Cooking shows have been around almost as long as television itself. Cooking-as-entertainment began on radio shows, and quickly transferred to television when it was recognised to be a much better medium for the already popular shows. Many early television shows were sponsored by food companies. What better way to advertise products than by using them in a 'real' kitchen?
TV Chefs of the USA
James Beard of Portland, Oregon, is often credited with hosting the first national television cooking show in the USA. In 1946 he appeared on NBC's Elsie Presents James Beard in 'I Love to Eat'.
Born in Portland in 1903, James Beard grew up helping his mother to prepare food in the boarding house that the family ran. In the late 1930s, while struggling as an actor in a travelling theatre troupe, James began to supplement his income by catering for cocktail parties. In 1940, he published the first major cookbook devoted to cocktail food, Hors d'Oeuvres and Canapés. James Beard is said to have altered the way party food was perceived and served.
In the 1940s, during WWII, Beard worked setting up canteens for sailors in the United Seamen's Service. In 1945, following his service, Beard returned to New York City. Later, Beard was extremely productive. He published seven more books and began his television appearances.
Beard eventually established a cooking school and continued to publish cooking books until his death in 1985.
The James Beard Foundation works with chefs and students to continue Beard's passion for teaching the world about great cuisine. The foundation supports several scholarships, public programmes and other educational endeavours.
Julia Child is one of TV's most popular chefs. Trained in French cooking, Julia began her TV career in 1961.
Julia was born in Pasadena, California. She served in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. During the war she served in Washington DC, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and China. Following the war, her husband, Paul, was transferred to the American Embassy in Paris.
While in France, Julia enrolled in the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Following this rigorous training, she established her own school and began to publish cookbooks. Many of her fans were attracted by her knack for bringing 'fancy' cuisine to everyday dining. Her television career began in the early 1960s with an interview for a local Boston station. This interview was so well received that she was invited to start her own show. In 1963, The French Chef debuted. She has since gone on to host many other cooking shows:
- Julia Child and Company
- Julia Child and More Company
- Dinner at Julia's
- Baking with Julia
- The Master Chefs series
- Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Jacques Pepin
Julia Child is regarded as a brilliant host, accomplished chef and author. She remains a major influence on the way America views both food and its chefs.
Raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, Emeril's first job was working in a Portuguese bakery. His passion for cooking was kindled in this bakery and obviously influenced him deeply. He refused a musical scholarship in college, opting instead to pursue a doctorate in culinary studies.
Following his formal education, Emeril travelled to Paris and Lyon where he received additional training in French cuisine. Upon returning from France, Emeril worked in several restaurants in Boston, Philadelphia and New York City. Eventually he was offered an outstanding opportunity at one of the United States' best restaurants, Commander's Palace in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Brennan Family1 employed Emeril as their executive chef for over seven years, a remarkably long time in the industry.
As is often the case in the restaurant business, Emeril needed to run his own shop. In 1990, he moved out of the Palace and founded his first restaurant in New Orleans. Today he runs eight restaurants across the USA. His restaurants have won many top awards including some from Esquire magazine, Zagat restaurant survey and the James Beard Foundation.
In 1995, building on this success, Emeril began his television career. His two shows, Essence of Emeril and Emeril Live are among the most popular programmes on the Food Network. His shows have been nominated for four Emmys and have won a cable Ace award. In addition to these shows, Emeril is the food correspondent for Good Morning America, on which he appears every Friday. He also maintains a popular website that contains information about his shows, his restaurants and his books.
One sign of Emeril's popularity is the outstanding sales of his cookbooks. His seven cookbooks have sold over two million copies.
Emeril's popularity is often attributed to his personality, as much as to his skill as a chef. He portrays cooking as cool and fun. The energy he brings to his shows reminds one of a football game, rather than of a cooking show. He cheers for his food and celebrates its creation. People who otherwise do not cook are among his biggest supporters. Emeril is a chef prepared to further the popularity of great cuisine.
Some people are born to cook, others have food thrust upon them and some have both. When Bobby Flay was 17 years old, he began working for famed New York restaurateur Joe Allen. Bobby's dad was one of Joe's partners. Joe was so impressed with Bobby's skills in the kitchen that he paid for the young New Yorker's tuition in the French Culinary Institute.
After graduating in 1984, Bobby began the slow ascent up the crowded New York chef circuit. He carved a niche for himself by creating Southwest American cuisine in a fine dining atmosphere. In 1991 his great skills were well established and he was given the opportunity to open a new restaurant, The Mesa Grill.
The Mesa was quickly recognised as one of New York's greatest restaurants. As an accomplished, young chef with a wildly popular restaurant in a city that loves its great restaurants, Bobby entered the national spotlight. He began to collect accolades:
- The 1993 James Beard Foundation's Rising Star of the Year
- The first recipient of the French Culinary Institute's Outstanding Graduate Award
- The 1995 International Association of Culinary Professions Design Award
- Mesa is consistently voted Zagat's number one restaurant for regional cuisine
Bobby has starred in four cooking shows:
- Grillin and Chillin on the Food Network
- The Main Ingredient with Bobby Flay on the Lifetime network
- Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay on the Food Network
- Food Nation on the Food Network2
Another honour for Bobby was his appearance on Iron Chef, a show where top chefs 'do battle'. Two New York City chefs, Flay and Iron Chef Morimoto, were matched against each other for this series. For a blow-by-blow account of the action check out the Iron Chef website's Episode Guide. At the end of the competition, Flay threw down his cutting board and danced upon it, seemingly victorious. However, he lost the battle to Morimoto. Moreover, Morimoto was upset with the outburst. The East-versus-West battle did not finish there. Almost a year later, the pair met up again, this time Flay won (the Iron Chef rarely loses).
