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Feb 11, 2009 07:18 AM

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
      )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 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!