Celebrity food porn, NBC style

A food safety type from the U.S. writes that the average viewer of these celebrity chefs are ignorant of safe food handling practices. They are blinded because of the celebrity status of these chefs.

 celebrity.chefsThis past Thanksgiving, I tuned into “Today” and watched celebrity chef Giada prepare ready to eat foods with her bare hands. But worse than that is that she had a bandaid on her finger. At the very least she could have used a finger cot. I emailed the “Food Network three times with no response.

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How to make perfectly dangerous burger patties

The Food Network, home of dysfunctional food safety procedures – but at least they don’t claim they’re science-based – has a number of tips for hamburger patties that profiles food porn over safety:

• for square sliders, “cook the patties until a crust forms, about 2 minutes per BMA98tjCMAEfqwFside, topping with cheese after flipping, if desired;”

• for cheese stuffed burgers, “preheat a grill to medium high and oil the grates and season the patties with salt and pepper and grill 5 to 6 minutes per side;

• for thin burgers, cook the patties in a skillet until a crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side; continue cooking until browned, 1 more minute per side, topping with cheese during the last minute, if desired; and,

• for half-pound bistro burgers, divide 2 pounds ground beef chuck into 4 pieces and grill burgers, covered, about 6 minutes per side.

Use a thermometer and stick it in. Will account for all the variations in cooking devices, and make you a better cook.

And you may not make anyone sick.


Colbert battles to boost plunging Food Network ratings with recall

Last week, Stephen Colbert announced a recall of his fictional cookbook, "I Eat America (And So Can You!)" due to a production error beyond his control (right).

Apparently drawing on outbreaks of salmonella and campylobacter involving raw, frozen, breaded chicken thingies, Colbert said his recipe for Chicken Col-Don Bleu may actually need to be cooked.

He might as well be on the Food Network, what with it’s terrible food safety, is finally reaching the outer limits of food porn – ratings are going down.

Food Network and sister network HGTVScripps Networks’ two biggest money-makers — are seeing troubling signs that their core female fans are starting to look elsewhere for entertaining fare. After years of growth, both networks experienced their first major ratings falloff at the end of last year.

In the fourth quarter, Food Network, which helped launch the careers of celebrity chefs Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray, posted a 10.3 percent drop among viewers ages 25 to 54, considered a key category for advertisers.

Most troubling, primetime ratings for women — the primary audience for both channels — were down in December. Food Network ratings among women ages 18 to 49, and 25 to 54, fell 9 percent last month.

Part of the challenge for the food-focused channel is shifting tastes, with viewers going for edgier culinary "reality" competition shows.

I suggest a reality food safety show where the barfing and crapping and sometimes life-long gifts of foodborne illness are displayed in their glory. Would probably work on youtube.

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Restaurant Don’ts

Raw chicken is probably the first thing that most people think of when thinking of foodborne illness. You would think chefs would know to use a thermometer to prevent undercooked chicken from ending up on the table.

However, tonight I witnessed a chef on 24 Hour Restaurant Battle (on the Food Network) serve some raw chicken to his diners. Not just to any person at that, but Marcus Samuelsson and Scott Conant, who were judges on the show. At least they got it right, immediately recognizing the risks and spitting it out.

Every person in the vicinity turned around when Samuelsson pointed out: “That is dangerous; that is not undercooked, it’s raw.”

If your restaurant makes people barf, it’s not going to fare so well. Mr. Blumenthal learned that the hard way last year when his restaurant was shut down due to norovirus.
The chef on the show also learned the hard way; the raw chicken cost him the $10, 000 prize.

What would Brian Boitano do? What would Brian Boitano make?

In another triumph for food porn, uniting the world of figure skating with home cooking, 1998 Olympic gold medalist and South Park enthusiast, Brian Boitano has his own cooking show.

Boitano, now 45, has turned into a hard-core foodie.  … You’d certainly be hard-pressed to find another TV chef with his own "South Park" song. "What Would Brian Boitano Do?," a highlight of the 1999 animated movie, not only serves as the opening theme for Boitano’s new show but provided the obvious inspiration for its title. In each episode, Boitano hosts a get-together at his home, creating a custom menu for his guests, who range from his single-and-ready-to-mingle friend and 20 bachelorettes to a bacon-loving all-girl roller derby. His take on mostly rustic home cooking is inventive, yet straightforward enough not to intimidate the casual cook. But the show’s biggest revelation is Boitano himself. Known for his laser-like focus on the ice, he reveals an irreverent side in "What Would Brian Boitano Make?"

Terence and Philip are Canadian, eh.

Publishing papers by press release is a bad idea

Last week, researchers at Texas Tech gushed in a press release about the food safety errors on cooking shows broadcast by the Food Network.

“Researchers analyzed 49 shows airing over a two-week period and used 17 different coded categories: six positive and 11 negative. Positive categories included hand washing, cleaning equipment, washing fruits and vegetables, adequate refrigeration, and use of a thermometer. …

“The results weren’t exactly savory with 118 positive food safety measures and 460 poor food handling incidents. Among the most noticeable culprits were not washing fruits, vegetables and herbs properly and a lack of hand washing in general.”

I have an interest in such work. In 2004, my laboratory reported that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods. The abstract is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/en/article-details.php?a=3&c=14&sc=102&id=842.

(Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.)

So I e-mailed one of the researchers and asked, hey, has this been published in a journal anywhere?

She didn’t answer my e-mail.

But Lubbock Online did, in a story today, which concluded the Tech study has yet to be published but is under review for publication in the academic food safety journal "Food Protection Trends."

That’s great. The more research on these areas the better. Sometimes there is a need to issue a press release about research as it is on-going, but in this case, why not wait until the journal article is published. Then us mere mortals can actually get the paper and review it for ourselves.

Food Network food safety sucks

amateurchef123 writes,

"the food network has a responsibility to it’s (sic) viewers to present cooking that will not predispose them to 3 days of violent vomiting, fever, and possible neurological damage.

"I’m speaking, of course, about Ms. (Rachel) Ray’s complete refusal to adhere to national guidelines regarding the consumption of raw eggs and seafood.  To be fair, Emeril "Beer Belly" Lagasse, as well as Mario "Anyeurism" Batali also ignore these warnings, and regularly use raw eggs in many of their concoctions.  But these two individuals, obese and stinky as they may be, can actually cook, whereas Rachael Ray cannot."

The post goes on in a similar vein. I agree. Food safety (of the microbiological kind) usually loses to food porn on the Food Network.