As seen by his performances on Iron Chef, Bobby Flay is enthusiastic and is as filled with energy as his flaming red hair. His youth is attracting the 'new cable' audience of young adults. The growth of a rich and varied national cuisine can be attributed to chefs like Bobby Flay who champion the virtue of knowing good food.
Television Chefs of the UK Who are Well-known in the USA
Like many great chefs, Graham was born into the world of fine dining. His parents were well regarded hoteliers and Graham joined the family business as a teenager. He became a manager-trainee at the nationally acclaimed Roebuck Hotel in East Sussex, England when he was 15 years old. His career took an unusual turn when he worked in the military as a catering adviser, ascending to the rank of captain. This military exposure served his career well.
In 1958, Kerr left his job as general manager of England's Royal Ascot Hotel, moving to New Zealand to work for the New Zealand Air Force. In 1959, at the order of his superior officer, Kerr appeared on television for the first time, making an omelette while wearing his uniform. The success of this show prompted a transfer to Australia and Kerr's first television series. Creatively titled Eggs With Flight Lieutenant Kerr, the show was quite successful.
Having married his high-school sweetheart in 1955, the couple decided in 1969 to move to Canada and start another television series. Thus The Galloping Gourmet was born. Seen by 200 million viewers, in 38 different countries, The Galloping Gourmet was the most successful television cooking show in the world. Treena Kerr, Graham's wife, was the show's producer and won two Emmy Awards for the show.
In the early 1970s tragedy struck as Graham and Treena were involved in a near-fatal car accident. This accident changed every aspect of the Kerrs' life, including Graham's cooking style. Once an outspoken advocate of the pleasure in high fat foods3 Graham became acutely aware of the benefits of healthy eating. He altered his cooking to include healthy ingredients and preparation.
In 1986, Treena suffered a heart attack and Graham redoubled his efforts. Healthy cooking needed some refinement. If Kerr's wife and family were to eat the food, he knew that they had to genuinely enjoy the food as well as the health benefits. Kerr developed the 'Minimax' style of cooking, utilising a minimum of fat and maximising flavour.
Using these new techniques, Graham continued to spread the word about the pleasures of healthy eating. His most recent project, Graham Kerr's Gathering Place, contained 130 hour-long episodes devoted to this style.
Through the years, leading up to Gathering Place, Kerr aired over 1,600 programmes including broadcasts in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe. Additionally, he has written 23 books with over 14 million copies sold. He has held numerous teaching positions, won many awards and has several affiliations with healthy diet organisations including the American Dietetic Association. More information about Graham and Treena is available at their website.
Jamie Oliver - The Naked Chef
Like many of his predecessors, Jamie grew up in a restaurant family. Born in May, 1975, his parents ran the Cricketers pub in Essex. When he turned 16, young Jamie decided to receive formal culinary training. He entered Westminster Catering College. After college, he toured France, learning more about his chosen profession.
Returning from his travels, Jamie began his apprenticeship under some of the best chefs in London. First, he worked with Antonio Carluccio at the Neal Street Restaurant. Moving on, he joined the staff at the River Café, under the stewardship of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.
His career in the public eye began while at the River Café. While a television crew were filming a segment at the Café, Jamie began his TV career. Following the documentary, several production companies called regarding Jamie. Among these calls was Optomen Television (who also created the programme Two Fat Ladies).
The first installation of The Naked Chef4 series appeared shortly after. Accompanying the TV series was his book, also entitled The Naked Chef. Both the series and the book were outrageously popular in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the USA. He has followed up his original series with two other Naked Chef editions and later was involved in a 'reality TV' programme featuring 15 underprivileged teenagers with no prior kitchen experience. He took the youngsters into his new restaurant, called '15', and helped them to develop professional kitchen skills. He is featured in many magazines and journals, has written a number of cookbooks and has a website5. In 2000, he married his sweetheart, Jools. He has two children: Poppy and Daisy.
Jamie is so well known due to the combination of his cooking and personal style. He imparts a feeling of enthusiasm and fun. He is enjoying what he is doing, and he tells us that we should, too.
Notables in USA Television Cooking
Martha Stewart and Jeff Smith both deserve a brief mention. While neither of them is a chef, nor do they claim to be, both have presented food prepared by qualified chefs on their shows. Martha and Jeff do a good deal of cooking on their shows, and many feel that they might qualify as chefs. However, the fact remains that neither of them actually is a chef.
Martha Stewart's cooking has featured her original works as well as the works of many chefs. She has authored, to various degrees, several books on baking and cooking. Additionally, her media empire features many articles and episodes on the culinary arts. Martha has some experience as a professional caterer, but no formal training and no restaurant experience as a chef.
Jeff Smith correctly calls himself a gourmet. He works mostly with Craig Wollam, a trained chef. Regularly crediting Craig during his show, Jeff acknowledges his limitations and relishes in the creations of others. No slouch in the home kitchen, Jeff has several collections of recipes in his books.
Interestingly, both Martha and Jeff have run into major public troubles in recent years. Martha continues to broadcast her television show, but Jeff is no longer producing his.
Becoming a TV Chef
The prestigious Culinary Institute of America is a starting ground for many chefs and it features on The Best Cooking Schools Website among others. Though cooking can be enjoyed by all, actually working in a professional kitchen is a very different matter6. Working in a kitchen at an entry level position usually means washing dishes or stocking the kitchen. Few television shows talk about that! For many people, however, the rush of a busy kitchen and the pleasure of cooking isn't really work at all. The ability to be a great chef and a unique personality might be all it takes to have a TV cooking show; that and lots of luck.