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Who Influenced You Most?

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FrankD Aug 31, 2009 03:16 AM

When I first started watching food shows, it was "The Galloping Gourmet" and "Wok with Yan". But, as I grew older, I stumbled on the writings of MFK Fisher, which opened up a whole new world of culinary ideas and concepts. I never had (thank the Lord) to resort to her "sludge", but I did partake vicariously in her many wonderful moments. With this summer's homage to Julia Child (every bit of deserved, IMHO), I wondered: who, among all the TV, book, magazine, etc. chefs influenced you the most?

I'll start by throwing in my number 3 and 4: Jeff Smith ("Frugal Gourmet") and James Barber (aka "Urban Peasant") . They taught me how to use under-appreciated and value priced ingredients to create great meals.

Martha Stewart? Meh...

  1. l
    Lenox637 Aug 31, 2009 03:25 AM

    My Mom (i grew up on the kitchen counter), as a kid I would read Larousse the Escoffier and James Beard. Now there are so many chefs to watch and read that I take cues from almost any quarter. From Bourdain's wanderings to Batali's manic simplicity.

    1. lulubelle Aug 31, 2009 04:22 AM

      Keith Floyd was my hand's down favorite television chef when I was a college student. He made you want to cook and throw a party and play loud music. And it didn't hurt that his show's theme music was The Stranglers.

      1. Davwud Aug 31, 2009 05:48 AM

        I would have to say my biggest influence was/is Mrs. Sippi. When we got married I moved her to Canada. Being a southerner it was a big culture shock. So I set to work cooking southern foods to make her feel more at home. We had started watching more and more cooking shows and through those and her I was really able to hone my cooking skills.

        I had been a tinkerer in the kitchen since I was a teenager. I could make stuff that was awfully tasty, I could never reproduce it. Through the cooking shows I learned to try to be somewhat consistant so I can make something good, again and again.

        My favourite shows over the years have been, Emeril (It used to be really good), Good Eats, America's Test Kitchen, BBQ U (Reichlen is boring but his food is great), Jacques Pepin, The Inn Chef/Chef at Large (Both shows affectionately known at my house as "The Tall Man") and No Reservations/A Cooks Tour.

        DT

        1. h
          Harters Aug 31, 2009 06:56 AM

          Like most Brits, greatest influence has to be Delia Smith. Love her or hate her, she's taught generations of us to cook good food. To "do a Delia" now appears in dictionaries and I can't think of anyone else who has that sort of effect.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Harters
            p
            pacheeseguy Aug 31, 2009 07:33 AM

            Nigella Lawson - oh wait, you meant cooking?
            Hmmm, Nigella helped, that's for sure.
            Also enjoy the cookbooks from Donna Hay: "Off the Shelf" & "Flavors"
            and Jamie Oliver's many books.
            "America's Test Kitchen
            Family Cookbook" from Cooks Ill.

            1. re: Harters
              MMRuth Sep 16, 2009 06:52 AM

              What does "do a Delia" mean? Thanks!

              1. re: MMRuth
                BobB Sep 16, 2009 06:58 AM

                http://www.urbandictionary.com/define...

            2. bermudagourmetgoddess Aug 31, 2009 07:54 AM

              The Chefs on TV that have influenced me have been Justin Wilson, Julia, Yan, Jamie, Michael C, Mario and 2 fat ladies (they were great!)

              However the most Influential people will always be my grandfather, he taught me what freshness is all about with his gardens (and how to grow my own garden)

              Pappa Steve, he taught me how to make his infamous clam sauce and homeade sausage and not to be afraid to try new foods

              My dad, he taught me how to hunt, fish, how to clean a fish, hog, deer, and others, how to use a knife ans to always use what you catch, never waste anything

              And most of all my mother who brough it all together in the kitchen!

              1. BobB Aug 31, 2009 07:58 AM

                I'd have to say Julia Child and Irma Rombauer (author of Joy of Cooking). When I was young Julia's was the only serious cooking show on the air, and she was always fun to watch. Later as a young adult with my own kitchen I learned lots of basics from Joy.

