February 24, 2007



So, I attended the inaugural Food Network Awards last night at the Jackie Gleason theater.

I'm contractually obligated not to reveal the results of the awards because the show won't be aired until April 15.

What I can contractually say is that this was truly one of the most craptacular nights of my life.

I understand that the first time you do anything can be kind of awkward and balky and full of disappointment and mishaps and prematurity. But this was televised disaster on an epic scale.

Yes, they had a red carpet. Yes, there were celebrities, including the Princess of All Media, Rachael Ray (above, with her husband, John, who is even creepier in person than he is in this rumor.).

Best line of the day which later became apropos, uttered by chef Norman Van Aken during a panel discussion at the FNSBW&FF, when asked what Food Network personality would he least want to be on a desserted island with: "If it was Rachael Ray, I'd swim the f**k back to shore." When the audience erupted in laughter, a satisfied and moderately beer-soaked Norman leaned back, propped up his leg on the dais and yelled, "YUMMOOOOOO!"

But I digress.

Other celebrities doing the red carpet walk?


Tony the tiger. Colonel Sanders. The Keebler Elf. The California Raisins. Snap, Crackle & Pop. Charlie Tuna. What looked to be a mascot of undetermined gender or identification wearing a chef's jacket and toque.

I'm not making this up.


Oh yeah. Catherine Zeta-Jones was there to pimp her upcoming movie "No Reservations" and hand out a $100,000 Culinary Institute of America scholarship.

Her being there was like finding a diamond in a bowl of Fancy Feast.

Reminded me of "Sesame Street": Three of these things go together. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Tangential question: Why does a culinary education cost $100,000? I mean, I know it's New York City and all, but seriously. Are they frying Krugerrands? Are James Beard and Julia Child coming back from the grave to teach classes? For 100 bucks, I'll get you a job cleaning dishwasher food traps so you can know the meaning of working your way up.


Want to see a photographic definition of irrelevence?


Yes, that's Aaron Eckhart, Zeta-Jones' love interest in "No Reservations" and star of "Thank You For Smoking."

He arrived at the same time as CZ-J. There were about a dozen photographers and videographers on the rope line of the red carpet.

Number who photographed Catherine Zeta-Jones: 11

Number who photographed Aaron Eckhart: 1 (Not including me)

She finally had to throw him a limp-wristed rescue pinky to drag him back to the snaparazzi shoreline. He took the pinkie and turned it into a full death-grip hand-grab that cried out for attention.

Poor schmuck. He looked like he wanted to crawl into the Charlie Tuna costume.

It all went downhill from there.

The theater was only about 3/4 full at the 9:30 p.m. start of the show. Midway through, the stage went dark after a lighting control board blew out and had to be replaced. Forty five minutes later, half the audience - which had paid up to $80 per ticket - had evacuated the building. Show fluffers dressed in all-black t-shirt-and-slacks outfits and wearing McDonalds drive-thru headset walkie-talkies had to urge people from the back and from the balcony to move closer to the front of the stage to fill Vesuvius-sized craters in many rows as people left to go to dinner or get a drink or shoot themselves under the tongue with a lethal-size crystal meth speedball.

At one point, someone replaced the night's host, Emeril Lagasse, with an Emerilbot 5000. Unwisely, he kept going off the mind-numbing text on the prompter and filling in with various Emerilisms.

Number of times Emerilbot 5000 screamed "BAM!" while dealing with an awards envelope that wouldn't tear open: 1

Estimated number of times Emerilbot 5000 said, "Is anyone out there hungry?": 412

Estimated number of times Emerilbot 5000 received only tepid response to the question: 409

By the time the clock struck midnight-plus-30 - remember, this all started on the red carpet at 6:30 p.m. - all but about 200 people had left the auditorium.

FN star Alton Brown, he of "Good Eats" fame, nonverbally spoke for the entire audience when leaned over on the podium on one elbow, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and shook his head.

