"I prefer the Chinese method of eating. You can do anything at the table except arm wrestle." -- Jeff Smith
Jeffrey L. Smith (January 22, 1939 — July 7, 2004) was the author of a dozen best-selling cookbooks and the host of The Frugal Gourmet, a popular American cooking show which began in Tacoma, Washington around 1973 and aired on PBS from 1983 to 1997, and numbered 261 episodes.
Jeff Smith was born on January 22, 1939. He graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 1962 and from Drew University in 1965. He started off as a United Methodist minister whose first food-related venture was the Chaplain's Pantry, a deli and kitchen supply store near downtown Tacoma, where he offered cooking classes to the public. Soon after launching the show in Tacoma, he received a cooking show on a local PBS member station in Seattle. With an appearance on the Phil Donahue show in 1983 and a move to Chicago, his career took off.
Smith wrote many books about food and cooking, including The Frugal Gourmet (1984), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine (1986), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome (1989),The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother (1990) and The Frugal Gourmet's Culinary Handbook: An Updated Version of an American Classic on Food and Cooking (1991), and many more that he wrote with his assistant Craig Wollam.
According to The Seattle Times obituary, Smith was known in the industry as a "food genius". Kathy Casey, the Times's food columnist said that "he knew more about food and culture than anybody I know in the food world." She also mentioned that Smith had been a generous philanthropist, donating both money and time to charitable causes and helping individuals get started in the food industry, even after his retirement. However, he was not without his critics. Chicago food and wine columnist William Rice wrote, "I've tried to cook his stuff, and let's say it was hit or miss. Some things worked and others didn't." A 1992  Harper's Magazine article entitled "P.C. on the Grill" ridiculed him as condescending, ill-informed, and for "cloth[ing] consumption in piety." Smith reportedly wept on the air when discussing this article, which he called "so profoundly hurtful I didn't know what to do."
Smith died in his sleep in July 2004 of natural causes. He had heart disease. He was survived by his wife Patricia, and sons Channing and Jason, as well as daughters-in-law Yuki and Lisa.
His public career came to an end when two of his male assistant chefs brought charges of sexual harassment against him, when they were teenagers. Shortly thereafter, in 1998, seven men alleged that he had sexually assaulted them in the 1970s, when they worked for him as minors. Smith denied the accusations but his alleged actions were the subject of much talk around the city of Tacoma for years. He was taken off the air shortly afterward. Though he was never charged with a crime, he and his insurance company settled with the plaintiffs out of court, and Smith never returned to the airwaves.
In his later years, following the end of his TV career in 1997, he continued to entertain friends at home and cook for fund-raisers. Pike Place Market merchants said he was often seen shopping there, sometimes walking but often riding a motorized cart because of declining strength.