A tale of two faces: George Duran and the Sotto Terra Incident

I'd like to tell you the story of two food personalities. I won't say "chefs", because for different reasons the label doesn't fit either one.

They're both a little portly. They've got an Everyman kind of charm without being either clownish or misogynistic. They each get a television show wherein they interact with innocent bystanders and challenge people to eat things they wouldn't normally eat.

Except one man's show only lasts a single season before being cancelled. The other man's show, which started two years after the first, has lasted for three years and four seasons.

This is the story of George Duran and Adam Richman.

So how unlucky does George Duran feel today? His Ham on the Street for Food Network was this close to achieving the success Adam Richman has with Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. Maybe we should feel empathy for Duran, since his concept was much more focused on sensible, mostly real-world eating, while Richman's show embraces conspicuous consumption and (frankly) overeating. Duran fought the good fight, and lost--no shame in that. And after all, Duran is an actual chef! Richman is an actor who likes food.

But how, then, do we reconcile the latest news? The news that George Duran hosted an invitation-only dinner at a supposed pop-up restaurant in New York, only to pull back the curtain at the end to reveal that the entire premise was a promotion, a focus-group ambush for the benefit of Marie Callender's Frozen Entrees?

What is it about failed TV chefs that makes them think the way back into favor is to endorse frozen food? And in Duran's case, shouldn't someone have thought, Maybe we shouldn't invite a bunch of food bloggers to this deal? It's a PR event, after all. Invite PR people, TV execs. Not snarky denizens of the internets.

Somewhere, Adam Richman is looking down at his 20-egg omelet with a Reuben and two cream puffs inside and smiling. He's being genuine; he's doing what he says he's doing. He's not inviting people to a meal with a promised "surprise" at the end, and then delivering the surprise in a way that undercuts everything else he's said about fresh food, and seasonal food, and good food. That's not what chefs do, but it's what George Duran did.

And when you do that, this is what you get. You get crushed--cah-RUSHED--by bloggers for the dissembling performance, for the two-faced shillery, for the sheer absurdity of the bullshit. And you're going to take every lump, George. Because you've earned it.