Reflections on Food and TV Chefs This Thanksgiving Week

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

As chronicled in this post last August, The PRDude likes food.  Well, really, who doesn’t?  And, for a while in the late 1980s, I held the position of vice president for a boutique Chicago public relations firm that specialized in restaurants.  (As you could imagine, there were great fringe benefits: Lots of great lunches and dinners cooked by leading chefs.)  I managed campaigns designed to build awareness for new restaurants and campaigns designed to drive patrons to revisit existing restaurants.

This was an era when the term “celebrity chef” was still not quite part of our lexicon or popular culture.  What’s more, the phrase “foodie” was still not coined.

Today, of course, a growing segment of the population is obsessed with all things food, a development that launched an entire TV network devoted to food, competitive food programs and the rise of the so-called celebrity chef.  There even are programs where the host eats bugs and other odd stuff and one where a man “challenges” food — to see if he could consume more than should be humanly possible in a single sitting.

Let’s recognize that the networks air programs where — gasp! — a chef gives instructions on how to cook.  You know, a show that offers recipes, technique and insight on ingredients and nutrition.  A few decades back, there were programs like this, and they featured passionate cooks who taught you how to prepare and love food, but without the preponderance of F-bombs, kitchen tantrums and shoulder-to-wrist tattoos.

Two of my favorites:

1.  Jeff Smith, who cooked as “The Frugal Gourmet.”

Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet

2.  Keith Floyd, who hosted “Floyd on Food.”

Both men have passed on to that Big Kitchen in the Sky.  Both, I think, would have hung up their aprons after watching some of the potty-mouthed, tough guy, renegade prince and princesses that populate “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and some of the other popular programs aired today.

Smith, a cordial, bespectacled ordained minister, had a gentle way of educating the viewer on how to prepare simple dishes made in his TV kitchen at WTTW studios in Chicago.  His mantra: “Frugal does not mean cheap. It means you use everything.” Watch this video on his recipe for preparing peas and egg soup to get an idea of what the Frug was all about.

Keith Floyd, Floyd on Food.

From the opposite end of the menu we have Floyd, a brash Englishman who cooked in kitchens in Briton and on the continent, as well as on the galley of a fishing boat.  Floyd’s mantra:  “Let’s let that cook while I take time for a little slurp,” a reference to his practice of cooking with a nice glass of red wine nearby.  Here, Floyd offers some thoughts on cooking meat.

Both men were entertaining, informative and captivating.  I learned how to cook and cultivated a liking for different kinds of food by watching their programs.  With many of today’s food-related shows, I only learn that chefs like to swear a lot.

This Thursday, those of us who are fortunate will join family and friends for Thanksgiving, a true American holiday, one dominated by food.  I’ll join family for what I’m sure will be a wonderful afternoon of conversation, wine, and of course — food.  I plan to make soup from the turkey carcass, as I have the past several years.

Rest assured: I’d rather have Jeff Smith or Keith Floyd in the kitchen next to me than any of the “celebrities” who call themselves chefs today.  Swearing is not an ingredient that adds much to the flavor of your dish.

Your turn: Wh0’s your favorite TV chef?

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5 thoughts on “Reflections on Food and TV Chefs This Thanksgiving Week

  1. If I have a favorite TV chef, it’s Mario Batali. He knows his stuff, he knows how to communicate effectively, and — based on my one meal at Babo — makes the best short ribs in the world. Check him out on Twitter: He’s genuinely interested in helping people cook better. Of those currently on TV, Ann Burrell cooks with enthusiasm and style.

    Let’s not forget two from Chicago who did well on Top Chef. Stephanie Izard (The Girl and The Goat) is a great promoter, but backs it up with one of the best restaurants in Chicago. Dale Levitsky, who took a while to land on his feet, has another of the best casual-yet-fine-dining restaurants, Sprout, on Fullerton. Sure, they did a bit of swearing under pressure in the kitchen, but it has nothing to do with their ability to cook and providing a graceful and friendly dining experience.

    • Steve, thanks for your comments. I like Batali, too. He appears to cook with passion and avoid the F-Bombs. One “modern” chef I wouldn’t mind cooking with is Giada DeLaurentis, for more than the obvious reasons. Have a great Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  2. Entirely agreed re: Keith compared to the modern onslaught of TV chefs who it seems would be on TV regardless of whether they were presenting food shows or not.

    THe thing that has forever stuck out most of all about Keith for me, though, is that even greater than the recipes or the actual things he told you to cook, it’s the passion and love for food he managed to instil – something far greater than a selection of recipes, that many of the modern TV chefs throw at you without allowing you to digest.

    • Hello: Thanks for your insightful comment, and thanks for reading my blog. I think there’s a loss of passion in lots of professions and industries today; it’s been replaced by the relentless pursuit of money and fame. That’s what a lot of reality TV is all about.

  3. Pingback: Prdude's Blog | Rotten Taste Already for “Cutthroat Kitchen” Food Show

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