“My mom taught us all to cook out of necessity, but I was the one who always gravitated back to the kitchen,” Venable says. “I was popping casseroles into the oven at 11 or 12.”
Not that this young boy was on the path to becoming a chef. After graduating college he turned to TV news, working in Oak Hill, W. Va., and at the CBS affiliate in Altoona, Pa., where he was midday anchor. After six years in that business, he made his way to QVC in 1993. He sees himself as still “a TV guy” _ not a chef.
“I’m a home cook,” he says. “An accomplished one, but a home cook. Someone comes on to make a radish rose in three cuts _ I’m learning along with everyone else.”
While not everyone might relish _ or be able to manage _ three straight hours of food talk, twice a week, without breaking a sweat, Venable appears to love it. On a fall Sunday we find him at full speed, going from bakeware to blenders to French croissants on a show dedicated to Christmas shopping.
Throughout the show, sales numbers come pouring in. Brian Martin, a line producer, speaks to Venable in his earpiece, letting him know if a certain color, for example, is running low. “OK, we have sold out the Temp-tations mugs,” Venable announces at one point.
Meanwhile, another QVC staffer is monitoring the social networks, noting consumer questions on Facebook or Twitter. Another staffer vets customer calls for the on-air testimonial line. “I bought croissants once but they were really doughy,” says a caller named Betty. “Well, don’t worry, Betty, this is the authentic croissant, from France,” Venable replies.
It’s easy to see why even Justin Bieber and Sheryl Crow have stopped by to sell their music. And though books in general aren’t big for QVC, cookbooks tend to be. This summer, author Chris Chamberlain wrote a blog post on Food Republic entitled, “What It Feels Like to Sell 1,000 Cookbooks A Minute on QVC. My Cookbook.”
Now, Venable gets to benefit from his own platform. “This is a very happy story,” says Doug Howe, QVC’s executive vice president of merchandising. “We’re very excited about this.” He attributes the book’s success in pre-sales to the personality of the host.
“He’s somebody you’d like to be your neighbor,” he said. “He doesn’t talk down to you.” Also, of course, there’s the draw of comfort food, which has a huge appeal to QVC viewers, he adds.
Venable echoes that. “I want to give people joy in the foods they love,” he says in the interview. Almost on cue, a chocolate peanut butter pie arrives.
“Yes, it has everything it in that you’d imagine,” he says with grin.
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