How the Food Network went from low budget to high influence

 Food Network

It seems impossible to imagine cooking today without mentioning food television shows or chefs that rose to stardom cooking on TV. Yet it wasn't that long ago when the commercial food television industry was in its infancy. To be sure, there were shows on public television, but you could count food personalities on one hand. That all changed starting in 1993, when Television Food Network debuted. The rest, as they say, is history. Grubstreet recently interviewed several of the channel's co-creators and early stars, and the stories they tell are fascinating.

The idea seem harebrained those twenty-odd years ago. Many industry experts were critical of the idea, scoffing at the notion that large numbers of viewers would watch people make food on television. But the creators felt that there was tremendous growth potential in the genre, and convinced enough backers to cobble together a network. During this initial phase, money was tight and the location of the studios were less than desirable. 

Former host Robin Leach recounted the problems with the location on the west side of Manhattan. "It was so cold that the hookers who were on the street used to huddle in the doorway of our makeshift kitchen studio to keep warm during the winter nights, so everybody from our guests to our celebrity chefs to our on-air talent had to walk through the hookers nightly to go to work," he explained. (Who knew?)

Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Ming Tsai, Emeril Lagasse, and Sara Moulton also reminisced about the early days. Moulton said that when she started, there was no oven in the studio kitchen. "I would pretend that I was putting things into the oven by putting them under the counter, and then somebody at my feet would either hand me the piping-hot thing or there would be a swap-out under the counter that looked vaguely hot," she recalled. The network has certainly come a long way from its low-budget beginning. 

3 Comments

  • wodtke  on  12/4/2017 at 8:06 PM

    I’m not sure they’ve come a long way.

  • Rinshin  on  12/5/2017 at 1:13 PM

    Retrograde

  • meatn3  on  12/6/2017 at 10:57 AM

    I recently read From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin. The book is a fascinating look at how the Food Network began, grew and redifined itself over the years and the chefs which grew or didn't grow with them. Reads like fiction!

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