The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Next Food Network Stars Could Be Chimps

Chimps Can Cook! Get Brooke Johnson On The Line!

Food Network has become such a trite, boring, uncreative, repetitive, derivative shadow of its former self that I have long since given up hope on a network that was once my “go to” source for food information and entertainment. There are exactly two shows left on Food that I still follow and “Food Network Star” is not one of them. I'm not even bothering to look in on a show that is in its 11th season and has not produced a “star” since Season 2. Hell, the “winners” of two of the last three seasons didn't even get their own shows. These are “stars”?

But there's a bright glimmer on the horizon. Chimps. That's right. Chimpanzees.

Research out of Harvard has revealed that chimps have the cognitive ability to cook. Apparently, our primate cousins even prefer the taste and texture of cooked food over raw and are willing to wait for it. In a series of experiments at the Jane Goodall Institute's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, wild-born chimpanzees were given the opportunity to prepare food using a “cooking device.” It wasn't really a “cooking device,” of course. It was actually two plastic tubs that fit closely together with pre-cooked food hidden in the bottom tub. But the chimps didn't know that. When a chimpanzee placed a raw sweet potato slice into the “device,” a researcher shook it, then lifted the top tub out to offer the chimp an identical cooked slice of sweet potato. The chimps resisted eating raw food and put it in the “device,” waiting for cooked food. They would store up raw food and bring it from one side of a cage to the other in order to put it in the “device.” And they put different kinds of food – like carrots – into the “device.” Subjects were given a potato and a piece of wood at the same time. They only chose to put the potato into the “cooker.” Researchers say the experiments show not only that chimps have the patience for cooking, but that they have the “minimal causal understanding they would need” to make the leap to actual cooking.

OMG! Somebody call Brooke Johnson! I think there's an opportunity for Food Network to ride a real ratings rocket here. Call it “Iron Chimp: America.” Alton Brown could provide witty commentary as teams of chimpanzees scurry around Kitchen Stadium shaking plastic bowls. The chimps would then present their creations to a panel of celebrity judges comprised of winners of past “Food Network Star” shows (at least it would give them something to do) who would then decide on a champion. It's gold, I tell ya! And it would be infinitely more entertaining than anything currently airing on Food Network. Cheaper, too. All Scripps would have to shell out would be a few bucks for plastic bowls and some slices of potato. And maybe some cute chef coats for the competitors. Bob Tuschman? Are you listening?

Oh, and they could amp it up by giving the chimps food-related names. Remember the first chimp in space? His name was “Ham.” And maybe Susie Fogelson could work a marketing tie-in with Animal Planet. I'm sure the makers of “Gorilla Glue” would jump aboard for a sponsorship. And it goes without saying that when the next “Planet of the Apes” movie comes out.......

And the cross-over possibilities are endless. Think “Chopped: Chimps” or “Restaurant: Chimp Possible.”

Oh, PETA would probably protest the exploitation of the chimps and would want to oversee their working conditions. But that's okay. Publicity like that drives ratings. And the network would likely catch flak from hundreds of line cooks working under similar circumstances in restaurants all across the country wondering why they couldn't compete, too. But, hey. That's show biz.

Of course, if it all fell flat,  Ken Lowe and the Food Network gang would look like a bunch of monkeys, but no more so than they already do.

Cooking shows with chimps. Gold, I tell ya. And remember, you heard it here first.

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