Alton Brown on Why Food Network Can’t Succeed with a Healthy Cooking Show: ‘No One Will Watch It’

If you’ve watched Food Network programming through the years, you may have noticed a mere smattering of programs focused on healthy cooking and eating.

One of the cable network’s most popular personalities, Alton Brown, noticed as well and shared in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation (TAF) his doubt that a healthy cooking program would ever succeed on Food Network. Here’s what he had to say.

Celebrity chef Alton Brown wears a bowtie and suit in this photograph.
Alton Brown | Bennett Raglin/WireImage

Alton Brown once said ‘nobody wants to watch’ healthy cooking shows on Food Network

Asked by TAF in 2012 if he feels food television is responsible for teaching its audience about healthy eating, the Good Eats star said, “The health angle is something that plagues me because I don’t think you can separate the rise of obesity from the rise of chefs becoming stars, as they are now. Responsible? No. A factor? Yes. … We’re not responsible for it, you know, people are responsible for actually putting the food into the hole in the front of their head.”

As much as food television programming does have to “accept that we’re part of [the obesity epidemic],” what Brown says it can’t control is viewers’ lack of interest in healthful cuisine.

“We’re part of the big picture,” he continued. “Does that mean we can fix it? Probably not because, in the end, people don’t want to watch ‘healthy.’ No one’s been able to make a healthy eating show work on Food Network. You know why? Because nobody wants to watch it.”

Brown added emphatically: “No one will watch it. In the end, people would much rather watch Giada De Laurentiis eat gnocchi … in the end, people don’t really want to be preached at.”

Food Network’s healthiest stand-and-stir program to date

The lone stand-out “healthy food” show on the culinary network was Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger hosted by the registered dietitian, nutritionist, cookbook author, and Washington Post columnist.

Her program, which showed viewers how to prepare their favorite dishes more healthfully, debuted in 2006 on Food Network and, according to IMDb, aired its last episode in 2011.

Krieger, who has her master’s degree in nutrition education with a minor in journalism, explained to KLCS the path that landed her on the culinary channel.

“I was in private practice for a while, I did all these local TV shows as a guest expert and then eventually landed on a TV show, which was an NBC Universal show,” she recalled. “It was a magazine-style Saturday morning thing. After that, I wrote my first book … and that’s when the Food Network discovered my book. It took a year between our first meetings and the green light, but eventually, they wanted to do a show …

“I would say getting thrown into having a cooking show made me really step up my game and I learned a lot just working with the Food Network kitchens and over the years have really developed the craft of recipe writing.”

Krieger also hosted Ellie’s Real Good Food on public television in 2016.

Brown’s theory will be put to the test soon

In the midst of Food Network’s abundance of reality shows, cooking competitions, and conventional how-to shows, a new program with a healthier twist will soon be debuting on the channel, potentially challenging Alton Brown’s hunch.

Actor, social media personality, and vegan Tabitha Brown will be debuting a plant-based cuisine program on the network this summer called It’s CompliPlated.

She said in a statement, “Becoming vegan changed my life and the way I cook—and I know folks can relate to the daily challenge of making the whole family happy with one meal, so we decided to make a game of it. These chefs cook from the heart and their food is mind-blowing—viewers are sure to have a blast and be inspired for their next family dinner.”

The series, according to VegNews, will feature in each episode four chefs “who will be tasked with creating plant-based dishes for celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan and rotating guest judges who have various dietary restrictions.”

Perhaps this Food Network show will prove that healthy cooking’s time has come, especially as it showcases plant-based eating in a competitive/how-to mashup presentation.

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