A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Jack Clifford, the founder of the Food Network, and his wife Beverly for breakfast in Scottsdale. He shared stories of his past 50 years in the television industry and I was so grateful to listen to his wisdom.Jack’s mantra, “Work hard and have a decent attitude,” is certainly what got him to where he is today. After starting off as an college radio DJ in Michigan, his quickly became hired by the local radio station and found his knack for sports reporting. While visiting family in Phoenix in 1957, he spontaneously landed a job as the first sports anchorman at KTVK-TV, which launched him into the brand new television industry. He passed along his tip for connecting with audiences on television or the radio: “pretend like the camera or the microphone is one person, and just talk to them.”
A switch into the sales side of television and desire to be the best made Jack escalate up the corporate ladder in just eight years, eventually to President of KTAR-TV. He claims the reason he was so good at what he did was because he learned to do every job so he always knew what was going on. (And nobody could get away with anything!)
Years later he ended up in Rhode Island working with the Providence Journal Co., which became one of the largest television companies in the nation. With his experience in cable television, he decided to endeavor in starting his own network and realized food was just the topic that was missing from the market. He said his dream was to have Food Network be like a constant stream of information about food and cooking, comparable to a flowing river. It took them $10 million to start the network and he said they used every penny of it. Now just imagine how much it’s worth today!
Hearing his stories made me excited to read the book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network. I’m sure there are fascinating anecdotes in the book, but nothing will compare to talking with Mr. Clifford in person about starting the network. Him and his wife still record their favorite shows on Food Network and watch them every night. Mr. Clifford loves Guy Fieri and his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. For his 80th birthday last year, he received a signed card from Food Network stars like Guy, Tyler Florence, Rachael Ray and Giada de Laurentiis. His wife said Giada even included 80 Hershey’s Kisses and said she was sending 80 birthday kisses to him. How cute is that!
I feel so lucky to have spent time with Jack and Beverly. Special thank you to Dean Christopher Callahan of the Cronkite School for making the introduction.
Love food. Love self. Love life.