Food Network celebrated its 20th anniversary with a birthday bash last night during the New York City Wine & Food Festival, lining the walls of Pier 92 with portraits of Food Network hosts, past and present.
Some 20 years ago, however, plenty of people weren't sure about the future of food television. "I think about it, the evolution of food on TV is just crazy, it's just insane," Jonathan Waxman told The Daily Meal. "Bobby Flay worked for me for five years and I had no idea he would ever become who he is today. I would see him on the Food Network and I'd go, 'Oh that will last, like, two years.' And 20 years later? You know, it's really insane."
Now, breaking into the business is much more competitive and crazy. The Daily Meal asked three notable personalities, Ted Allen, Giada de Laurentiis, and Guy Fieri, what it takes to follow their footsteps.
Giada de Laurentiis: "Figure out what makes you unique, because there are a lot of people in this field that weren’t here when I started. There are so many of us so you just have to really figure out what sets you apart and who you are. I started to make Italian food specifically more accessible and fun for the home cook. I want busy moms to be able to cook really great food for their kids. That’s my focus. So figure out your focus, figure out what makes you unique, and definitely know who you are."
Ted Allen: "All I can say is do something you love, make sure you love it before you get into it, and do it with gusto. Work your ass off and hustle, and try to keep your mind open to strange opportunities. I was a writer for Esquire magazine when someone told me about this Queer Eye audition, and what a preposterous thing for me to do, to audition for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, 10 or 11 years ago.
If you want to have my job, first of all, go away because you can’t have it. You know Alton, when people ask him how can I get what you have, he usually says you can’t. And he says that partly I think to challenge people and see their determination. Sometimes they'll say, 'Yes I can,' and he’s like, 'Good answer.' There’s no simple path and it’s not easy. At this point in the evolution of food television, I think you need to think about new ways to get on television. You have to be more creative, and do something that hasn’t been done before, and that’s a hard thing to do. Good luck with that."
Guy Fieri: "The opportunities are available and I think the key is just to take it and run with it. And surround yourself with good people. You have to take advice from the people that understand, with strong people who have your best interests at heart. And you have to be willing to wear a blazer on the red carpet. You can’t look like a schlub all the time, you can’t get away with jeans that you cooked dinner in and cowboy boots and a nice collared shirt. You have to put on a blazer."