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TV Quickshots #9

TV Quickshots

You Gotta Eat Here (Food Network Canada; 2012-Present)

An initial synopsis: You Gotta Eat Here is the Canadian Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. If you’ve never seen or even heard of the Food Network staple “Triple D”, forgive a brief explication. Basically, obnoxious, fat-fingered, and astoundingly tacky American chef Guy Fieri visits two or three bodacious comfort-food establishments in the U.S. of A per 30-minute episode. He chats with customers, picks the brains and the recipes of the cooks, samples the delicious grub, and invariably spits out some stupidly-phrased nugget of praise for its excellent flavour explosion before moving onto the next joint. As I wrote some time ago about the show, it’s instant, guilty gratification at its purest and most Yankee-fied (or is that Yankee-fried? Often, it is). “Triple D” is the television programming equivalent of the high-carb, fat-packed food it profiles. I’m a fan despite this (or rather because of it) and hit up no less than three diners featured on the show on a trip to Boston last year.

I’ve hit the flavour sweet spot! Mercy!

To be perfectly frank, though, its inferior Canuck franchise makes the mouth water for the real thing. It’s not that the establishments and culinary creations featured on You Gotta Eat Here are necessarily a step down from those on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, although the Canadian restaurants are almost invariably funkier and more health-food-conscious than their southern counterparts. If Canada’s populist culinary scene is not in fact more progressively-minded and diverse than America’s, You Gotta Eat Here finds little ancedotal evidence to support it. Furthermore, the production is of similar quality and technique (quick cuts, lots of salival-flow-inducing plate close-ups, soundtrack of retro-sounding ’50s rock n’ roll) and in both cases the cooks and proprieters are on their best and most photogenic behaviour, visibly anticipating the surefire attendance bump that the show will provide to their establishments.

No, the biggest issue with You Gotta Eat Here is host John Catucci. In each episode’s introduction, he is upfront about being a comedian and not a chef, but seems not to have much more of a grasp of comedy than of cuisine. Catucci drops non-funny jokes with a wet, sucking plop, like so many unpeeled onions into a promising soup. Gastronomically-speaking, he lacks to expertise to speak about gastronomy. Reduced to observing as the food is prepared and kicking out neutral superlatives upon tasting it (everything is “awesome” or “amazing”, and sometimes both), Catucci manages the titanic accomplishment of making the viewer pine for Fieri.

As remarkably odious as the host of the American original is on the level of personality, he’s at least a trained chef who knows his food, and thus can both discuss the preparation process freely with his show’s subjects and knowledgably describe the way that flavours and ingredients function together to make an item taste good. He may drench his insights with off-putting dollops of twat sauce, but at least he has insights. Catucci merely eats the food and tells us that it’s good. All the more reason to obey the titular exhortation and try for ourselves, I suppose.

Categories: Reviews, Television

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