Nadya Be

My Ongoing Correspondence With Food Network Canada's Webmaster

15 Dec 2011


November 25, 2011
To Whom It May Concern--

Two things (and I'm going to get right to the point):

1.) Your website is mediocre, at best. Finding contact information is extremely difficult, there are numerous typographical errors in the synopses of the TV shows you have under "Video", and worst of all, you actually do not include a good variety of full-length programs. We are inundated with "Chuck's Day Off" and "Jamie's Meals In Minute" and, inexplicably, "Chef Michael's Whatever", as though these were the only shows on Food Network. For those of us who don't have cable TV and rely on your website for programs, the full-length videos on offer are limited and disappointing. Navigating around the site is also a bit frustrating. Please go to your American counterpart for ideas on how to have a flashy, interesting, varied website.

2.) Secondly, and most importantly, "Recipe To Riches" is among the creepiest programs I have EVER seen, particularly the segment where the president of Loblaw Foods comes out as the fourth judge (Gavin Someone). With each week, the overwhelmed facial expressions of the contestants upon hearing his name are getting more histrionic and hysterical, as though Wayne Gretzky or Margaret Atwood were making cameo appearances. What is going on there?! It leaves the viewers confused and left out, as though the president of Loblaw Foods is some kind of national hero that we haven't been aware of. This is appalling and absurd (though endlessly entertaining). Has Gavin himself forked over cash from his own pocket for this program, asking nothing in exchange apart from on-air hero worship? Last week's episode, "Frozen Treats", took this ridiculousness to a whole new level with mini-interviews from the remaining two female contestants who were clearly prodded into making breathless comments about the man, including "You kind of idolize someone and..." trailing off into nothing. Next week, I expect tears and paramedics on the scene to resuscitate the contestant who loses consciousness upon hearing that the "face of President's Choice" is coming out to judge their food entry.

It's embarrassing just to watch! Really, what on earth is happening there?

I would like some answers. Thanks for reading.

Best regards,
Nadya.



December 8, 2011
Hi Nadya,

Thank you for your email. Our apologies for the delayed response. Your comments are appreciated and we will take them into consideration when making future updates to both programming and online.

As with all new programs the first season is always a bit rocky, but over time like a good wine it gets better with age.

Sincerely,
Webmaster
Foodnetwork.ca



December 12, 2011
Hi Webmaster

Thanks for your reply, though you didn't really address my main concern: the inexplicable Galen Weston.

The "Frozen Entrees" episode took the off-camera prodding to a whole new level (perhaps jumping the shark, as it were) when one of the contestants--the pretty Chinese woman who made lobster-and-mac--actually mouthed his name as he was being announced to the TV audience. Now, this was not quite losing consciousness with medics on standby to revive her, but still entirely ludicrous. I actually have to commend her for taking her role as "contestant who is enthralled and humbled by the CEO of Loblaw Foods" to a whole new level, one that didn't simply include gasps and self-conscious chuckling, but which made it seem as though he is a household name straight across the nation.

I can't wait for the finale. Will there be jubilation and hosannas all around?

I promise I won't tell anyone if you reveal to me exactly WHAT the real significance of Galen Weston is. I stick with my theory that he has dreamed up and paid for this entire program, and this hero worship is all he asks for in return (never mind that he comes across as one of the phoniest, smuggest on-air personalities I've ever seen). I would also like to add that out of all the judges--Laura Calder coming across as slightly condescending, the other woman emotionless and robotic--the curly-haired Tony Chapman is endlessly watchable, quotable, direct, and just the sort of personality that is keeping the show just barely above water. Here's the thing: Food Network Canada is trying very hard to turn this into an American-style program (though I love the "we went across Canada" introduction, which includes exactly FOUR CITIES), but Canadians are by nature boring, earnest, and lacking star quality. Tony might be the exception. Give him far more of a starring role--think something like Simon Cowell--and you'd have a show far more watchable.

Also, please...enough with "Chuck's Day Off" on the website's available videos. Please, PLEASE rotate the selections.

Cheers!
Nadya



December 15, 2011
Hello again Nadya,

While theorizing the reasons why people react the way in which they do to Galen Weston is quite entertaining, I must acknowledge that Mr. Weston is a Canadian Icon in his own right.

In regards to the limited audition cities, I would like to point out that it is not always possible for shows to arrive in every city, or in this case every province. However, the competition is open to all Canadians. This is standard in the industry, where even long running singing competition shows only visit 7 cities across 52 States.

Sorry to hear you aren't a fan of Chuck, be sure to tune in January when we will have a whole new schedule including Top Chef Texas, Bitchin' Kitchen II, Pitchin' In III, Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, You Gotta Eat Here and many more!

Thank you for your continued support,

webmaster
Foodnetwork.ca



December 15, 2011
Dear Webmaster,

Many thanks for your diplomatically-worded, indirect, fairly bemused reply to my Galen Weston concerns. He is a "Canadian Icon"? Despite hating hockey and beer, I am a Canadian (not by choice, I assure you) and am quite cognizant of our national treasures. Terry Fox, Bobby Orr, the RCMP, Tommy Douglas, and Galen Weston: the list rolls off the tongue effortlessly, as familiar to the humble Northerner as the tuneless plod of our national anthem.

