The Real Reason These Food Network Shows Were Canceled

While certain Food Network shows may not air anymore, that doesn't mean they're gone for good. They may have been placed on the back burner, flat out canceled, or moved to the network's sister programming Cooking Channel or Discovery+. Whatever the case — transitions to other networks, poor ratings, divorce, scandal — we wanted to know the real reason these food network shows were canceled.

When Food Network debuted in 1993, many were skeptical a 24-hour cooking network would even work. But beginning with shows like "Taste," with chef and author David Rosengarten, and "In Food Today," with Donna Hanover — journalist, actress, and TV and radio host-producer — the network rose from fledgling wait-and-see to reaching almost 100 million U.S. households today. 

During a slump around 2004, network president Brooke Johnson was hired to get to the bottom of the issues. Incoming competition from reality and on-the-road style shows from Travel Channel and TLC wasn't helping. And after data from an independent study determined that viewers were growing bored, Food Network was forced to rethink programming and rebrand its image. Thus began its shift from a standard teaching platform to reality-style entertainment. What followed was the cancellation of some popular Food Network shows. 

Emeril Live

In 1993, Massachusetts-born, New Orleans-adopted Emeril Lagasse had already made a name for himself in the Crescent City. Food Network executives had definitely noticed his talent and flair and hired him as one of their original channel personalities. The chef and network struck gold with "Emeril Live." The cooking show wowed audiences with its enthusiastic energy, receiving a CableACE Award for "best informational show" in 1997, its first year. Featuring a live audience and band, the percussionist chef could often be seen swapping drumsticks for drumsticks during commercial breaks. BAM! fans were hooked. 

But by 2004, ratings had fallen. When confronted by Brooke Johnson about his dip in viewership, Lagasse reacted (by Allen Salkin via NPR) with, "You're full of it." He thought things were going great. Johnson and head of marketing Susie Fogelson tried everything they could to keep their superstar chef on board, including enticing him to appear on "Iron Chef America." But Lagasse wasn't interested in the new style. He wanted to teach people how to cook. The cost was too high, and demand for fresher faces and reality TV-style programming won out. 

As then Food Network executives Johnson and publicist Carrie Welch stated, "All good things come to an end." The decade-long "Emeril Live" filmed its last show in 2007. But Chef Lagasse wasn't the only one to feel the burn.

Molto Mario

Chef and restaurateur Mario Batali stepped onto the Food Network stage in 1996 as the dynamic orange Crocs-wearing chef of "Molto Mario". Chef Batali had an applause-worthy knack for balancing the creation of robust and innovative Italian dishes while regaling viewers and guest diners with a cultural and culinary tour of Italy. Batali would receive James Beard awards for best chef of New York City in 2002 and outstanding chef of the year in 2005.

Alas, in 2004, "Molto Mario" reached a plateau and ended up on the chopping block with other original Food Network veterans. After a move to PBS in 2008 took Batali from Italy to "Spain ... On the Road Again," he told New York Magazine, "The Food Network ... was tired of me and couldn't find a way to use my information."

But he wasn't gone just yet. Still a part of the Food Network family, he continued to appear regularly on "Iron Chef America." In 2018, Food Network had plans to reboot "Molto Mario" but nixed the idea in 2017 following accusations of sexual misconduct by former female employees of Batali. Although in 2019, no charges had been filed and the investigation was dropped.

Sara's Secrets

Before Food Network, TV personality and cookbook author Sara Moulton had already built a sweet CV. A classically educated chef, Moulton founded the New York Women's Culinary Alliance in 1982, worked in various restaurants, trained in France, and ran the dining room at Gourmet magazine. She'd also solidified her behind-the-scenes TV presence backing Julia Child on PBS and working as food editor with "Good Morning, America." 

