This year Sandra Lee was given a new series on the Food Network, which is just one of many reasons why I’ve grown to despise them. I was temporarily relieved when I saw that there was a new cooking channel called The Cooking Channel (Ha!) last year that appeared to actually take the idea of cooking seriously. But! They had to go and ruin everything when this year they began airing yet another new Sandra Lee series called Sandra Lee’s Taverns, Lounges & Clubs. Right then and there I made the mental shift to throw it in the same evil basket as the Food Network, and I haven’t looked back.
Anyway, so I was also kind of excited because it meant that I could now double down on keeping an eye on the amount of Sandra Lee crap that is on the air. I had high hopes for being able to start reviewing at least one of her series on a regular basis again, but two things happened.
One, I had to grudgingly admit that I didn’t really mind her Taverns, Lounges & Clubs show. I just sort of felt bad for all the embarrassing moments where she just barges over and crashes the conversations of young people at their tables and awkwardly talks with them like they’re people who would actually hang out with an aging cougar in real life. The fascinating part is being able to witness deeper aspects of Sandra’s love affair with alcohol. She lets slip little tidbits throughout the show, like how in real life when she orders drinks she makes sure she gets her money’s worth by ordering the ice on the side. That way you get an actual full glass of alcohol without ice to water it down. Brilliant! Borderline alcoholic, of course, but nonetheless brilliant.
The second thing that happened was I have now watched the first two shows of her Restaurant Remakes series, and OH MY GOD. Ryan can’t even take it and he has to leave the room when I start playing it. I, of course, having been toughened up by years of watching Sandra Lee ‘cook’ and don’t have any problems. No, the real issue is that I thought the Kwanzaa cake was truly her best worst moment, but I’m here to say that she crosses that line and more in every single episode of her new series. In fact she proudly steps over that line, turns around to kick that line in the ass, mixes its pulverized remains into a new, awful cocktail recipe and then drinks it!
Seriously. There is literally just so much material and so many ridiculous ingredient substitutes that I was paralyzed. If I were to do a recap, I’d have so many screen captions to take, my review would probably wind up taking two days to write and I still wouldn’t be able to capture all the Wrong. I can’t even figure out where to start with just an overall summary about why it’s so messed up right now, but I’m going to try.
I guess I should just start with the premise of the show. Sandra Lee goes to very expensive, trendy restaurants, meets with the chef there, then convinces him or her to make her the best dish on the menu. She then eats the dish, compliments the chef on the awesomeness of their cooking, goes to her studio kitchen and then—and this is where the bulk of the Wrong occurs, of course—proceeds to grossly reimagine said dish using ingredients that you can buy in any regular supermarket, to make it easy on people.
Yes. I should pause for a moment so you all can picture in your heads exactly how far down this rabbit hole* she can go.
Quail and duck become chicken. Sauce made from dragon fruit, rose petals and sage becomes a sauce made from canned pears, cranberries and rosemary. A huckleberry reduction that goes over duck breast that has been marinated in shallots and herbs becomes a blackberry sauce over a chicken breast that hasn’t even been seasoned, and she put onions in the blackberry sauce! A fondue made with gruyere and topped with a poached duck egg becomes a fondue made with muenster and topped with a chicken egg (I would also like it noted that when she was showing how to poach the egg, the water wasn’t even hot. She had a stunt poached egg!). She went to a bakery where they were known for their amazing butterscotch trifle, and Sandra Lee basically turned that trifle into a butterscotch ice cream sundae. No joke. NO. JOKE. If my skull would have had hinges, my brain would have popped that puppy open and ran for its life after trying to process what had just happened! As it was, all I could do was pause the TV and just whisper “What. The. Fuck.” over and over again.
Another thing is, I wasn’t sure if I should feel sorry for the restaurants and chefs she is visiting. I mean, yes, a real Sandra Lee fan is probably not even in the demographic of people who could even afford to go to these kinds of restaurants in the first place, and I’m willing to bet that the restaurant owners know that people who DO come to their restaurants aren’t the kind of people who would ever watch a Sandra Lee cooking show, but it still somehow seems so very WRONG. Are the chefs okay knowing that Sandra is going to completely bastardize and obliterate a dish that they’ve worked so hard on making perfect? Are they okay with knowing that some people are going to make Sandra’s Remake Recipes and think that that’s what the food tastes like when you go to upscale restaurants? That is just so incredibly misleading!
There’s more than this, but I think at this point you all can sort of see what I’m talking about. I will, of course, continue to watch both shows, but I just don’t have the energy to dissect the amount of crap necessary to really do a recap justice.
*Yep, I just made a callback to her Halloween special’s theme!