I found, "From Scratch," especially interesting in the earlier chapters and the closing ones. The incredible way in which the early network skated-by with a shoestring budget and New York City offices in a neighborhood where cooking talent would be mistaken for being one of the prostitutes milling around outside reads like an unbelievable tale of people struggling against all odds. The earlier pioneers of the network really did have the deck stacked against them too. The idea of a channel that had nothing but food--24 hours a day no less--seemed ludicrous. Once things got going well and the network started discovering talent everything becamse pretty stable and at this point the book is interesting but lacks much, "Oomph." That is, until the later chapters when shows start getting cancelled and scandals begin breaking out (Robert Irvine's exaggerated past, claims that Guy Fieri were homophobic that turned out to be lies spouted by an angry fired show-manager, Paula Deen and the diabetes outrage followed by the racism rumor that was oh-too-true a few years later). The most fascinating part of the book is without a doubt the chefs themselves, however.
|Food Network Stars Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis, and Bobby Flay.|
A natural born hustler and gambler, Bobby Flay went from getting in fights with his street gang to being a master chef, but always kept his eye on the ball, as it were. From the earliest days of Food Network realizing that the shows could help him promote his restaurant, to always listening closely when told something new was being looked for, and then coming back with the very thing that was needed, Bobby's ability to pivot and evolve as needed basically has kept him eternally successful--with another famous chef's inability to change to continue appealing to viewers being a big part of the book--that chef being Emeril Lagasse.
We witness as Emeril's rise to fame occurs in synchronicity with Food Network and its immense successes...at least up until toward those closing chapters where we arrive at the earlier-discussed wrap party and find Emeril mostly discarded by the network. After all, he was costing so much and nowadays Food Network has grown to the point it doesn't need Emeril or anyone to be the spine that holds all the parts together--it has enough talent to chew-up and spit-out for years (and admittedly does so, with plenty of potentially promising talents maybe being ignored since the mid-2000's when some of the last breakout stars occurred and the channel was then able to quit taking risks on unknown names who are now mega-celebrities).
|Allen Salkin, the author.|
Having weathered its own rocky start, multiple ownership changes, and controversies that afflicted its stars, The Food Network is an example of what determination, skill, and an admittedly large dose of luck can result in. Salkin weaves a fascinating story even if it gets a bit slower after the initial mayhem of the network's debut settles and before the wild controversies and scandals erupt. Regardless of a quieter center the book is still a stellar piece of non-fiction, and mandatory reading for anyone interested in the history of this channel that has brought many hours upon hours of entertainment. Now I just wonder what a book about the next couple decades of the network will look like.
5 out of 5 stars.