Frugal Gourmet - Nickname of TV cook,
Jeffrey L. "Jeff"
Smith, the star of THE FRUGAL GOURMET, a popular cooking program aired
nationwide on the PBS Network. Jeff Smith, a balding ordained Methodist minister
with a toothy grin and a fluffy white goatee was as comfortable behind the
kitchen table chopping garlic, onion and preparing appetizing meals as he was
behind a pulpit. His message to his viewers was that everyone should learn how
to cook. Formal training was not a necessity to be a Frugal Gourmet; and he
emphasized that "Frugal doesn't mean cheap, it means that you use everything and
are careful with your time as well as your food products.
The term 'Frugal Gourmet' refers to a lover of food and wine who doesn't like to
waste anything." Using recipes scribbled on yellow note paper for inspiration,
Jeff Smith worked his wonders in his TV kitchen. Jeff first learned cooking by
watching his Norwegian mother and Lebanese uncle as a child.
His career as a cook started in the 1960s when he began teaching a college
course at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington entitled "Food as
Sacrament and Celebration" which mingled concepts of theology with proper diet
Later in 1972, he opened a restaurant called "Chaplain's Pantry Restaurant and
Gourmet Shop," a multipurpose business that served as a delicatessen,
restaurant, catering service, cookware store, and cooking school. When a local
PBS station approached him with an offer to create a TV show for the local
market, he whipped up a simple little show entitled COOKING CREATIVELY WITH
FISH. The show later changed its title to THE FRUGAL GOURMET and the rest was
In 1983, after moving his show to Chicago, he appeared on THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW
and garnered a hefty 45,000 orders for his cookbook (by mail order for $4.75
His cookbooks include such titles as The Frugal Gourmet; The Frugal Gourmet
Cooks with Wine; The Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook; and The Frugal Gourmet
Cooks Your Immigrant Heritage: Recipes You Should Have Gotten From Your
Grandmother. Having sold millions of copies, this made the "Frug" the number one
cookbook author in America.
"Cooking is great fun," Jeff Smith has said, "and it doesn't have to be
complicated to be good. I think that's what makes us so popular with people who
have never cooked before. We make everything look fun and easy to do because it
is fun and easy to do."
Jeff Smith religiously concluded each program by saying "Until I see you again,
this is the Frugal Gourmet. I bid you peace."
1977 Recipe Book illustrated by Colleen Conroy
TRIVIA NOTE: In January, 1997, national news stories reported that Jeff Smith
was named in a sexual assault and sexual harassment suit involving seven
under-aged boys. Six people in the suit, said the abuse occurred while they
worked for Smith at the Chaplain's Pantry, a restaurant he operated in Tacoma in
the 1970s. The seventh alleged that Smith abused him after picking him up as a
hitchhiker in 1992.
Comedian Jay Leno reported the story's silver lining during
his monologue on THE TONIGHT SHOW - "Michael Jackson's got a new chef." When Jay
heard that Jeff Smith paid three million dollars to a young boy over the
allegations, he remarked "Gee, he really is Frugal. Michael Jackson paid 20
Smith's attorney denied all allegations. Ever since the story broke,
Jeff Smith's TV association with PBS stations nationwide dried up and he hasn't
been seen since. Retiring to private live, Smith spent his time traveling and
researching a book on biblical foods.
Born January 22, 1939 in Seattle, Washington, Jeff Smith (who had a heart valve
replaced in 1981) died from heart disease in his sleep on Wednesday, July 7,
2004. He was 65. Smith is survived by his wife, Patricia, and two sons.
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