Dear Food Network,
I recently read on The Huffington Post that your 4Q 2010 ratings are down a bit. It seems that your female viewers, ages 25-54, tuned out by around 10%. That's pretty big news.
The Food Network is the giant of food programming, but lately, things have gotten a bit, oh, I don't know...stale. Or maybe monotonous. Or maybe, you've become so focused on "Celebrity Chefs" that you forgot about your audience. You see, these celeb chefs are fun to watch. And they all seem like they'd be fun to hang out with and maybe do some cooking and have a beer (or a lovely glass of wine if we're talking my darling Ina), but they seem to be all that's on nowadays. And it's just a lot of them. All. The. Time.
This isn't to say that there isn't excellent food programming out there (Bourdain on No Reservations on the Travel Channel or the big guy, Top Chef at Bravo), or that all of your shows suck (they don't), but you need to get back to the cooking. And maybe branch out a little.
Wouldn't it be cool if you got some real chefs to do a show again? I loved Sarah Moulton & Gale Gand. You need industry heavyweights, not just fluffy programming. Hey - I know it's food which by it's very nature is fluffy, but what about Michael Pollan, doing a show on local and sustainable food? Or Michael Ruhlman, who is sexy as hell and a damn good cook doing, well, I don't care. Just something smart and foodish.
What about working in sponsorships and cool tie-ins with real food mags, like Bon Appetit, or Fine Cooking? Your Food Network Magazine is a fun read, and I am a subscriber, but why not lend yourself a bit more credibility by going with a few industry leaders in the food movement, not just building your own products?
Instead of doing a food truck race, which just seemed silly, follow a truck around for a week and see what really goes into running a successful truck (I'm a fan of the Gogo Gogi truck here in Frederick - they sell tasty Korean BBQ and are just getting started), from the shopping, to the cooking, to menu development, to finding the right place to park. That could be cool.
You used to run a show called Recipe for Success about food businesses and how they made it (or not) in their business. It was just a half hour, but I'll tell you, I never missed an episode. I loved seeing food from the business side of things. Plus, everyone thinks food is such a sexy business to work in, when really, it's quite the opposite.
I know, I know...you've got scads of people critiquing your business, and your chefs, and your schedule. But I know that I used to love to watch the Food Network, and so did my students, but now? Not so much. It seems like it's dumbed down so much that it's not appealing to anyone who really is into food. And there are a lot of us.
One last thought, and this is the big one. The money shot if you will. My big idea. Your future cash cow...drum roll please...
Why on earth don't you have a cooking show for kids?
Seriously. This seems like such a misstep on your part. So, so many kids come though my doors every year, sold out after-school classes and cooking camps, and they want to cook. They love you. They work for your approval. They love to cook (and maybe someday be superstar chefs on their own) and yet you ignore them. And more importantly? You ignore their parents. Their moms. Those 25-54 year-old women who are slipping away from your grasp.
Maybe you need a kid's cooking show that doesn't dumb down and make stupid kid food. Or maybe a parent/child cooking show that shows parents how to loosen up in the kitchen and kids how to work the right way to make good, solid food on their own and to clean-up the mess (moms love that!). Maybe something that speaks directly to this audience in a fun, so not uptight way.
I'm here for you. Really, I am. Because I love these kids. And I know how to talk to them. And even if I'm not your cup of tea, for goodness sake, please stop ignoring this market. Talk to the kids and they'll talk to you. Win-win I say. Win-win.