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Odd Cooking Shows

I watch a lot of the PBS Create channel shows, but wish they'd recycle some of their older, more straightforward cooking shows, like the many series that Julia Child and Jacques Pepin had both individually and together. Some of the current ones have strange formats:
PERFECT DAY - various Nordic presenters and locations, usually involving cooking outdoors, such as sorbet prepared in a hole gouged into an ice table that had been carved onto a glacier.
NEW JEWISH CUISINE - host has a gung-ho infomercial personality as he prepares not-particularly-Jewish (e.g. Ethiopian, but following kosher restrictions) food along with a gaggle of supposed friends, who don't seem to know their way around a kitchen.
CHRISTINA COOKS - host has been around for decades, with cooking shows featuring vegetarian/vegan recipes. The odd part is that there's a guy with a guitar sitting in the kitchen, and a segment in which he plays and sings as she chops and stirs sans narration.

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  1. Yup, some of them are odd. Anything with Julia or Jacque would be better. But, there's a lot of solid PBS shows on. Americas Test Kitchen, Everyday Food, Cooks Country (although haven't seen that in a while), Fast Food My Way (with Jacque).

    1. Years ago, the late Bruno Gerussi had a cooking show on CBC (For anyone not living in Canada in the 70s, Gerussi was the lead actor of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's show The Beachcombers, about logging salvagers on the west coast).

      It was called Celebrity Cooks and Bruno had mostly obscure Canadian celebrities ('obscure' and 'Canadian' being almost synonomous at the time) on the show.
      95% of the time they would cook chicken of some sort. They didn't take themselves seriously, didn't really matter if they finished the recipe or not, and just had a fun time on-air. It too was quite odd.

      Then there was 'The Urban Peasant' featuring James Barber (alas he passed on as well, you can see him here if u want http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeKeBh...
      )A man with apparent respiratory problems and a bum leg.
      This show didn't seem to have a script, many times he'd just wing it. Odd, yes.

      Can't not mention The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith. I always thought this show was ahead of its time and exposed many people to foreign cuisines.
      It was taken off the air when accusations arose involving Smith and sexual harassment and assault...he settled out of court.
      Too bad (on all counts...), as I think that was a very good show though not necessarily odd.

      7 Replies
      1. re: porker

        The Urban Peasant was odd. Made even odder when he 'took' calls from his mother.

        AH The Beachcombers a classic of Canadian TV.

        Wasn't it called Celebrity Chefs? The show was featured in the movie about Bob Craine (Hogans Heros) the name of which slips my mind that stared Greg Kinnnier.

        1. re: Withnail42

          Yeah, it was 'Chefs' rather than 'Cooks'...the old noggin, you know.

          I assume you were also entertained by Wok With Yan (T-shirts such as Wok&Roll, Wok the Dog, Wok Around the Clock, etc). Hell, for years I thought Stephen Yan and Martin Yan were the same guy.

          Speaking of the Beachcombers, Jesse made a celebrity visit to my grade school.

          The Kinnier movie, Auto Focus?

          1. re: porker

            Yes Auto Focus. In the movie Bob Crane goes on the show and had a bit of a melt down.

          2. re: Withnail42

            Oh yeah, another Canadian, ahhhh, restricted-budget, cooking oldie was Cooking With Pasquale. Remember that guy with the hat, swilling 'coffee', and singing while the pasta cooked?

            Got me thinking now...

            Not Canadian, but there was also Burt Wolf, guy with a beard who travelled and wrote down working chef's recipes as they cooked the dish. I just got a kick out of it 'cause his notebook seemed only a prop, as he pretended to write down recipe notes and nodding the whole time.
            Liked that show.

            Then Jacques Pepin.
            The guy really knows his stuff, no doubt, but the show 'Cooking with Claudine' was a hoot. His daughter, Claudine, apparently didn't have a clue. It was fun watching her dad pefectly execute knife skills, dough rolling, crepe making, whatever, then she'd try and make a mess!

            1. re: porker

              i have burt wolf's cookbook....so he really was taking notes!

              1. re: porker

                The thing I most remember about Cooking with Pasquale was that you couldn't understand a word he said, which made it pretty near impossible to follow his cooking. His command of English was pretty near nil and he spoke it with the thickest, most cartoonish Italian accent. So, if you were Italian you couldn't understand him (unless you had a demented uncle who spoke the same way, giving you an ear for it), and if you spoke English.... well.... you might as well try and understand a cat. And then there was that whole breaking out into song stuff.

                He made the host of Wok with Yan, who was also cut from similar linguistically challenged cloth, come across as an accomplished thespian.

