Food Network Serves Quarantine-Themed Shows As It Cooks Up Lockdown Plans With Viral Cocktail Maker Ina Garten & Guy Fieri

Peter White

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Ina Garten, celebrity chef and star of Food Network’s long-running series Barefoot Contessa, went viral last week when she made herself a rather large cosmopolitan before lunchtime.

“You need a big pitcher because I like to make a lot of cosmos. You never who’s going to stop by. Wait a minute, nobody is stopping by,” she joked. “During a crisis, cocktail hour can be almost any hour.”

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Food Network now is figuring out how to leverage Garten’s latest move into the zeitgeist and move it from the digital sphere to television.

“We’re brainstorming ideas for her,” Food Network President Courtney White told Deadline. “We’re asking how we can take that content that people want and how we can approach in a totally different way. It’s been challenging and fun and new, from a production and technology lens, to figure out these approaches.”

Garten is not the only Food Network star the Discovery-owned network is talking to about cooking up quarantine plans.

It is also working with Guy Fieri on some ideas. Fieri’s five-part competition format Tournament of Champions, which saw 16 chefs going head-to-head in a series of challenges using ingredients and special cooking tools and equipment while racing against the clock, launched on March 4 and was won by Top Chef alum Brooke Williamson.

Fieri already has provided Food Network with extra content around Tournament of Champions, which had been designed to coincide with March Madness, as well as commentary on Guy’s Grocery Games. White said they are plotting ideas for his long-running format Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “We’re talking to him about how he can get creative with that show,” he said. “Guy obviously can’t go and visit restaurants, but what is a way that we could approach it? Could he visit restaurants remotely? We haven’t locked on a concept yet, but he’s very game to experiment and he’s definitely production savvy, so doing more with him is something that we’ll definitely be doing.”

Food Network already has started serving up a slew of other quarantine-themed specials.

On Sunday, April 5, it aired a special with Joanna Gaines, filmed remotely, where the Fixer Upper star whipped up family favorites like zucchini bread, chili, chocolate chip cookies and spinach tortellini soup from her own kitchen. The show also gave viewers a sneak peek into her upcoming cooking show for her Magnolia network.

It also aired the first quarantine edition of The Kitchen, with Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey Zakarian working together remotely to cook up recipes from their own homes.

White said that these shows helped Food Network record its highest ever ratings.

“For those shows, it’s not motivated by a dearth of premieres, it’s actually in the place of premieres that are shot in the traditional way for something that is more timely,” he said. “Comfort is a word that we’ve been talking a lot about and we feel we’re offering first and foremost.”

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Upcoming titles include Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart, which sees six amateur bakers brave the outdoor elements through four one-hour episodes to perfect their baking skills under Stewart’s watchful eye. The show, which was shot last summer, launches May 11.

Food Network also has plenty of episodes of shows such as Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay to serve up as the nation is locked down by the COVID-19 crisis. Chopped, which has aired more than 500 episodes across 44 seasons, was in production when the shutdown happened, but White said that there’s plenty already in the can.

White added: “These long-running series are all several months ahead in production. When we order those, we order them in high volume, and they’re studio based so we get them in bulk. So, in a day like this, it definitely puts us in an advantageous position. We have premieres to last us to the end of the year and beyond.”

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