                1. l
                  laliz Aug 31, 2009 08:44 AM

                  I watched many of the aforementioned but my guru was Martha Stewart. She made me believe I could do it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: laliz
                    l
                    laliz Aug 31, 2009 04:07 PM

                    I posted before learning of Sheila Lukens' passing.
                    The Silver Palate Cookbook FOR SURE

                  2. Paulustrious Aug 31, 2009 08:54 AM

                    The most influence has not been a person, but a thing. And that is the internet. I now use YouTube for many things. If I want a chocolate souffle then there are dozens of videos. My OH keeps a scrapbook of recipes. I keep a list of links, all subdivided and titled so I search or browse. Tags are very useful as well in terms of the primary ingredients.
                    In another thread many people have itemised what they keep on their kitchen counter. One of my items is a laptop. And the Internet is the easiest way to showcase real people...

                    The first cooking program I can say I really enjoyed was a character called Floyd. He didn't really make it out of the UK, but his off-beat earthy alcoholic style combined humour, errors, people and travel with vivacity and a true love of food. He is a sort of Graham Kerr with less restraint, reticence and shyness. Worth spending a couple of minutes to watch an old show segment.

                    Others? For education then Alton Brown. For entertainment two fat ladies.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Paulustrious
                      f
                      FrankD Aug 31, 2009 10:49 AM

                      "He is a sort of Graham Kerr with less restraint, reticence and shyness. "

                      Paul, you kill me!

                      1. re: FrankD
                        Paulustrious Sep 15, 2009 06:08 AM

                        Unfortunately Floyd has just died. His lifestyle was the death of him. I would have loved to have met the guy. My thanks to alkapal for this thread that will tell you a little more about him.

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/652452

                      2. re: Paulustrious
                        lulubelle Aug 31, 2009 08:01 PM

                        i mentioned him earlier. God I loved Keith Floyd, and he did make it out of the UK, at least as far as Chicago Public Broadcasting, where he appeared Saturday afternoons--he was part of my college hangover routine. God I loved him, he made cooking look SO fun!.

                        He has a restaurant in Thailand now, in Phuket. I wanted to go last year when I was visiting, but didn't make it there.

                        1. re: Paulustrious
                          Soop Sep 15, 2009 06:39 AM

                          Totally with you on the whole internet thing. I have to traipse back and forth to my bedroom though, as the WiFi doesn't reach the kitchen (although it may now).
                          Youtube is a great way to go, and one reason my strudel went so well, is that I actually saw someone do it!

                          Just gonna read about Floyd now, that's a painful loss. I've never heard of a chef with such a mastery of cooking in such an international way. Incredible. He must have been proficient or masterful in about 20 national cuisines.

                        2. mrbigshotno.1 Aug 31, 2009 08:55 AM

                          The little Italian chef that was on in the eighties, can't remember his name but he used to say "excuse my back" when he turned his back to the camera, he was very good. Martin Yan is real master. Rick Bayless is top of the line also.I could take or leave half the stuff Justin Wilson made but he's a great showman and human being, I understand he's in very bad health, God bless him.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                            k
                            KTinNYC Aug 31, 2009 09:18 AM

                            Justin Wilson could not be in worse health. He died in 2001.

                            1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                              c
                              chileheadmike Sep 15, 2009 01:57 PM

                              The Italian guy was Pasqualle (sp). I really enjoyed his shows.

                              "Steam anna saute"

                            2. luckyfatima Aug 31, 2009 09:25 AM

                              As I child I watched Jeff Smith's Frugal Gourmet and Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery. We didn't have cable and catching those episodes was such a highlight to my boring hot summer day. I saw the Far Eastern Cookery series again as an adult. Still such a great series!

                              Also my dad, who is definately a foodie in his own right. And my best friend, whose family owned a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant when we were kids. They were one of the first places in my town to sell pho, even before the pho craze.

                              1. j
                                Janet from Richmond Aug 31, 2009 09:51 AM

                                My brother (my avatar pic is of the two of us together when I was a toddler) and my Aunt June.

                                Under the heading of celebrity chef....Julia Child and Jeff Smith.

