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From Scratch: Inside the Food Network

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,460 ratings  ·  273 reviews
Big personalities, high drama—the extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of the Food Network, now about to celebrate its twentieth anniversary: the business, media, and cultural juggernaut that changed the way America thinks about food.

In October 1993, a tiny start-up called the Food Network debuted to little notice. Twenty years later, it is in 100 million homes, approach
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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 ·  1,460 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed by this book. I had hoped it would be stories from the personalities that Food Network has made famous but it's much more about the business of starting a cable network and the people who did all the behind the scenes work. I guess those are the only people that the author could get to talk to him but it's too bad because I don't think very many people are interested in the excruciating (to me at least) details of the business deals that went into starting the Food Network and ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was so excited to get this from the library, because Food Network is big around my house. But this book wasn't what i really expected at all. I guess if you want to know about cable company execs and their conversations then this is the book for you. I guess I just wanted more of the shows and chefs I watch. I ended up reading about a third of the book before skimming and ultimately just using the index to look up what appealed. Disappointing for me. I did learn a few things but it turns out I ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cooking has always been a passion of mine. From purchasing unique ingredients and recipe creation, to presentation and currently compiling a cookbook; it relaxes me and obviously makes the tummies of those around me happy. I remember when the Food Network began (then called TVFN) and have watched it grow since its inception. Allen Salkin exposes the creation of the channel to its current status in “From Scratch: Inside the Tumultuous Billion Dollar World of the Food Network”.

I was initially worr
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Big personalities, high drama - the extraordinary behind the scenes story...

This is how Allen Salkin describes his book. It couldn't be further from the truth. This is not a book about the "big personalities" of Food Network, at least not the ones you know and love. This is not a book about the stars. This is not a book for a casual fan, or even a devoted fan who watches for the food. This book is probably not what you're expecting.

So what is From Scratch?

It's a laundry list of name drops. The a
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading the reviews, I knew what I was getting into. While the title is admittedly misleading, it's important to focus on the "From Scratch" part of it. Rather than a trashy gossip rag about the network's stars, this book details the Food Network from its conception to where it stands now.

I really enjoyed learning about how the idea of a 24-hour food channel went from being almost universally rejected to the incredible business it is now. I had no idea that the original sets were right out of OS
Marianne Meyers
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
So this book is marketed as a tell-all about the wild and crazy personalities and celebrity chefs at the Food Network. Really what it is is a history of the Food Network and the behind-the-scenes folks, the ones who made the decisions to hire/fire. What shows do you market? What works? Who works? Some scary descriptions of very dirty, barely usable test kitchens. Certain chefs come away shining, like Emeril (who is a REAL chef and knows what that means), and Mario, who learned how to adapt quick ...more
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was everything I expected it to be - and the bar was set pretty high. It chronicled the life of the Food Network (and Cooking Channel), giving behind-the-scenes looks at both the business and talent side.

At times, the business side could be a little dry. However, I thought it was critical it include this information, since it so deeply effected the talent side. But as someone who has watched the Network for most of it's life, it gave some insight into certain shows (like how Ina and Gi
Nov 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodstuff
It's more a business case study than a tasty dish. And the case is pretty interesting. It's a wonder that the network ever happened at all given the vague concept to begin with, the difficulties in finding investors, and the conflicts between management factions, to say nothing of the three changes in ownership in as many years and the ever changing terrain of the cable universe.

These aspects are well handled and make up much of the book, but I think I would rather watch sausage being made than
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I bought this because I enjoy watching Food Network and thought there would be a lot of interesting behind the scenes information. Well, the first half of the book is filled with business related minutia regarding the start of Food Network and cable companies...a LOT about cable companies. More than I ever wanted to know. The book only started getting interesting in the last half to third, when the author started writing about the Food Network that we have all come to know and enjoy. This is not ...more
Helen Dunn
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is a completely uninspiring book - mostly It is a list of facts and name dropping with a couple of offset quotes to liven things up. That said, I enjoyed reading it but only because I have been a loyal viewer since almost the beginning of the network.

If you know the TV personalities and their names and remember the old shows like "Ready Set Cook" and "Hot Off the Grill" and the rise (and fall) of "Emeril Live!" you may find it worthwhile.

I think it was really interesting to see how/why th
Faith McLellan
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
I enjoy some things on the Food Network much more than I enjoyed this inside-baseball account of its development.
V. Briceland
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'll confess straight up that although I used to enjoy the Food Network's programming a decade ago, when its programs specialized in interesting and engaging talk about food and its preparation, I rarely give the network a view now that gimmicky game show competitions rule its airwaves. In From Scratch, Allen Salkin takes a broad look at the bumpy ride the network has taken over the years since its premiere in 1993. He especially concentrates upon the paradigm shifts that have shifted the networ ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Disjointed and unfocused, like the author couldn't decide whether he was writing an entertaining behind the scenes tell-all or a dry blow by blow of the Food Network's business decisions. Much of the book focused on things like shifting shares of the company and the struggle to get cable networks to carry the network, which might be interesting to business students or stock market junkies, but not the average Food Network viewer.

The cover of the book promised "big personalities and high drama" a
Jeff Peterson-davis
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I cannot fault the book for its focus on details that are fairly uninteresting to me -- early cable network distribution issues, corporate hirings and firings, management personnel, etc. The author may have different interests than mine. I was hoping to learn about the on-screen personalities and their backstories, stories of both the best episodes and the worst episodes of some of my favorite shows, some opportunities to laugh and cry with some of the stars, and to learn about how the network h ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I have received an ARC copy of this book.