It was in 1996 that Chef Moulton reluctantly agreed to host "Cooking Live" on Food Network. After her screen test, she had her doubts, stating in an interview with WGBH, "It was so stressful ... my hands never stopped shaking." Moulton's "Cooking Live," however, lived on until 2002. And one day later, Moulton began "Sara's Secrets." For four years, the show educated viewers with busy lifestyles on quick and easy techniques and recipes, inviting celebrities and experts to join in. In 2004, "Sara's Secrets" even got a shoutout in the liner notes of the Beastie Boys 2004 album, "To the 5 Boroughs."

But network changes were affront, and the final episode of "Sara's Secrets" was broadcast in 2006. In an interview with Eater, Chef Moulton said she enjoyed her time with the network but that leaving had not been her decision. "They dumped me," she states. "I was part of the old guard." Moulton would join the roster of chefs leaving for PBS. She would not be the only one.

East Meets West

A Yale graduate, Chinese-American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Ming Tsai found his passions centered more around cooking than his chosen major, mechanical engineering. During his studies, he spent a summer at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and went on to graduate from Cornell in Hotel Administration and Hospitality Marketing. In 1998, the same year he opened his first restaurant Blue Ginger, "East Meets West" debuted on Food Network. 

For Ming (via Food Thinkers), the concept of "East Meets West" signified a harmonious balance of the two culinary approaches. In the show, Chef Tsai loved sharing this balance and teaching his audience new methods while stimulating their palate with global flavors. In 1998, he would win an Emmy for outstanding service show host. 

But, in 2003, as Food Network began rethinking its strategy, Chef Tsai decided reality-TV wasn't his cup of tea. In an interview with Good Food on Every Table, Tsai stated, "Food Network became all about competition ..." and the chef left "because I still wanted to teach." Although he would join in on "The Next Iron Chef" fanfare, teaching won out. And a move to PBS with "Simply Ming" offered him that opportunity.

Bobby's Dinner Battle

One of Food Network's longest-standing stars, restaurateur, author, and chef Bobby Flay made his way from the French Culinary Institute to celebrity chef status in 1996 as the host of "Grillin' and Chillin'." 

In 2013 — the same year he cooked an all-American meal for President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping — he took home-chefs from cities across the U.S. on a wild reality ride in "Bobby's Dinner Battle." With limited budgets and time constraints, three teams in each city were to create the perfect three-course dinner for Flay, the other competitors, and a special guest. 

Alas, the supposed mini-series only lasted five episodes. Chef Flay admitted in a 2013 article with MyRecipes, "I just don't think it was interesting." He said the show's concept didn't work but also claims that it wasn't meant to be a multi-season show anyway, so technically it wasn't canceled. 

Since then, Bobby Flay has had plenty of other fish to fry, including time in the "Iron Chef" franchise, and in 2018, he signed an exclusive three-year deal with Food Network. And in April 2021 he launched Made by Nacho cat food. Working alongside veterinary doctor and consultant Katja Lang, and his Maine Coon Nacho, he notes on Deadline, "I am proud to share what we created."

Ace of Cakes

"Ace of Cakes" star Duff Goldman made his debut on Food Network in 2005. The show highlighted the ins and outs of Goldman's confectionary business Charm City Cakes. For 11 seasons, viewers got a taste of the bakery's operations, from the creation of fanciful cakes to Goldman's relationship with vendors and customers. 

The show proved to be a sweet success but ended in 2011, much to the chagrin of its millions of viewers. Bob Tuschman, senior vice president of programming at Food Network, stated, "All good things must come to an end." Hmm, where have we heard that one before? But the network had no intention of dropping its superstar cake maker. After five years, musician and culinary school-trained Goldman felt it was time for something different. He moved to L.A., opened Duff's Cakemix, began filming a new show, "Sugar High," and then worked alongside Valerie Bertinelli in "Kids Baking Championship" before taking a break. 

Goldman would returned to Food Network with "Duff Takes the Cake" and in April 2021, Food Network announced via Twitter, Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time on Discovery+. As for a possible return of "Ace of Cakes" ... sorry, but it's not likely. Goldman told us the show captured "a very special time and place that I'm just not sure we can ever really recreate."

