Jeff Smith (chef)
Smith in 1990.
|Born||January 22, 1939|
Tacoma, Washington, U.S.
|Died||July 7, 2004 (aged 65)|
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Patricia "Patty" Smith (1966–2004)|
Jeffrey L. Smith (January 22, 1939 – July 7, 2004) was the author of several best-selling cookbooks and the host of The Frugal Gourmet, a popular American cooking show, which began locally in Tacoma, Washington, in 1973, and the show was originally called Cooking Fish Creatively. The show was first produced by KTPS in Tacoma, Washington, and then, by WTTW in Chicago, Illinois, and finally, to KQED in San Francisco, and Natan Katzman's A La Carte Communications. During each episode, Smith prepares step-by-step instructions on the preparation of international meals. He tells food-related stories, and goes to different places to show food from many different cultures. From 1989 to 1997, Lifetime aired reruns of The Frugal Gourmet. It also reran on PBS stations until 1998. He reminded the viewers that "frugal" doesn't mean cheap, it means you spend your money wisely on fruits, grains, vegetables, and meat, and "gourmet" means a lover of good food and good wine. From 1972 to 1983, Smith owned and operated the Chaplain's Pantry. He was best known for using his signature catchphrase at the end of each episode; "I bid you peace".
Smith was born in Tacoma, Washington, on January 22, 1939. He began cooking when he was 12. In 1962, he graduated from the University of Puget Sound, graduated from Drew University in 1965, and was ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church. In 1965, he began teaching cooking classes to his students, called "Food as Sacrament and Celebration". In 1966, he became a chaplain at the University of Puget Sound, becoming the chaplain of Aldergate Methodist Church. In 1972, he left the university to open the Chaplain's Pantry, a restaurant and gourmet shop in Tacoma, where he also offered cooking classes to the public. In 1981, he had heart valve surgery. He was forced to sell the Chaplain's Pantry to pay huge medical costs. After selling the Chaplain's Pantry, he packed up and moved to Chicago in 1983, where he appeared on The Phil Donahue Show, promoting his paperback cookbook. Smith met his wife, Patricia "Patty" Smith, when he was a graduate student, and she was a senior sociology major at Drew University. They were married in 1966, and had two sons, named Channing and Jason. Patricia is credited with originating the nickname "Frugal Gourmet". Their marriage lasted until his death on July 7, 2004. In 1984, he released his first hardcover cookbook The Frugal Gourmet, and he hit the talk show circuit. In 1992, he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, promoting The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook.
In 1973, Smith began his television career, with his first cooking show at a local PBS station, KTPS (now KBTC) in Tacoma. The show was called Cooking Fish Creatively, and the show ran from 1973 to 1977. The first six shows of Cooking Fish Creatively were broadcast in black-and-white. The station then got federal grant for color cameras, because he asked to design a new cooking show, he called it The Frugal Gourmet. Following a move to WTTW in Chicago, after appearing on The Phil Donahue Show in 1983, they[who?] took The Frugal Gourmet nationally to PBS stations. The show began in 1984, and the show ran for 11 seasons; a total of 261 episodes were produced. During the "Three Ancient Cuisines" run in 1989, he was joined by assistant chef and co-author Craig Wollam. In 1995, Betsy Helgenson became a sous chef for his last series The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast. In 1990, he became the spokesman for Columbia Crest wines, and he formed Frugal Gourmet Productions, Inc. In 1991, Smith took The Frugal Gourmet to KQED in San Francisco, and Natan Katzman's A La Carte Communications. The company later created Julia Child's series produced by Maryland Public Television. The theme music for The Frugal Gourmet is George Frederick Handel's water music, which is called the Bourree movement. At the end of each episode, he was best known for saying something akin to, " ...until I see you again, this is the Frugal Gourmet, I bid you peace, bye-bye... ".
Over the course of his career, Smith published numerous cookbooks that go along with the television series, such as Recipes from the Frugal Gourmet (1977), The Frugal Gourmet (1984), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine (1986), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome (1989), The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother (1990), The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas (1991), The Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook: An Updated Version of an American Classic on Food and Cooking (1991), The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook: Recipes and Reflections for Contemporary Living (1992), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian: Recipes from the New and Old Worlds, Simplified for the American Kitchen (1993), and The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast: Past, Present, and Future (1995). In 1995, he hosted The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast, which was produced for the Odyssey Network in 1996. He is joined by Betsy Helgenson as sous chef. In 1997, he retired from television. PBS continued airing reruns until 1998. In 2001, he appeared in the music video for Cake's "Love You Madly", along with Rick James and Phyllis Diller, who compete in a cooking match.