                                1. fmcoxe6188 Aug 31, 2009 11:24 AM

                                  My mother for sure- I grew up sitting on a stool next to the counter watching her cook, and of course taste testing throughout. Her little bits of wisdom that she would dispense as I sat there are all still with me as I cook in my own kitchen now. Of course I picked up on her bad habits as well- the worst of which was that she would often make something completely delicious, and would never write it down so it would never be entirely re created. Ive been guilty of this far too often myself so now I have to document everything.
                                  But of course, after we finished in the Kitchen, my mother and I often sat down to watch Julia Child together, so I feel that my influences are definitely from the two combined...

                                  1. limster Aug 31, 2009 01:42 PM

                                    Lots of influence from nearly all my relatives (growing up in Singapore, everyone's passionate about food).

                                    Also a lot of influence from the many chowhounds on these boards, who uncover all sorts of unexpected delicious food.

                                    1. h
                                      HillJ Aug 31, 2009 01:57 PM

                                      Diana and Paul von Welanetz, early PBS cooking program. I learned a great deal about building a menu from this entertaining couple. I wish more people recognized their contribution to early cook-related programming.

                                      Grandma B - whose love of comfort food made me love the kitchen

                                      1. c
                                        CocoaNut Aug 31, 2009 02:05 PM

                                        Definitely my uncle. MAN! could he cook AND grill. He could put the proverbial shoe leather on the grill and make it taste wonderful. He was no "sissy" in the kitchen either. Big, bold herbs, spices and other flavors when the rest of the U.S. depended exclusively on the lowly salt and pepper shaker. As an early teen, I loved to hang around and watch him. Yep! he was it. After that, the TV programs began to appear. (As you said) the Frugal, John Folse, and the rest of the PBS gang.

                                        1. iluvcookies Aug 31, 2009 06:51 PM

                                          Julia Child... when I was a kid I loved to watch her cook and it really made me want my own kitchen.
                                          As young adult, a subscription to Cooks Illustrated helped me hone my skills, along with Joy of Cooking and--don't laugh--the "Friends" cookbook (recipes by Jack Bishop!).
                                          Now, my family who loves my cooking is the best motivation I could ask for.

                                          1. pikiliz Aug 31, 2009 07:29 PM

                                            My Mom her influences were Graham Kerr and Julia Child

                                            1. buttertart Sep 1, 2009 09:33 AM

                                              My mother, followed by Julia Child, the Time-Life Foods of the World and Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery series, James Beard, Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David, Joyce Chen, Madhur Jaffrey...and am indebted to so many more.

                                              1. c
                                                carbonaraboy Sep 1, 2009 11:55 AM

                                                Back when I took up cooking the early 80's, it was James Beard, through his cookbooks, especially "Theory & Practice" and "The New James Beard". I can't prove this, but my belief is that the post-Nouvelle Cuisine trend to regional foods in the late 80's can be traced to him, especially in America.

                                                He was ours, exclusively ours, and there's good reason why the most prestigious awards for American chefs and cookbooks are named after him.

                                                --Rich

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: carbonaraboy
                                                  buttertart Sep 1, 2009 12:12 PM

                                                  That can't be said strongly enough. He gets less recognition than he deserves these days. He was a genius, his recipes work and are innovative. I am sure you are right about the regional food trend as well.

                                                2. scubadoo97 Sep 1, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                  Sandra Lee ;

                                                  Seriously, my mom and grandmother were both excellent home cooks
                                                  Jeff Smith was the first cooking show I watched, followed by David Rosengarten's Taste. Earlier episodes of Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet I found to stupid to watch.

                                                  Hard to pinpoint which TV chef had the biggest influence. As my interest grew I watched more cooking shows, extracting tid bits of technique.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: scubadoo97
                                                    scubadoo97 Sep 1, 2009 12:28 PM

                                                    I should add that forums like Egullet and Chowhound have had a significant influence

                                                  2. t
                                                    torty Sep 1, 2009 12:23 PM

                                                    Julia's MTAFC and The Time Life Foods of the World series were the books that set me up for a great journey. In terms of shows, Jeff Smith, James Barber and Madjur Jaffrey I think because what they were doing was "different" and also because they did not seem to be teaching formulas, but rather introducing joyous foods.

