What It’s Really Like to be on QVC - No. 47
Tune in Wednesday for my new cookbook sneak-a-peek!
Hello everyone! I’d love for you to tune in tomorrow night (Wednesday, Oct. 6) at 8 EST “In the Kitchen with David” on QVC. I’ll be in my Nashville kitchen via Skype with David Venable in the QVC studio. We will talk easy baking and sample cakes from my new book, A New Take on Cake. And I’d love to know my friends are out in the airwaves cheering me on. Thank you! Anne
NOT LONG AFTER THE Cake Mix Doctor was published I got a call from my book editor asking if I’d appear on a television shopping network called QVC. They’d taken a look at my book and thought it was a good fit for their audience.
Now, I’ll be honest - I had heard of QVC but never watched. It seemed a far-off land from where I realistically lived with three young children. TV - let me put this just right - TV other than Sesame Street or Barney was worlds away. But I was curious about who would shop via television and how that worked.
So I said yes. And after I’d submitted a list of a dozen cakes I wanted to talk about on air, I boarded a flight to Philadelphia and was driven out into the bucolic Pennsylvania countryside towards West Chester. After we’d passed the green, rolling horse farms and weaved through quiet, manicured suburbs, we arrived at QVC, which was tucked at the end of a side street. You’d never know it was there, and it was hardly the setting for hard-sell TV if you asked me.
Thus began my QVC adventures.
Through the years, I would be on air with a dozen or more hosts, at hours ranging from pre-dawn to past-your-bedtime. My frequent trips to QVC allowed me to reconnect with my high school friend Shellie who lived nearby, and we’d go out to dinner afterwards. And QVC would be where my mother and daughter Kathleen tagged along to celebrate Kathleen’s 11th birthday. (They loved all the free snacks in the green room!)
So my takeaway is this….QVC has been wildly entertaining and valuable to this cookbook author. It may not be GMA or the Today show, but it’s still national TV. And it threw me in front of the camera, shook off my jitters, and made me more confident. Most of all, it opened doors to my readers, people who aren’t chefs and might not keep up with the James Beard Awards, people who are often dismissed by national media. But these people still love to cook and are interested in the latest air fryer, any gadget that will shave minutes off dinner prep time, and quite possibly, a book by me.
An author can sell more books in five minutes on QVC than you’d sell anywhere else in a year. And I found that with every book sale there are new relationships built. It now makes my heart sing when someone posts on Instagram that they saw me on QVC.
From shower radios to cake mix recipes
QVC was born in 1986 as an alternative to the Home Shopping Network (HSN). The first product sold was a shower radio, and in those early years they also held on-air sweepstakes and live drawings to grow their audience.
This $11.5 billion-a-year network is built on the idea that hosts and guests such as myself engage in a backyard-fence style of conversation. It’s not so much that I go on air to sell you a cookbook as I talk with the host about my way of easy baking and how it makes you feel once you try it in your kitchen.
Named for Quality, Value, and Convenience, QVC has been called “theatrical retailing,” which rings true. Even with the best intentions of not spending a dime, you will be hard pressed to not buy something if you tune in. The attractive, energetic, wildly expressive hosts are skilled and could sell you, frankly, a flat tire and you’d be happy with it.
In my first episode with host Jane Treacy, I was three minutes into the segment when, in mid-sentence, Jane stopped me short. All my books had sold. I walked into the green room to high-fives from other vendors who had grabbed another minute or two of airtime thanks to me not using all of mine. My sell-out created good vibes for the entire show, and you could feel the energy in the building.
And while that segment took only a blink to air, it had been planned for hours, days, weeks. In those early years I’d bake cake layers in my Nashville kitchen, tuck them back in the pans, and pack them and tubs of homemade frosting in my luggage. But after 9/11, things changed as to what you could carry in your bags, and after TSA pulled me aside enough times, I started baking at QVC.
