelter in place. Multi-camera set ups are replaced with iPhones and the go-to ring light. And it turns out that an “authentic” view into homemade food may be just what viewers want. The footage is watched, liked and shared by hundreds of millions who tune into Instagram Live and YouTube, and increasingly makes its way onto network television.

Chefs began going live early in the pandemic, offering a service that the masses were in desperate search of when home and needing tips, guidance and inspiration to prepare meals. Chefs were home too, as restaurants shut down, food festivals were cancelled and studios closed.

Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray's kitchens have become the objects of envy, featured not only on their social media channels, but also their eponymous magazines and digital platforms. But it is their use of pantry staples, preparation of simple dishes, and attempts to spice up the monotony of daily meals at home that capture popular attention.

In New York, Christina Tosi of Milk Bar fame is relying on pantry staples as well. She’s now on her 67th day of “Bake Club,” an IGTV home-shot series in which she gives followers a few pictures of ingredients to gather the day before she reveals and bakes an adaptable mystery dish “alongside” them – and her now insta-famous dog Butter.

And beloved TV chefs are figuring out how to pivot as well, with much success.

Ina Garten has suggested inviting friends “over” for lunch on FaceTime as she cooks with pantry staples. She’s also taken to making cocktails as if others were going to join. "You need a big pitcher because I like to make a lot of cosmos. You never know who's going to stop by. Wait a minute, nobody is stopping by,” she says in one of her now-viral Instagram videos to 2.7 million followers, captioned with "It’s always cocktail hour in a crisis!” Food Network executives are in talks to make it TV-ready.

Michael Symon cooked dinner live on Food Network’s Facebook page at 5pm for 47 straight days of #SimonDinners. 30 million viewers have tuned in, an unexpected and unprecedented success that has now landed a spot in the cable lineup. Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out, the summer series self-shot in his own backyard, will premiere June 7th.

Giada at Home was a Food Network hit. The just-announced Giada at Home 2.0 will be another self-shot series set to debut June 28th with the Italian chef preparing classic, modern and family recipes alongside her daughter with virtual visits from extended family who were once frequent in-person guests.

Guy Fieri can’t hit the road to visit Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so restaurant owners and chefs from past seasons are now walking him through recipes step-by-step on video chat in new episodes of the long-running TV show. And Alton Brown has filmed over a dozen hour-long episodes of his YouTube series Quarantine Quitchen, more than he banks for an entire season of his Food Network favorite Good Eats.

Across the Atlantic, Jamie Oliver is two months into his daily show 'Keep Cooking and Carry On’ which airs on TV in the UK, Canada, Australia and YouTube. Fellow Brit Gordon Ramsay is taking on new challenges with his ‘Ramsay in 10’ series where he makes meals in 10 minutes flat. Massimo Bottura is live from Italy nightly, while his three Michelin-starred restaurant has been closed.

While many celebrities are cooking on their personal social media accounts, Amy Schumer has landed an actual television show every Monday night on Food Network, alongside her chef husband and baby with her nanny behind the camera, in which he teaches her how to cook.

Food Network is doing something right — because it has recorded its highest ratings ever. The untested, yet promising recipe seems to be a good mix of reruns, new shows it had stocked up but not yet aired, and at-home original content that gives the people what they want through a familiar television format and in shorter digital snippets.

The world is messy. Social, technology, and logistical challenges abound. But people are home and need to eat. And the chefs who typically have it all buttoned up with hair and makeup, complicated lighting set-ups and full crews are showing us refreshing glimpses into highly imperfect, yet thoroughly enjoyable homemade cooking, homemade production and homemade solutions…all of which look a lot like our lives right now. Written for and originally published on Chef Tyler Florence's Full piece here.


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