From Scratch: Inside the Food Network
By Allen Salkin
Putnam Adult, 2013. 434 pages. Nonfiction
In the 90's people were scrambling to come up with ideas for new cable stations and nobody thought a channel about food would work at all. A few people grouped together to take the chance and The TV Food Channel was born with hardly any funding and the driving concept of "CNN with stoves." The sinks in the kitchens drained into buckets that had to be emptied periodically through filming, and baking dishes were slid onto shelves behind the counter, pretending they were "ovens." Mario Batali would stomp his foot on the floor to fake the sound of an oven door closing. From those scrappy beginnings the Food Network evolved, a channel that is in over 99 million homes today and is worth over $350 million.
I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book so much because I am already a fan of the Food Network, but I think the author did a great job of telling this story as a complete narrative: a rags to riches business story, with a cast of memorable (and recognizable) characters. One driving force of the book was knowing that certain people would be coming up in the story (i.e. the stories of Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, Guy Fieri, etc), but if you are hoping for the book to focus solely on these “chef celebrities” you may be a bit disappointed. Not only does the book cover many of the talented chefs you see on the screen, but we also meet people who worked behind the scenes and learn how they helped to shape Food Network, as well as the innovative business ideas taking place at this time that helped to rocket Food Network into popularity. The forward has a lengthy list of people who were interviewed for this book, and it's apparent during reading that extensive research was done. Overall, this is a very interesting story about this successful channel and the people who helped it grow.