Food Network dish

Allen Salkin
Allen Salkin

An interview with Allen Salkin by Marc Katz, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

The Internet blog Gawker used to call Allen Salkin the Seymour Hersh of The New York Times Style section.

That was when Hersh was an acclaimed investigative reporter for the Times and other publications, known for his work on Vietnam, among other topics.

Salkin focuses on less dangerous topics, but, “I would bring this investigative reporter sensibility and training to covering the frivolous, or seemingly frivolous.”

At various times, Salkin wrote about one of Madonna’s boyfriends, acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz’s finances, Festivus (The Holiday for the Rest of Us) and, of course, The Food Network.

He’ll talk about his book From Scratch: The Uncensored History Of The Food Network during a type of “dinner-and-show” outing on Nov. 10 at El Meson as part of the JCC’s Cultural Arts & Book Fest.

Salkin suggested the topics he’s written about are closer in theme than you might think.

“Annie Leibovitz and the Food channel are both about pop culture and money and media” said Salkin, whose journalistic career began at the New York Post before he moved to the Times and drifted toward freelancing, looking for stories in several directions.

He is co-writing a pilot for a network television show. He loves the Olympics, attending several as a hobby, and some day, may consider a book about his adventures.

“I’m not used to talking about myself much, but now I do,” Salkin said. “I’ll talk about who I am and how I came about writing this book (From Scratch). I have funny stories about Julia Child and Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa).”

Professionally, Salkin said he has earned his living mostly from being a print journalist, but has now worked in so many different forms of journalism, “it sounds weird, but I consider myself an artist. I work with video. Nowadays, you have to do everything. And it’s fun to do everything.”

For From Scratch, Salkin interviewed more than 200 people who have been involved with the Food Network over its 20-year history.

Even though his local appearance will be at a restaurant and the book is about television chefs, there are no recipes involved.

“I’m writing about cookbooks on,” Salkin said. “That said, I’m not a food writer, really. It’s really a media story, a culture story. It’s not a food

“There are no recipes in my book. I guarantee you when I come in, there will be ladies asking me what recipes are in it.”

In case someone does, Salkin might be able to help, anyway.

When he was growing up, his mother hated cooking. “My brother and I hated doing dishes. We made a deal: if we cooked once a week, we didn’t have to clean up.”

Even without the recipes, Salkin is entertaining.

“It’s too much fun to write about food to not continue doing it,” Salkin said. “Almost no one who writes about food leaves completely. I love going around the world and being wined and dined.”

As for his dinner dates, he calls them, “basically like dinner theatre. You get to shovel in some delicious food and be entertained by me. I’m pretty funny. I tell these funny stories about the Food Network. I’ve done these types of things in Palm Springs, Boise (Idaho) and Tampa.”

The JCC Cultural Arts & Book Fest presents Everything You Wanted To Know About The Food Network with Allen Salkin on Monday, Nov. 10 at 6:45 p.m. at El Meson, 903 E. Dixie Dr., West Carrollton. $25 includes dinner, gratuity and non-alcoholic beverages. Dinner will be gluten free and vegetarian. Kosher meals available upon advance request. R.S.V.P. here. 

To read the complete November 2014 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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