Smith was regarded as a "genius" by some and as a "tyrant" by others. Kathy Casey, a Seattle Times food columnist and longtime friend of Smith's, described him as a knowledgeable and generous man who "...knew more about food and culture than anybody I know in the food world." She said he donated both money and time to charitable causes and helped individuals get started in the food industry, even after his retirement.
Smith also had his share of detractors. Irena Chalmers, a faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America and president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, once described him as "the Frugal Gourmet, who is neither". Chicago Tribune food and wine columnist William Rice wrote, "I've tried to cook his stuff, and let's say it was hit or miss. Some things worked and others didn't." Newsweek writer Laura Shapiro criticized him as "a prime example of prominent cooks who may compromise their integrity by being paid to recommend food products and kitchen ware." She cited The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook as "...especially shocking ... the cookbook as infomercial". In a 1992 Harper's Magazine article, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison ridiculed him as "...a purveyor of patronizing poppycock ... conveyed with the kind of mock anger that is always a mask for real anger." Smith brushed aside such criticism: "Not many people read Harper's," he said. "That's a very small audience." He continued, "People criticize me for enjoying good food when I use the word frugal. Frugal doesn't mean cheap. It means you don't waste your money. They haven't read my books. They don't know the meaning of the word."
Sexual abuse allegations
In 1997, seven men filed a civil lawsuit against Smith, charging him with sexual abuse. Six alleged that they were molested as teenagers in the 1970s while working at the Chaplain's Pantry in Tacoma; the seventh claimed that he was assaulted in 1992, at age 14, after Smith picked him up as a hitchhiker. The group claimed they had repressed memories, that had only recently surfaced. The incident was at the beginning of the short-lived repressed memory movement, in which people made allegations, usually of sexual molestation, that they had only recently remembered, sometimes with the aid of a therapist. Smith denied the allegations, and no criminal charges were filed, but he and his insurers, against his wishes, settled the cases for an undisclosed amount in 1998, believing a settlement was cheaper than litigation. The litigation ended his television career, though he continued his writing and charitable work.
Smith died in his sleep of heart disease on July 7, 2004 at the age of 65. He was survived by his wife Patricia "Patty" Smith, and sons Channing and Jason, as well as daughters-in-law Yuki and Lisa.
- Recipes from the Frugal Gourmet (1977)
- The Frugal Gourmet (1984)
- The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine (1986)
- The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987)
- The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome (1989)
- The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother (1990)
- The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas (1991)
- The Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook: An Updated Version of an American Classic on Food and Cooking (1991)
- The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook: Recipes and Reflections for Contemporary Living (1992)
- The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian: Recipes from the New and Old Worlds, Simplified for the American Kitchen (1993)
- The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast: Past, Present, and Future (1995)
- "Seattle Times Obituary".
- Grizzuti Harrison, Barbara (June 1992). "P.C. on the Grill: The Frugal Gourmet, Lambasted and Skewered". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
- Dizon, Kristin (July 9, 2004). "Jeff Smith, 1939–2004: The 'Frugal Gourmet' Was TV's Original Celebrity Chef". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
- Blake, Judith (July 10, 2004). "Jeff Smith, 1939–2004: Frugal Gourmet Was Popular on PBS". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- "Critics Turn Up the Heat over Frugal Gourmet's Style, Endorsements: Cooking: TV Host Jeff Smith Lambasted by Food Aficionados Who Say Recipes Aren't His—and Aren't Affordable. The Popular Author Bites Back". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. August 23, 1992. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
- "'Frugal Gourmet' Settles Sleazy Sex Charges". TheSmokingGun.com. July 6, 1998.
- Behrens, Steve (July 27, 1998). "Cooking Star Pays Plaintiffs in Sexual Abuse Suits". Current. Archived from the original on July 17, 2013. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
- Collins, Glenn (February 10, 1988). "'Frugal Gourmet': A Minister Makes Food His Mission". The New York Times. p. C1.