The book is a detailed look at the beginnings of what was then a radical idea: an entire cable channel devoted to food and cooking. The book profiles the determined and resourceful folk who created the Food Network and the many challenges they needed to overcome. There are plenty of interviews and some great stories as they experimented with ideas that might make the new channel successful. There are also detailed biographies of various Food N
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodwriting
Things I learned while reading this book:

-- The Food Network was conceived by a regular dude in New England who gets no credit or money.
-- Emeril first started saying "Bam!" because his cameramen were falling alseep.
-- One of the Food Network's first broadcasts was a Thanksgiving show that featured Robin Leach suggestively fisting a turkey.
-- "Whoever says 'fuck' first at a meeting controls the meeting."
-- TV executives get fired all the time and it is not a career-ender for them.
-- "You d
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for any Food Network fan or even anyone who is a fan of a single Food Network show because you're going to find tidbits in here that interest you and keep you reading! I had no idea what the network used to be - complete with a "news show" - and enjoyed learning about that period I had no prior knowledge of. And I loved learning about the backgrounds of the popular shows/stars of today, even if I don't personally watch those shows or follow those stars. You still can't help b ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
So much fun to read the story behind one of my favorite guilty pastime channels! I still love Emeril and do miss seeing him regularly!
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it
It was fine. A little hard to follow with all the first names. But the history of the channel was interesting. Lot of dreamers, lot of jerks.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, adult
Lots of interesting facts and gossip mixed in with lots of very not interesting info about cable TV.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Food Network was created just for me. Before there was a Food Network, I watched Julia Child on "The French Chef," Pasquale Carpino singing opera and talking about his mother on "Pasquale's Kitchen," Jeff Smith on "The Frugal Gourmet," Martin Yan on "Yan Can Cook," Justin Wilson cooking Cajun, Graham Kerr on "The Galloping Gourmet" (before he got sober) and the whole "Great Chefs of" series: New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, the West, and the rest. I defined the demographic; The Food Netw ...more
Russell J. Sanders
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Journalist Allen Salkin fascinates us readers with his book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network. Yes, the book is about Food Network—its creation, its development, its stars, its successes and failures. But it is also an in-depth look at how a cable channel gets made. Rising from a start-up with almost no budget, Food Network, in twenty years, has become a multi-million dollar company, making media stars of chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Mario Vitale, Anne Burrell, Tyler Florence, Rach ...more
Kristine Mckenna
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
At first I enjoyed reading this book for many reasons other reviewers did not. It talked about the early start up of Food Network and the people behind it. Yes, I was interested in the ‘celebratory chefs’; note a newly addressed way of speaking of a broad array of new chefs, cooks, home cooks, entertainers, etc., but to a limited degree. I was not interested in a claws out, back and forth run down of arguments, egos, and extreme fights. Yet, for all the author seems to understand that food prepa ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
I am not sure how fervently I would recommend this book to others, but I am always looking for long, engaging non-fiction for audio and this met that standard. Allen Salkin has written a history of the Food Network over its first three decades. It's not a gossipy tell-all. Instead, it's more a business case study. If you watch way too much of this channel, as I do, it's fascinating to see how precarious the network's position was at various points. And the backstories about the celebrity chefs w ...more
Barbara VA
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I decided to read this book like many others did, for the big personalities. I wanted lots of Alton, Emeril, Ina, Geoffrey, Paula and Bobby. I did not get that, but, I did get how and why we have the channels. I know why there is so much I dislike about what is on and why I have to DVR my favorites.

What I did miss was the advertising influence of the channel. I believe strongly that Scripps does not want viewer input. There is no way to make suggestions on any website I have found, in fact there
Jessica Terry
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I read what I guess was an updated version of this called From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network. I typically love behind-the-scenes type stuff and learning how things I like came to be, but the first part of this book was rather boring. All the stuff about the network and subscribers and the meetings and whatever, was only mildly relevant, in my opinion. I didn't REALLY care to learn about THAT kind of tedious detail, but I can say that in the larger scope, it can help me appr ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an interesting read. I stumbled across this a dollar store, and from the quotes on the back, assumed it was some sort of tell all about the chefs.

It's really not. Like other reviews have noted, it's more about the behind the scenes stuff. How the channel was established, what running it was like, that sort of thing. Which is still an interesting story, even if it's not entirely what seemed to be being advertised by the book's dust jacket.

There are some definite missteps though. The book
Gerald Matzke
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This book drew my attention because I am a part-time fan of the Food Network. There are shows I like to watch and shows I never watch so it was interesting to see how the shows were developed. Over the years, the administrative personnel changes had a significant influence on the direction and philosophy of the programming. This brought considerable inconsistency to the growth of the network. That part of the book became a bit laborious. I would have preferred to read more about the on-screen p ...more
Diane Cogswell
May 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
The book was okay. Could get very boring at times. It took me a long time to read it. If you're looking for all the "gossip" on the celebrity chefs, this is not the book for you. This book mainly deals with getting the network up and running, dealing with all the cable companies, and trying to get the investors needed to fund the channel. Most of the time you are reading about the owners who changed frequently, management who changed frequently, and behind the scene employees, who also changed f ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
I should have quit after the first chapter. But for some reason, I cannot quit a book. I always think it will get better. I will quit a tv show or a movie - but never a book. Why? I don't know. This book spent way too much time explaining the intricacies of how cable tv deals are put together, the corporate structure, the payment/profit plans. If you work in that industry, this might be interesting. But I found it so boring. I wanted more stories about the on-air personalities and behind the sce ...more
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“Inspired first by the need to keep the cameramen awake, Emeril started yelling as he added ingredients to dishes—“Bam!” 0 likes
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