Emeril Lagasse's segment on his new TV show featuring his home community of South Walton left many in the area scratching their heads and scanning the channels.
Walton County's Tourist Development Council, which spearheaded buying one episode of the new series for $150,000, apparently was not aware that the people living along the featured area would not be able to view the episode purchased.
The first-run episode of "Emeril's Florida" aired Sunday morning on The Cooking Channel. The Cooking Channel is not offered by Mediacom, which services all of 30A and north of 30A to the bay. Therefore, the only people along that stretch who were able to tune in were those on Dish or those able to pick it up on their computer.
In confusion, several called and emailed the newspaper, wanting to know why.
When contacted for an explanation, TDC director Dawn Moliterno said, "No, I was not aware (that 30A would not be able to tune in), but the real value and purpose was to reach tens of millions of viewers, expose (them) to our area, and highlight the diverse culinary we have in South Walton.
“In fact, we had a call come in right after the airing from the northeast area to our visitor center requesting a visitor guide. They were so impressed with what they saw on the show they are now planning their next vacation later this year to South Walton,” Moliterno continued. “Also, this was a co-op with Visit Florida and the Cooking Channel. We didn't have a choice to go with a different network."
Some understood that rationale, and some did not.
Local Realtor Murray Balkcom said he was able to view the show on his computer.
"My thoughts about it are that there are different types of advertising, and if she was advertising to people outside this area it might draw them here," he said.
However, there were many more who were vocal in their disappointment in a scenario where they felt the episode was bought with their tax dollars and they should be able to see what they bought.
One of those was Seagrove's Bob Dobes.
"We bought his (Emeril's) new kitchen for over a hundred grand with our TDC tax dollars. When do we get to see it?" he said.
A Mediacom area supervisor said his company services 12,000 modems up and down the South Walton corridor from the county line on the east to approximately the west end of 30A where it meets U.S. Highway 98.
Sandestin is serviced by Cox Cable, which offers The Cooking Channel as part of its upgraded package.