                                                    1. Soop Sep 15, 2009 06:34 AM

                                                      I've always liked Floyd, but the first time I was inspired to actually cook was when I started to do some recipes from Jamie Olivers first book. I also like Ramsey, and I think I may have a new hero in Marcella Hazan.

                                                      However, the people that really inspire me are pretty much you guys. I love comming on here and finding out about new and interesting things, such as Caraliens truffles, or all the stuff (mainly mexican) that Alan Barnes, Scargod, Eat Nopal and Passa helped me with.

                                                      You guys rock.

                                                      1. Popkin Sep 15, 2009 10:38 AM

                                                        Growing up, I'd watch Yan Can Cook with grandma, and had a bit of a crush on him. I LOOOOVED his show! I'd usually watch anything with him (I think he did a tour of china series too, or something along those lines? I'd liken it to a tv version of a culinary cultural tour). He always made his dishes so simple and so pretty, and rather fun! So he was an influence, certainly.

                                                        We also watched Graham Kerr, though I never did find much of what he made appetizing, I loved watching him, and listening, and gleaed some great info. I just didn't have compatible tastebuds.

                                                        Jaques Pepin is another grandma and I loved to watch. I still remember an episode wherein he made a half-globe cake covered in pink icing. He had his mentor on, and got a bit flustered (and obviously amused) when he [the mentor] put a red rasberry (or strawberry? I think it was a rasberry though) on the center, and said that looked MUCH better that way [it resembled a breast]. Leave it to a sweet frenchman to pull that on daytime public television lol!

                                                        Later, grandma and I would watch Mario Batalli, he of course was wonderful to watch and listen to (hey i guess that may be why he was on tv? lol). The history he would give, and how he would go on about how sometimes they would substitute X according to season or availability, and that sort of thing.

                                                        And of course there is Alton Brown, sexy geek of food. I just love his humor and references, while giving great information and the little details you never would have known about, even how he is willing to be corrected. I still recall an episode wherein he mentioned putting oil in the pasta water, which contradicted an earlier show where he said it didn't make a difference in whether the pasta would stick. He did it in this later episode, and then showed the clip of himself saying not to bother with the oil in an earlier episode, and went on to explain the correction. The oil didn't help with the pasta sticking, but it did help with water boilage-overage. And what can I say? A guy who can make me laugh, and makes semi-obscure, kinda geeky jokes always "earns a few bonus points" in my mind.

                                                        1. Will Owen Sep 15, 2009 03:03 PM

                                                          In a family that had several very good cooks, my Grandpa Kuntz was the role model. Not only a great proponent of the Midwestern Mennonite school (Grandma: "Anyone can cook that well if he uses that much cream and butter!") but a bold experimenter, and his kitchen style was both fearless and fun. He did not show off, was quick to praise anyone's efforts, took compliments with a big happy smile and gave them the same way. I got absolutely no cooking lessons from him, nor recipes, but when I started taking the production side as seriously as the consumption one, his was the voice and spirit cheering me on. He founded my school of cooking; Jim and Julia and all the rest were just the faculty.

                                                          1. j
                                                            jecolicious Sep 15, 2009 05:14 PM

                                                            Ok get ready to bash me.

                                                            Rob Rainford!

                                                            (ducks) ok let me explain.

                                                            His weird, almost drugged up passion was fun to watch and infectious enough to make me turn the stove on for the first time after 20 years of just eating what is served to me. Granted, the dishes there aren't as interesting as the stuff we talk about now, his teaching style reminded me of my uber-hyper pre-school teacher that taught me the alphabet.

                                                            Michael Smith was another one. He showed how accessible cooking could be without succumbing to the Sandra Lee garbage.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: jecolicious
                                                              Davwud Sep 15, 2009 06:57 PM

                                                              Michael Smith is fantastic.

                                                              DT

                                                              1. re: Davwud
                                                                f
                                                                FrankD Sep 16, 2009 07:26 PM

                                                                Especially if you do a shot every time he says "flavour"!

                                                                1. re: FrankD
                                                                  Davwud Sep 17, 2009 04:28 AM

                                                                  Rainford too.

