Frugal Gourmet, The

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 and nutrition.

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 history.

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 each).

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.”

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 million!”

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.


Born in Philadelphia, Jerome Alphonse Holst worked 30 years as a librarian. He has since retired and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Holst is also the author of the children’s books “Norman the Troll,” "Norman the Troll and the Haunted House," and "Gretchen and the Gremlins." In addition, he penned the fantasy novel “The Adventures of Glinda Gale,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz" and the reference text “The Encyclopedia of Movie and TV Insults.” .

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Posted in Cooking, Showbiz Nicknames

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