Late in the fall of 1993, the Food Network first went on the air with a handful of shows. The new cable network was brought about because a handful of people believed that there was a market for food-related programming on TV – both because people liked to cook and because there were lots of advertisers out there that had food and home products to pitch and needed a focused place to promote them. If you watched the shows in the early days, assuming that the Food Network was carried in your market, you might remember that the shows were often campy and had distinctly low production values. But if you watched the network in those early days, you’ll also know that that handful of Food Network founders was absolutely right about the demand for a network that was all about food. From Scratch: Inside the Food Network is a book that chronicles the history of the network from inception to the present day.
I was definitely an “early watcher” of the network and this book gave me the back story behind how the network got its start – of and how the chefs on those early shows ended up on TV in the first place. There wasn’t a deep pool of celebrity chefs (and wanna-be celebrity chefs) to choose from in the early and mid-90s. In fact, the idea of the chef as a celebrity was only just in its infancy, so the book actually spends a good amount of time discussing the rise of the celebrity chef, as well. As the network developed, the programming changed. Not only did the lineup expand to include more shows and more chefs, but there was an increased focus on food entertainment shows when compared to traditional cooking shows. Variety in the formats drew in viewers who loved to eat, but weren’t necessarily going to cook the recipes that they watched chefs preparing. The network’s ability to both create and follow trends allowed it to build up to the powerhouse it is today.
The book promises “high drama” right on the cover, but it isn’t overly sensational because this is the story of the network and, while the food personalities are a huge part of the story, there was a lot of drama behind-the-scenes that shaped the network even more than what we, as viewers, saw on camera. I don’t want to give too much away because this is the kind of book where there are spoilers, but both early viewers of TVFN and current viewers of the Food Network will find a lot to learn and enjoy reading though From Scratch.