First Taste of Tastemade is Less Than Filling

/ Jul 2, 2013


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From a team of creatives who worked at Demand Media comes Tastemade, which one glib news wonk called “Machinima for food.” The aim here is to provide, via YouTube’s original channels initiative, a series of food-related programs; some of these morsels are created at the company’s 7,000 foot facility in Santa Monica with the others curated (I love/hate that word) by some sort of selection process that shows a lack of subject matter expertise — at least so far, to this fair-minded internet TV pundit.

Let’s be totally up-front here: I have sampled but one program — “Hilah’s Texas Kitchen” —  so either my not-so-random choice is not representative of Tastemade’s vision for quality video fare or I am missing the point of this odd take on one of television’s classic programming genres. I chose Hilah Johnson’s show because she lives in Austin (as do I), one of our nation’s current food hot spots, which boasts a diverse pantheon of grubstake stars including Paul Qui (he of “Top Chef” victory fame) and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, deemed by those who know (including me, pre-vegan) as Texas’ (therefore the nation’s) numero uno BBQ joint. I figgered (as we say down Texas way) that some of Austin’s cerebral, yet folksy, food charm would rub off on Miss Hilah, but alas, I was mistaken.

Hilah, who bears a striking resemblance to Lisa Kudrow, talks way too fast, uses recipes that are garbled and when her patter is coherent, she often speaks in non sequitur double entendre (“The squash is hard, the way I like my men”). Was that Julia Child I saw spinning in her grave? I admit Hilah clearly states her videos are for beginners, but anyone whose kitchen skills that are greater than boiling water will find the instructions difficult to follow and just a tick over fair-to-middlin’ take out. If you are looking for fluid skills and a mind for innovative dishes, you’ll need to put that quest on the back burner.

Let me look beyond my snobby point of view related to cooking videos to note that Ms. Johnson, who has degrees in biology and botany, has carefully crafted a web celebrity persona that resonates with many viewers who find her charming and, as one comic would say, “has many other qualities admired by superficial man.” She is also not afraid of controversy, earning a mention in Huffington Post for her funny (but slightly misguided) video poke at Chick-fil-A’s 2012 anti-gay remarks. In a world where YouTube stars emerge from a pool of folks who can master a webcam and green screen while coaxing their cat to purr sweet nothings, the bar for art and science of cooking videos may be lowered to meet our world of snaps and clips.

I am looking forward to taking the chef’s knife to other Tastemade programs which, I hope, are blends of entertainment with food. Think Alton Brown.


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