A coconut cake to remember
If you are selling a cookbook or some type of food on air, you are assigned a stylist at QVC to make the food look appetizing for camera. My first stylist was a chef without a lot of pastry experience, but he tried. Until there was this big Christmas extravaganza with lots of other vendors in the building and loads of stylists in the kitchen baking their wares - it was stressful, I’ll admit - and he just disappeared. Right before showtime, I found him hiding in the walk-in cooler!
He confessed he’d thought I had been upset about some of the cakes being overcooked - they were - and as I coaxed him out of the frigid temp, I assured him frosting covers everything…
To their credit, the QVC kitchen team puts up with their share of divas. One of my personal thrills was scrolling the sign-in page when I arrived in the building. Who would be walking down the halls with me? Martha? Jacques? Ron Popeil, the charismatic countertop oven guy? Even the late Joan Rivers.
I recall a former Food Network star who shall remain un-named. The star arrived for their first QVC appearance unaware they needed to prepare food for camera. I shared directions to the local grocery where the star picked up ingredients and came back to the studio kitchen to cook. Out of the corner of my eye I spied this individual frosting store-bought cake layers with a tub of Crisco shortening and packing shredded coconut on top and around the sides of the cake.
That “coconut cake” image has been stamped in my mind, and I’ll admit, I just couldn’t bear to watch the segment and see if the host took a bite!
The food shared on air is as much to appeal to the viewer as it is to suit the host. Which is understandable as hosts might have food allergies and preferences, and they’re all really good sports about eating and talking at the same time. (I’ve done enough TV over the years to know some TV folks will not taste on air for fear of food dangling from their teeth!)
And without a doubt the best sport of all is David Venable of In the Kitchen with David, that big teddy bear of a guy who is mad about peanut butter and chocolate, and even crazier about them when they’re together in the same recipe.
At some point in my QVC journey, I met Lucille Osborn, a Philadelphia area pastry chef who would become my food stylist and dear friend. Lucille knew how to make my recipes look fabulous. For one QVC airing, working with a simple peanut butter layer cake, Lucille created an homage to Reese’s peanut butter cups and scattered chopped peanut butter cups between the layers and on top of the cake, and she decorated the top with more whole bite-size and even larger peanut butter cups.
I had never witnessed so much wild extravagance with a bag of candy before, and when the sell was done and that cake was rolled off the QVC set, everyone backstage dove in!
This Wednesday, I’m hoping to generate the energy that comes so easily in the QVC studio, even if I am on air remotely from many miles away. You’ll see a chopped peppermint garnish on the chocolate chiffon cake, and there is ginger and spice in the cookies, and while my kitchen won’t be decorated for Christmas yet, I hope it will put you in the spirit.
I’ll have the Neapolitan Swirl Bundt Cake as well as two kinds of decorated sugar cookies, and Confetti Cake, a few favorites from my new book.
David will be tasting that peanut butter cake with Reese’s garnish as well as the book cover cake, a Double Chocolate Berry Cake with chocolate glaze dribbling down the sides. He’ll taste that pumpkin icebox cake, perfect for baking for Thanksgiving or Christmas. And he’ll taste the Mint Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cake, the Strawberry Smash baby cake, as well as the Pink Champagne Cake. And on his table will be a cake baked in a loaf pan - a Rosemary Lemon Syrup Loaf.
His table must be a lot bigger than mine! He will also sample the Black and Blueberry Coffee Cake, the Banana Pudding Cake with meringue, and Thumbprint Cookies.
And in between bites, I hope he has time to do the Happy Dance.
Even if you’ve already bought my new book, you should tune in to watch David Venable and the Happy Dance and to absolutely experience “theatrical retailing” at its finest.
For Subscribers this Thursday!
Beginning this Thursday, my Subscriber newsletter gets a new focus - Secretly Simple. I’ve always loved to share great shortcuts, and that continues every Thursday. This week it’s five favorite dinner hacks from The Dinner Doctor!
And congratulations to the September Giveaway winner, Shelton Clark of Nashville! He received a copy of the very lovely book, Turnip Greens & Tortillas, by Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett.
Have a great week!