                                                                  I like the cut of your jib Frank.

                                                                  DT

                                                            2. EWSflash Sep 15, 2009 07:17 PM

                                                              Really, almost all of the people listed. I'm embarrassed about the Jeff Smith addiction but at the time he was one of the very few on TV. I have had no exposure to Madhur Jaffrey (except for old Gourmet articles), James Barber, or Floyd, we didn't get that here back in the day but I doubtless would have watched. Even justin Wilson was quite the hoot, even though he pretty much did the same thing every time he was pretty hilarious if you aren't used to the Cajun repartee.

                                                              In the early '70s I used to collect Gourmet magazines like they were books. I got a lot of good theory from Gourmet back in the day. They were a tad snobbish but they were SO well informed.

                                                              12 Replies
                                                              1. re: EWSflash
                                                                buttertart Sep 16, 2009 06:03 AM

                                                                The '70s Gourmets were excellent. Their staff writers were the best. Lillian Langseth Christensen, Joseph Wechsberg, genius. I liked Jay Jacob's NY restaurant reviews, too - pored over them even before I had any reason whatsoever to think I would land up living in NYC!

                                                                1. re: buttertart
                                                                  MMRuth Sep 16, 2009 06:51 AM

                                                                  I've been looking through some Gourmets from the 90s - the Thanksgiving issues - and am reminded of how much better they were even then.

                                                                  1. re: MMRuth
                                                                    buttertart Sep 16, 2009 07:04 AM

                                                                    Yes indeed. La Reichl, death to Gourmet as it was. I remember her restaurant reviews in New West magazine in the late 70's-early '80s. Tiresomely self-promoting even then.

                                                                    1. re: buttertart
                                                                      BobB Sep 16, 2009 07:08 AM

                                                                      And yet - I have the fairly new Gourmet cookbook that she edited (the big one with the yellow cover) and everything I've made from it has been outstanding, including the best mac 'n cheese I've ever tasted.

                                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                                        Soop Sep 16, 2009 07:09 AM

                                                                        Maybe you're just a great cook ;)

                                                                        1. re: BobB
                                                                          buttertart Sep 16, 2009 07:17 AM

                                                                          It's not as much the recipes (although they have been dumbed-down over the years as well) as the editorial content that I dislike.

                                                                          1. re: buttertart
                                                                            Soop Sep 16, 2009 07:23 AM

                                                                            Dumbing down can be a good thing sometimes; complexity =/= great food.
                                                                            But I'd agree with your sentiment that the editorial content is very important to me. I tend to use the Internet for recipes, and don't often use cookbooks, but when I borrow them, I like to read the section headings and have a flick through for ideas.
                                                                            Good example is the Jamie Oliver book (Naked Chef), which I read through at my girlfriends old house. I was just leafing through, and his passion and wrting in the bread section had me really excited about making bread, which I've retained ever since.

                                                                            1. re: Soop
                                                                              buttertart Sep 16, 2009 08:16 AM

                                                                              Hmm, will take a look at Jamie Oliver's books, haven't really gotten into them yet (more of a Nigel Slater girl actually).

                                                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                                                Soop Sep 16, 2009 08:23 AM

                                                                                Oh, man, his brownie recipe is STUNNING. I do need to check out more of his stuff. He used to be the food writer for the guardian, right? They have Hugh FW now in the Saturday suplement, and he's pretty interesting.

                                                                                I'd say Jamie is really good for people that don't cook. If I looked at that book now, I'd probably get less from it, but there's nothing to stop you from having a leaf through in a borders or something.

                                                                                1. re: Soop
                                                                                  buttertart Sep 16, 2009 08:33 AM

                                                                                  Will do. Planning to post a brownie inquiry today (my favorite is Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies - they live up to their name) - would be interested to see how they compare.

                                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                                    Soop Sep 16, 2009 08:36 AM

                                                                                    Sure, I'll get the recipe - if you post it in the next hour, I'll find it and partake in the discussions :)

                                                                            2. re: buttertart
                                                                              f
                                                                              FrankD Sep 16, 2009 07:29 PM

                                                                              I used to love Ferretti, Rosengarten, the Sterns, and Laurie Colwin (who wrote so beautifully - a latter day Fisher, IMHO). The few times I've picked it up recently, I've been disappointed.

