Great PBS Cooking Shows From My Youth

I think we can all agree that these days, the cooking shows on PBS pwn most of the shows on Food Network. I was recently thinking about how even as a kid, I watched great cooking shows on public television, and it was not just Julia Child (though I loved her too).


Jeff Smith on “The Frugal Gourmet,” Martin Yan on “Yan Can Cook,” Justin Wilson on “Louisiana Cookin’,” and Graham Kerr on “The Galloping Gourmet” all helped form the base of my interest in cooking (in addition, of course, to both of my parents). They all brought slightly different things to the table. Smith brought fine dining to regular households, Yan brought a sense of fun and was (at least to me in the 1980s) cooking exotic food, Wilson asserted the strong personality of a celebrity chef and yet was completely himself, and Kerr was… well, he was pretty out-of-control. One thing that they all had in common is a passion for good food and good cooking.

Today only Martin Yan and Graham Kerr are still alive, and only Martin Yan has a show on PBS (at least where I live). I still watch and enjoy. Click on any of the above photos to see these guys in action.

Who did I miss? Does anyone else remember these guys?

Posted by Howard

  • Hi Howard,

    I stumbled upon this blog post from a long time ago, but am trying to figure something out. I remember a show called the Traveling Gourmet on PBS but can’t seem to find any mention about it on the internet.

    It was about a guy who would visit countries all over the world tasting their cuisine. Felt like an early Anthony Bourdain show.

    do you remember that one??


  • @jeff — i don’t remember anything called “traveling gourmet” but there is burt wolf:

    also, “gourmet’s diary of a foodie” currently airs on PBS and is usually pretty good.

  • joedude

    There was a cooking show on PBS in the mid-80’s that I believe was produced by a Florida PBS station that was hosted by a gentleman who was somewhat effeminate, heavy-set, had very short buzzed hair and a very thick mustache. He started out cooking fairly fattening foods, but after a couple of years, he dropped a lot of weight, and then begin cooking “diet” foods. I used to love watching him and was wondering if anyone else remembered this show and what his (or the show’s) name was?He kinda looked like Freddy Mercury of the band Queen

  • RenWoXing

    @ joedude
    I believe that the chef’s first name was Franco but I can’t remember his last name of the show or his last name.

  • Terri

    This post is old, but I too remember the PBS show, and finally found the information. It was “Travelin’ Gourmet”, hosted by food critic Mike Kalina. The show was on tv around 1988-1989 or so, but Mike’s suicide in 1992 put an end to the show.

  • cathy

    joedude & renwoxing…i think the name of that show was what’s cooking now? the one i used to watch all the time and there was a women dietition named jean i think

  • john

    terri…your right on. it was travelin gourmet w/mike kalina, great program, loved his singing intro and closing to the program. i was just looking for his apple tart recipe. didnt know of his suicide … shame … any info on what led up to it?

  • john

    terri’: eariler post “…didnt know of his suicide … shame … any info on what led up to it?” found the info on the net..what a shame…thanks for the lead…

  • Joe

    Regarding the Kalina suicide – apparently reports were that he bribed the Pittsburgh newspaper to rate his restaurant the highest. At the same time, he had throat cancer I believe. He killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning after he was found in his car with a hose coming from the exhaust in downtown Pittsburgh. Shame for what looked to be a very nice TV personality the way he presented those shows. They were very good shows.

  • Me

    There was a show that aired on a Milwaukee, WI PBS affiliate that featured a woman who did natural or health cooking and often had her kids on the show… Anyone remember the name of that one?

  • Daniel

    I remember a cooking show in the 1980s on PBS hosted by a woman who specialized in bistro fare or new american cuisine. She was a brunette with rather short hair. I remember a recipe for crab cakes served with a red pepper coulis that was just to die for. I still have this recipe. Does anyone remember what the name of that chef was? I am trying to track her down!

  • Ben G

    Daniel, I believe you are talking about Caprial Pence. The show was “Cooking with Caprial” I was a fan of that show too.

    Does anyone remember a show with a little Italian guy that would sometimes pour a little of whatever booze he was cooking with into his coffee cup?

  • Maggie

    stumbled across this blog and I know it’s very old, but I grew up in the 80s watching PBS cooking shows too!

    1. The chef named Franco. He’s Franco Palumbo and had 2 shows: Slim Cuisine and We’re Cooking Now.

    2. Natural foods lady cook..the only one I remember is Kathy Hoshijo of “Kathy’s Kitchen”. She was using health foods like nutritional yeast, tofu, tempeh, etc.

    I also remember a lady who did Greek cooking (can’t remember her name) and a show called “Gourmet Cooking” the host was an older man rotund and wore glasses.

  • Betty M. Bird

    Graham has a youtube page where he still does videos!

  • Sarah S.

    We used to watch a cooking show about 15-20 years ago that had two guys, cousins, I think, and one called the other Johnny. If I remember correctly, their show was set in a tavern that specialized in either Tex-Mex or Italian foods. Does anyone remember a program like this, and do you remember the name of it?

  • Howard

    @Sarah — if it’s italian you may be thinking of a show with carrabba’s italian grill founders johnny carraba and damian mandola (johnny’s uncle). they had a couple of shows on PBS — cucina amore and cucina sicila. here’s a photo:

  • Sarah S.

    Howard, you are amazing, just spitting out all that info in such a short time! Thanks to the link you sent, I looked at the photos of Johnny and Damian, and found they have several dining spots within a radius of 20-45 miles of my residence. I just happen to have a dental appointment later on this afternoon almost next door to one of their establishments. Coincidence? Nope…kismet! Thanks again, Howard.

  • Howard

    @Sarah — glad i could help. hope you get a chance to try their food.

  • Pingback: Pbs Cooking Shows 1980s | Eat Healthy()

  • nyssa1066

    There was a show in the NYC area (I think) in the 80’s/early 90’s that had a theme song that went something like “there’s a road heading to the west, and it’s calling me back again…” It was a cooking show featuring everyday chefs cooking in their restaurant kitchens. It was narrated – the chefs didn’t talk to the camera. It was filmed like a documentary. The narrator just explained what the chef was preparing. It was a very simple formula for a show. I loved it, and I learned a lot about cooking basics from watching it. Does anyone else remember it?

  • Howard

    @nyssa1066:disqus Hmm, so far I’m stumped. I did a little online research and haven’t found it yet. I’ll keep looking, let me know if you turn anything up.

  • E.j. Turner

    Who were the 2 brothers from New Orleans?

  • E.j. Turner

    I can’t find videos of their shows!

  • ErazMia Kyriakou

    I think that was “The Great Chefs” series that was on the Discovery Channel

  • nyssa1066

    Thank you! That’s the one.

  • CFlo515

    I loved that show too! If you’re interested in enjoying some flashback episodes, if you have access to a Roku there is an entire channel dedicated to it.

  • CFlo515

    I know this is a very old post, but thank you so much! I have been searching and racking my brain for a long time trying to think of the “Gourmet Cooking” show! You were spot on! “Gourmet Cooking with Earl Peyroux” I was able to Youtube it and reminisce.

  • eagle8

    Maggie: Thanks so much for having a great memory! I have been thinking of the Kathy Hoshijo show, but couldn’t get past “Kathy”. I kept thinking it was Cooking with Kathy. I used to watch this show to relax between final exams in college.