Hungry Man Dobrow Finds Help for His 'Alfredo by Accident'

Media Reviews for Media People: Food Network's Website Food2

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I'm no foodie. As much as I enjoy packing my face airtight with vittles, whatever gourmand street cred I may have is compromised by my unfortunate habit of appending every restaurant order -- whether pasta, lutefisk or crème brûleé -- with "I'll have that fra diavolo." Nor am I of much use in the kitchen. If you need somebody to depress the toaster button in advance of Pop-Tart insertion, I'm your man. Otherwise, my presence in that particular chamber of the domestic universe can only end with severed fingertips splayed across the countertop.

Food2 is a just-launched site from the folks behind the Food Network that targets younger kitcheneers.
Food2 is a just-launched site from the folks behind the Food Network that targets younger kitcheneers.
Predictably, then, I've never watched the Food Network under my own volition. Mostly I park the clicker on Comedy Central and subsist on bread sandwiches. My physician has expressed mild concern.

Which isn't to say I don't admire the skill with which the Food Network has married sex appeal and saucepans. I'm also impressed by the net's star-making machinery, especially when I hear otherwise cerebral adults address the on-air personalities as if they're lifelong chums ("That's right, Batali, you treat those croutons like the insolent little bitches that they are!" "Oh man, Giada just whisked the living $#%& out of that yolk!").

At the same time, I wonder about the universality of the Food Network's appeal -- not so much the topic at hand, because we all gotta eat, but the way it unwittingly erects barriers for entry. Unless you have lots of time and cash, most of the recipes and shiny kitchen implements showcased on the Food Network are likely beyond your means. That's to say nothing of the expertise and patience required to cook along with the network's glib master chefs/pundits (foodcasters? casserologists?). I don't know how devout viewers keep up. Doing so would seem to require multiple TVs positioned in and around your so-classy granite-countered kitchen, not to mention the ability to simultaneously follow directions and flambé.

So I love the thinking behind the whimsically, imaginatively named Food2, a just-launched site from the folks behind the Food Network that targets younger kitcheneers. The envisioned audience makes up in resourcefulness what they lack in resources; they make do with whatever's in the pantry and they traffic in improvised concoctions like "lump o' veal" and "alfredo by accident." They have no use for your elaborate dinner-party schematics.

That's how it works in theory, anyway. The execution, however, is a bit off (in all fairness, that's to be expected from a weeks-old entity). Food2 shoots too low with its initial slate of offerings, serving up (pun viciously intended) a slate of dishes notable for their practicality. Put it this way: Even home-ec rejects could tame 85% of the featured recipes without spurring an e.coli panic. Mid-level enthusiasts -- the viewers most likely to flock to a site like this -- might be put off by the this-ain't-hard-dude 'tude.

Food2 also needs to sedate its on-air staff. I never thought I'd say this about any pursuit that doesn't involve cataloging grains of sand or Dick Cavett, but there's way, way, way too much personality here. The chefs/hosts, mostly muppety 20-somethings with an affinity for thrift-store duds and erratic facial hair, don't have a lot to say and they won't stop saying it. This becomes a real problem in "Kelsey & Spike Cook," in which you can practically hear off-camera minders feeding instructions to the two Food Network reality-show vets ("Scrunch your adorable little nose, Kelsey! Say something cocky and half-clever, Spike!").

Of the five series currently airing on Food2, only "The Amateur Gourmet" works for me, and that's because it acknowledges the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your omelet will emerge from the pan looking like a tennis ball. "Kitchen Conspirators" is saddled with a dopey premise (apparently Brooklyn has an underground food scene that curiously resembles a circa-1992 kitchen), while the "$12 Challenge" hosts and hostesses seem to have been hired strictly for their quirk.

Still, Food2 has real potential -- like a yet-to-be-shaped blob of ground beef, or a Tootsie Roll salad. There's already a lot to like here, starting with the clear, wide video player itself and continuing through the site's endearing hyperactivity on the social-media front (like "The Great Food Shoot-Out," which involves cameras rather than small munitions). And really: Sny media entity that blogs with carnivorous abandon about "the rise of the burger taco" is one behind which I can throw my unconditional support.

I think Food2 will find its bearings before too long, and I think it will eventually evolve into one of the few online entities that's equally useful and entertaining. But enough with the sassy hipsters and the generic hip-hop background music. You're better than that, Food2.

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