Buried Treasure – The Hidden Gems of the Food Network and Why You Can’t Find Them

It’s no secret that I would rather watch UK food shows than anything made in Canada or the US. Chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, Valentine Warner and even Gordon Ramsay do a lot of good work for Channel 4 and the BBC when it comes to promoting seasonal, local, sustainable foodways. For years, Greg and I have had no choice but to download these from online file-sharing sites (shhh!!) because they seldom get shown here and there’s few, if any, domestic equivalents.

Except, bit by bit, Food Network Canada has been picking these shows up. Heston Blumenthal’s Big Chef Takes on Little Chef series that ran last year recently got aired here. Likewise his feasts series in which he recreates (with his own twists, of course) historic meals. Jamie Oliver is a big commodity on this side of the pond, so most of his stuff eventually shows up, but sometimes up to a year after its original air date.

This delay is annoying enough, but makes sense – Channel 4 wants to rerun these shows before selling the rights to anyone else. My frustration is that when Food Network Canada finally gets them, they do very little to promote them.

In 2006, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall did a series called the River Cottage Treatment in which a bunch of self-confessed junk food junkies came to his farm and learned about real food. It airs, finally, on Food Network Canada, this month (started yesterday). I know about it only because I was perusing the TV listings looking for something else. I don’t watch the channel all that much, so maybe there are ads running for it that I’m not seeing, but I haven’t seen ads promoting this series anywhere else. No mention of it on Twitter, and the info is buried on their hot mess of a website, invisible unless you go and search for it.

And it’s so frustrating, because these are the kinds of shows Canadians need to be watching.

Now granted, Food Network Canada seems to really concentrate on Canadian chefs. Which is appropriate and noble. But almost all of the Canadian shows are cooking shows. Which, as we’ve discovered, don’t really inspire people to get up off the sofa and cook very much. Meanwhile, these shows that could inspire viewers, that could get them thinking about their food and where it comes from, are buried. The River Cottage Treatment series is running at 8pm on Saturday evenings (not exactly a hot time slot), with repeats at midnight and 5am the following day.

Why bother?

(There might also be an air time of 2pm on Sundays, but it’s hard to tell – the online grid-based schedule doesn’t mesh up with the air times listed for the individual shows.)

Jamie Oliver fares a little bit better with the current Ministry of Food series running at 8pm on Sunday evenings – at least people are home then.

And should we even get into the fact that Food Network Canada lists River Cottage Treatment, a series created in 2006 as a “brand new series”? New to you, maybe?

These are really well-produced, thought-provoking, inspiring shows. They need to be promoted. They need to be watched.

I understand that they won’t be as popular as some of the big name chefs, that they won’t live up to Giada’s tits or Nigella licking a spoon or Ricardo’s blinding smile. But come ON, Food Network Canada – our country is starving for some decent food shows. And you’ve got them. And people need to watch them. Please, tell the world about them. Stop burying them. You have the opportunity to join in the conversation about sustainable food, to help people make a difference in their own lives and the world around them in terms of what they choose to eat. And it seems that you just can’t be bothered to even make an effort.