Shocking facts about Food Network and its stars

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Published October 18, 2013

| The Daily Meal

Shocking facts about Food Network and its stars

Shocking facts about Food Network and its stars

The new book 'From Scratch: Inside the Food Network' is full of interesting information and reveals the surprising ways in which stars like Giada de Laurentiis, Guy Fieri, and Rachael Ray rose to the top. 

Rachael Ray’s first impression of New York was horrific

Rachael Ray moved from upstate New York to the city at age 23, and her first job there was running a candy counter at Macy’s while living in Queens. Her next job was at Upper East Side gourmet shop Agata & Valentina. She worked there from 4:45 a.m. until after midnight, running on little to no sleep. One night she was robbed in her building’s vestibule at gunpoint, but got away after spraying her attacker with pepper spray. A few days later her foot fell asleep at work, and when she got up she stepped on it wrong and broke her ankle. Then, 10 days later, the attacker came back, "dragged Rachael off her crutches into a dark spot and began beating her with the gun." She moved back home after being released from the hospital, but after nailing a morning show segment with Al Roker she was invited back down to make a pilot for the network, and the rest is history.

They accidentally broadcast porn

Jan. 30, 1997 is a date that will live in Food Network infamy. Why? In the early morning hours, during an airing of Too Hot Tamales, someone sabotaged the tape, and it cut to hardcore, explicit porn, with narration by Milliken no less, for a full minute.  Broadcasting porn is a federal offense, so FBI agents showed up at the network the next day and grilled everyone involved with the production. Nobody fessed up, and the network was never punished.

Martha Stewart doesn’t come across as particularly friendly

Several people in the book aren’t depicted in the best light, but Martha Stewart comes across as nothing short of an ice queen. During the final meeting after negotiating a deal to broadcast cooking segments from her daytime shows, netting her company several million dollars, she "stood facing the opposite direction, alternately looking out a window and poking at her mobile phone," according to the book. "When it came time to sign, she strode to the table, signed the papers, and strode out of the room without… a handshake or even a glance." Later, after Stewart produced a pilot for Ina Garten, she ordered the tapes destroyed because Garten’s Fiestaware looked too much like the dinnerware Stewart used on her show, and she was "unhappy that another woman was going to be the star of a show produced by her company." Yikes!

Giada had to train herself to smile

Giada de Laurentiis was told by her producer to "smile whenever she spoke on camera, no matter what was happening around her," which was easier said than done. Her first 12-hour shoot "made her cheek muscles ripple with pain," but we’re pretty sure she’s accustomed to it by now.

The first set was a dump

The first set had no oven (and when they finally got one it was so low-quality that the glass would constantly shatter), the smells of the food cooking would permeate the network’s entire office, the sinks had no drainage so stagehands would have to be constantly emptying out slop buckets, and when Mario Batali would remove food from the fictional "oven," he had to "simulate the sound of an oven door slamming by stamping his foot on the floor."

'Bam!' was originally intended to wake up a drowsy crew

Much of the early crew worked many jobs to make ends meet (the reason their names didn’t appear in credits was because they were paid below normal union rates), and Emeril had to deal with camera operators that were falling asleep as he cooked. "Inspired first by the need to keep the cameramen awake, Emeril started yelling as he added ingredients to dishes — 'Bam!'" And a legend was born.

Iron Chef’s Chairman Kaga is a crazy character

If you’ve seen an episode of the original Japanese Iron Chef, you’ll know that Chairman Kaga, with his wild outfits and bizarre antics, is a bit of an eccentric. But the actor who portrayed him, Takeshi Kaga, who also played Jean Valjean in the Japanese production of Les Misérables, was also a bit of an oddball.  When the production team came to New York to film the first crossover challenge with Bobby Flay as challenger, Kaga, who’s apparently a Method actor, stayed in character the entire time that he was in the city. Now that’s dedication!

Batali flubbed his first line, then cut himself

"I’m Mario Batali, chef and co-owner of Pó restaurant, an Italian village," was the first sentence the now-legendary chef spoke on-air. Then, in one of the early episodes of his show, Molto Mario, he accidentally grated his knuckles along with some cheese. Bleeding and in pain, and all-too-aware of the network’s "no do-over" rule, "he plunged his hand into a bowl of tomatoes" and crushed them until it was time for commercials.

'Iron Chef' aired on UPN before Food Network, with William Shatner as host

Yes, you read that right. In 2001, Food Network turned down the opportunity to buy the rights to Iron Chef, and it was picked up by UPN, who quickly butchered it. Iron Chef USA starred Shatner as the Chairman, who wore a "glittering purple coat and a frilly vest" and would proclaim dishes to be "totally rad!" It was way too campy, and was canned after two episodes.

Bourdain left Food Network because of Ferran Adrià

Cook’s Tour, where he traveled around the globe sampling cuisine. For season three, Bourdain wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to film elBulli master chef Ferran Adrià at work in his kitchen, but the network was reluctant to send him abroad, as domestic episodes generally fared better. So Bourdain quit, produced Decoding Ferran Adrià by himself, and it became the pilot for a series he sold to the Travel Channel: No Reservations. ​

For more shocking Food Network facts, check out the full story

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