PBS ‘Chefs Flight’ spotlight in ‘American Masters’ includes documentaries on James Beard and Jacques Pépin

April 13, 2017

by Carla Hay

PBS is launching “Chefs Flight”as part of the network’s “American Masters” series that will include new documentaries on culinary icons James Beard and Jacques Pépin.

“James Beard: America’s First Foodie” premieres in most market on May 19, 2017, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. (Check local listings.) The program chronicles a century of food through the story of Beard (1903-1985), who was a pioneer celebrity chef and author. Immediately after the Beard documentary, PBS will televise a rebroadcast of “American Masters – Julia! America’s Favorite Chef” at 10 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft” (narrated by Stanley Tucci) premieres in most markets on May 26 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. (Check local listings.) Immediately after the Pépin documentary, PBS will have an encore presentation of “American Masters – Alice Waters and her Delicious Revolution” at 10 p.m. ET.

According to a PBS press release: Among the many highlights in the Beard documentary are Daniel Boulud and restaurant critic Gael Greene telling how Beard helped start Citymeals on Wheels; Jacques Pépin reminiscing about cooking with Beard; Martha Stewart sharing how Beard’s cookbooks influenced her; Ted Allen disclosing Beard’s challenges being an “out” gay man at a time when same-sex sexual activity was illegal; chefs Jonathan Waxman and Larry Forgione reflecting on Beard’s mentorship and its impact on their career; Wolfgang Puck recounting how he helped found the James Beard Foundation; Alice Waters explaining how Beard discovered Chez Panisee; chef Jeremiah Tower offering insight into Beard’s relationship with Marion Cunningham; chef Naomi Pomery demonstrating how to make the famous “James Beard’s Onion Sandwich”; and next generation chefs such as Marc Forgione, Greg Higgins, and Pomeroy discussing how Beard’s influence is still felt today. James Beard Award Foundation president Susan Ungaro and executive vice president Mitchell Davis also appear in the documentary.

Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times, Beard … spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the culinary vernacular. He was a forerunner of the farm-to-table movement and helped create the iconic Four Seasons concept and menu. He was the first chef to host his own television show, “I Love to Eat,” which debuted on NBC in 1946, and taught not only women but men how to cook. He also had a cooking school that he operated out of his New York apartment.

Beard authored 22 cookbooks, penned a syndicated newspaper column and wrote countless magazine articles. He is credited with introducing Julia Child to the New York culinary scene, and he later becoming a best friend to her.

The James Beard Awards Gala and Reception are considered the “Oscars” of the food-service industry. The 2017 ceremony will take place  May 1 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is hosting the show. The complete list of nominations are here.