            2. re: porker

              Now that I think of it the first time I ever saw Julia Child on tv the was on Celebrity Chefs. I rember she towered over Bruno Gerussi.

            3. Yeah, where are Graham Kerr and Justin Wilson now that we need them?

              The Brits had some really fine cooking shows too, like Two Fat Ladies and Floyd on Fish - the latter of which did get some PBS air time back in the '80s.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                I loved the Floyd series, Travel Channel aired it for a while...

                1. re: BobB

                  Don't forget everybody's favourite grandfather....James Barber - The Urban Peasant.

                  edit..I see it was mentioned above. sorry. Funny though, I was just thinking of him yesterday. I did learn a lot about the KISS theory as applied to cooking.

                2. The current best odd (to me) is the one on Deutcsh Welle (German) TV. Five cooks and a host. A long, wide cooking counter with five big spaces, each filled with a wealth of the most fantastic ingredients. Each cook cooks one course of the five, all cooking at the same time, back and forth, cooking, all tasting, all having fun, sharing with the audience. No individual ego shows. Lots of laughs. Lots of really, really, really good food produced. Lots of interaction chefs, host, audience. Messy. Fun. No restrictions on double dipping.

                  1. Does anyone remember a cooking show with a large, very overweight host (not Justin Wilson) who would sit at a counter and cook and mix things. What I remember is that he seemed to get annoyed at things like an ingredient not as near-to-hand as he would like. It would be about the same vintage as the Frugal Gourmet, and I watched it on PBS, which was the only game in town in those days...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: roxlet

                      Sounds like the most famous pre-Emeril New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme, owner of K-Paul's. He is still around. He gets the credit (or blame) for the ubiquitous "blackened" fish and meats. Before him, blackened meant burned and thrown out!

                    2. Back in the early 90s, there was a show broadcast on TLC (back when it was The Learning Channel and broadcast "educational" content, e.g., lots of cooking shows during the day) that was a guy cooking everything using a food processor. Every single ingredient of every dish was chopped or mixed in a FP - and of course, most of it need not have been. The host had some odd mannerisms, too.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Caitlin, are you sure you weren't watching an infomercial for Cuisinart? ;-]

                        1. re: JohnE O

                          If it were, they'd have found a host less er, quirky (he was kind of weird)! Given the time, I'm sure the FPs were Cuisinarts, though...

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            I don't know--that Cathy woman, queen of the food informercial, seems pretty weird to me:)

                        2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I can't remember which channel it was on, but the best gadget cooking show from that era was Microwave Master with Donovan Jon Fandre. I used to love that show and it was quite informative.

                        3. I just thought of another one that I think is still running. Haven't watched TV for over a year. It is on Canadian CBC. It is called "What's for Dinner". It stars a man?? and I think his wife and they spend the whole 1/2 hour exchanging sexual double-entendres. Just awful awful.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: billieboy

                            Are you sure that's his wife? I'm pretty sure he's a homosexual.

                            1. re: Evilbanana11

                              Didn't want to say that (not that there's anything wrong with that) :-)
                              I think it is his wife though, but don't quote me on it. Something in the back of my head tells me so.

                              1. re: billieboy

                                Nope, they're not married. The guy is Ken Kostick, and I think he's the most annoying host I've ever seen on any TV show, not just cooking ones. I watched a few episodes just to see how horrible it would get. Now I have to change the channel if a commercial comes on for it.

                                One show that is a little interesting is "Fixing Dinner"; it's not about the food as much as it is meal planning so you don't end up eating takeout pizza four nights a week. Think it's only on in Canada though.

                                Another one is "Eat, Shrink and Be Merry", where two sisters (one's a pretty good cook, the other is kinda ditzy) take on a favourite dish from a local restaurant, try to reduce the fat and calorie content, and then have a cook-off with the restaurant. I've picked up some good tips from that show, but again, I think it's only on in Canada.

                              2. re: Evilbanana11

                                Ken is openly out. They played on the whole thing during the show.

                                As for his "wife" she did have a real hsband who really ran off with Tori Spelling.

                              3. re: billieboy

                                How could I forget this show? (well, ahhh, simple I guess).
                                I don't think they're married either. The wife who's up on these matters, tells me that the co-host, Mary Jo Eustace, was married to a guy named Dean Mcdonald. Apparently he was 'stolen' by Tori Spelling and now part of a show called "Tori&Dean"

                              4. One early FN show--mid 90s--featured Jancis Robinson and the NYTimes' Frank Prial tasting and discussing wines. On a cheesy, simple set, they sat across a cocktail table from each other, tasted, talked, and, of course, expectorated each wine. I remember less what Jancis and Frank said than their distinctly energetic spit styles. Didn't last long.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: bob96

                                  Anyone remember "The Galloping Gourmet"???

