A public relations professional couldn’t have done it any better. When I was a kid, skirt steak and hanger steak were the tougher, chewier, cheaper cuts of meat. End of story. Somewhere along the way, those cuts of meat got hip (though still chewy) and more expensive (supply and demand).
And then there’s the pork story. The other white meat has never been so trendy. Not only are Americans eating more pork than ever before, they’re eating it “from snout to tail.” So how did pigskin go from the field to the plate? Television shows!
The Food Network did more for food groups and chefs than the biggest PR agency in the world. It directly connected food with consumers hungry to learn everything about it. And chefs like Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali became stars.
There’s something about food that we love. Watching the sizzling steak, the roasting peppers, the popping bacon, makes us feel good. And as the food shows became more popular, they diversified into Southern cooking, Hamptons cooking, cooking on the cheap, hot foods, hip foods, pigging out, etc.
And chefs like Guy, Giada and Anne became a PR pro’s dream spokespeople. Have a food product and need to promote it? Bring on a celeb chef and book them radio or TV interviews to talk about it. Want to hold a demo to show us how to fillet a fish and grill the perfect piece of salmon? Do a live webcast on location, then post it on YouTube and archive it on your website. Want to show audiences how to ice a cake? Then book an icing-queen on a TV ground tour, ping-ponging the country on every morning show available.
Though I was an early watcher of the Food Network and shows like Iron Chef, my guess is that the creators never knew they’d become so iconic. And the PR industry never knew what hit them in terms of a whole new line of celebrity spokespeople. Chefs, once thought of as one step above unemployed, are now the hottest commodities on the planet… and only getting hotter.