In late 1970s and early 1980s, cooking on television was Julia Child, The French Chef, working and cooking and demonstrating culinary arts in her studio kitchen. Julia was one of the first celebrity chefs
She pioneered the form and introduced Americans to culinary concepts. Her quick wit and friendly approach endeared her to everyone. Thousands had already had their interest piqued by Time-Life´s Foods of the World book series. They were eager viewers when Julia, already the author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2, began showing how to achieve wonderful flavors in the home kitchen — right on television. Julia Child and a small group of seminal chefs and writers threw the swinging doors of the culinary world wide open.
shattered the mold of the studio TV cooking show to take cameras out into the kitchens of the world´s finest restaurants. For the first time ever, viewers were watching over the shoulders of the Great Chefs
as they worked and chatted, explaining their techniques, the secrets of how they work their magic. To set the mood, the background music featured jazz and other artists, from the Dukes of Dixieland to Charlie Byrd, Bobby Short, Bela Fleck, and Kapono Beamer.
The first series to carry the name ‚“Great Chefs‚” was Great Chefs of New Orleans, thirteen half-hour programs. Warren Le Ruth was the first chef to appear on television under the Great Chefs banner; the first dish prepared was that great New Orleans´ traditional pleasure, Shrimp Remoulade. The programs aired on PBS stations. A paperback companion cookbook was developed; between the book and the cooking shows
, home cooks could follow the recipe in the book and watch the technique on TV.
Audiences wanted more.
Next came Great Chefs of San Francisco, thirteen programs in association with that city´s PBS station, KQED. Then another thirteen Great Chefs of New Orleans shows. Next it was up to Chicago for Great Chefs of Chicago, with PBS station WTTW. Each series had its companion cookbook written by Ellen Brown, who was the food editor for USA Today.
In 1985 Great Chefs of the West, the next series, introduced changes as big as all outdoors. This time there were 26 half-hour programs. And this time cameras caught a revolution in progress as New American and Southwest cuisine blossomed under the hands of chefs like Jeremiah Tower, Mark Miller, Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles, Bradley Ogden, Lydia Shire, and many others. Because Southwest cuisine was still developing from the traditional home cooking of the region, the series included several outstanding home cooks as well. Great Chef John Sedlar's grandmother, Eloisa Rivera made her home version of biscochitos. John Sedlar also made the same biscochitos, using them for one of his spectacular desserts in his restaurant. The companion cookbook was expanded. Called Southwest Tastes, also written by Ellen Brown and published by Great Chefs Publishing. It included background text and basic recipes for foundation Southwestern dishes as well as the dishes seen on the programs.
Great Chefs of the West was seen on all PBS stations. And then on "The Discovery Channel." At this point, Great Chefs agreed to premiere its shows on the new Discovery Channel for exclusive U.S. distribution.
In 1992 26 episodes of Great Chefs: the Louisiana new Garde was released. It caught a tide of changes in the kitchens of New Orleans´ celebrated restaurants as established chefs retired and younger chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Susan Spicer took their places. The companion cookbook, The Louisiana new Garde , by Nancy Ryan, was published at the same time. Great Chefs of the East followed the next year, covering the northeastern U.S., Its companion book, of the same title, was also written by Ellen Brown. The next year it was Great Chefs, Great Cities with its own companion book by John DeMers. Great Cities expanded in 1995, eventually comprising 80 half-hours.
Great Chefs of Hawaii premiered 30 shows in 1996. It caught the blossoming of New Hawaiian Cuisine and chefs like Roy Yamaguchi. The companion book, written by Kaui Philpotts, includes a special chapter on the Hawaiian luau. The full-size cookbook quickly sold out; it was later released in a spiral-bound version with the same title, Great Chefs of Hawaii .
Next up was Great Chefs of the Caribbean with 30 episodes. This colorful series circled the region, from Mexico through the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and around through the U.S. Virgin Islands and British West Indies, including Richard Branson´s private Necker Island. The companion cookbook, edited by Julia Pitkin and published by Cumberland House, was released with the series. Great Chefs of the South and its book, by Marlene Osteen, also published by Cumberland House, premiered in 1998.
Great Chefs went on the internet in a big way that same year with a site within the Discovery Channel´s website.
Great Chefs began taping chefs in Europe and South America toward the end of the 90s. At the same time, the team also taped all over the U.S. The result was two new series on The Discovery Channel, Great Chefs of America and Great Chefs of the World. Both series are on-going, gaining new episodes each year. At the same time, the development of the internet spelled the phase-out of printed cookbooks, and the companion recipes were released on the website as the programs aired.
Over the course of it's history Great Chefs also released a series of special one-hour programs that each focus on a specific topic. Seafood, the holidays, the growing number of women chefs, chocolate, the ever-popular chocolate again, appetizers, desserts, outdoor cooking, and barbecue — the “Specials‚” list is at 21 and growing.
The greatly-expanded Great Chefs website is the newest chapter in the Great Chefs story. Here on the website Great Chefs has room to grow in all directions. And here, for the first time, every recipe for the dishes featured on Great Chefs is accessible. No buying an entire book to get a handful of recipes; you can search for a dish and get the recipe ‚ and soon, the corresponding video. So once again the combination of follow-the-recipe, watch-the-video will be possible on demand, without waiting for the next broadcast or the release of the next cookbook.
Great Chefs is the only cooking technique television series. After on-location shooting, it takes another two-weeks to produce and edit just one show, quite a change from the studio-kitchen style of shows where a week of 5 programs may be produced in a single day. Also unlike most television cooking shows, Great Chefs tested recipes for dishes three times, and includes instructions for presentation. Because of the complexity of the dishes and presentations, some dishes comprise upwards of 6 to 8 separate recipes. Great Chefs recipes have been written from chefs´ notes originally submitted in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
We invite you to be part of history. Let us know if you discover that one of the Great Chefs is working at a location near you — we try to keep track, but we need help with the effort. Let us know if someone in your area is so outstanding that they need to be added to our files, to be taped at the next opportunity. Let us know what you cook at home and how the Great Chefs have helped you with your cooking. And when you visit a Great Chefs restaurant, let everyone know how you enjoyed it with a personal review.
Because this is what Great Chefs has always been about: sharing the joys of fine dining.