Long before I created gourmet confections – I created television programming.
At just 23 years old, after a previous stint at a Manhattan Ad Agency, I was the Commercial Production Supervisor at a small cable station in the New York metro area. While I wouldn’t look back on any of those commercials and promotions I produced (wrote, shot, narrated & edited) and deem them “works of art,” I can look back and smile. Even back then, when a bowl of cereal often substituted as dinner, there was a hint of foreshadowing into my life of food. It would just take almost 20 years to materialize.
My daily work schedule was packed with client meetings, script writing (first with a pen and paper, then on a typewriter), video shoots with a 3/4″ tape (roughly the size of a textbook), editing on what was cutting edge equipment at the time – a Video Toaster, and when needed – filling in for the weather caster when he was sick or on vacation. Special evenings included running prompter for the local newscast or doing graphics for local high school sporting events.
But that’s not what this story is about. It’s about How To Boil Water.
In late 1992, as a young manager of a ridiculously small department, I had the opportunity
Video Toaster Circa 1990
to spend several days with the upper management at our cable station’s parent company. Neither the local cable company or its parent still exists in the same form today – but both were owned by a Rhode Island outlet called The Providence Journal.
Shortly after the three-day conference, I received a phone call from the Vice President of Programming of our parent company. He told me, off the record, that his company was launching a network; and there might be a job for me there…if it took off. When he told me the concept, I rolled my eyes and thought, “this will NEVER work.”
But I was excited. He was offering me a temporary job that would quite possibly be the most exciting programming I would ever produce. And I jumped at the opportunity.
Within two days, I had amassed a very small crew. The production budget, I was told, was non-existent. I would be paid for my time, but couldn’t afford more than two more people on the crew. Off to Manhattan we went.
Standing in Midtown for 3 hours attempting to interview New Yorkers about the new network’s concept proved daunting. Native New Yorkers wouldn’t even make eye-contact, let alone agree to give us a 10-second sound bite.
Luckily, tourists make for good TV. Also fortunate, New York is filled with tourists.
Our Man-On-The-Street plan was perfectly executed, but like me, most of the people we interviewed had a lukewarm reaction to this exciting new network. Nonetheless, we managed to pull together enough sound-bites to create a buzz.
We later visited the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, which in many ways resembled a hospital ER. Instead of operating tables and cots, there were ovens and dishwashers. Vials of medicine were jars of spices; scalpels were paring knives. The chefs wore bright white coats and buzzed around as if the souffle in the oven was about to give birth. There was an energy about the place that made me think, just for a moment, that maybe this network would work. Maybe, just maybe, someone would tune in to watch a show about How To Boil Water.
Though discussions about future employment continued for months after that initial production – which aired on a continuous loop for weeks before the network launched – I chose a different route, and did not pursue a career at the soon-to-be-launched network.
I got married and moved north to work at an NBC affiliate, where I would remain for 8 years before launching a video production company.
Now that I have evolved from TV Producer to Confections Producer, I wonder how my life would have been different if I moved to New York to work at The Food Network. Perhaps I would be making Irish Coffee Truffles on-air.
Or perhaps I would have never even learned How To Boil Water.