Even Paula Deen Got A Nod At Food Network’s 20th Birthday Party

Food Network built a shrine to itself Thursday night by taking a party space at New York’s Pier 92 and turning it into a museum.

Thirty-six portraits of the cable network’s hosts, past and present, lined the walls, from Guy Fieri to Emeril Laggase. Even Paula Deen, the Southern cooking doyenne who has separated from the Scripps Networks cabler in the wake of some controversy, got some recognition. The network presented a portrait of her sitting with her two sons, also popular chefs.

Fieri, the host of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” was overheard touting the value of having plenty of cold champagne on hand, while Willie “Jack” Degel, the noodge-y steakhouse host who eggs on small restaurant owners to improve their service in “Restaurant Stakeout,” was spotted giving wait staff tips on handing out warmed-up sandwiches, rather than let food cool on display trays.

Food Network managed to give nearly every genre of programming its due, whether through a bank of TV sets showing clips from the net’s earliest days or an ersatz road-food stand handing out local specialties like pulled pork sandwiches or lobster rolls. In another area, pickled foods were the tidbit of choice, with pickled beets, cauliflower and string beans put out to accompany fried chicken.

As in any good museum, facts were presented to support the exhibits. Did you know Food Network chefs have used enough flour in their time to make a sheet cake the size of a football field? Luckily, that’s as far as the education bit went. For those not inclined to fill their brain, there was plenty on hand to fill the stomach.

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