NEW YORK — Jason Liebig remembers watching episodes of “3-2-1 Contact” while attending Williams Elementary School and being mesmerized by the wild adventures featured in the educational show.
“I always thought, wow, that would be the best job in the world,” the Columbus native said.
He got the same feeling while standing inside a massive warehouse at Post’s cereal production plant in Asheboro, North Carolina.
“This is it, I’m getting to do that thing,” he thought to himself.
It was hard for the “silly kid from Columbus” to fully comprehend how far his career had come.
Liebig, who graduated from Columbus High School in 1987, took that moment to reflect while filming a segment for his new TV show, which premieres Thursday night on the Cooking Channel.
The 48-year-old candy and snack food historian, television consultant, writer and actor had long desired to develop his own show, so he started with a few YouTube videos featuring tidbits he’d collected over the years and featured on his website collectingcandy.com.
Then, he said, something unexpected happened. Calls from production companies wanting to learn more about this candy guru started coming in.
Liebig got the green light to shoot a pilot episode of “Food Flashback” for the Cooking Channel and spent the past year in development.
“It’s been a learning experience,” said Liebig, a co-creator and host for the show that combines his love for food history with consumers’ nostalgic connection to treats from their past.
The pilot episode focuses on four items that disappeared before returning to the market — the Twinkie, Surge soda, Oreo O’s cereal and “an elusive fast-food sandwich” he wasn’t allowed to elaborate on.
You’ll have to tune in to the premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday to find out whether that secret has ties to those McRib commercials airing recently.
Liebig, who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in business and marketing, traveled across the country while shooting “Food Flashback,” including to that Post plant in North Carolina where Oreo O’s are made.
“It was like going to mecca,” he said. “It was so cool and so much fun.”
Ironically, the pilot doesn’t feature any candy, but Liebig promises that will change if the show is picked up for additional episodes.
The goal of “Food Flashback,” he said, is to tell stories about products people have deep connections with.
“They’re more than just consumer products,” he explained. “They’re part of our life experiences.”
“I think we delve into some really fun stories in ways people haven’t before,” Liebig added.
The show can be compared to “Unwrapped” with Marc Summers, someone Liebig recently met in New York City, where he’s lived since 1994.
“That was a very surreal, very exciting time,” said Liebig, who has also worked in comic book publishing and marketing for both Marvel and DC Comics.
Having his own television show is a “dream come true,” Liebig said, but this isn’t the end of the ride.
Ratings and viewer response to the premiere, which re-airs at 11 p.m. Thursday and noon Saturday on the Cooking Channel (channel 163 on Spectrum cable locally), will determine whether “Food Flashback” is booked for more episodes.
Liebig said he’s excited, not nervous, at this point.
“I cannot wait for people to see it,” he said.
He’s hoping for the “best Christmas present ever” when a decision is made on the show’s future.
Regardless of what happens, “It’s just been an awesome, hell of a fun time,” Liebig said.