Mark Dissin ’77
by Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley ’05
Mark Dissin ’77 is passionate about food. As a vice president of production at the Food Network, he spends his days developing series, producing and directing cooking shows and working with chef celebrities. And when the dinner bell rings, he’s still hungry for more. “Cooking is the best way I know to unwind after a long day,” he says.
Each evening, when he leaves his office on the upper floors of Chelsea Market, he walks through the urban food court, selecting fresh ingredients as he makes his way home. “I pick up whatever looks good to me in the moment,” he says. “I work late, but I’m usually able to get dinner on the table by eight or nine.”
Dissin – armed with his passion for simple, delicious food – has launched more than 25 shows in his 13 years with Scripps Networks Interactive, the parent network of both Food Network and Cooking Channel. He worked with Rachael Ray to develop the 30-Minute Meals brand and helped launch Guy Fieri’s television career. Along the way, he also won Emmys for his work on 30-Minute Meals (2006), Everyday Italian (2008) and Giada at Home (2010).
“I always liked eating and had a cursory interest in cooking,” Dissin says. “I never dreamed of becoming a chef, though; I wanted to work in media.”
He began his career as a freelance filmmaker, producer and director, working with a production company specializing in sports, the Comedy Channel (the precursor to Comedy Central) and HBO. “After nearly 20 years in the business, I wanted to try something new, so in 1996, I put television behind me and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute full time for six months,” says Dissin of what he calls his ‘un-midlife crisis.’
This led to positions as a line cook at New York City restaurants Follonico and Eleven Madison Park, before Dissin realized that he could do more with his newly-earned skills. “There I was, sweating and struggling to keep up on a line, when one of my friends won a Nobel Prize in physics,” he says. “It really hit me at that point: ‘what am I doing here?!’”
In a stroke of luck, just as Dissin decided he should get back in the studio, he received a call from a former HBO colleague about a maternity-leave opening at the Food Network that has led to an amazing career combining his interests in media and cooking. “The Food Network is a great incubator for creative ideas, and it’s been a really fun, exciting work environment,” says Dissin, who recently announced that he’ll be leaving Scripps to start his own production company, Pre-Sliced Productions.
Dissin will continue to produce Guy’s Big Bite, Ten Dollar Dinners and Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day for Scripps. He also premiered two new shows on Cooking Channel in late January: Symon’s Suppers with Iron Chef Michael Symon and Drop Five Pounds with Good Housekeeping, which is based on the book and magazine column of the same name.
But he’s also signed on with William Morris Endeavor and hopes this relationship brings even more work to Pre-Sliced Productions. “I’m looking forward to the new challenges,” says Dissin. “Starting my own business isn’t going to be easy, but I can honestly tell you, there is nothing as difficult as being a line cook. The days ahead may be long, but after working on a line, nothing scares me.”