Web: Food2

The Food Network has a growing chorus of critics, myself among them. It seems strange that a television network dedicated to food would bring in great chefs, like Mario Batali, Gale Gand, and Ming Tsai, to build their network, only to sever all of their longstanding contracts in recent years in favor of shortcut and convenience cooking, championed by Sandra Lee, Claire Robinson, and Guy Fieri, among many others. Personality is trumping ability and perspective, and the new series of mega-brand sponsored recipes segments, like Sunny Anderson for Fiesta Paper Towels, are indicative of what some perceive to be the dumbing down of the network.

Is it unexpected that the Food Network would seemingly bury a new connected project that actually dedicates itself to the older foundations of the network? Nope. Not at all.

Food2 is a sister site, if you will, to the Food Network. The bright graphics and constant encouragement to friend the site on Facebook or follow its Twitter seem to indicate a younger demographic, perhaps 20's-30's. That's fine by me. I'll put up with an obnoxious on-site Twitter feed of the creator's own tweets...I mean. Fine. I do all the same things. Except Facebook.

So far, the site features eight original web series, ranging from Next Food Network Star contestant Kelsey Nixon and Top Chef veteran Spike Mendelsohn providing two variations of the same recipe theme (Kelsey & Spike Cook) to an online dating show where two contestants prepare a budget meal on the streets of NYC to win a date ($12 Challenge). The series are well produced but the site fails them. If I want to watch all of Kelsey & Spike Cook in order, I'm screwed. The episodes are misnumbered for every series. There can't be more than one "episode one" of a show. Formatting issues aside, I'm excited to see what else Food2 can produce.

Food2 also features user generated content by way of Food Challenges. It might involve submitting a video, a recipe, or a photograph. Unfortunately for those of us not as connected, the challenges require Facebook or Myspace to enter. The results are still entertaining.

Recipes on the site are culled from all the connected sites: RecipeZaar, Food Network, Corporate Sponsors (like Newman's Own), as well as user submitted recipes. They are organized by a modified version of RecipeZaar's microcategorization, including mood (like munchies) and cooking style (like almost homemade). There are Tips and a Blog as well.

Is Food2 a step in the right direction? I think so. It's easier to find the type of food prepared in the heyday of Sara Moulton and Emeril Lagasse than it is to find a serious link to Semi Homemade cuisine. The user generated content should be an interesting feature when people actually find out about the site. But judging by the current state of the Food Network, who knows when that will be?