grubstreet.com – In celebration of New York Magazine’s 50th anniversary, this weekly series, which will continue through October 2018, tells the stories behind key moments that shaped the city’s culture.
In the early ’90s, a group of media experts had a crazy idea: Let’s launch a cable network, based in New York City, that’s entirely devoted to food, even though they had little interest in food, and even less money. What they soon discovered was that chefs were affordable and available — and a new generation of culinary talent was ready to jump in front of the cameras. Together, this small, scrappy group laid the foundation for celebrity chefs and (for better or worse) a wave of national foodieism. Here’s how it happened, told by the people who were there.
Trygve Myhren, president, the Providence Journal Company, co-founder of Food Network: In 1990, I was trying to grow the Providence Journal Company. I believed that basic-cable programming was where the most astonishing opportunities resided. I said, “Look, we need to develop basic-cable programming, but we’ve got to do it intelligently.” There were already, by then, a number of cable-television channels, so this had to be something that was different.
Joe Langhan, VP of production, co-founder of Food Network:Trygve said, “We’re entertaining ideas and proposals from everywhere and anybody, so if you come across anybody, or if you come up with an idea yourself.” I said sure.
Allen Salkin, author of From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network: Nobody ever associated cooking shows with making a lot of money. Even Julia Child’s show did not make a lot of money. People just thought, There are these kooky characters and they cook on PBS. Who watches PBS? People who want to watch classical music, ballet, and Masterpiece Theater. It was about French food, fancy things. Now, what you’re getting with this new network is a weird station coming in all over the country.
This is a very interesting and dope read, def give it a go if you’re a Food Network fan.