Two for One Review

June 26, 2008 at 1:06 am

Originally posted at Edible TV ( on June 24, 2008.

This past weekend I set the Tivo to record two of the Food Network’s newest programs, Paula Best Dishes with Paula Deen and Chic and Easy with newcomer Mary Nolan.

Perhaps it was just the episode I happened to catch but there really doesn’t seem to be anything new about Paula Deen’s new show Paula’s Best Dishes. I mean the premise as I understood it was that each week Paula would be joined by a special guest to cook some of their trademark creations with the grand dame of butter. I like that idea, it kind of takes the best of her two other shows and creates a new vehicle for us to watch Deen’s progression from down-home Southern cook to the worldly culinarian she has become since rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and Giada De Laurentiis.

I have truly enjoyed watching her attempt the world cuisines she has absorbed since becoming a celebrity. However, in the episode I caught Paula’s special guest was her husband Michael. It was just a little too familiar – on her first show Paula’s Home Cooking she was often joined on camera by members of her family or circle of friends. Although there was a new set, a more formal menu, and the bluegrass theme music has been replaced with cool Jazz the show just felt too much like Home Cooking. I miss the fun of watching her learn from and cook with someone versed in style alien to her. That is when her sincere love of food and her folksy, quick wit are at their best.

I guess I will just have to watch this week now won’t I?


I also took my first look at new cheflebrity Mary Nolan. Nolan is a great story. She sent in an audition tape for the casting call of this season’s Next Food Network Star and after meeting her in person, TFN’s execs decided to skip the reality show and jump straight to offering the 26-year-old her own show. The title, Chic and Easy, sums up her “culinary point of view.”

Nolan is spirited and perky, no doubt she will draw comparisons to Rachael Ray because of this, but I thought her more like Giada in her first season, cute and informative but a little awkward on camera. If there is one term to sum up my first exposure to Chic and Easy it would have to be frenzied. It seemed she was constantly battling the clock to get things done but she handled it well and I am sure she will eventually become smooth. And if she doesn’t who cares? After all, that was part of Sara Moulton’s charm was that she always seemed to be frantic in her attempt to get everything done right and on time.

I look forward to watching the progression of both of these new TFN offerings. I guess as with a child it is fun to watch them discover their place in the world.


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."



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