Fact-packed insider dish on the unlikely rise to prominence of the Food Network.
In his debut, former New York Times food reporter Salkin serves up a heaping portion of cable TV history on the Food Network: from its humble beginnings in 1993, broadcasting from murky, rat-infested studios, to the culinary-themed reality TV behemoth it is today. The author introduces us to all the major personalities that helped further the popularity of the network over the years: Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali, among many other foodie luminaries. Salkin’s writing is more nuts-and-bolts reportage-oriented and research-heavy, and he is not always meticulous about separating the wheat from the chaff regarding indispensable facts and anecdotes. Nevertheless, the author gives a reasonably vivid sense of the machinations that took the Food Network from their original blueprint of traditional, by-the-numbers cooking shows to ownership under corporate giant Scripps and their innovative new wave of sexy culinary melodrama in the vein of Iron Chef. Salkin also charts how, not surprisingly, the Food Network went from a loose, anything-goes business model to a more conservative, risk-averse operation by the 2000s, when executives began to turn more toward focus-group surveying and statistics rather than rely on their own gut feelings or instincts for what kinds of shows would appeal to the public. As it turns out, only a few of the network’s mainstays, such as Bobby Flay, for instance, have what it takes to change with the times and tastes of viewers over the years.
Obsessively detailed, but often too exhaustive for its own good.