Geoffrey Zakarian has become one of the most recognizable faces on Food Network as a judge on “Chopped” and co-host of “The Kitchen.”
But the chef and restaurateur behind New York City’s Lambs Club and other spots has gradually expanded the scope of his work in TV to include behind-the-camera activity as a content producer. As Zakarian explains in the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” he launched Corner Table Entertainment in 2017, which put him in the perfect position to help deliver new shows for Food Network and other outlets featured in the newly launched Discovery Plus streamer.
The fledgling streaming service that launched Jan. 4, in Zakarian’s view, “is a voracious animal. It keeps eating up the content. We keep feeding it more and it never gets fat.”
Zakarian has plenty of experience in business and with startup ventures. He loves the creative process of developing new shows and new spins on traditional Food Network/Cooking Channel themes. “How do we put that in a beaker, shake it up and come up with a great new cocktail,” he says. “We’re just getting started.”
With his Corner Table partner Jaret Keller, Zakarian has produced two telethons that aired last year in New York to raise money for anti-hunger organizations and for COVID-19 relief for restaurant workers and others who are facing financial hardships because of the pandemic. The company also is at work on a documentary with Tribeca Enterprises about the devastation of New York City’s restaurant scene.
“We’re capturing it as it actually happens,” Zakarian says.
Zakarian’s background in the culinary world helped give him the skills to think on his feet and to be extremely adaptable to any situations — all traits that have helped him navigate his second career in TV. When asked whether it’s harder to launch a restaurant or launch a TV show, Zakarian doesn’t hesitate.
“In the physical brick-and-mortar world of opening a restaurant — the first three months are like having a wisdom tooth pulled every 45 minutes,” he says. “It’s crazy, nutty, volatile, rife with problems and legal stuff and lawsuits — all this stuff comes at you.”
Producing television, by contrast, is less do-or-die. “With a restaurant, that’s all you’re doing is one thing — opening a restaurant. If it doesn’t work, you’re screwed,” he says.
With content, he’s found there’s much more room to maneuver and change course.
“If you don’t like this one show, we’ve got another,” he says.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.