Alton Brown Discusses the Evolution of Food Network, Responds to Anthony Bourdain’s Criticism of TV Chefs

08/12/2015 at 01:27 PM ET

Alton Brown
Food Network

Alton Brown: celebrity chef, television personality, best-selling cookbook author … evil camp counselor?

On his new Food Network series Camp Cutthroat, premiering Wednesday night, Brown continues his role of host and instigator of culinary “sabotages” that he’s become know for on Cutthroat Kitchen (though this time, he’s dressed in full scoutmaster garb).

This is just the latest of many Food Network endeavors for Brown, who has been with the network since 1999 and has certainly seen the landscape of culinary television change over the years — specifically trending toward competition shows.

“Once Food Network moved out of being an emerging network into a full-fledged television network, it had to fight for the same number of eyeballs as everybody else did,” he tells PEOPLE.

“And that, by and large, in the last decade of our media generation, has been competition. That’s what most people want to watch,” Brown says.

With specific regard to perhaps the network’s most vocal critic, Anthony Bourdain, Brown says: “I don’t have to defend my skills against anybody. I’ve got 14 years and 252 episodes of a show called Good Eats that I’m pretty sure I can use as a résumé for my skills.”

He continues: “When was the last time you saw Anthony Bourdain actually cook anything?” adding, “I’ve spent 14 years cooking my own food on television and I’ve never seen him cook a meal.”

Brown does, however, have some notes of praise for the traveling foodie.

“I will say this: I think that [he] is probably the best writer about food. I’m jealous of his work,” he says. “He pokes a lot of things and that’s fine; you have to have critics, issue provocateurs, so to speak […] I’m a fan, and the few times I’ve gotten to work with him I enjoyed it immensely.”

And, speaking of Good Eats, might fans expect a comeback? There could be hope after all.

“The main thing I see on social media every day is people telling me to bring that show back,” Brown says. “I’m gonna bring something back that would be like Good Eats, but for digital.”

The Internet will be (impatiently) waiting, we’re sure.

—Shay Spence, @chezspence

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Showing 32 comments

GGALLI on

I was an avid watcher of the Food Network until it became a game show. Same with HDTV. Where are all the instruction shows? I looked to these two networks to learn something, not watch the chosen few compete.

gracie on

I HATE Cutthroat Kitchen. It has to be the most inane show ever. Alton has so much knowledge about food and cooking and it is totally wasted on the stupid show. I am getting very tired of Guy Fieri as well…very annoying.

Janie on

I love Alton. Wish he’d bring Good Eats back to TV and not the Internet.

WaterFaery on

Alton, I really miss you on The Next Food Network Star. Its blah without you! We need your sense of humour and also serious cooking chops.

kristine on

Our tv used to be set on the Food Network probably 80% of the time, too. We would sit and watch cooking shows, one after the other, but no more. I can’t stand the competition shows. I have no desire to watch people struggle to put together a meal using gummi bears or race around a supermarket like fools.

MimiB on

I find I’m rarely watching the Food Network anymore … cooking is not a competition. And the shows celebrating gluttony… come on. Enough. Guy Fieri is so overexposed. He’s OK in small doses, but, really… he’s had his day. Time to retire.

Alton Brown’s Good Eats was a terrific series, entertaining and enlightening. I hope he can get away from the competitive nonsense and get back to doing what he does best… demonstrating and making cooking and food interesting.

Aly on

I’ve watched a lot of Food Network and I’ve stayed with it through its evolution. Alton Brown is a food genius. I don’t mind the competition shows either. I’m not a fan of Anthony Bourdain but I do turn to the Food Network (or Cooking Channel) almost everyday.

Too Shy on

I LOVED LOVED LOVED ‘Good Eats’. Really wish they would bring it back. So informative, and technique oriented. Still watch the re-runs on the Cooking channel. Love Alton Brown, Duff and his crew, etc. Rachel Ray’s $30/day always bothered me because she was always cheating her waiters on their tips to save money (which is something that Anthony B. criticized her for). And as for bobby Flay, there’s more to cooking than just throwing in a habanero.

Foodie Mathematician on

Good reads!

sandy rose on

I also used to watch the Food Network often — now, it’s gone way downhill. The purpose of competition shows is that’s it’s very cost effective — no salaries to the competitors. Very cheap to produce. Guy Fieri — sick of him tasting the food, licking his chops and he’s very unattractive!!!! Go away. Yes – Ina Garten is a great cook, speaks slowly and clearly and actually teaches u something. The rest of the bunch —- they’re lucky to have a job.

emma on

Bourdain is nothing but a drunk

Ninjavites on

I like Alton Brown and Anthony Bourdain but Alton is right Cause I say so.

jennifersparisi on

I was just talking to someone the other day about how much I love Alton Brown and Good Eats. The reality/competition shows he does are of no interest to me, but I don’t knock them just because I don’t like them; to each his own. I can tell you that I learned more about food and the science of food from Good Eats than I learned from anywhere else. He has such a knack for explaining things so well.

And I love Anthony Bourdain too – “No Reservations” was a can’t miss show in our house. His show is much better than Andrew Zimmern who just goes to these different countries and eats whatever bizarro stuff he can shove in his face. Anthony Bourdain gives you more of the history of a country, their food, etc…. I totally get that he is not everyone’s cup of tea – my Mother, for example, cannot stand Anthony Bourdain. But I definitely think he is for more of the 40 and under viewers – he can be a bit raunchy at times.

