A lot has happened in the culinary world since chef George Hirsch started filming his first televised series on American Public Television a little more than 25 years ago.
Back in 1994, when “Grilling with Chef George Hirsch” first aired, The Food Network was in its infancy. Americans were just being introduced to Emeril Lagasse and all things “Bam!” Low-fat substitutes were so popular that Snackwells outsold Oreos. And Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine memorably dined on fresh-caught lobster during a weekend trip to the Hamptons.
It was also the year that Hirsch broke new ground and forever changed the way that viewers would watch a cooking show. As he focused on food basics and high quality, the executive chef and educator moved away from the standard “stand-and-stir” format of filming and was the first to take cooking out of the studio and out into the field. Or in his case, onto the outdoor grill.
Since, countless celebrity chefs have gained fame and fortune, food photography and influencers have come to dominate social media, and home cooks have the advantage of being able to look up virtually any recipe online. But Hirsch’s desire to share delicious food that’s good for you remains at the center of his focus, and his popularity.
“Lifestyles and media have evolved with technology, but the core of our being has not,” he says. “Audiences are still the same, still passionate about good wholesome food.”
Now entering his 25th year of television with the second season of “George Hirsch Lifestyle,” the celebrated, award-winning chef and author continues to focus on the benefits of farm-to-table cooking and entertaining. Underwritten by the Long Island Farm Bureau, it airs on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. on WLIW Channel 21.
The Sag Harbor resident, whose many series over the years have been picked up by more than 400 PBS stations around the nation, has stayed true to his roots. “If I can do it, you can do it” is his mantra and introducing home cooks to food producers, showing them how to select and use the freshest ingredients and teaching them the tricks of the trade is most definitely his favorite jam. For this season’s 13 episodes, Hirsch continues on his journey to trace fresh ingredients to their roots as he takes field trips to local farms, brewers, vintners and other artisans.
“Most important today, more than ever, is knowing the source,” he says. “The East End offers unlimited stories to share regarding our farms and water. Each episode features the bounty and resources of our region.”
In addition to returning viewer favorites, there are a few new segments to look out for this season, he reports. Topmost are “Good to Know, which features 60-second food tips and fun facts about food and “Chat and Chew,” informative and entertaining short discussions about sustainable cooking with local chef and award-winning photojournalist Alex Goetzfried.
“Our backgrounds as chefs, journalists and passion for our region was a natural fit,” says Hirsch of adding his associate producer and fellow East Ender to the mix.
Goetzfried, a Hampton Bays resident who first met the American Culinary Federation’s Humanitarian of the Year, Babybuggy.org Advisory Council member and Soul Foundation™ honoree back in 2013 while on assignment as a features reporter, says that the two became fast friends while they bonded over their shared love of food.
“We just hit it off,” he says. “The first time we met, what should have been a 45-minute interview turned into a four-hour discussion about food.”
Working together was a natural flow — from cooking and putting on Sunday Suppers and other charitable events to eventually joining up on the show. Their easy camaraderie and on-screen rapport has been a hit, according to Hirsch.
“What I saw and the network saw was a strong chemistry that came off naturally for viewers,” he says, hinting that there’s more to come for them both this season and beyond.
“There’s year 26 for George and year two for Alex,” he says of the future of the show, adding that the public’s desire for quality food and programming continues to grow and expand. Stay tuned, he says, for more of the “same form and style … both nationally and internationally.”
“George Hirsch Lifestyle” airs on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. on WLIW Channel 21.