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Zien's career on television began after quitting his job at a San Diego biotech company. In 2001, after a poorly timed effort to begin a career in travel television— that was unfortunately derailed by the September 11 attacks—he switched his focus to a cooking show. He produced his own test screening and distributed the tape to local San Diego television stations. San Diego's Fox affiliate XETV-TDT offered him a 2–3 minute slot during its morning news program. The job was unpaid—a situation that changed after his work earned a Regional Emmy from the National Television Academy's Pacific Southwest Chapter.
In January 2005, Zien moved to County Television Network (CTN), San Diego County's public-access television, after CTN offered him a half-hour time slot on their station. His Sam the Cooking Guy show spread to other cities through agreements with sister cable companies; his work was recognized with more Regional Emmys and a book deal from John Wiley and Sons.
On May 23, 2011, Zien premiered The Sam Livecast, an Internet cooking show originating from his home kitchen. Its thrice weekly episodes feature food-related and other subject matter, After 200 live episodes, the production switched to a live-to-tape format.
Zien has written three cookbooks, all published by John Wiley & Sons:
- Just a Bunch of Recipes (2008, ISBN 9780470043738)
- Awesome Recipes and Kitchen Shortcuts (2010, ISBN 9780470467947)
- Just Grill This! (2011, ISBN 9780470467930)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (December 2013)|
- Manna, Marcia, "Serving up TV success", San Diego Union-Tribune, November 22, 2006, retrieved November 10, 2008
- Zien, S., "About Sam the Cooking Guy," Sam the Cooking Guy, retrieved November 9, 2008
- "What is The Sam Livecast?," What is The Sam Livecast?, retrieved December 8, 2011
- Official website
- The Sam Livecast
- Just Cook This!
- Sam the Cooking guy tells Kathie Lee and Hoda be quiet at YouTube