Food Network Celebrates 20 Years

They said it wouldn't work but the Food Network proved critics wrong, becoming one of the most successful TV channels. INSIDE EDITION reports on the 20th anniversary.

Nowadays, theFood Network is a cultural phenomenon that has created superstar chefs, including Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, and Bobby Flay.
But when the network began 20 years ago, it was a struggle.

Journalist Allen Salkin shared with INSIDE EDITION, “People thought cooking shows were for weekend mornings on PBS. They thought it was Martin Yan, the Frugal Gourmet, and Julia Child, and that was about it. Nobody believed it could work in Primetime.”

Watch Salkin Talk About Food Network's History

But they were wrong about that. Just in time for the 20th anniversary of the Food Network, Salkin is revealing secrets in his new book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network. It's chock-full of tasty tidbits, such as the network’s initial rejection of Paula Deen in 2000.

Watch Stars of Food Network Celebrate The Channel's Anniversary

Salkin said, “The head of programming at the Food Network didn't want to put Paula Deen on the air at first. She thought that this lowbrow kind of southern cooking, fried chicken and lemon pies, was not going to work on this network, which was watched by foodies.”

Deen was famously dropped from the network earlier this year, after admitting that she used a racial slur in the past. She emotionally apologized, “I beg for your forgiveness.”

Salkin explained, “The ratings were going down after the diabetes thing, so by the time the N-word controversy happened, there were two or maybe three strikes against her.”

Today, Rachael Ray is a pro in the kitchen but, according to Salkin, she hit a little snag during her Food Network screen test in 2001.

Salkin described, “When they started rolling, she poured olive oil in and ‘boom’ it went up! She kept smiling, pushed the pan aside, and just kept on rolling, and proved she had the stuff to be on TV.”

Moreover, would you believe that Mario Batali didn't even have an oven during his early days on the Food Network?

Salkin stated, “What he would do was pretend to slide something under the counter and stamp his foot to make a sound, as if an oven door was closing.”

The new book makes reference to Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, whose show almost never happened because a camera crew trashed her house.

Salkin said, “By the time they were done with the shoot, Ina said, ‘Thank You very much, now get the hell out of my house!’ "

The book also recounts what happened when the legendary chef Julia Child was a guest at the Food Network studios.

“When Julia Child was sitting in the makeup chair at the network, she was falling asleep eating a bag of McDonald's french fries. Even as she slumped down in the chair, she never lost her grip on the bag of fries,” said Salkin.