Food programming has come a long way since Julia Child introduced the country to coq au vin in the ’60s. It’s not even the same game that Rachael Ray entered when “30 Minute Meals” hit Food Network in 2001. And now that almost every outlet, from Bravo to Fox to IFC, boasts some type of food show, Food Network decided we could handle more — a lot more. When its new spinoff, the Cooking Channel, debuts May 31, there will be an additional 24 hours of food shows on the daily menu.
“We think that there’s a new generation of passionate food lovers,” says Michael Smith, general manager of the Cooking Channel. “There’s a new group of younger people, and while Food Network’s a lot of fun, this is going to be more about the food.”
With a mix of instructional, travel, and ethnic-focused food shows, the Cooking Channel is letting its parent company handle competition and entertainment-driven shows while it gets back to the basics. But even so, Smith doesn’t see it as a return to more traditional formats. “We’ve tried to make entertainment out of cooking, not just teach people. Look at Discovery Channel — they used to do shows about fishes in the sea, but now they do shows like ‘The Deadliest Catch,’” he reasons of the evolution of reality programming.
And as for the competition? The more, the better. “The amount of competition has more than tripled, but the Food Network ratings have gone up,” he says. “Down the line, I see maybe five networks. I think that there will be multiple food channels in the future, and there should be.”