Right after Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, Jeff Smith stands out as one of the champions of the early PBS cooking shows. Was he frugal? Yes, he was--he didn't waste anything and he was careful and cautious about what he cooked. Was he a gourmet? Yes, he was--he was a connoisseur of fine food and drink. So let's put those little adolescent rants about the title of his show to rest. Now--did he always do it correctly? No, and like Julia Child, he was the first to admit if something didn't turn out well. But as far as showing his audience how to get their hands dirty and actually TRY to cook something other than meatloaf, mashed potatoes from a box, and a can of peas for the family dinner, he was great. And his background/history lessons during the cooking were extremely entertaining even when they weren't 100% on the mark. Back in the 90's, it became fashionable for "critics" to take potshots at Jeff Smith because he was extremely good at what he did and was highly successful... and they were merely critics who couldn't do anything well except criticize. What these critics, most especially Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, succeeded in doing was showing their mean-spirit and pettiness while the Frugal Gourmet continued to be the most-watched cooking show on PBS. Greed finally took the show down in the form of allegations against Jeff Smith by former employees, none of which were proved and none of which resulted in prosecution. Jeff Smith, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Justin Wilson, and Paul Prudhomme taught me and thousands of others to cook and while he wasn't the most proficient of the bunch, he was the most entertaining.
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