Okay, let’s be honest. if you spend any time watching Food Network eventually you’ll notice…it’s kinda white. PBS cooking show line-ups, while more hit or miss, have tended to be a little more diverse over the years: Vertamae Grosvenor, Daisy Martinez, Dorinda Hafner, Joan Nathan, Madhur Jaffrey’s BBC shows, Ming Tsai–who used to be on Food Network–even goofy old Martin Yan (I will save my Yan rant for another day). Right now I count only five regular presenters of color on Food Network, including Al Roker of Roker on the Road, and terminal hottie Warren Brown from DC bakery CakeLove, who hosts Sugar Rush.
Last week FN made a gesture toward acknowledging the size of this country’s Latino community by announcing it was signing Ingrid Hoffman to a “multi-year deal to star in her own daytime series set to premiere in 2007,” a move that had been hinted at earlier this year. Hoffman made her first appearance as a “Food Network talent” in her hometown of Miami at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival this past weekend. The only other Latino I know of on Food Network right now is Juan-Carlos Cruz, who hosts the horrible diet show Calorie Commando, which shows up late at night.
Five years ago Hoffman was called the “Hispanic Martha Stewart”; now she’s the “Hispanic Rachael Ray.” She has a weekly cooking and lifestyle show, Delicioso, on Galavision, makes biweekly appearances on Univisions’s Despierta America, which is the number-one morning show in some markets, and has regular columns in BuenHogar (Spanish-language version of Good Housekeeping) and a syndicated column in Rumbo newspapers. She also has a cookbook coming out soon that she hopes becomes the “definitive guide to modern Latin cooking.” So Food Network is not hiring a scrappy unknown, needless to say, but leveraging an already very leveraged and accessible food personality one step further.
Hoffman is originally from Colombia (her last name comes from her German grandfather), where she starred in commercials and telenovelas, but was told by casting directors upon her arrival in Miami approximately 20 years ago that she “wasn’t Hispanic enough.” She then turned to cooking, which she had learned from her Cordon Bleu-trained mother (still a consultant on Delicioso), who ran a restaurant in Bogota and a catering company in Florida. She started a restaurant called Rocca, and also ran a boutique called La Capricieuse. Like Ray, Hoffman got her start in the media through a gig on local TV, and took it from there.
Hoffman often describes Delicioso as “Sex and the City meets Martha Stewart.” My Spanish isn’t good enough to get a decent handle on the SATC quotient, but I can relate after watching it a few times that the show does have a good dose of table-setting and party-planning (à la Sandra Lee or Ina Garten) in amongst the cooking, outtakes at the end, plus the occasional goofy comedy segment and the bluest blue background you’ve ever seen on a set. It’ll be interesting to see how her new show fits in at FN; in some ways it feels like the only news here is that she looks like the missing other sibling next to the heavily-promoted Ray and Giada DeLaurentiis (I want to put them all in hair nets), but I still hope she shakes things up a bit. Even a Food Network-ed take on Latin cooking would be a change.