Authentic Entertainment’s Lauren Lexton Talks About the Fun of Producing Food Shows [Exclusive]
Shows about food are no longer just about learning how to prepare a certain dish, and they havenâ€™t been for a long time. Shows like Food Networkâ€™s Top 5 Restaurants and Guilty Pleasures engage the audience, presenting dishes from around the country in a way that is almost seductive. Then, there are the competition shows, like Esquireâ€™s Knife Fight, which allow the audience to become invested in a completely different way as they watch the dishes be prepared under pressure.
These three shows are among a long list of food programming produced by Authentic Entertainment, which was co-founded by Tom Rogan and Lauren Lexton, and whose first show about food was the ever popular Ace of Cakes.
We talked to Lauren Lexton about the ways Top 5 Restaurants, Guilty Pleasures, and Knife Fight are so engaging and unique. By the way, if you havenâ€™t watched any of these shows yet, we recommend that you do it soon â€“ but donâ€™t do it on an empty stomach!
One of the newest shows is Top 5 Restaurants on Food Network, hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian and Sunny Anderson, whose excitement over the food is just one reason to watch. Lauren Lexton shared why she thinks this show is particularly unique.
â€œBesides the fact that people like looking at really good food, in these shows thereâ€™s the information you can get,â€ Lexton said. â€œThis is the first time that Food Network is going out on a limb and saying, these are the top five dishes. I think everybody then puts those on their bucket list and wants to know, what is it that makes itÂ soÂ above and beyond all theÂ otherÂ amazing burgers, pizza, ice-cream, and whatever else.â€
The first episode ofÂ Top 5 RestaurantsÂ gave us the top five burgers in America, from a classic burger in California to a unique onion burger in Oklahoma. â€œJust looking at the different cuts of the show, you get right off the bat why these people are there. Itâ€™s not that every burger is a perfectly crafted burger thatâ€™s got a nice grilled outside and a juicy inside. Not all of them are like that, like the onion burger. I thought it was great, because people were calling it the â€˜ugly burger.â€™â€
Besides looking at the food (which, is an entirely voyeuristic and addictive viewing experience), Lexton also explained how the show creates a dialogue among the rest of the country. â€œThere are plenty of shows where somebody goes from place to place and talks about how delicious things are. Obviously,Â Dinerâ€™s, Drive-Inâ€™s and DivesÂ is a huge example of a super successful show thatâ€™s all from the point of view of one person, but you kind of need to go farther. I think the thing aboutÂ Top 5 [Restaurants]Â is that Food Network is willing to go out on a limb to say these are the best, because they want people to stand up and take notice,â€ Lexton explained. â€œI think itâ€™s also much more interactive. Once Food Network says these are the top five burgers, the rest of America is going to start a dialogue and say, â€˜I donâ€™t know. I think that maybe whatever restaurant in my home town really has the best burgers.â€™ And you really start a social media dialogue about what you think is the best burger in America, or the best pizza, or the best ice-cream.”
Another show that Authentic Entertainment is currently producing on Food Network is Guilty Pleasures, in which favorite Food Network personalities including Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Anne Burrell, Curtis Stone, and many others reveal their own personal guilty pleasures. Celebrities are also joining in on the fun, including comedian David Alan Grier.
In addition to seeing these amazingly sinful dishes presented on-screen, Lexton said the show is also unique in its approach. â€œI think Guilty Pleasures is a much more humorous take on things, and the audience appreciates that,â€ she said. â€œThe first thing we do is we hear from people as to what their guilty pleasures are. [Laughs] Then we just trying to figure out, what are the ones that would be most appealing, but also feel like a guilty pleasure to the audience. Then we literally reach out to the restaurants and we go and we film, and our crew is very well fed. [Laughs] And they all love food too. We talk to a really diverse group of people. Some who are regularly on the Food Network to, these days weâ€™re trying to get more celebrities on the show because itâ€™s always fun to hear what celebrities like to eat. David Alan Grier is a great example. He was just so funny, but he also loves food. Itâ€™s really just about thinking â€“ the more you think about what it is that makes you want to do anything you can to eat this particular food. Thatâ€™s where the â€˜guiltyâ€™ part comes in too which is fun. Weâ€™re having fun with the jail cell and the therapist couch and all of those different kinds of things — because, at the same time you know you love to eat it, you also know that itâ€™s something that can set you over the edge.â€
The show is also something that everyone can relate to. Who doesnâ€™t love talking about their own guilty pleasures? Lexton even shared hers. â€œI went to Philadelphia after we shot the first season, and I am from Philly, so I went to Jimâ€™s Steaks and I got the steak sandwich with the bag of chips and the Dr. Brownâ€™s Black Cherry Soda and I took a picture of it [laughs], and I sent it back to the team, and Iâ€™m like, â€˜This is my guilty pleasure!â€™ So I think thatâ€™s whatâ€™s fun about it, is that we all have our guilty pleasures. We all fortunately donâ€™t eat them every day, but when we do, we really appreciate it.â€
Lexton also talked about Esquireâ€™s Knife Fight, an underground competition show with an edgy feel. â€œThe whole show came from the fact that Ilan Hall just opened his restaurant at night after he had closed. It was kind of this secret. You could go to The Gorbals after hours and see these amazing chefs. So that is the fun thing about the show itself, is that itâ€™s all completely real. That audience is a real live audience, and that that actual time limitation and everything else is exactly what it is. So if people were going to go, even if the cameras werenâ€™t there, it would be exactly the same way.â€
Something else thatâ€™s interesting about Knife Fight are the various unique ingredients that the chefs use in their dishes â€“ and they donâ€™t always look appetizing. â€œSome of the ingredients are just, frankly, not that appealing. Like eel and alligator, and things like that. But once you have somebody saying, â€˜I am gonna take this and mix it with this, and this, and this, then all of a sudden youâ€™re like â€˜Oh, okay. I get it. I can take this abstract ingredient, but because everything else that goes into it is something I understand, I still want to keep watching. I still want to see the people who are talking about the food and the people who are preparing the food get excited about it?â€™ And itâ€™s abundantly clear when you watch the show.â€
But what connects all of these shows together, according to Lexton, is passion. â€œThe fact of the matter is, itâ€™s honestly all about passion, and itâ€™s like a physical embodiment of somebodyâ€™s passion for something. Not every subject that people are passionate about can translate to the screen in a way where, not only is it really visual, but it also literally makes your mouth water. Youâ€™re watching, and youâ€™re like, â€˜Oh my God, that looks amazing!â€™ or â€˜Oh my God, that actually looks kind of gross.â€™ Youâ€™re always going to have some kind of opinion and reaction because itâ€™s food, and everybody understands it.â€
For Lexton, who has produced a long list of food programming through Authentic Entertainment, the experience is one she really enjoys. â€œProducing shows about food is so fun. Authentic started out by doing true crime shows, and then we started doing Ace of Cakes. And I realized, okay, I would much rather spend my days looking at these amazing cakes than I would hearing about how murder started, and itâ€™s been great.â€
So when can you watch all three of these amazing shows? Guilty Pleasures airs Mondays at 10/9c on Food Network; Top Five Restaurants airs Mondays at 10:30/9:30c on Food Network; Knife Fight airs Tuesdays at 10/9c and 10:30/9:30c on Esquire.
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