Jason Specland: Consultant, Comedian

Making it up as I go along. Always.

When the People (and Food Celebrities) You Love Fight

Anyone who knows me knows that Alton Brown of the Food Network show “Good Eats” is one of my all-time heroes. He’s the man who helped me to understand that cooking is not magic but applied science. He built in me a foundation of curious inquiry into the nature of food and cooking that lives in me to this day. My best, most used, most loved cookbook is my autographed copy of his “I’m Just Here for the Food.”

Adam Richman, of the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” is… well, not quite a hero, but someone I admire a great deal. He’s not scientific like Alton Brown, but he’s passionate about food and immensely knowledgable and likable. On his show, he goes around the country tackling various eating challenges. You know, like “If you can eat this 72 oz. steak in one hour, you get it for free,” or “If you can eat these insanely spicy hot wings, you get a novelty t-shirt and your name on our ‘Wall of Flame’.”

Unfortunately, these two food personalities I love so much seem to have gotten into something of a feud.

Alton Brown proclaimed that he is disgusted by the entire concept of “Man vs. Food.” In an interview on Zap2it he proclaimed, “That show is about gluttony, and gluttony is wrong. It’s wasteful. Think about people that are starving to death and think about that show. I think it’s an embarrassment.”

Adam Richman responded like a hurt child. I don’t mean any disrespect in that. Adam’s almost exactly my age, so like me, he grew up watching “Good Eats” for the last decade or so. If he idolized Brown anything like I did, the criticism must have felt like sucker punch square in the gut. He replied, “Alton Brown: MvF is about indulgence – NOT gluttony – & has brought loads of biz to Mom-n-Pop places. You were my hero, sir. No more.” And then, “My previous Tweet is not to start some foolish Twitter feud. Merely my hurt response to insults hurled my way from the man who inspired me.”

Truth is, guys, you’re both right and wrong.

Mr. Brown, I think you’re awfully quick to disrespect one of the few truly original shows in the genre. Gluttony (or self-abuse by way of capsaicin) aside, he really does shower some well-deserved national attention on some really awesome Mom & Pop places — the very same kinds of places you highlighted in “Feasting on Asphalt.” If having to submit himself to these challenges gets him a much bigger spotlight to shine than other shows with a more traditional format, so be it.

I also really resent the entire, “People are starving” bit. That argument can be extended to a whole lot of things. How can “Iron Chef America” go through twenty pounds of Kobe Beef in an hour when people are starving? How can “Good Eats” discuss something as frivolous as how the structural proteins in egg whites hold up an angel food cake when people are starving? How dare we dedicate an entire television network (or two!) to food when PEOPLEARESTARVING!?

You also need to remember that you’re pretty much a frickin’ superhero to foodies my age. Seriously, if Alton Brown came out and condemned something that I was doing, it’d be like getting slapped in the face by Superman.

Mr. Richman, I love you and your show, but seriously. It’s totally about gluttony (and self-abuse by way of capsaicin). There was recently an news item on how punishment gluttons are flooding Brick Lane Curry House, trying to do the Phaal challenge and turning the place into a frat house every time that episode is aired. You’re not only encouraging gluttony (and self-abuse, etc.), but each place you visit experiences a wave of jerkery in your wake from foodies who are, shall we say, not quite as thoughtful or articulate as you.

Can’t we all get along? Surely a couple of smart, passionate foodies can find plenty to like about one another. Let’s see if we can find common ground. I’ll start. We all love Andrew Zimmern. (Who, by the way, is following me on Twitter now. Which is not such a big deal as he follows about 12,000 people, but cool nonetheless.)

Source: New York Daily News

3 Comments

  1. Jason, thanks for this smart and thoughtful article. You took the capsaiciny words out of my mouth.

  2. Very insightful, my love. You are a peacemaker.

  3. Hey! I’ve always thought that Man vs. Food *and* Iron Chef America were pretty bad on the “people are starving” meter. Of course, I watch ICA anyway.

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