We already knew that host of Food Network's abominable Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee can't cook. Let's put it this way: if you have a can opener, a microwave, and some old I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! you could do her job standing on your head. But I imagined that she thought of herself as a serious culinarian, however misguided that might be. One must at least keep up appearances while hosting a cooking show, no?
There was a time at which Food Network programming mostly featured chefs – that is, trained and experienced people who have successfully made their way through the culinary world based largely on talent. As old-school TV chefs like Julia Child or Martin Yan (from PBS's awesomely lo-fi Yan Can Cook) proved, however, being a great chef does not mean one has great "camera appeal." At some point the quest for ratings led Food Network to write as many of their Big Name Chefs as possible out of their programming to be replaced with chirpy, mall focus-grouped bobbleheads who smile pretty while throwing out marketable catchphrases but are not chefs. Thus we are subjected to amateurs and glorified home cooks like Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray, and the horrific Ms. Lee. Anthony Bourdain described her as follows in a lengthy rant about the "Newer, Younger, More Male-Oriented, More Dumb-Ass Food Network":
Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves. What’s the difference between that and Sandra suggesting we fill our mouths with Ritz Crackers, jam a can of Cheez Wiz in after and press hard? None that I can see.
While I find her show unwatchable, I've wondered if Mr. Bourdain's comments were unnecessarily harsh. For example, he says much the same thing about Rachel Ray, who I find supremely irritating but has put out a number of excellent cookbooks which suggest that, yes, she knows enough to be useful. Lee's show, which consists mostly of opening cans and/or preparing boxed grocery store items ("Coming up next: how to make great instant mashed potatoes!"), might not be a complete synopsis of her talents and her take on cooking. She could, like Emeril, be a decent person who happens to have a horrendous TV show.
Then I saw this.
Sandra, you shameless hooker.*
First of all, describing her as a "Chef" disregards and disrespects the real meaning of the term. Second, what's the matter Sandra, you don't have enough fuckin' money? As the star of a show on the Food Network you need to look at America with a straight face and talk about how delicious KFC is for another paycheck? The TV show, the book deals, the magazine gigs…those don't make her rich enough. She needs to shill for fast food that tastes like cleaning a grease trap with one's tongue in order to make ends meet.
One of two things must be true here. Either Sandra Lee really thinks KFC is awesome, which would be a damning critique of her judgment, or she is an empty shell of a person who has no self-respect and literally will do anything for a dollar. I have not eaten at a KFC since I was about 10, and even then, when my diet consisted almost entirely of fried/salted snacks, candy, frozen entrees, and fast food, it tasted like Frank Perdue shitting on my tongue. I always thought their motto should be "KFC: We use the chickens that die of natural causes…and pass the savings on to you." The shriveled, emaciated, oily, flavorless wads of garbage they serve to life-weary or seriously misguided people around the world are the kind of food one would expect to eat in the aftermath of a nuclear war – when the survival crackers run out and we're reduced to gnawing the bones of the family pets who perished in the first strike. If it was possible to taste despair, it would taste like Original Recipe KFC.
I understand how one could become a spokesperson for the culinary equivalent of Chernobyl and still have enough balls to host a cooking show and use the title of "Chef" but until Sandra Lee came along I had a hard time believing that anyone could be so devoid of self-awareness as to do it.
*Please note that this is a reference to Ms. Lee's willingness to prostitute her "credentials" as a "chef" to hawk disgusting, processed junk food to a seriously overweight nation and not a reference to prostitution in the traditional sense. I have to point this out because, as you are all aware, I am a misogynist who hates women.