Down Home with the Neelys

Everyone loves a good romance. Unfortunately, "Down Home with the Neelys" was not one. In 2008, Gina and Pat Neely, high school sweethearts and married for over 20 years, made up the alleged happy couple of the Food Network hit. Gina and Pat brought not only their grilling expertise and favorite dishes but also a relaxing, family-style vibe that viewers could relate to.

But in 2014, behind the smiles and loving façade, Gina packed her bags and exited both husband Pat Neely and Food Network. After 11 seasons, during two years of which she and Pat were separated, Gina'd had enough. In a People Magazine interview, Gina revealed she never wanted to be a TV chef, had already planned a divorce before the show began, and would cocoon herself before each episode. He was in the restaurant business; she was in banking. He loved being on the show; she didn't. This eventually led to the couple divorcing and citing irreconcilable differences, according to TMZ.

She would continue in television appearing in the Bravo reality TV show "To Rome for Love" and launching a career as a wellness advocate, speaker, and author. Pat didn't waste any time crying over spilled milk. He eventually built a new family with the next love of his life, ran marketing for This is It! Southern Kitchen & Bar-B-Q, and continues making national TV and radio appearances.

A Cook's Tour

In 2000, chef and author Anthony Bourdain launched his best-selling book, "Kitchen Confidential." Hearing his new travel book idea, NYU film graduate Lydia Tenaglia made a call, and soon Bourdain was going from the kitchen of Manhattan's Les Halles to "A Cook's Tour" on Food Network. In 2002 and 2003, "A Cook's Tour" ran for 35 episodes and took viewers on a global no-holds-barred culinary journey, from the beaches of the Caribbean to a Thailand jungle journey.

But after a couple of seasons, it was time to move on. According to "From Scratch" by Allen Salkin (via The Atlantic), Anthony Bourdain wasn't a fan of the network. Execs swore ratings were higher when he stuck closer to home and wanted him to focus on a more American-style approach. He disagreed. And after the network rejected his idea for an episode with gastronomic forerunner Ferran Adria, he filmed it anyway, pitched it to Travel Channel, and in 2005 landed the award-winning show "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations."

His journalistic proficiency and fearless coverage brought viewers to delicious destinations, both stunning and war-ravaged, oftentimes simultaneously. But in 2012, again feeling stifled by mainstream corporate culture, Bourdain, "fighting mad," exited Travel Channel and headed to CNN with "Parts Unknown." In 2018, while filming his show in France, Anthony Bourdain died by suicide.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Paula's Party

Before her multi-year presence on Food Network, Anthony Bourdain-nemesis Paula Deen had a catering service, opened a restaurant with her two sons, aptly named The Lady & Sons, in downtown Savannah, and self-published two cookbooks. In 2002, Deen began her full-time career with Food network on Paula's Home Cooking, which led to "Paula's Party" in 2006 and "Paula's Best Dishes" in 2008. 

Paula Deen's buttery sweet Southern charm and catchphrase "Y'all" rang throughout all her shows, but it was "Paula's Party" that allowed her to get up close and personal with a live viewership, oftentimes joking suggestively while sitting on the laps of male audience members. Loved or loathed, she was a hit. But after showcasing recipes like the not-so-healthful The Lady's Brunch Burger, in 2012, Deen revealed her secret three years-long battle with diabetes and announced that she had signed a promotional deal with diabetes drug company Novo Nordisk

By then, her ratings had fallen, and she'd become too expensive. Then there was the time she admitted to making racist comments, and after a skipped appearance on the "Today" show in 2013, Food Network opted not to renew her contract. "Paula's Party" was over. Deen eventually lost several other contracts and ties to projects, but after buying all her Food Network episodes, she came back determined to succeed and launched (the apparently now defunct) Paula Deen Network as well as the Paula Deen Channel on Roku.

