I love food, I love TV, and I love books, so it follows that I'd love a book about food TV, right? It was with that in mind that I put myself on the long library waiting list for Allen Salkin's From Scratch: Inside the Food Network. Its cover is festooned with all the famous faces to grace (or disgrace) Food Network over the years. The quotes on the back imply that it's full of juicy gossip. I looked forward to it immensely. Upsetting news, everyone.

How to explain this... Well, imagine you were watching Gone With the Wind, except now, 80% of the running time is taken up by watching Scarlett run the lumber mill. Or watching cabinet meetings in real time on House of Cards. That's the problem with this book; the vast majority is nothing but descriptions of run-of-the-mill business decisions made by network heads about whom you know nothing and care even less. It would struggle to be interesting even if these pencil pushers were cutthroat and self-serving, but they don't even have the grace to do that. Everyone behaves in a mostly professional, mostly polite, mostly profit-motivated manner, so the reader is treated to the equivalent of 200 pages' worth of watching people do paperwork.

Even when the book finally deigns to address the actual shows and stars of the Food Network, it offers nothing in the way of news or insight, preferring to rehash the stories everyone already knows. Shows with mass appeal replaced more esoteric shows. Guy Fieri is classless and took a beating from the New York food elite. Bobby Flay is a workhorse. Paula Deen took heat for racism and shilling diabetes medicine. Ina Garten didn't fulfill that kid's make-a-wish request. Yes, we all read the same articles. Care to dig any deeper?

Salkin opens the book by describing his access to the network's executives and stars, but far from being "Inside the Food Network", everything presented is either boring boardroom dealings or established trivia. He's not a bad writer, but this is a wholly uninteresting, unnecessary book. Time to send it back to the kitchen.

From Scratch: Inside the Food Network: C


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