John Shields expands his TV menu

Chef's show covers both coasts' cooking

May 12, 2004|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

In a Columbia studio kitchen, two Washington state farmers pack up after preparing a luscious bowl of marinated mussels they harvested on Whidbey Island's Penn Cove.

As they say their goodbyes, a clambake expert from Belfast, Maine, drops lobsters, corn and other goodies into a big pot. While cameras roll, the chef of Azul, a trendy Miami restaurant, sweeps into the studio from the airport.

On a blustery morning, the warmly lighted kitchen set has become a revolving door for the guest chefs who will appear on pilot episodes of John Shields' new show, Coastal Cooking With John Shields.

For the 13-part series that will debut on Maryland Public Television and other public broadcasting affiliates this fall, Shields has ventured beyond his beloved Chesapeake Bay, the focus of an earlier series and three previous cookbooks, to explore coastal bounties around the country.

In his search, Shields found the likes of Ian Jefferds and Tim Jones of Whidbey Island, Ned Lightner of Belfast and Michelle Bernstein of Miami, as well as a number of others who delight in cooking on the water's edge.

As Shields, 52, and his staff pitch the new program to PBS affiliates nationally, he will stress its unique format. Most cooking shows are "static," says Shields, who also owns Gertrude's restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art. "We wanted something that moved and to balance handing out our knowledge with entertainment."

The show was designed by director Abbie Kealy and Shields with the spirit of his Aunt Minnie in mind. A tireless and colorful hostess, she would stand in the doorway of her Baltimore home, wave and announce to arriving guests: "Greetings, greetings, greetings!"

The show, as Kealy and Shields envision it, is a stand-in for Minnie's place: "You want people to come and visit with you, interesting people from different parts of the country."

With episodes on church-hall suppers, Southern-style shrimp feeds and Asian coastal cuisine, Shields wants to capture the idiosyncratic character of coastal cuisines and the cultures they represent. The series will offer a "sense of community," Shields says, instead of presenting a single chef who makes small talk through an entire meal.

The program also will be driven by the regional characters he came across while researching his new cookbook, also titled Coastal Cooking With John Shields (Broadway, $32.50), to be released in August. A number of recipes will be featured in both the book and the series.

Guests include "Paw Paw" George Davis of Pasadena, who will prepare a shrimp feed that calls for copious amounts of Old Bay seasoning, and Dottie Timberlake, who plays jazz organ at Gertrude's on Sundays and will concoct a classic macaroni-and-cheese casserole for the church-hall supper episode. Pablo Solanet, an artisan cheese maker from Maryland, will prepare wasabi tenderloin and goat-cheese cheesecake for the show with a coastal entertaining theme. Jerry Bair, a Galveston, Texas-based chef, will produce grilled grouper with peach couscous for the cowboy-coastal episode.

"We've located people who have a great love of their areas," Shields says. Each 30-minute show "is a nice balance of people who do food as a living and people who live it."

This is not your typical "from start-to-finish" cooking program, Shields says. The preparation of recipes will be broken up with location visits to restaurants and other dining spots, a "snack-attack" look at quick recipes, and short profiles of dining and entertainment-related products made in the United States. Tucked within the show as well will be brief lifestyle segments featuring nostalgic coastal commentaries by guests.

And then there's the delightfully kitschy "Kitchen Goddess" segment, with Andrea Farnum. Shields' assistant, a former caterer and events coordinator, will don vintage aprons for 60 seconds of lively advice on topics such as tiki party decorations, edible aphrodisiacs, and how to use oils and produce as beauty products.

Shields anticipates that the new program will be a hit with public broadcast stations around the United States. His first series, Chesapeake Bay Cooking With John Shields, which premiered in 1998, was picked up by nearly 70 percent of some 300 Public Broadcasting Service affiliates. "We ruled Phoenix," Shields says.

Coastal Cooking was designed to cover a larger swath of the country than its predecessor to ensure the national distribution necessary to woo potential sponsors "interested in something with wide appeal," Shields says. Phillips Seafood has agreed to underwrite the program.

Coastal Cooking will take its viewers far and wide, but it will also take them home to local landmarks, such as Baltimore's Lexington Market, and to local legends, such as Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is scheduled for the show's "Fry Babies" episode, in which she will whip together Southern fried oysters remoulade.

For more information on Coastal Cooking With John Shields, visit www.john

Marinated Penn Cove Mussels

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