Long before Emeril and Bobby Flay donned their chef coats and sharpened their knives to perform culinary magic in front of the camera, there were other famous chefs that have not gotten the respect they deserve for bringing us the joy of food from the magic of television.
I have developed a top 10 list that will bear witness to their greatness for decades to come.
Top Ten Greatest Television Chefs
#10: Aunt Bea from “The Andy Griffith Show”. Nobody was better at feeding the family on a tight small town sheriff salary than that beloved domestic goddess in the frilly apron. She even had her own TV cooking show until artistic differences interfered.
#9: Alice from “The Brady Bunch”. Cooking for a large family, back before dysfunction became the norm was no easy task, but Alice showed that she could handle the task.
#8: Igor from “M*A*S*H. Taking constant criticism for all the meals you prepared and served in a war zone, and not killing anybody? That is grace under fire.
#7: Cpl. LeBeau from “Hogan’s Heroes”. Whether he was cooking for the Third Reich or making pastries for his bunk mates. He was the stereotypical perfectionist in the kitchen.
#6: Sue Ann Nivens from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. She put the “happy” in “The Happy Homemaker”. I thought nobody could upstage Mary, but Sue Ann stole the scene when she strolled into the newsroom. And she made one hell of a Veal St. Olaf.
#5: Mary Ann from “Gilligan’s Island” . Long before Survivor captured our attention and Rachel Ray got us with her perky cuteness, Mary Ann was baking coconut cream pies, all without an oven.
#4: Arnold from “Happy Days”. He was the first owner operator of a restaurant on television and a brilliant marketing genius as well. Who else would have served chicken wings at a motorcycle jump in his parking lot? And were there even chicken wings in Milwaukee at that time?
#3: Hop Sing from “Bonanza”. Anyone who could keep Dan Blocker fed and happy had to be a great chef. He also led the way for the employment of immigrants, who are the backbone of the food service industry. Without him, Arnold may have never had the chance to open his drive in.
#2: Jack Tripper from “Three’s Company”. When he wasn’t frolicking with beautiful roommates or hanging with Larry at the Regal Beagle, Jack was fooling his landlord and attending chef school, where his grades were good enough for him to graduate and eventually own his own Bistro.
#1: Mel from “Alice”. Another successful owner/operator. Everybody made fun of his food and he was abusive to his waitresses long before Gordon Ramsey, but Mel had a heart of gold and became a father figure to Tommy and gave the waitresses $5000 each when he closed the diner.
*Granny from the “Beverley Hillbillies”
*Mr. French from “A Family Affair”
*Uncle Charlie from “My Three Sons”
*Frank De Fazio from “Laverne and Shirley
*The Swedish Chef from “The Muppets”
*Mrs. Livingston from “The Courtship of Eddies Father”
*Mrs. Krause from “Benson”