Really, now. Galen's clearly at the helm of "RTR", but you are not permitted to reveal this transparent conspiracy. I truly do understand; your evasiveness is as good as an affirmation. :) Incidentally, I Googled our beloved Galen (as he's known throughout Canuck households) and found that he: a) is a serious ginger, b) had a bazillionaire father whom he is named after, and who he inherited everything from, but most preposterously, c) shares my birthday, which is this Monday, the 19th. Not only that, but he is also a mere handful of years older than I, and because of these factors, d) I am starting to feel attracted to him.

A further bit of feedback vis-a-vis "RTR" is about its football-playing host, the blandly handsome gent who recites memorized line after memorized line each episode. When he's introducing the professional "help" to the contestants before each batch-off, he must say, "Trust me...these guys know what they're doing." I find that in a bid to spice up his one-note hosting duties, he adds a chuckle to the words "Trust me," as though the contestants had reason to distrust him, or as if he is actually the one who hand-picked the help and everyone can relax. Please: this is a bothersome way of delivering the line, when we all know he isn't in control of ANYTHING that takes place in the show's production (Galen saw to that). Either give him more power, or tell him to tone down the theatrics.

The finale? Awful. AWFULLY DONE. A fiasco! But I'll save that for my next bit of feedback (I am trying to help you here). I will say that the only positive thing about it was Tony Chapman's new facial hair. Apart from that, the entire thing could have easily been a CTV game show circa 1982.

(Side note: I am thrilled about the return of "Pitchin' In", the hands-down greatest program on the network, and one of very few that does it proud.)

Merry Christmas,
Nadya.



January 6, 2011
Hello again, Webmaster, and happy 2012 to you.

I begin this (shorter than usual) email with the typed equivalent of a sigh (there is no emoticon for this, as far as I can tell). I have been checking and re-checking the available videos on the Food Network Canada site, and once again, I am met with extreme disappointment.

The "most recent" videos are all Chuckmas and Chuck That and Christmas / holiday specials from Jamie Oliver, Nadia G, and, mercifully, Gordon Ramsay (an infinitely watchable, charismatic, entertaining, hilarious TV host who needs more time devoted to his hijinks). As of this writing, it is January 6 of the new year. Christmas finished two weeks ago.

Why no updates?

Why the same hosts?

Why haven't you listened to my advice and switched it up a bit more?

Why is Chuck still Chucking around on there? Is he slipping extra dollars in your pockets to ensure he gets complete dominance of the available Food Network videos?

Why aren't we seeing updates nearly every day, even if the "recent videos" consist of the popular, regularly-viewed programs hosted by Americans (Giada, Rachael, Ina Garten...Christ, even a new episode of something starring Guy Fieri would be a welcome change...and that man needs a good lesson in life that can only be taught through prison rape). I am disillusioned and distressed by what seems to be an unwillingness on your part to embrace change, to revamp content and appearance, and keep things fresh.

If you're still on vacation, then a) lucky you, and b) you might want to think about things like "delegating tasks whilst on holiday".

I understand if you are taken aback or offended thus far. My tone in this email is not as affable as in my previous, mostly because I have been anticipating the arrival of a new site accompanying this year of the dragon; and instead of a fire-breathing beast of power, I'm still clicking around on an amputeed platypus.

(Incidentally, I receive feedback semi-regularly about my day job and artistic hobbies, and I actually implement the most useful tips that I am given. It's not criticism, it's assistance. But if this site doesn't change its nefarious ways soon, I'd hate to see a barrage of sideswiping arrive in your Inbox, subsequently cratering your entire workday and sending you home to miserably tear through a box of Glo's Luscious Lemon Pudding in a single ten-minute sitting. And speaking of Glo McNeill, I will save the "Recipe to Riches" feedback for later. We are now on amber alert, I'd say.)

As I said in my initial email, please skim the Food Network USA website for some excellent ideas on design and content. Canada's tediousness and banality needn't be visually represented by its main food website.

Cheers,
Nadya



January 12, 2012
Hi Nadya,

Thank you for the email and my apologies for the delayed response.

I'm glad to hear that you have frequented the site over the holidays, although I am sorry you felt disappointed.

To answer your questions:

Why no updates as of January 6th? The first new episodes of 2012 aired January 6th, as you may have noticed, we stream episodes 1 day after the on tv launch. Additionally, based on metrics, some people are still looking for fun festive videos up to a month after the holidays.
Why the same hosts? Well some of our hosts have a very strong following, and we like to keep the masses happy.
Why haven't we switched it up? With a whole new season of shows things have definitely changed. Hopefully you'll find something you like as the season continues.
What's up with Chuck? I still can't believe you aren't a fan. I can honestly say Chuck is one of the most down to earth chefs to have ever entered our offices and his food is delicious! Perhaps he's featured so much because everyone here is a fan and we don't know why anyone else wouldn't be.
Why can't there be updates every day? We currently have daily features such as blogs, rotators and recipes of the day. We are optimistic about adding new daily features when resources are available.

To confirm, no one here is afraid of change and we do take all feedback into consideration. We are constantly brainstorming ideas to make our site more user friendly and simply more knowledgeable.

I'd encourage you to consider possibilities as to why things cannot change as fast or as simply as imagined. A website is not run by one person, there is a process to make even the most minor changes.

Happy New year to you too.

webmaster
Foodnetwork.ca


 
Photo: Aaron Licht