You might not remember Jeff Smith by name, but you’ll certainly recognize him by his beard. Anyone who tuned in to PBS from 1988 to 1997 will probably recall a Santa Claus–like character in a black-and-white striped apron, peeling and chopping his way through an episode of his popular show The Frugal Gourmet.
The United Methodist minister’s culinary career started with a local cooking class in Tacoma, Wash. That led to a show on a local PBS affiliate, which eventually led to a national show on PBS. Smith favored international cuisine and filmed his shows straight through, without stopping to reshoot if he made a mistake. For a while, he had the most watched cooking show on television.
But that changed in 1997, when seven men sued the television chef, claiming to have been molested by him when they were children. Smith was never charged with a crime, but his show was canceled and he lived in the shadow of the scandal until his death in 2004.
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