Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Brazil Gets Its Own Food Network

It was probably inevitable. With cable TV reaching into more and more Brazilian homes, and with the possibility of accessing hundreds of channels becoming a reality for most of Brazil's burgeoning middle class, it was only a matter of time before one of those available channels was filled by a channel devoted to food and cooking. After all, the USA has its Food Network, Canada has Food Network Canada, Australia's got Lifestyle Food, and France has got Le Canal Gourmandises, so why shouldn't Brazil have a food channel too?

It's not to say that Brazil didn't already have lots of TV programs devoted to food, cooking and food culture. Popular cooking-themed shows (particularly reality-TV style programs like Top Chef and all of Gordon Ramsay's *!$#% shows) from other countries are imported and subtitled and shown on cable lifestyle channels. GNT, a cable network aimed at women and owned by Brazilian media giant Globo, offers a diet of cooking shows along with talk, beauty and fashion shows. Major broadcast networks, like Globo itself, offer a few cooking shows weekdays during the morning. But up until 2011, Brazil didn't have a 24-hour, domestic, Portuguese-language food network.

That all changed, though, on January 17, 2011 when Chef TV went on the air for the first time on the TVA and TV Alphaville cable systems. Owned by Grupo Mídia do Brasil and based in São Paulo, Chef TV transmits food-related programming 24/7 to its subscribers. Its programming content also be streamed anywhere in Brazil direct from the channel's website Chef TV.

More than 80% of the channel's programming is produced domestically in Brazil, with the remaining 20% being rebroadcasts of international content. A glance at the channel's program grid reveals a total lack of reality-TV style elimination shows and a very small number of personality-chef based programs (so far). Most of the programs are thematic in nature, covering one aspect or another of gastronomy. For example, tonight's prime-time programs include a wine show starring a well-known sommelier, a cocktail show hosted by a bartender, a chef's TV diary and recipe collection, a program about the history of gastronomy, a program in which viewers can have their culinary questions answered, and a show devoted to the pizza. Other programs on the channel's schedules include a program about Brazil's Bahian regional cuisine, a seafood show, and of course, a dessert and pastry show. Many of the shows are cooking demonstrations, and all recipes from all shows can be found on the Chef TV website.

As devoted viewers of The Food Network in its early days, and as heart-broken spectators watching the network's degeneration into food-star silliness over time, Flavors of Brazil has its fingers crossed for  Chef TV. So far, it's a gastronomy channel and not merely foodetainment. We fervently hope it'll stay that way.

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