A Stove-Side Chat at a Food Network Fête

Culinary treats were on full display on Wednesday evening when PRSA NY held their holiday event at the Food Network in one of their kitchen studios. Although Iron Chef America’s “Battle Fruitcake” episode aired this past week, the show’s kitchen stadium set was temporarily down for the season.

The Food Network, launched nearly twenty years ago, was a pioneer in featuring food as entertainment on TV and highlighting celebrity chefs. Last year their Cooking Channel launched to appeal to more serious food lovers.  Overall their TV audience numbers over one hundred million U.S. households. Since it’s the more established brand, the Food Network is more active in social media. Over two million fans like their Facebook page and over eight hundred thousand follow them on Twitter.

We spoke briefly to Irika Slavin, VP of communications and public relations, about her experience working at the network for the past year.

“It’s so engrossing it doesn’t even seem like work,” she observed. Slavin described the kitchens as “the heart, soul, and pulse of the brand.” She characterized the environment as fast-paced; aside from regular programming, the network also hosts various special food events and festivals.

While Slavin was not inclined to dish on any of the famous chefs, she discussed the evolution of their restaurants. She noted that Bobby Flay and Mario Batali started their restaurants in New York and later expanded to other U.S. cities such as Las Vegas. Masaharu Morimoto, on the other hand, opened his first restaurant in Philadelphia, preferring to enter a smaller market first, and then ventured to New York and beyond. Both the food and design at all his restaurants are quite unique.

As for challenges associated with the job, Slavin described them as “staying competitive and current and engaging our fans to keep people coming back for more. I’m fortunate to work in a place that focuses on our fans first.” The Food Network’s popularity has sparked a host of other food-related shows on cable TV as well as on the broadcast networks.

Overall it’s a workplace filled with colorful personalities, fun shows, and gourmet food, but Slavin acknowledged there is one drawback to working there. The position requires ongoing diplomacy and self-discipline to manage her weight. With so many cooking experts and studio kitchens, she has found that learning to say no to the nonstop food without disappointing the chefs is the hardest part.