Dinner: Impossible

Before reaching the Food Network shores, chef Robert Irvine began his culinary career in the British Royal Navy. Not a novice to challenge, in 2007 Irvine accepted his new task on the network as the host of "Dinner: Impossible." Accompanied by a team of chef assistants, Irvine's assignment consisted of planning and executing extravagant dinners for large parties, often in remote locations. The mission included a restricted time limit, tools, and ingredients, and occasional hiccups, such as altering the number of guests. 

However, in 2008, Food Network gave the chef a different mission: to explain why he had embellished a few notable experiences on his resumé, like the fact that he hadn't actually cooked for several U.S. presidents. Whoops. He explained and apologized, and because Robert Irvine did have a pretty impressive past, despite the few extras, once the hype died down, he was reinstated as host of "Dinner: Impossible" until its eighth season in 2010 and was offered another show, "Restaurant: Impossible," which lasted until 2016. 

But neither show was officially canceled. Irvine's belief that anything is possible paid off. An announcement the two shows would return on Discovery+ brought both excitement and disappointment from fans. Thrilled they were back, they were also bummed they would have to pay extra to watch them. The network heard the woes. In March 2021, Irvine joyfully announced on Twitter that new episodes of both shows would be available on Food Network.

Cutthroat Kitchen

Two years after a pilot for Alton Brown's show "Good Eats" aired on Chicago public TV 1997, it was picked up by Food Network. After its fold in 2012, the author, cook, and food science whiz went on to appear on "Iron Chef America" and the "Next Iron Chef," and in 2013 scratched his competitive itch as host of "Cutthroat Kitchen." 

Airing for 15 seasons, the wacky, trash-talking battle featured four competing cooks. Judged by celebrity chefs, their objective was to create the best dish and come out the winner while fighting elimination during three rounds. Each contestant, initially given $25,000, also had ample opportunity through an auction process to bid on cunning ways to sabotage their opponents. The last person standing would keep their remaining bounty. 

After almost 200 episodes, "Cutthroat Kitchen" was chopped in 2017. Alton Brown had had enough of the game-show lifestyle and wanted to do something else. To the dismay of his faithful viewers, the announcement came through Brown's Twitter feed in 2018, although in 2016 he'd already hinted he would be taking a break. Although long-time Food Network host Brown claimed exhaustion after having worked on "Good Eats" for so long and said in a 2014 interview with Larry King that it would never return to the airwaves, the show did indeed reappear in 2019 on Food Network and via streaming on Discovery+.

Chefs vs. City

Restaurateur and celebrity chef Aarón Sanchez began his Food Network tenure on the long-forgotten show Melting Pot. Several years later, chef and restaurateur Chris Cosentino joined Sanchez as a competitor on "The Next Iron Chef." Both graduates of Johnson & Wales University, the award-winning pals joined forces in 2009 in "Chefs vs. City." 

Hosted by Ethan Erickson, the reality competition followed Cosentino and Sanchez in a race against two local chefs in various U.S. cities to complete a series of tasks before reaching the finish line. Cosentino initially understood it to be a fun opportunity (via SFist) to combine travel, food, and competition and promote his restaurant while hanging out with Sanchez. But it wasn't what he expected. 

During an impassioned MAD Symposium lecture in 2014, Cosentino revealed his disdain for the show. "I was bummed ... I looked like a ... bully." He also hated how it played against his learning disabilities and glamorized overeating, and he'd suffered third-degree alkaline burns on his stomach lining. In the end, he also regretted his own role in the competitive, celebrity-status ambition of Food Network. He hated who he'd become. However, ratings were high, and he'd signed a contract. Finally, in 2010, it was over.

While Aarón Sanchez remains a force on the network, Cosentino is happiest cooking, mentoring new chefs, cycling, and authoring his own Marvel comic book. Straight from the chef's mouth, "Be careful what you wish for."