On the Line: Bobby Bognar of History Channel's "Food Tech"
It's ironic that the latest food show to hit the airwaves isn't on the Food Network (they're much too busy showing pointless, boring challenge shows) but on the History Channel.
Though the format is a lot like "Unwrapped" and "Follow That Food", the last time Marc Summers interviewed anyone on TV was during Double Dare, and Gordon Elliott hasn't been seen outside of soup commercials for half a decade. "Food Tech" is a big improvement on the genre.
Host Bobby Bognar actually deconstructs foods that the average American eats and then goes to the source of the main ingredients to interview the producers, for better or worse. The Chinese takeout episode, for example, saw Bobby zipping around the country investigating egg rolls, Peking duck, soy and oyster sauces, fortune cookies and the little cardboard takeout pails.
Bobby was kind enough to answer our usual interview questions and a few others.
1. Dish you cook that most represents you.
Omelets. It's the perfect leftovers/hangovers kind of meal...that pretty much sums me up.
2. What was the last meal you had at home?
Lox and Bagels with cream cheese, onions, and capers. One of the VPs of History sent me a gift basket from Zabar's in NYC to celebrate great debut numbers for "Food Tech." Shipping deli foods is much cooler than flowers. [SAFII: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!]
3. Your favorite restaurant:
For weekend breakfast, it's Grub in Hollywood, a homey place with delicious comfort food. For lunch, it's The Restaurant at the Getty Center, where my wife, Mayet, is the Executive Chef. Great views and creative, delicious food. For dinner, it's Yatai on Sunset, an Asian small plates restaurant with a very cool vibe. For dessert and coffee, it's Susina, which seems like it would be my favorite café in Paris, if I had ever been to Paris.
4. Fast food guilty pleasure:
I rarely feel guilty about fast food. But my favorite is the classic Chick-Fil-A sandwich.
5. Complete this sentence: I would like to [verb] [Food Network star] with [noun]. (for example: "I would like to BEAT BOBBY FLAY with A STALE BAGUETTE." or "I would like to SHOWER GIADA DE LAURENTIIS with FLOWERS"):
I would like to outshine Marc Summers with my Food Tech paychecks.
6. Last meal of your life, what would it be?
Chesapeake Pizza from Bottom's Up Pizza in Richmond, VA. It's a sourdough crust, Maryland blue crab, mozzarella, sauteed onions, and Old Bay seasoning. I would need a tall, chilled mug of Angel City Ale to go along with that, of course.
7. Items you always have in your refrigerator:
Sriracha, eggs, bacon, Champagne, beer.
8. Your most indispensable kitchen tool or appliance:
9. Why Food Tech? Isn't seeing what goes into your Chinese takeout a bit like watching sausage be made?
That's two different questions! Why Food Tech? Because that's the show that asked me to host! If it were called "Aquarium Tech", I would be the wrong guy. And contrary to popular belief, it is actually chicken in your General Tso's chicken.
10. Speaking of sausage being made, the first episode, with the long bendy strings of processed cheese, put us right off cheese. Have you had any ingredients you've regretted after seeing them made?
Nope. In fact, it made me even more comfortable about the ways our food is manufactured on a large scale. Just about every place we went to was spotless, and all the employees took great pride in the fact that they were feeding America with products they'd made. Even visiting abattoirs, while not fun or pretty, actually eased my mind a little bit, seeing how quickly and cleanly the animals were "harvested."
11. What is the coolest piece of technology you've seen?
Probably Tetra Pak, which is a company that produces recyclable beverage containers that allow even dairy products to be stored at room temperature for years.
12. There's been a lot of hippie foodie snark about how you're just showing off everything that's wrong with American food (chemical rinses, processed food, unsustainable growth, etc.).
Yep. But if flak from hippie foodies is the worst thing I face, then I am up to the challenge. My professional food background with BAMCO is based in local and sustainable food, and I know more about organic vegetables and farmers market fruit than most people, but this show isn't about explaining how to grow a low-carbon diet meal, or explaining how an heirloom bean gets on the plate at a white tablecloth restaurant. "Food Tech" explains how, for better or for worse, the majority of American meals are produced.
13. You're in a rock band, the Piper Downs. Any plans to come down to OC, sample our food and maybe play a few sets somewhere?
Hell, yeah. Where do you want us to plug in?
"Food Tech" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on the History Channel.
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