Anyway – I suspect that this bickering between the two is largely being blown out of proportion by the media/internet. I think they are both really smart, talented people. Although, if I had to choose, I’d watch Good Eats over anything Anthony Bourdain does. You have no idea how excited I got when I saw there’s a Good Eats collection on Netflix now.

Mimi on

I agree, Bourdain eats and criticizes. He is condescending to women and he praises men with comments like this will be his last meal. Too cocky for me. Alton is funny and he shares the coolest facts about food and cooking. Food Network has really become crummy. All the back biting and mean that goes on is wrong. These people are cooks for goodness sake. At least Alton manages to keep it real.

maryhelenc on

My 8 year loves the Food Network, and shows like Chopped, and Master Chef Junior (although she thinks Chef Ramsay is a very nice man who helps kids lol) and now she has a huge interest in cooking and helps me in the kitchen. I do agree there are too many competition style shows, but I’m willing to put up with them because I like that it’s helping my kid get passionate about preparing food.

dancer92136 on

I am more of a fan of the cooking shows than the competitions. I loved Sandra Lee, Rachel Ray….I do like Guy Fieri’s show, but, and I am sorry, but I don’t like cutthroat kitchen. Also, no a fan of the oh so pretentious Mr. Bourdain

Poppy on

Bring cooking back to Food Network! I HATE all the stupid reality/game show crap you have on there now!

Trrosen on

Sadly bordain is right food network is now crap. It is nothing but bad reality shows including badly faked shows. It’s now about drama and not food. I love Alton but he is now a former chef making a living as a game show host. If create was available on dish food network would cease to exist. They have become to food what MTV is to music, an embarrassment.

emilyrh21 on

I’m really sick of watching other people watch people cook food. How many “let’s go to this restaurant in new york and watch them cook” shows do we need?

kelemvor33 on

We don’t watch Food Network much any more. It’s all just reality shows and competitions. Bring back Good Eats, Semi Homemade, and all the other shows that actually taught people how to cook. I don’t want to just see professional chefs competing against each other in various forms. HGTV is the same way. It should be renamed “Let’s buy a house TV”.

Pat Alvarado on

Sorry but I agree with Bourdain. Too many annoying food competitions between professional chefs and amateur chefs in the endless revolving door that is Food Network. This is the network of Bobby, Giada, Alton, Guy, Rachel. I hate Cutthroat Kitchen by the way and now a spinoff, Camp Cutthroat. Enough already! Can you just get back to cooking…just for the pleasure of it.

Anonymous on

All Bourdain does is criticize everyone else in an effort to elevate his abrasive and lackluster personality into something that the general population might find appealing. Good luck with that.

nc on

I use to watch a lot of Food Network but now all I’ll watch on there is Chopped, love that show.
On the topic of HGTV I watch a lot of that, especially love anything the Scott brothers are on, Love It or List It (both of them), and this summer I am watching Beach Flip.

Patti on

Alton Brown knows what he’s talking about. I followed his directions for roast prime rib. Best ever. Perfectly done. His wit and food knowledge is second to none.

Amy on

You can’t cheat someone on tips. Restaurants are for eating. Not making sure you can pay someone’s salary before you eat. If you’re hungry go. It shouldn’t be a requirement to be able to tip someone too. And restaurants worry why they fail so much.

Anthony is a food snob. Hard to take in large quantities. He is well known but can anyone say a dish he’s created that they’ve wanted to cook? But we all know one Alton episode that made us rethink how we can prepare something differently. Although many episodes were over the top with, who the hell they think will prep all of that for one meal, type foolishness?!

shartran on

Agree with Gracie! Do not enjoy these shows…they must go!

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Omnidish on

Well… I don’t see any real hostility between Alton and Anthony. I did enjoy Alton’s good eats and respect his food knowledge. But the times they have defentaly changed. I don’t care for the gameshow transformation of food network. While Anthony on the other hand built his career off of criticism of the established food ways. He has grown over time to be a respectable journalist in a way. For a time I enjoyed Anthony’s shows on travel channel. I believe Anthony’s move to cnn was predictable progression and I look forward to his shows when not inturupted by breaking news headlines. His signature trademark banter is amusing. But that to will time out. But honestly when I want to watch real cooking on the old tube I will always turn to PBS on Saturday.

Carolyn on

I do not watch food network no more. And I was addicted to it. But since it has so many competitions it. Sure lost my interest. Haven’t watched it in three months. Until it goes back to a cooking show il never watch it again

Anonymous on

I think cutthroat kitchen and camp have got to be the two worst good shows on tv! What an insult to food network!!! What were they thinking of! Also Alton needs to trim or shave that beard he looks so scruffy looking. Food Network get real!!!

GOD on

I just watched about 3 minutes of this awful show and turned it off. IDIOTS were bidding on an arrow, ax and knife, to give to one of the other contestants to cook on…fing stupid and ridiculous!
I use to watch foodtv all the time, but stopped after Emeril was canceled.
Now all they have is the annoying boy, guy…can’t even pronounce is own last name correctly, dresses like a 12 year old little boy, with mommies earrings, and thinks he is cool…who is on all the time

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