Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Bitchin' Kitchen?" Not Quite.

As much as I think I'm obsessed with food, I don't spend too much time watching the Food Network. I get my food TV kicks from the "Top Chef" series and Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods." So, it was through Zimmern's blog that I discovered Nadia G. from the Cooking Channel's "Bitchin' Kitchen." After browsing through her website, my internal feminist started a temper tantrum.
I get that anyone who wants to market themselves in a consumer culture already saturated with commercialism must find some kind of gimmick to distinguish themselves from the other equally desperate celeb-wannabies. Rachel Ray works for harried, guilt-ridden working mothers who don't have time to do dry their hair, much less cook. Paula Deen's cloying persona and heavily-mascara'd eyes work for those with a grandma fixation. Anthony Bourdain is supposed to be that modern day Byronic hero, the object of lust for many masochistic women. Granted, I'm painting a very crude picture for how these chefs are perceived, but that's the whole point: to market yourself, you need to give the public only one dimension of yourself and run with it til they get tired of it.
I wasn't surprised that Nadia G. presents herself as the "Rockstar" of the kitchen. Starting with web episodes, she secured a contract with the Cooking Channel, making her the first female to go "from Net to Network, and the rest is herstory."That's great - I love that. Successful autodidacts are amazing. Won't take that away from her. What's troubling for me is the gimmick she's chosen: the no-holds-barred empowered feminist-cook who shamefacedly uses her sexuality to sell herself. On TV, of course.
Surrounded by her legion of emasculated he-groupies.

I can't swallow this brand of feminism. And her shows don't make sense: how are we bitchin' women, when one of the first shows is all about finding a man? And one of the necessities in the kitchen is a pair of killer stilettos? I'd say a good pair of tongs would be more useful in flipping rib eyes than my Manolos. This is the kind of absurdity that has me tearing my hair out whenever I turn on the television. 
I'm sure Nadia G. is a good cook. It's unfortunate that her culinary skills will be the second thing her viewers notice.


  1. Don't forget Giada, for those of us who want to claim to be watching the Food Network, but are really only watching a gorgeous Italian do something or other.

  2. Thanks for confirming what most of us think about, Jimmy. And thanks for commenting!

  3. Hi, Nadia G here. Your version of femisim would also have me tearing my hair out if it wasn't so well-styled, hehe. 1) The show you're referencing wasn't about finding a man, it was about finding a lover/ gender neutral. We've done Breakup Meals, Recession Recipes, The Selfish Spread, Rehab Recipes... 2) I believe a woman can express her sense of style while being a feminist. I'd rather rock a pair of fierce studded Louboutins on my set than Birkenstocks (or whatever you imagine the "feminist" uniform should be.) Perhaps you're confusing feminism with modesty, and that's not how we roll. We're loud, proud and believe or not, very freakin' FEMINIST. XO Nadia G

  4. Hi, Nadia. Thanks for responding and for correcting me that the first episode wasn't about looking for a male partner. Your show's themes center on very real, relevant, and perhaps, trendy, concerns for your audience. My question now is (and hasn't changed since I wrote this blog), "If one asserts empowerment and agency - maybe even self-actualized - how does a show built on finding (or pleasing) a significant other build on that assertion?"
    Also, I don't subscribe to any "brand" of feminism. I only know what doesn't sit right with me when I see it. I don't have a certain feminist uniform in my imagination - and mentioning Birkenstocks says to me that there is an "opposite" to the lipstick feminist, which is a dangerous and fallacious binary. I don't think I confuse feminism with modesty, at all. I think more women should fight against the continued degradation of females, which I believe, include both the hyper-sexualization and puritan restriction of women's freedoms. (p.s. I cook barefoot!)
    I respect that you are assertive in your aesthetics - both in your show and in your wardrobe - but the bottom line for me is that the very point of being a good cook is to let your food speak for itself. Eric Ripert and Thomas Keller do not have "personalities" but their names are renowned in culinary discourse. What worries me the most is that the "rockin' feminist" loses its (and I believe it has become highly commodified in America) political potency. We will never see another woman like Angela Davis again, and that makes me sad.
    I wish you well in your career and thank you again for commenting on my humble little blog. - Kat

  5. Sorry about commenting on an old article... but what Jimmy said about Giada's show is total horseshit. I'm a male, classically trained chef. Giada demonstrates excellent, straightforward, contemporary Italian cooking with excellent technique. She's beautiful, yes, and that's probably the reason why she got her show over someone who wasn't, but she's very good at what she does. To dismiss her simply *because* she is beautiful is no less shallow than the food network execs dismissing other candidates because they weren't. Dorks like Jimmy, who probably got into cooking because "chicks dig it," throw glib shit like that out there, claiming to represent all men, playing right into the classic stereotype of the one-dimensional, single minded male, and it drives me f'ing crazy!