One Couple’s Food Network Tour

By Herb Gardener.

The Food Network home office sits above Chelsea Market, a hip Manhattan block-long restaurant and retail arcade resonant of the neighborhood’s industrial past. My wife Flora and I (tourists to NYC) felt fortunate just scoring a guided tour and didn’t expect special treatment, but our guide Kristen certainly delivered with good fun and inside information. Soon we were sharing opinions about programs and personalities like old friends. Flora and I absorbed every tidbit about the building, the former Nabisco plant that produced the first Oreo. The Food Network headquarters also houses places for video auditions. Hopefuls always prepare omelets.

Network Senior Vice President Bob Tuschman, a friend’s brother and source of our behind-the-scenes pass, left a meeting to greet us. “Tell them back home that I’m taller and funnier than I appear on TV,” he requested with a wink. Tuschman was gracious and convincing on both counts. One floor up, the quiet elegance of wood-floored support offices gave way to the content wing where cooking and cameras collide.

We walked the test kitchen perimeter dodging sweaty culinary assistants in dress whites. We peaked into aromatic spice pantries, passed outsized stainless refrigerators and ovens. Back in the hallway we stood in front of a window opening onto rows of test kitchen stations crowded with plated dishes. There was Chef Bobby Flay flanked by his “Throwdown” assistants and a camera crew. We gawked at the proceedings like new parents panning neonatal ward basinets. Bobby walked by on talking on his cell.

Our next stop was the cavernous studio where Rachel Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” and Iron Chef America are filmed. Christen led us to a nondescript hallway that regularly transforms into the Iron Chef challenger’s kitchen stadium entrance tunnel. Arms folded, I summoned a resolute game face. Flora, do you think Morimoto would be intimidated? The resulting photo suggested not.

A projected half-hour tour stretched into a 90-minute theme park ride. Flora and I, already hard core viewers, left with a new appreciation for the people who create our favorite shows, and a dash of chagrin at our fluency in Food Network trivia.

-Flavors And More Magazine: July 2009

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