                                                                              I actually find "Fine Cooking" a more interesting resource these days. It's much more technical but still a fun read.

                                                                  2. k
                                                                    KristieB Sep 16, 2009 06:14 PM

                                                                    Hands down it was the Frugal Gourmet who influenced my cooking and tastes. I was 19-yrs-old and had a job being a companion to an elderly lady. We would watch The Frugal Gourmet and I would frantically write down recipes while he cooked. I still have them in my recipe box. Then one Christmas my mother gifted me with three or four of his paperbacks. I read, reread, and re-read those books. Finally I started to become adventurous and tried those that sounded good. My much-stained and dog-eared copies are sitting on the shelf beside me. I can safely say that not one recipe I tried every let me down. And most have become house favorites, my go-to dishes for company. I find his cookbooks, hardback no less, in used book stores. I pick them up for next to nothing and write my thoughts and changes in them and then give them as gifts.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: KristieB
                                                                      k
                                                                      KristieB Sep 16, 2009 06:20 PM

                                                                      And I must add that any of his 'ethnic' recipes have turned out to be pretty spot on. I recently took one of his cookbooks to physical therapy to have the Polish-American therapy assistant check a recipe for me. He assures me that it is authentic. And I've found that to be true with several other recipes. I can't tell you how much pleasure these books have brought to my life.

                                                                      1. re: KristieB
                                                                        f
                                                                        FrankD Sep 16, 2009 07:36 PM

                                                                        Before watching Jeff, I thought cooking was some highly refined exercise (or, as someone said in another context, Eric Clapton's "Church of England" blues). From his crazy, infectious enthusiasm, I realised that cooking is an adventure, full of fun and discovery. I don't know if he ever said this exactly, but I'm sure it was from him that I got the concept that baking is science, but cooking is art.

                                                                        1. re: FrankD
                                                                          k
                                                                          KristieB Sep 16, 2009 10:38 PM

                                                                          Watching Jeff taught me to explore other cultures as well as American history. His show and cookbooks were so full of the history and cultures of whatever cuisine he was cooking it made the entire world more approachable from a culinary standpoint. I grew up in a fairly non-ethnic section of Pennsylvania and can remember when my mom first made tacos at home and we thought they were so exotic. So the world Jeff Smith ushered me into has been a very pleasant journey.

                                                                    2. t
                                                                      TexSquared Sep 16, 2009 06:57 PM

                                                                      Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Michael Smith. Being from Canada, we didn't get the Food Network until much later; Emeril's first "Manly Man Food" episode, which I watched the very first day Food Network showed up on Canadian cable TV, got me interested in cooking. Definitely miss the Too Hot Tamales, liked them a lot more than Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, etc...

                                                                      1. n
                                                                        Normandie Sep 17, 2009 11:22 PM

                                                                        I'd really have to say my mother and father. My mother was an excellent cook. She probably would have been that in any event, learning as she did from the women in her family, but she also became a Julia Child and James Beard disciple in the '60s.

                                                                        I don't really cook the things she did, and I only have about three or four of her "signature" recipes, but I do tend to cook the *way* she did--meaning, not too many ingredients in any one dish, but fresh, not processed, and pushing herself to try new things, instead of relying on tried-and-true recipes. Her technique far surpassed what mine is, though. Of course, she had more practice, so...maybe with time. ???

                                                                        My father played his part, too, but always taking us to new places, new restaurants, and encouraging us to try new things we hadn't eaten before. He used to say, "Just order it, taste it, and if you don't like it, Mommy or I will eat it." Funny thing is, most often we liked it. :-)

                                                                        I grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, and I think it would be hard for a younger adult today to understand just how many foods that are commonplace in supermarkets today weren't easily accessible to us back then. My father used to mail order surprises for my mother, and I recall her having snacks sometimes after dinner or on a snowy Saturday afternoon, comprising things like Escargot (from a tin), frogs' legs, sweetbreads, even artichokes, which we *could* get at the grocery store, but only once or twice a year.

