November 2, 2011


After the heavy duty articles of the last couple of weeks, I thought I would serve up some lighter faire.

 

What is the most capitalistic, free-enterprise network on TV? I'll bet what comes to mind is FOX News, or CNBC, or maybe FOX Business? I don’t think any of these come close. My answer may surprise you...


it’s the Food Network
.

 

Before you choke on your gourmet burger, or vegetarian pizza, let me make my case. Networks like FOX News, FOX Business, and CNBC only talk about the ideas of capitalism, free-enterprise, and entrepreneurship. Food Network doesn't have to talk about these ideas—the whole programming lineup features people that live them!

 

Perhaps the best example of this is Guy Fieri's, “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” or as fans call the show, “D, D, & D.” The format consists of Guy, the host, on a seemingly endless road trip across America. In each episode he selects three diners, drive-ins, or dives. Guy shares with his viewers why he has chosen each eatery; a combination of history, originality, and above all the way customers rave about these spots.

 

The segments move fast—you’ve got to see the editing style for yourself—and we quickly learn why these places are so successful. Sometimes it is the recipes handed down from generation to generation as closely guarded trade secrets; other times it’s the process that makes a dish work. These are truly mom and pop establishments.

 

Sometimes the claim to fame is a special device the owners have created to give them an edge over their competition. Others take days, or weeks preparing their signature dishes. Most make their own sauces, breads, and everything else from scratch. But there is one thing the people who run these businesses and the people who work for them, all have in common. They work very hard, and love what they do to the point of being fanatical about serving the best food they can to every customer.

 

This is the America that lies beneath the surface of all the bad news and political infighting. This is the motor of the world. The motor is fueled by entrepreneurship, innovation, and just plain hard work. But it isn’t until the end of each segment, when Guy interviews the customers, that we get to see the big payoff. The absolute delight on each patron’s face is what makes a successful business.

 

Watch the behind the scenes portion of any Food Network show, and I bet you become engrossed in the perfection sought by these unsung capitalists. Shows like “Chopped,” where four chefs have only minutes to prepare the best appetizers, entrees, and desserts that they can from strange combinations of “mystery” ingredients hidden in ominous black picnic baskets. The winner gets $10,000, but you can see on their faces that the real prize is the exhilaration of competing with their peers and putting it all on the line for the title of best chef.

 

Another favorite is Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown!” Bobby seeks out the undisputed best cooks of certain dishes, and challenges them on their home turf to a battle for bragging rights over who cooks the best ribs in North Carolina, the best tamale in San Antonio, or the best cheesesteak sandwich in Philly.

 

Imagine their shock when they realize one of the “Iron Chefs” has sought them out to compete with them on live television in front of their family and friends who scream their support for the local favorite. The judging is never easy, but it is always real and fair. Sometimes the famous chef wins, but sometimes he loses! Either way the show is always entertaining.

 

There are even shows that focus on failure, and facing the consequences for bad decisions. This is also part of capitalism. “Restaurant: Impossible,” starring Robert Irvine, selects one restaurant a week that is failing so badly the owners have contacted the Food Network asking for Robert’s help. With only two days and $10,000 to work with, Robert’s role is more boot camp drill sergeant than chef.

 

If you ask Irvine for help, it is going to be his way or the highway. He doesn’t coddle the distressed, and often depressed, restaurateurs. These people own businesses that are just weeks away from closing for good. He grabs them by the throat and makes it very clear to them that they have reached the point where they only have two options: survive or die!

 

Failure is a great American tradition. We allow for, and even encourage it, more than any other nation in the world. While no one wants to fail, it separates the best from the worst, and the competent from the incompetent. Irvine pulls no punches in letting the distraught business owners know which category they are in. After all, the fortunes of the owner’s and employee’s and their families hang in the balance.

 

Such is the discipline of a free market, which is as much about trying and failing, as it is success and excellence. That is what it means to pursue the American dream. Food Network puts American free enterprise on display for all. Watching it reminds me what it is that makes this particular country the greatest nation on earth, and that is why Food Network gets my vote for the most American television network of them all.

 

 

Market Update:

 

Oct. 28 2011

 

All of the pieces fell into place this week to paint a very different picture than we saw last week. First came numbers out of China that indicated better than feared growth levels. Then came the Euro agreement. And last came the GDP figures that showed 2.5% growth instead of the feared double dip recession. This has led to a near 2000 point swing in the stock market.

 

From my original 11200 Dow par to the 10400 low where I went “all in” to the present 12200 today, we have traveled a road where the market was discounting a new recession and a worldwide banking crisis to where today the market is anticipating a world on the mend. Just the possibility that these fears might no longer be front page news is a significant change in itself. As the "fear" news recedes further into the background, real earnings of companies and new factors will emerge as market movers.

 

The question now is whether to take profits and trade this market or invest for the long term…


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