I watch a lot of Food Network, so trust me when I say they have a problem when it comes to showcasing Black voices in the culinary industry. In fact, I can literally list all the Black chefs on the network on one hand. This is why I was so excited when it was announced that Tabitha Brown would have a new competition series coming to the channel in August.
It’s CompliPlated features chefs preparing meals for “tricky eaters” with very specific dietary concerns like gluten-free, no vegetables and because Tab is one of the judges, plant-based. It’s the network’s only vegan-themed competition series, which, in addition to her popularity, made it such a surprise when the show was suddenly moved from its primetime Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET time slot to Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET.
This shocking, unprecedented change led viewers to immediately cry foul because obviously, something is up. I’m not normally one to jump to conclusions, but it’s pretty obvious that higher-ups just didn’t want to take the time to build a series for a Black star.
In a statement to People, a Food Network spokesperson claimed that this was a better scheduling choice for the show.
“Tabitha’s energy and unique point of view are the reasons that we will continue to support It’s CompliPlated,” a network spokesperson said. “We’ve moved the series to our daytime cooking block where diehard cooking fans, especially those who are looking for vegan dishes, can enjoy it.”
Anyone who watches the Food Network knows that its midday schedule consists of reruns of Chopped and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This lineup rarely changes, and more importantly, no one is looking for new episodes of anything at this time. If execs were really concerned about ratings, they would’ve kept it in primetime— just on a different night. It’s CompliPlated was clearly put there to quietly burn off its remaining hours.
As a regular viewer, I knew there was trouble brewing long before the show premiered. When Food Network has a new series ready to debut, you cannot get away from the commercials. They air nonstop across all of Warner Bros. Discovery’s brands. So if you’re watching an Avengers movie on TNT, you still know that Guy Fieri has a new show coming up. It’s CompliPlated did not receive that same level of promotion. And honestly, if I weren’t a journalist, I’m not sure I would’ve even known about it. When you consider how popular Tabitha is, it’s ridiculous that Food Network wouldn’t capitalize on her name recognition and promote the hell out of her show. This was a real chance for the channel to bring in a new audience and it didn’t even try.
Here’s the thing: I can get new recipes from anyone. I make a point of watching certain shows for the hosts. Food Network is built on personalities, which means they chose Tabitha because of her enthusiasm for plant-based food and her down-to-earth southern charm. But when the show started airing, the network apparently had problems with the very personality they hired her for.
Ms. Tab is one of the kindest, most positive people you will ever see on TV. Her natural charisma and authenticity put viewers at ease and make us feel like we’re just getting recipes and tips from an old friend. This feels like it was a blatant attack on Brown, who is one of the most influential personalities on social media. To be perfectly clear, Food Network needs Tabitha way more than she needs them, so this decision and the backlash it’s sure to bring does not make any sense.
For her part, Tab is not taking this nonsense quietly and let everyone know that she’s “not going to change!!” The Tab Time host posted a video on Instagram recently where she explained that she’s gotten where she is by being herself and trusting her instincts.
“I know I’ve said this so many times before, but for whatever reason, people just don’t seem to believe me, okay,” she said. “There is not a company, there is not a network, there is not a person, place, or thing that is going to change who I am. I’m not going to shift a little bit for your audience. I’m not going to talk a little bit different for your comfort. I’m not going to change.”
“If it ain’t enough for you, then you’re not for me,” Brown added. “And if I bring it to your attention that—’Wait, I don’t like how this feels; I feel like you’re trying to change me or erase my personality or my culture’—and you get upset by that instead of hearing me from my heart, I also don’t want to be in business with you.”
Black women having their culture and style policed by white people is not new, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or upsetting. Food Network hired this woman to do a job, but when they couldn’t handle the full scope of her Blackness, they buried the show.
If you’re not available in the middle of the day on Tuesdays, you can also watch It’s CompliPlated on Discovery+. And don’t forget to check out Brown’s YouTube children’s show Tab Time, her clothing line at Target and her upcoming cookbook Cooking From the Spirit: Easy, Delicious, and Joyful Plant-Based Inspirations.