                                  1. re: NellyNel

                                    The Galloping Gourmet was the first show that came to my mind when I read the OP. Graham Kerr thoroughly wasted, drinking and laughing throughout the show. And the slightly racy references he kept making to his (I think now estranged/divorced) wife.

                                    It was on around the same time as the Dick Cavett show and between Dick and Graham, the young me got the sense of what it might be like to be really, really cool. It was the first show I ever saw that was wasn't deadly serious about cooking and the first time it occurred to me that it might be fun and cool to create stuff in the kitchen.

                                    1. re: NellyNel

                                      Oh yeah - Graham Kerr! I mentioned him in my post above, along with Justin "I gar-awn-TEE it!" Wilson.

                                      1. re: BobB

                                        Graham Kerr has a new show (if it's still on). Don't remember the name. He's doing health food. Since he had health problems, he's had a Damascus type revelation.
                                        I remember on one show in his old Galloping Gourmet days, he was cutting the end off a sausage and made the comment "An old Jewish tradition".
                                        That was back in the 60's when things like that were not said on daytime TV.

                                  2. Not exactly a show, but the (I think it was) NBC affiliate in San Francisco used to have a short segment on the news with Joe Carcione, a produce vendor, who would introduce some item of produce and then explain what do do with it. With greens, the segment usually ended "a little olive oil, a little garlic, you got yourself a beautiful salad". The man had personality to burn. I loved it!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      I remember that. I think he was Joe Carcione, the Green Grocer. They usually showed it on the noon newscast as fill, right after noon sports.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          "Dis is Joe Carcione, ya Green Grocer, wit' your tip for da day."

                                          I loved the guy. I think a lot of what he said sunk in for use in later life for me.

                                          1. re: jmckee

                                            Same here, exactly. I often think of his "you got yourself a beautiful salad". He's also the only one I've ever seen say the best way to pick a honeydew melon: it should be slightly sticky on the outside. Easier to find one like that in CA than it is in NY!

                                    2. A number of years ago, very-late night (as in, the the last show before they'd go to informercials for 3 or 4 hours) Food Network used to run this show with a British man who was "Your friendly greengrocer" or something like that. He'd travel the world, and only really dealt with fruits and veggies. He'd go to the fields, plants for production/prep, and shops for sales. It was such a quirky show to me, as I don't think i've EVER seen a human get so excited over vegtables! He's sometimes be so happy, he'd swoon and moan, and do a little dance! He never cooked on the show, if I remember right, but did give you ideas on what to do with the items once home.

                                      Perfect Day seems to be "New Scandinavian Cooking, part 2" It has all the same hosts the older series has, and each show is varied with who hosts it. It jumps around more than the first series, which has one host for each country's cuisine. I see it almost equal travel show and cooking show. It's got me wanting to visit all the counties so bad, based on the beauty alone, and I know there should be awesome food!

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Honeychan

                                        Yet another Canadian show makes the list.

                                        That sounds like Pete Lucket. aka produce Pete. Last I heard of him he had an on line store that would let you buy anything on line.

                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                          Yes, that would be him! Pete Lucket! He's so cute, with how much he adores his produce. It made me want to try more things, since he'd talk them up so much.

                                          ANYTHING online? I have a very odd imagination, I wonder how his store would be??!

                                          1. re: Honeychan

                                            Pete has a couple of store out in Halifax Nova Scotia - called Petes Frootique - and on some of the cooking shows filmed out in Halifax the hosts actually go shopping at his place.

                                        2. re: Honeychan

                                          i loved that greengrocer program.. his enthusiasm was catching!

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Does anyone remember Goldie on PBS from Buffalo on Saturday mornings during Fund Raising time? In the 1980's I think.

                                        3. Great topic. Brings back so many memories.

                                          Here's another Canadian show. Anyone watch Cooking for Love which aired briefly on the W Network? It was a cross between the Dating Game and cooking competition shows like Chopped! I only remember it because the host was the incredibly attractive Thea Andrews. She moved to the US and has made it really big hosting shows on ESPN and is now a regular on Entertainment Tonight.

                                          1. It's rare that we see foreign cooking programmes in the UK but I recall a north American one from around the 1980s. Featured a mother & daughter and it was only uncooked food - nuts, pulses, salads. Wacky.

