While there was once a time when cooking involved only family recipes or reading a cookbook, the advent of television eventually brought cooking shows into the kitchens of Americans. Once known as a channel that featured tutorial-style cooking shows, Food Network now features reality-style shows, competitions and restaurant reviews in addition to traditional cooking shows.
The History of Food Network
Food Network was founded in late 1993 as a network that catered to food enthusiasts, amateur chefs and professionals who would like to expand their horizons by learning more about other culinary specialties. The original shows on the network featured cooking tutorials from established chefs, and in 1996 the network gained the right to air shows previously recorded by Julia Child.
The network was purchased by A. H. Belo Corp. Corporation in 1996 and the E. W. Scripps Company in 1997. Food Network is currently owned by two companies, Scripps Networks Interactive and the Tribune Company. Scripps Networks Interactive owns 70 percent of the network, and the Tribune Company owns 30 percent of the network.
To compete with other popular network television offerings, Food Network has started to air more shows that have a reality television series setup. These shows feature not only the culinary aspect of a chef’s life, but also the personal aspects of the main people featured in the show. For example, Fat Chef follows chefs who struggle with weight problems, and Health Inspectors focuses on consultant Ben Vaughn as he helps restaurants clean up after failing a routine health inspection.
The channel went international in 2009 with the introduction of the network in the United Kingdom and premiered Food Network Asia in 2010.
Sister networks of Food Network include the Cooking Channel, Great American Country, HGTV, DIY Network and the Travel Channel.
More information about Food Network can be found at www.foodnetwork.com.
Top Food Network Shows
• Iron Chef America is the American version of a popular Japanese cooking competition. The program pits a guest chef against one of the established Iron Chefs who are regulars on the show, and a mystery ingredient is revealed after an Iron Chef is selected. Both chefs use a team of assistant chefs to make a full meal using the mystery ingredient as the star of each dish.
• Chopped is a show that typically pits four established chefs against each other in a three-part culinary competition. The parts include appetizer, entree and dessert rounds, and contestants must use four ingredients in each round that are revealed to them in the form of a mystery basket at the beginning of each round. Each round ends with a critique of each dish and the elimination of one contestant, and the last chef remaining at the end of the program is awarded the titled of Chopped Champion. Prize money totaling $10,000 is given to the winner of the competition.
• Worst Cooks in America involves contestants who are nominated to be on the show because of their lack of cooking skills. Two teams are formed and headed by famous chefs who work on the Food Network. In the past, team leaders have included Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine and Bobby Flay. Each episode focuses on teaching contestants a different culinary skill that is to be mastered by the end of the episode. The winner of the entire competition is the cook who can convince well-known culinary experts that the food they have prepared was actually made by one of the famous team leaders.
• Restaurant: Impossible follows chef Robert Irvine as he visits struggling restaurants across the United States and works directly with the owners and staff to help revive the eating establishments. Menus are revamped by Irvine, and a team of design professionals and contractors are tasked with redesigning the layout of the restaurant to reflect a more modern style. The revamp of the restaurant is done within two days and includes a budget of only $10,000. Followup information about the continued success of featured restaurants is available online after the show airs.
Traditional cooking shows that instruct viewers on how to make certain dishes are typically aired during the daytime and on weekends. Prime time spots are reserved for competitions and reality-style shows that attract the target market during weekday nights.