To celebrate the launch of writer Allen Salkin’s book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, timed to coincide with the network’s 20th anniversary, some of the major players from the early days, including many who are discussed in the book, gathered at a Union Square-area loft in New York City to reminisce, reconnect, and toast to 20 years of great television.
Joe Langhan, a cable TV executive with the Providence Journal who had the initial spark of an idea to start the network back in 1991, launched Emeril Live, and stayed with the company until the end of the decade, remembered when the company was still in start-up mode. "My desk was two boxes and an old door," he told us. "I didn’t think anything of it until some friends came to visit, and they were shocked!" His fondest memory from the early days was "probably realizing that what we had been working on, we were actually going to do it," he said. "We were able to take it from idea to implementation."
Reese Schonfeld was one of the founders of CNN and is regarded as the inventor of the 24-hour news network, and worked closely with Langhan in the early days, was president of the network, and sold his interest in the company in 1999. "CNN was architecture, and Food Network was carpentry," he told us. "It’s fun to be a carpenter, but it’s never finished."
TV veteran Bill Boggs, the host of the first non-cooking show on Food Network, Bill Boggs’ Corner Table, was also on hand to reconnect with his old colleagues. "Early on, I had a conversation with Emeril, and most people had little experience in television," he reminisced. "I told him to be outrageous, because that’s the only place on the network not occupied."
If you’re at all interested in TV programming or Food Network, we recommend you pick up a copy of Salkin's book and read about how it all started. Because before there was Emeril, Rachael, and Giada, there was just a man and an idea.