by Ian McNulty
Sometimes it feels like the big TV food programs these days are more about vicarious travel and adventure thrills than anything you’re likely to actually get into in your own kitchen (just try sourcing Anthony Bourdain’s famous still-beating cobra heart around here).
But John Besh is taking a different tack. His new TV series “Chef John Besh’s Family Table” is a cooking show that has modern production values but is cut from the same cloth that made shows from Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse classic and influential. Quite simply, it’s aimed at showing people how to prepare accessible, relevant recipes and inspiring them to get at it again.
"This is all about encouraging people to cook, we're all so aware of food now, people talk about it all the time, but we actually cook less," Besh said during a recent preview of the series. "So this is something to give people the tools to cook themselves at home again."
“Chef John Besh’s Family Table” is a 26-part series produced by local public television station WYES-TV. The show is based on the chef’s 2011 cookbook “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking” and features recipes intended for family meals. In fact, the entire series was filmed in Besh’s own family kitchen at their home along Bayou Liberty in Slidell.
"It was great. We'd cook right there in my kitchen, the way I love to cook, and then we're done and I could go upstairs to bed," says Besh. "I could wear shorts and clogs and no one would ever know."
From this start in his kitchen, however, the show should have quite a reach. WYES president Allan Pizzato says it will be carried by some 220 public television stations around the country. Later, it will also have a nationwide airing on the network Create TV.
Besh has appeared on food shows across the entertainment spectrum through his career. But he says it’s significant that his new cooking series is on public television, which he praised for taking the time to use an educational, cooking-first format for the show. Indeed, exterior shots of the chef motoring a pirogue along Bayou Liberty are about as exotic as the locations get for “Chef John Besh’s Family Table.” But then that just gives more time for to get into the details of salt-baked whole striped bass, crabmeat and eggplant dressing, angel biscuits and rice pudding crème brulee.
The show debuts on WYES (channel 12) this Saturday, April 6 at 9:30 a.m. It continues Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and repeats on Sundays at 2 p.m.