The topic of harnessing the power of the food nation came up over at TV Food Fan the other day. In a nutshell, the discussion began with mention of the fact that Food Network personality Tyler Florence would be developing menu items for casual eatery Applebee's.
I read this news while on vacation and my first reaction was "Ewww," but that's how I always react at the thought of food from Applebee's. Or Olive Garden. Or TGIFriday's. Or fill in the blank.
Yes, I know, I willingly eat and endorse such fast food junk as White Castle, Chick-Fil-A and Roy Rogers, so how can I look down on the meals at Applebee's? Because I accept those places for what they are. They're offering quick bites when you ostensibly don't have the time or energy to make something more suitable. And that's okay every once in awhile.
I just resent the Applebee's and Olive Gardens of the world trying to convince people that they offer a good "dining out" experience or play some greater role in the neighborhood in which their chain establishments resides. In fact, if I see one more of those Applebee's commercials where they hang up a photo of the high school coach who's retiring or an Olive Garden ad where family members talk about how it reminds them of mom's home cooking I think I'll hurl.
But I'm getting away from my point. The point is that we should no longer be surprised that we, The Food Nation, represent a big, attractive, powerful block to the mainstream media and entertainment conglomerates.
The news of Florence and Applebee's getting together is just the latest example of those conglomerates attempting to tap into the food fan base.
Not so long ago Emeril had a short lived (and deservedly so) sitcom in which he played, well, Emeril. I was a fan of his at the time (I think the schtick is pretty played out now) and tuned in for an episode. I never returned but that didn't stop him from getting a toothpaste commercial.
This season Rachel Ray is getting her own Oprah-endorsed talk show and the less I say about that the better.
Mario Batale has a NASCAR-endorsed cookbook which attempts to unite the food nation and NASCAR nation (admittedly, some of the recipes featured in a recent Food & Wine sound like they kick ass). Last year there was a sitcom (actually a pretty funny one) based on Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential.' Ray and Rick Bayless were used as spokespeople in insulting Burger King ads, though they were probably partially responsible for me trying those stupid baguette sandwiches.
eBay had Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas at their recent convention to sign cookbooks and pose with fans. One of the networks had a collosal flop of an Iron Chef-esque show featuring celebrities and people tend to forget the first American spin-off of the Iron Chef featuring William Shatner as The Chairman.
The list goes on.
Can a food-centric big budget action film be far behind? CREPES ON A PLANE, perhaps?