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TV Chefs Set the Table for Branding

Product lines, magazines, endorsements enhance the flavor of cooking show personalities

How times have changed. A few decades ago, a TV chef might have a companion cookbook. Martha Stewart upped the stakes by creating an empire dedicated to elegant entertaining. But many of today’s top TV cooks have expanded beyond TV, cookbooks and restaurants.

“The companion cookbook was obviously the first ancillary spinoff,” says Jason Hodes, partner and branded lifestyle agent at WME. Today, he says opportunities are nearly unlimited, but can be tailored to individual personalities and ambitions.

“I don’t know if Julia Child had opportunities — I bet she did, but she may not have wanted to pursue them,” Hodes says. “Every talent has a different take on consumerism. Some look at it as a great opportunity to build a multi-faceted empire, while others are very content to write cookbooks and have a television show.”

As a finalist in the fifth season of “Top Chef,” Carla Hall faced major career decisions. Instead of opening a restaurant or launching her own cooking show like other “Top Chef” contestants have done, she took a gig co-hosting ABC’s daytime lifestyle/chatfest “The Chew,” alongside “Iron Chef America” stalwarts Mario Batali and Michael Symon (who of course started out as just plain chefs and restaurant owners before shooting to fame on the Food Network).

Others prefer a bolder approach.

Rachael Ray has her own magazine. Bobby Flay, Alton Brown and Giada De Laurentiis are a few foodies with big endorsement deals.
Ray says she didn’t plan out her product line, it all evolved from a simple sketch.

“I started out drawing an idea for an oval spaghetti pot so people didn’t have to break their pasta in half, and before I knew it I was meeting with companies that could execute my design,” Ray says. “That’s how we started to branch out from just the Food Network shows. We were passionate about staying true to our core concept and principles, which eventually developed into a brand. Opportunities began to present themselves and the brand started to grow.”

One of her latest endeavors is Nutrish, a line of dog foods and treats. “I donate all of my proceeds from the sale of Nutrish to organizations that help animals,” Ray says.

Hodes often tells his clients that there’s power in a pass. “Saying no and knowing what to say no to can be far more important than anything else we do,” he says.

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