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'Food Wars' returns to settle culinary scores

by jmaloni
Thu, Aug 26th 2010 12:00 pm
Camille Ford hosts `Food Wars` on the Travel Channel. (photo courtesy of the Travel Channel)
Camille Ford hosts "Food Wars" on the Travel Channel. (photo courtesy of the Travel Channel)
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Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni

Smart, funny, accessible, attractive, athletic, adventurous.

Makes a mean dumpling.

Camille Ford has it all.

Is she the perfect woman? Perhaps. Is she the perfect host for the Travel Channel's "Food Wars," a citywide search for scrumptious supremacy? Absolutely.

Utilizing the traits most find attractive, Ford goes city to city and town to town in search of the "best-of-the-best" in locally created, internationally known cuisine (think Buffalo chicken wings, Chicago beef sandwiches and Maine lobsters). Ford reveals the historical significance of each hometown dish and explains the rivalry between the two eateries that prepare it best. In her own curious, sarcastic-yet-loving way, she plays up the rivalry with each side's "super fan," and then presides over a five-person judging panel tasked with awarding bragging rights to the meal with the most.

As a woman who loves to cook and has more frequent flier miles than JetBlue, Ford couldn't be happier as host of "Food Wars."

"Sometimes I wake up and I'm like, ‘How did I get so lucky?' And then I realize it's because I'm jumping on the bed being like, ‘I'm the luckiest girl in the world!' " she says. "I really think it's because I'm so enthusiastic. I'm very curious. I'm unfortunately, miserably competitive -- you know, almost to a fault. And I know food -- I know great food. I know traveling. I know what it is to travel on a budget. I know what it is to want to experience something that's off the beaten path, and to want to be part of something bigger that just what you're normally seeing on TV."

"I have a passion for food and a passion for adventure," she says. "And that's what ‘Food Wars' is. It's Travel Channel's opportunity to show people that there's more than just having to have a passport and thousands of dollars. You can fill up your gas tank and go some place phenomenal in your backyard, and that's really important to be able to explore."

"Food Wars" debuted in March with an episode shot right here in Western New York. Ford visited Buffalo to crown a chicken wing king. By a 3-2 margin, Duff's toppled the Anchor Bar. Shortly thereafter, President Barack Obama visited the Queen City. When it was time for lunch, and the commander-in-chief sought local fare, he headed to Duff's.

Coincidence?

I think not.

"Absolutely I'm taking credit for that!" Ford says with a smile. "You're welcome Obama! Thank God I am hosting  ‘Food Wars' and recognizing the best places in all of New York to have Buffalo wings -- maybe the world."

Indeed, Ford says her team diligently searches the country to find out (as that "other" culinary battle suggests) whose cuisine reigns supreme.

"We have an awesome team in New York that really takes the time to research," Ford says. "We have meetings to talk about places that we've all traveled to -- places that really stuck out in our minds. New York happens to be a very mixed crowd, and so we have people from Detroit; people from Arizona; people from California.

"We have just an awesome team that ... just sees who's doing what and who's getting talked about."

It's for that reason many of the "Food Wars" episodes end in a 3-2 decision.

"They're tight. It's best-of-the-best," Ford says. "The research team, they're not just picking two places because they hate each other. They really go in and research and find the two places that are the absolute best. That really have the highest quality food; you know, the most interesting recipes. And then from there, if there's a food war, then they're allowed to be selected.

"So, it makes sense. Of course it's going to be 3-2 most of the time because they're both the best-of-the-best."

In season two (original episodes air Wednesday at 10 p.m.), Ford sets out to sink her teeth into more than just a signature recipe.

"The three (episodes) that really stick out because they are so different are the key lime pie in Key West, the lobster rolls in Maine, and then the ‘Awful Awful' burger in Reno are three very diverse, very interesting episodes, to say the least. Not only digitally, and not only tastefully speaking as far as what you're going to experience when you bite into a piece of key lime pie or a giant ‘Awful Awful' burger. The competition's been more intense. There's a lot more food facts -- there's a lot more information -- and I think you really get to experience the city a little bit more," she says. "Wherever we're going, you get to see a little bit more about what makes that place so special."

Promoting each city's worth is of utmost importance to Ford.

"I make it my job that, wherever I go, I take a half a day, or I take a morning, or I take a night to go do something. Whether it's a hike, whether it's a kayak, whether it's a bike ride -- whatever it is -- a museum -- I get out and I see some of that city."

"I really love to travel. I've been really lucky. In Key West, I rented a jet ski. In Maine, I rented a kayak. In Reno, I went mountain biking in Tahoe. Wherever I go, I gotta' go see what it is that's going to keep people there. Because if you're going to go there, you know, go for the food, but stay for the adventure. That's kind of my motto," she says. "There's gotta' be something more to offer somebody than just a great hamburger. It's gotta' be something beautiful that you can spend the weekend doing."

All things being equal, Ford wouldn't mind spending a weekend or two revisiting some of the locations featured on "Food Wars."

"Oh, there's soooo many! I would say 99.9 percent of it I want to go back to," she says. "I mean, geez, I've had key lime pie in Key West; I've had lobster in Maine; you know, the ‘Awful Awful' burger in Reno is ridiculous. There's so many places.

"More often than not, I'm just constantly kept awake at night by the idea that I'm 3,000 miles away from something I want to be eating and have had. I'm craving it. Willing to get on a plane.

"I'm actually going to Reno and meeting my sister there because I'm just, I'm dying for some more ‘Awful Awful' burger. Once you get hooked on these great dishes, it's hard to not want it constantly."

Visit the "Food Wars" home page.

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