In a television schedule packed with dueling chefs, frenetic foodies, and explorers searching for bizarre culinary experiences, it is refreshing to find a show about two people just trying to make a go of it with a family restaurant, and one dedicated to making the “farm to fork” approach work in their community. Such a show is A Chef’s Life, a new PBS series about Vivian Howard and her husband Ben Knight, who despite vowing that she “would never return,” moved from Manhattan back to Howard’s small home town in rural eastern North Carolina to start a restaurant.
A Chef’s Life is available to viewers who can tune in to PBS stations in New York and Boston; it has not yet been scheduled for airing on Connecticut’s CPTV.
The Chef and the Farmer restaurant Vivian and Ben started in Kinston, North Carolina is now an award-winning success – but it did not start out that way, as the first 30-minute episode “Sweet Corn and Expensive Tea” explains. Having to “change the menu daily,” says Howard, “depending on what’s coming in” is just one of the many challenges of trying to stay true to their mission of learning to “appreciate the area’s native ingredients” while working only with farmers within a 30 mile radius. Attracting customers in a rural community to a restaurant that doesn’t have “a salad bar or a mayonnaise-based” salad dressing is another. Add to that the challenges of raising toddler twins while living back “in the home I grew up in,” and rebuilding a restaurant after it is gutted by a fire, and it quickly becomes apparent that this Chef’s Life is reality TV with a capital “R” – and one that doesn’t just stand for “Restaurant.”
The show, of course, is also about food, or as Howard puts it “exploring the South, one ingredient at a time.” She grew up surrounded by farms, and not only visits them on the show but also takes part in ongoing family rituals such as the shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob by not just the bushel but the pickup truck load in order to lay up corn for the winter. Using the cobs to make a soup stock and designing menus to highlight the corn and other local produce is that part of the show that may appeal most to those looking for new ideas in their own kitchens.
The 13-part series follows Vivian Howard as she tromps through cornfields, strawberry patches and hog pens in search of ingredients and inspiration to create menus to “celebrate” the bounty of the South, all the while adding her own flair to traditional southern cooking. In her capable hands, she seems confident that the South will rise again – at least on the culinary stage.
Although Connecticut Public Television has not yet scheduled a showing, most other PBS stations will air A Chef’s Life. Connecticut viewers who can tune in New York PBS stations can watch A Chef’s Life on WLIW Saturday mornings at 11:30 am starting this Saturday, September 14 or on WNET Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm. WGBH in Boston will air the show Saturday afternoons at 2:30 pm beginning September 21, and WGBX will air broadcast it Sundays at 2:30pm and again Mondays at 10:30 pm starting September 22.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer and columnist. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.aspx
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Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref...
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