                                                                        I also enjoyed watching many of the PBS chefs that others here have mentioned, and I have learned *a lot* from watching them. But I think that their lessons were so useful to me due to the foundation in knowing food that my parents gave me.

                                                                        1. BarmyFotheringayPhipps Sep 17, 2009 11:58 PM

                                                                          One week in the spring of 1984, when I was in the ninth grade at Levelland Junior High in Levelland, Texas, I just decided not to go to school. Every day, I kept walking and went to the downtown public library, where I set down my backpack, picked up a book off the shelves, settled in and read until it was time to go home. One of the books I read that week was a paperback copy of Calvin Trillin's AMERICAN FRIED. I had started teaching myself how to cook when I was around eight years old, and by this time, I was already probably a better cook than my mom, though of course I knew not to say so. But this was the first book I'd ever read about food that mirrored my own feelings on the topic, and that cemented my growing realization that good food was profoundly connected both to the place it was cooked and the people who ate it, and that there was nothing sadder than people who were ashamed of the food they grew up on. I would say that probably 75% of my adult thoughts on food and cooking came from Calvin Trillin.

                                                                          The rest is split between Laurie Colwin, whose books I discovered in similar circumstances when I was in college, and my beloved wife Allstonian, who I also discovered in college. What I got from Colwin was sort of a confirmation that my own instincts as a home cook -- working improvisationally based on techniques and the ingredients to hand rather than cooking from set recipes -- were the right ones for the kind of food I wanted to make, along with a more mature sense of sensualism than one gets from the not-actually-that-sensual-at-all Trillian. What I got from Allstonian was a deeper sense of history (both from reading Fisher, David, Margaret Visser and various old cookbooks, and from being with someone who -- unlike me -- grew up in one place her entire life and therefore has a broader scope of how things have changed culinarily here in Boston over the decades), as well as a more finely-tuned sense of the social and political implications of what we eat.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                                                            Soop Sep 18, 2009 05:28 AM

                                                                            Nice story :)

                                                                          2. t
                                                                            trvler Sep 18, 2009 12:00 PM

                                                                            Lorie Colwin, Julia Child and my mom. I grew up in Alabama and my mom was a gourmet cook. I was so fortunate. She dried tomatoes in her oven, made watercress soup and lobster thermidor. This was in the late 50's and early 60's. Everyone wanted to come to my house and eat. It was certainly the only time they were exposed to Enchiladas, chinese food, and cream puffs. The only thing she couldn't make was a decent meatloaf nor did she make good biscuits.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: trvler
                                                                              DallasDude Sep 19, 2009 04:34 PM

                                                                              I just watched Julia and Jacques Cooking at home on PBS, the episode where they prepare a turkey. They were so wonderful together, and the banter was so sweet. They both heavily influenced my cooking.

                                                                              I so appreciated my afternoons as a child watching Jeff Smith. He is so simple and forthright with his dishes and the education I gained. He peppered everything with background, and history which I feel is so important when looking at a dish. I am able even today when preparing a meal, to give some sort of history of a dish. It makes for a delightful way to begin a meal.

                                                                              Who didn't enjoy the wackiness of Graham Kerr. I was mesmerized by his silly antics on the tube, and watched with amazement.

                                                                              PBS, especially in Dallas, has been a rich source for a great food education. I can recall watching Pepin in the afternoon, then going out to my local purveyor for that days ingredients, only to find there was a run on Diver Scallops, or whatever the topic of the day was.

                                                                              The Food Network abandoned its roots, how very sad for this generation of young home cooks. Instead of a Pepin, Prudhomme, or Jacques Torres, they will grow up with Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee using whole chickens from a can (see pic). Or the crude and simple Guy Fieiri. Abominations.

                                                                              I feel fortunate. And on a more personal note, my grandfather was a wonderful restaurantuer. I learned so much from him, besides patience and the art of winning with a grin.

