Food Network nailed the recipe for pandemic programming

Food Network nailed the recipe for pandemic programming

“God, what a crazy time. How’s everyone doing?” she asked through television, surrounded by a group of young adults with cameras, her children, acting as her crew. “Things have changed a lot, but what hasn’t changed is that I still love to cook.”

An audience trapped at home seems to agree, with more people hungry for the Food Network than ever.

Typically, a television viewer can rely on the most delicious cable channel to be a respite from the world’s mess. However, this particular disaster, the coronavirus pandemic, has had no limits. He has overcome all aspects of life and changed it in a way that makes the normal that once existed seem like a memory rather than a moment to come back, the same feeling one might have when looking at a piece of frozen wedding cake .

As productions began to close in the second week of March, the network quickly realized the need for programming that would speak so far, and delivered. With a mix of originals filmed at home, a slew of shows that had been filmed to completion but not yet aired, and a huge library, the network has become the keeper of the perfect recipe for programming on the pandemic.

“What is really interesting, encouraging and rewarding is that different types of people come to us for different reasons,” Courtney White, president of the Food Network, told CNN. “It was great to feel that our content is more necessary than ever.”

Food for thought

Last month, it was the best-rated online in seven years, with average increases of 20-30% in any week, according to White. Some parts of his daytime training have even increased by as much as 70%, he said.

Men are also looking more. White theorizes that the increase is due, in part, to the fact that part of the vacuum left by the absence of organized sports has been filled by watching chefs come face to face.

“What we discovered is that once sports went dark, viewers who were just hungry for competition came to us and weren’t our regular food viewers,” he said. “Seeing the battles unfold on the Food Network scratched an itch there.”

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It is true that the network plays many roles in recent times.

Sometimes it’s a guide, like when the hosts of “The Kitchen” did a full episode with recipes based on the ingredients they already had in their pantries at home. Or when Amy Schumer and her husband, chef Chris Fischer, recent additions to the Food Network, found themselves in quarantine without all the ingredients necessary to bake their cookies, so they improvised and made a homemade response to cups of butter from peanut.

Guy Fieri appears in a special takeaway episode of

At other times, its reruns of traveling food shows serve as a reminder of what it once was and what we long to return to.

Possibly at its best, it draws attention to a shaken industry at its core.

On the charitable front, the network and its talent have been raising awareness Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which has raised over $ 20 million for those who have been out of a job in the food industry.

Local restaurants have also been a focal point as dining rooms were emptied and profits fell for many.

When he is not cooking nachos with Bill MurrayGuy Fieri has been ordering takeout from restaurants previously featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and consulting with the owners via video chat.

Trina Gregory-Propst, chef / owner of Se7en Bites Bakery in Orlando, Florida, was one of the highlights in a recent episode.

She and his wife Va Propst will reopen their doors on Thursday after closing completely in mid-March to focus on caring for their high-risk mother.

For an episode that aired last week, he sent Fieri the ingredients for a funnel-shaped apple pie that was served with cinnamon ice cream and a chipotle drizzle of caramel. He looked as good as he seems, and Fieri was not the only one salivating over him.

Gregory-Propst told CNN that he has responded to nearly 500 emails from people asking if they could send ingredients and products to them. It’s a good start running as you prepare to reopen.

“The amount of appreciation we have for the way this is changing, changing and shaping our lives at a time when we don’t really know what is going to happen week by week, it is overwhelming to say the least,” he said. broken voice. “Sorry. I feel super emotional about it. I’m trying to keep it together, but this is our life.”

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She added: “Our staff is like our family, and I feel like we are part of this great Food Network family as well. They really make you feel that way.”


Se7en Bites is just one of many establishments looking to reopen, and this is a priority for the Food Network and, in particular, for chef Robert Irvine, host of “Restaurant: Impossible”.

For nine weeks, Irvine was locked up at his Florida home, where he filmed, among other content, a special episode of “Restaurant: Impossible,” where he recorded with the owners who had appeared on the show in the past.

Although his specialty is bringing restaurants from the edge, he knows that the order is higher than ever as restaurants reopen and hope to recover.

A new version of their program will help them do it responsibly, with a focus on precautionary measures and protocols, with the aim of instilling confidence in restaurant owners, employees and customers alike.

Robert Irvine films a quarantine special on

“The Food Network, listen, it’s a consumer-oriented network, but think about this: All the chefs and the owners and managers all see the Food Network. So what a great platform to help relaunch America,” he told CNN. “How do we open these restaurants and give the consumer that feeling of security?”

His wife is among the skeptics about going back to dinner in person. She is, in many ways, her target audience, she said.

“We are going to lead that way,” he said. “There will be no other network that does what we do.”

Irvine said he will focus first on restaurants in areas that are allowed to open and in places where “the pandemic is proven to have decreased.”

Regarding filming, he said the crew will certainly be smaller and there is a possibility that they will be quarantined on a bus after being tested for coronavirus, to ensure everyone’s safety.

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Irvine is eager to start filming and broadcasting the episodes to those who need the information across the country. You want to help the millions of restaurant workers affected by the pandemic get back to work, safely, in any way they can.

“It has been a challenge for me to be still knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives, you know?” he said. (However, he hasn’t exactly stood still. Your Pennsylvania distillery It was quick to start making hand sanitizer for the public and first responders.)

As of last week, White was unsure about production deadlines across the network.

The cast of

“I think each show will be different and each case will be different,” he said. “I think obviously the production community is really looking forward to getting back to work. We are working very closely with the production companies and we are talking about plans that keep everyone safe.”

Many of the shows that have adopted stay-at-home models will continue to produce episodes that way throughout the summer, he said.

A new show starring chef Michael Symon was even born from an idea that started during the pandemic on one of the network’s Facebook pages, which they have been treating as a kind of test kitchen.

About two months ago, Symon began making daily dinners on Facebook Live in response to growing requests for quarantined easy-to-use meals. To date, the self-recorded videos have garnered 30 million views, White said, and have given the fairly simple concept a move to the linear network.

Among the conclusions of this era, White said, has been “how agile we can be and how fast we can be in production.”

“Amy Schumer learns to cook” was another quick lesson.

Production of the series began within two weeks of its launch in late March. It premiered just a few weeks later on May 11.

“I think one of the best lessons here has been that we can move quickly and that we can be current and timely,” White said. “And as the history and needs around food and restaurants change, we can change very quickly.”

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