Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Frugal Gourmet Dies

Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet has died in his sleep. Judith Blake of the Seattle Times writes very even handedly about a sensitive subject:

"Jeff Smith, the once-celebrated 'Frugal Gourmet' TV chef who fell from grace, was a hard man to peg.

"To some, the Seattle-based Smith, who died Wednesday, was a 'genius' of food and the culture surrounding it. His high spirits, acts of generosity and stalwart friendship, they say, were the true measure of the man.

"To others, he was a tyrant of the public-TV production set, a tireless self-promoter and a chef of mediocre culinary talent.

"He was accused in three lawsuits of sexually abusing some of the young men who worked for him, ending his television career in the 1990s.

"When Mr. Smith died, at age 65, those questions still surrounded him."

According to a Jump the Shark posters, "It jumped the shark at the end, when Mr. Gourmet sexually harassed his male assistant and it was hushed up. I think this was PBS's greatest scandal. Other than that though, the recipes were great. I really miss it. I'd probably still watch the show. I don't care that Mr. Gourmet is a poof."

Would that it were only that simple. Another poster on Jump the Shark amplifies:

"This show jumped when it was clear that Craig was more than the Frugal Gourmet's 'assistant.' During Craig's first year, he made an occasional appearance helping the Frug' chop onions or something. Then as the months progressed more and more shows featured Craig and his talents. Then if you watched the videos of the trips to Spain and Rome, you wondered ... why is Craig featured in every snippet? Of course, once the Frug' got arrested for his questionable activities with young boys, it all became painfully clear."

Jeff Smith was a haunted man who now, if you go in for that sort of thing, has a reckoning. And if you don't he is now presiding over a frugal gourmet for a certain convocation of politic worms, not where he eats, but where he is eaten.

Jeff Smith, RIP


Dougie T. King said...

Give me a break here ! His assistant, Craig Wollam, was about 23 in 1987 and not a child ! If a celebrity-chef made a pass at a 23 year old female apprentice, all she had to says was NO, and it would be over ! But because it was a homosexual pass, the media and the public made such a big deal about this in the 1980's. That was a long time ago and quite a different world. People were very homophobic, ignorant, up-tight and vehemently anti-gay back then. The Frugal Gourmet was cancelled, Jeff Smith publicly disgraced and his career ruined. Keep in mind, he did not rape or force himself on the young man ! The allegations were of possible unwanted advances and some harmless fondling. Once Craig Wollam said he was not interested, Mr. Smith backed off. Today, this would be a non-story and simply seen as an older guy trying to entice a younger person into a sexual liaison.....homosexual or difference !)

the neff said...

Yes right on Marko Antonio. Im tired of all the allegations, that Jeff Smith was pedophile. Of course , the guy, Clint Smith, who gathered the others from the catering restaurant to file the suit against Jeff Smith, was a criminal, and once tried to pass forged checks from Smith's business. Sour grapes is a horrible thing, and it ruined Smith's career. As Marko says, in the 70's and 80's people were extremely homophobic especially at PBS. I loved and still have all of the Frugal Gourmet's cookbooks. I have made many of the recipes and all were delicious. I learned how to cook through his cooking shows along with Natalie Dupree, Jacques Pepin and Julia Child. None of the allegations were proven. In those days all you had to do was yell, pedophile! and everyone believed it. Too bad they never treated heterosexual harrassment by men with women the same! We'd have more men convicted of that crime! In any case, its sad and too bad that he died without a cleared reputation. But, Craig Wollam definitely would know something. Terrible terrible terrible.