                                            The two women were north American and I assume the show was too, but can't be certain at this distance in time

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Ah, memories of Two Fat Ladies.... nothing like the two of them roaring about the countryside on their motorcycle/side car. One of them smoked like a chimney.

                                              I also loved an old Claudia Roden show that must have been BBC or some other Brit. tv producer. She was cooking in a tiny kitchen in Cairo with a stove that looked about half the size of my own (and I didn't have anything fancy then). She told stories of her family and recipes, etc.

                                              Also Madhur Jaffrey had a wonderful show on public tv here in the states, but I think it must have been produced in Britain. She traveled around south Asia, visiting places where spices originated. She actually went into people's huts and cooked along with them. A wonderful show - informative, gorgeous, and full of great ideas. This was at least 20 years ago.

                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                The Jaffrey series will have been "Far Eastern Cookery" made by the BBC. The book dates from 1989 and I still cook from it several times a year. The great benefit I find is that she uses easy to find ingredients - presumably sacrificing some authenticity along the way. The limited immigration from that part fo the world to the UK means that authentic ingredients are not too easy to find.

                                            2. One of the BEST cookbooks we own came from Pierre Franey.

                                              1. This looks like the best topic to wake up ....

                                                This AM I was browsing the cable TV guide and noticed a program named 'The Main Ingredient with Bobby Flay' on one of the Lifetime channels, produced ca 1997.
                                                It was pretty hilarious. Bobby was obviously unpolished (which IMO worked in his favor). Not sure if this is a regular feature of this show, but some anonymous female helper joined him. When Bobby asked her to retrieve something from the fridge, they cut to a close up of her smiling face receiving the item - the 'fridge' was a door in the set!
                                                First time I ever saw him cooking something Southwest style in a 'real' kitchen, not on a grill or on a fancy set like ICA.

                                                Also discovered 'Feed Me Bubbe' on the Jewish Life channel. Low budget set, genuine bubbe doing the cooking.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: DiveFan

                                                  Flay's sidekick was Jacqui Malouf, who's now a stand up comedian, apparently.
                                                  Yes, ran across Bubbe, too.

                                                  1. re: DiveFan

                                                    bob96, you're thinking of "Hot Off The Grill" that used to run on FN. This was definitely Not Ms. Malouf. on TMI.

                                                    1. re: DiveFan

                                                      You're right. Amazing how these names stick around the brain, even if they'r ein the wrong place. I remember their interaction as a little odd, though.

                                                  2. Does anybody remember the cooking show on PBS that featured a married couple with their two teenaged kids? I can't recall the name of the show but I always felt sorry for the kids because they looked like they wanted to be anywhere else.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Jambie

                                                      Caprial and John Pence, co-hosts of the PBS show 'Caprial and John Cook for Friends'. ???

                                                      "I'll take 'Obscure Chefs' for $500, Alex" ....

                                                      1. re: DiveFan

                                                        I love Caprial Pence. She used to have a show without her husband John back in the 90s. I thought a lot of foodies knew about them. I never thought of them as "obscure."


                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          "She used to have a show without her husband John back in the 90s. "
                                                          Caprial's Cafe! i really liked that show.

                                                        2. re: DiveFan

                                                          I am now seeing promos for their show on PBS Create, though they are not currently on the regular schedule (occasionally they are included in a Saturday marathon topic). I assume this means they will soon have a regular slot on the schedule. Whether these will be new programs or reruns, I have no idea.

                                                      2. I don't know if this qualifies, but I absolutely have zero idea as to why Brian Boitano has a cooking show on the Food Network. Really??? There are about a million other people who deserve a show on Food Network more than Brian Boitano. So sad what the Food Network has become.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. re: jindomommy

                                                            Why does he have a show?

                                                            South Park

                                                            (audio is not great, but you'll get the idea)

                                                          2. It was originally a British show, but I think it came over to the US: a chef would surprise you at home, look in your fridge and cupboards, and cook with whatever you may have in them. Anybody remember that one?

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: pdxgastro

                                                              Doorknock Dinners? Starred Gordon Elliott with a guest chef each week. They would knock on doors until they found someone willing to let them go in and cook a meal with whatever was on hand.

                                                              1. re: Coogles

                                                                That is how Paula Dean got discovered. One family didn't want anything to do with it and she started talking to the wife and kind of coaxed her into the idea. By the end, it was a real touching episode. This was before Paula "The Phenomenon".

