Tuesday, January 05, 2010

White House Episode of Iron Chef America Is Ratings Rocket For Food Network

FLOTUS Factor Gets 4.6 million viewers fired up
It may not have been the most epic battle in culinary history, as show host Alton Brown kept telling viewers, but the White House episode of Iron Chef America was a history maker for Food Network. The Nielsen Media Research TV ratings for Sunday night, Jan. 3, were just posted, and the combination of First Lady Michelle Obama, her Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, and celeb chefs Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse romping in the White House Kitchen Garden on Sunday's two-hour season premiere set new viewer records for Food Network. (Above: Comerford and Flay, the winning team, with show host Brown)

The show was the highest rated show on cable TV for its time slot, 8-10 PM. And with about 4.6 million viewers, it was the highest rated and most-watched show in Food Network's history. Those numbers also make it the most-watched show of any Iron Chef America episode, in the series' run, now in its eighth season.

The episode put a swell focus on local, sustainable and heritage foods, and the importance of vegetables for a healthy diet. Both teams had to create five "ultimate American" dishes; watch a video clip of the judging here, which has good shots of the plated dishes. Mrs. Obama's cameo was the first time any first lady had appeared on a competition cooking show, and it was the first time currently employed White House chefs had competed on a cooking show, too. White House Executive Sous Chef Tommy Kurpradit was the sous chef for Team White House during the show, and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses were in the studio audience. Both had brief on-air cameos, too.

For comparison's sake, Iron Chef's America's Nielsen rating was 1.95 for adults ages 25-54. The most-watched show on network television on Sunday night was ABC's Extreme Makeover, with a Nielsen rating of 6.1 during the first hour of Iron Chef America, which soared to a 9.0, or 15.3 million viewers, during the second hour of the cooking show, when Desperate Housewives came on the air.

Related: A full recap of the show is here. Chef Comerford blogs about her experience on the show, and her inspiration from Mrs. Obama, here. The recipe for the winning dessert from Team White House: Sweet Potato Pie. The White House also released two other recipes to accompany the program, including Cauliflower Gratin, which was one of Team White House's winning dishes. UPDATE, Jan. 13: The issue of the use of Stunt Vegetables is rocking the Internet. UPDATE 2: Stunt vegetables turns into a huge issue on the internet, and makes it onto television: Here's a clip from Fox News, and Stephen Colbert does a send up of the nonsense here.

*Photo courtesy Food Network.