Number of times verbal allusions to sexual congress were made during awards banter by male presenters paired with Giada DiLaurentiis, Nigella Lawson, Sandra Lee and Robin Miller: 3,487,613

Number of times verbal allusions to sexual congress were made during awards banter by male presenters paired with Rachael Ray: 0


Number of times Alton Brown made a joke about the inability to eat only one scoop of ice cream at a time at while standing next to full-bodied-yet-still-blazing-hot Nigella Lawson: 1

"I don't even know who half these people are," a woman sitting next to me in a lime-green halter dress said. She said she had cooked for Mario Batali in one of his New York City kitchens but was moving to San Francisco. He just had a stroke about four months ago, she says. Oh, I say. Because, you know, what else are you gonna say when someone breaks federal HIPAA rules to spackle an unconfortable silence in conversation?

"I came here for job prospects," she then says.

She then offers proof of her profession by proudly showing me her scars.

"How else do you think I got these burn marks on my arms?" she says.

I considered replying, "Trying to kill yourself so you didn't have to see the rest of this awards ceremony," but I thought that was a little too flippant for the moment.

"I think this is like 'Survivor,'" I told her. "Last one here gets a Food Network show."

"I'm staying then."

Ten minutes later she was gone.

Five minutes after that, a food critic friend of mine from another newspaper started snoring in the seat behind me.

He wasn't alone. During one commercial break, a woman in the row in front of me and about 10 seats to my left passed out with her hair dangling over the back of her seat. Two hours earlier, she had been doing the Arsenio-dog-bark and yelling, "I love you!" to Paula Deen and Rachael Ray and just about anyone who has ever been on camera on the network.

When the show came back from commercial and the show fluffers begged the audience with wild arm-flapping gesticulations to get them to applaud, she jolted back to consciousness and began clapping as if her hands were stuck to defibrilator paddles.

I was filled with awe and wonder in the face of a mile-deep commitment to crap entertainment that I simply would never be able to summon.

Number of Anna Nicole Smith jokes Emerilbot 5000 made: 1

Number of Anna Nicole Smith jokes that will be edited out by April 15: 1

If forced to pick the most profound moment of the night, I'd have to say it came during the awarding of Humanitarian of the Year.

Due to contractual obligations, I cannot tell you who won, but I can say that the person was beyond deserving. He/she may have been overqualified for the honor, in fact.

As he/she took the stage to deliver his/her acceptance speech, the crowd slowly rose to its feet, one-by-one-by-one, to applaud him/her. They simply lacked the energy - not to mention the will to live - to rise in unison. By now, about 300 people were left in the theater.

And as he/she began to speak, people began to use the upright positions of their fellow audience members as an opportunity to camoflage a sneak-out.

And as he/she broke down in tears during his/her speech due to the depth of emotion he/she felt for being recognized for his/her efforts, people kept leaving. Tears were falling almost as fast as the attendance.

And as the hour crawled across broken glass to finally reach 12:45 in the a.m., there were only about 200 people left in the theater. The show officially lasted longer than Gerald Ford's funeral.


Emerilbot 5000 brought the show to a close, and all of the Food Network stars came out to take a bow.

Then the director stopped the glad-handing to ask - get this - that the audience not leave yet. Emeril had botched a line earlier in the show and "we need to do a pickup."

So the 12 people remaining who weren't being paid to be there stopped, begrudgingly, and then achieved an angry silence at the director's repeated behests. And then Emerilbot 5000 announced one of the nominees for Best Food Read, which, according to him earlier in the show, was named "Freckie Juice" instead of the correct "Freckle Juice."

It was a perfect, frecking end to a frecking terrible night.

SUGGESTED SONG FOR THIS POST: (tie) "When Two Worlds Collide" and "We're Not The Jet Set" by John Prine

UPDATE: If you think I'm exaggerating, check out this post from The Palm Beach Post.

Posted by Jeff at February 24, 2007 11:01 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?