In the kitchen: Michael Chiarello

December 14, 2006

Michael Chiarello is one of those Food Network celebrities who seems not to have quite taken off. He has one program, Easy Entertaining, and doesn’t seem as entwined in the Food Network subculture as others. He’s not a utility celebrity like Tyler Florence, and he seems largely immune to the star-factory quality that has overwhelmed some otherwise innocuous tele-chefs who suffer through the overexposure.

This might be because he’s occupied elsewhere and is perfectly content with his current level of activity and exposure. It could also be because he doesn’t quite click with viewers. I can buy either explanation, though I do like his menus a lot.


  • I really like how he breaks down menu preparation, letting home cooks know what they can do well in advance of the event. The aspect of time management makes his recipes seem much more achievable.
  • His recipes are that nice combination of interesting but replicable – great flavors that might not immediately occur to a home cook, but nothing so complex or technical that it’s just an invitation to vicarious drooling.
  • He likes gray salt. That says good things about a person.
  • Despite being in a comparative foodie paradise, the Napa Valley, he doesn’t come off as intractable about ingredient quality or prone to use esoteric items that most viewers can’t find at their grocery store.
  • Cons:

  • I think he tends towards smarminess. He’s just… really pleased with himself.
  • While I always like it when these shows actually show the event in progress, I get an unmistakable vibe that somewhere, just off camera, there is a bowl full of the guests’ keys that will be randomly redistributed later in the evening.
  • He’s the founder of “Napa Style,” which sets off my twee alarm.
  • Summary:

    As a cook, I like his approach and his flavors. As a television personality, I find him a little off-putting. I might have to give a closer look at his cookbooks to see if I can get the information and recipes without the smarm.

    Up against the wall

    December 14, 2006

    ICv2 posts the You Higuri poster for libraries I mentioned yesterday. As one might have expected, it’s gorgeous, and I love the tag line.

    Carolyn makes some excellent suggestions for other manga possibilities. The bookish boys of Off*Beat would be particularly ideal. And I can’t believe I forgot to consider the incompetent invaders of Sgt. Frog.