                                                            2. I just wanted to bump this thread a little and mention: POSH NOSH on BBC back in 2003, starring Richard E. Grant: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/poshnosh/

                                                              I don't know if it was ever shown in the U.S. or Canada, but my housemates and I loved watching it while we were studying abroad in London. Only about 15 minutes long, but HILARIOUS. It's meant to be hilarious and totally comedic, mocking the whole notion of cooking programs and celebrity chefs as an extravagant lifestyle instead of actually being anything about the food.

                                                              I wish I could get it on DVD! Definitely worth it if you love cooking, food or just hilarious British comedy in general. :o)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: yfunk3

                                                                Youtube, baby, it's all on there (and is hilarious, I agree). Was shown on PBS in some locations.

                                                              2. I actually liked the Urban Peasant. I understand that his cooking techniques were a little lacking, but it was kind of soothing watching and listening to him cook. (And maybe a little frustrating too, watching him hack up an onion).

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  I think the biggest appeal about the Urban Peasant was the insistence that cooking at home is not rocket science. If you don't have an ingredient that a recipe calls for (or don't like a particular ingredient), leave it out or substitute something else. You don't have to perfectly chop, dice, julienne, an onion (or whatever) to make a perfectly edible meal...

                                                                  Both James Barber and Martin Yan's shows got me interested in cooking shows, and cooking

                                                                  1. re: djohnson22

                                                                    Yea, I got that. I just liked his personality and demeanor.

                                                                    1. re: djohnson22

                                                                      The Urban Peasant was fun to watch. I'm being a bit on the sarcastic side here, but it sometimes seemed that when it came to hygene or taste, he would "leave it out or substitute something else" hehe.

                                                                      Speaking of Yan Can Cook, I think he demystified Chinese cooking for millions, myself included.

                                                                  2. In the early days of FN there were two gentlemen who made food for dogs. I swear...or I dreamed it. One or the other. Anyone remember this?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. Just remembered another odd one for the list - In Search Of Perfection starring the very serious chef Heston Blumenthal. It is running on the Planet Green channel late at night here.

                                                                      He analyzes classic (mainly British) recipes and comes up with his 'optimum' version. I'll have to check out his book and see if I dare to try any of them ....

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: DiveFan

                                                                        I have 2 of the books, they go in to far more detail than the TV show. Although I haven't attempted to recreate an entire dish I've started using some of the techniques and components. If you are interested in the books, I suggest using abebooks.com, I bought them used from shops in England much cheaper than I could find them in the states.

                                                                        1. re: DiveFan

                                                                          Thanks for the tip. Before I pay $$$, I'm going to check out (literally) one of his books available from a local library - worldcat.org is priceless!!

                                                                        2. A modern show (as in, it's on the current schedule) is "The Wild Chef" on Food Network Canada. It features chef Martin Picard of the award winning Montreal restaurant "Au pied du Cochon" (literally, "with the pig's foot") and his sous-chef, as they travel across Quebec. They'll have a big gas oven in the back of a pickup, meet with some friends, and cook some very interesting things in some very interesting ways. For example, in an upcoming show, he goes to northern Quebec where friends shoot a moose, and he then prepares moose heart, testicles, shanks, etc. and makes moose ravioli.

                                                                          Last week's episode had them hunting and cooking wild goose, including "goose can", where they stuffed browned lard and goose meat into a jar with seasonings, wine, and pumpkin, put a lid on it, and boiled the jar for an hour.

                                                                          It can be a bit off-putting if you're the type who thinks meat comes on styrofoam trays to watch them slaughter an animal, and use various parts of the viscera, but I think the show is very honest and interesting. Don't know if it's available on teh intraweb.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. Does anyone else remember "Southern Cooking with Natalie DuPree"? She seems like such a smart, wonderful lady, but the poor thing always managed to screw something up on the program. She'd forget ingredients or forget to grease the pan or burn something. But she was so sweet that you just forgave her. It was a very entertaining program.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: bards4

                                                                              my college roommate made me watch her show and i used to get so annoyed - she always made such a mess!

                                                                              1. re: bards4

                                                                                She always referred to greasing a pan as 'greaze', as does Alton Brown. Is that a Georgia pronounciation?

                                                                                1. re: bards4

                                                                                  Natalie Duopree is a well-respected chef. I think her "messing up" was natural. After all, Julia always did it!

                                                                                  1. re: bards4

                                                                                    Natalie Depree is running a write in campaign in South Carolina against Senator Jim Demint. He is running essentially unopposed since an unemployed mystery man became the Democratic candidate.

                                                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                      I saw that in the news the other day! Good for Natalie.

                                                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                        just for that i have to forgive her for the mess she always made :)