                                                                               
                                                                            2. s
                                                                              sueatmo Sep 19, 2009 07:01 PM

                                                                              The single greatest influence on the way I cooked for my family was Adele Davis. I read at least 2 of her books, and absorbed many of her concepts. Her writings opened my eyes to the dangers of highly processed foods. I banished white bread from our house imediately, and it stayed banished. I was unable to do everythng I knew I should with our nutrition, but we have over decades improved our eating. Much of what Davis taught is now gospel to nutritionists.

                                                                              The biggest influence on me in terms of cooking techniques has been Alton Brown. I haven't watched all his episodes, but I have watched some of them at least twice. Just watching him as he cooked stuff has helped me with my technique. I still check in every so often to watch one of his old episodes.

                                                                              1. f
                                                                                FrankD Sep 19, 2009 11:00 PM

                                                                                Wow! I just want to thank everyone who's posted - there are so many wonderful stories and thoughts shared. I watch my wife teaching my daughters to bake, and I see generations of wisdom passed along. After water, isn't food our most basic need? I think what makes us "chowhounds" is our shared understanding of how food bonds and shapes us. I hope the stories keep coming.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: FrankD
                                                                                  k
                                                                                  KristieB Sep 20, 2009 03:52 PM

                                                                                  Frank, you are entirely welcome. I am so happy to have found this site. Food for me is more than just sustenance. It is memories, emotions, bonding and tradition. It is learning and teaching. It is about discovery and awareness of cultures far beyond our means to visit any other way besides through the kitchen. But seriously isn't the kitchen the heart of the home?

                                                                                2. c
                                                                                  CookieWeasel Sep 20, 2009 07:28 PM

                                                                                  MFK Fisher, for the way she made me think (and write) about the experience of eating. Julia Child, because she explained things so thoroughly. Edward Espe Brown, for showing me the spirituality of creating food. Alton Brown, for making me ask Why.

                                                                                  1. d
                                                                                    DTHEASH1 Sep 22, 2009 11:36 AM

                                                                                    A waiter named Bill at the Gotham Bar and Grill in the early 90's. I took a date there when we were fresh out of college and knew nothing about food. Instead of treating us like rubes, Bill put on a 2 1/2 hour presentation of wine and food that was as fun as it was informative. He gave us multiple tastes of different wines, let us taste the same wines in different glasses, as well as info on every course. He went to the bar to open a wine and let it breathe, so we could taste it against wine that was just opened. Really went out of his way and had fun with us. I ended up marrying the girl I was with. We are both pretty competent home cooks today, and looking back, that may have been our start. Thanks again, Bill.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: DTHEASH1
                                                                                      Soop Sep 23, 2009 02:17 AM

                                                                                      Awesome! Here's to Bill!
                                                                                      And what a great date!

                                                                                      1. re: DTHEASH1
                                                                                        Popkin Sep 24, 2009 07:47 AM

                                                                                        Cheers to Bill! That's pretty cool!

                                                                                      2. nomadchowwoman Sep 24, 2009 07:37 AM

                                                                                        It's a tough question: first would be my mom, even though she never let me help in the kitchen. But she spoiled me for home cooking, so when I moved away from home and knew I simply could not eat fast food or dull cafeteria fare, I realized I needed to learn to cook. Mom also had a (somewhat, for those times) adventurous palate. So we often went out to eat, typically Chinese or Italian, but also occasionally for lobster. She made linguini w/(canned) clam sauce, and I loved it. She and I would eat canned asparagus (all that was available), which I adored (now, gag); when avocados were finally introduced into the supermarket, she introduced them to me (thanks Mom!); she'd shop all over the place looking for white veal for various Italian dishes she cooked. She used fresh garlic and onions, parmesan cheese in a wedge.
                                                                                        With my taste buds wanting more and my refusal to eat junk food, I dove into cooking first w/Mom's Betty Crocker cookbooks. Then The Silver Palate was published, and I got obsessed. But I also learned a lot from Martha Stewart's Quick Cook and from Paul Prudhomme, from watching Jeff Smith on TV.
                                                                                        MFK Fisher taught me the art in the pleasure of food; Mark Kulansky, the role food has played in history, in the development of civilization and culture.
                                                                                        But Laurie Colwin's lovely little essays taught me the most important lesson in my culinary education: relax in the kitchen.

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