Jeff Smith, a popular advocate for simple and multicultural cooking on public TV, died in his sleep July 7  in Seattle. He was 65 and suffered from heart disease. The Frugal Gourmet, hosted by the white-bearded Methodist chaplain in a striped apron, aired on PBS from 1983 to 1997, making Smith a top chef on the network after Julia Child had established cooking as a staple for public TV. Smith virtually disappeared from public view in the late 1990s after a number of men accused him of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers.
In most sexual abuse cases, it’s one person’s word against another’s. In the Frugal Gourmet’s case, it was his word against 20 or more. Four days before he was to face trial in Tacoma, Wash., Jeff Smith, host of the popular PBS cooking show, agreed July 1  to pay an undisclosed sum to seven young men who had accused him variously of groping, kissing and raping them when they were teenagers. “Based on my interviews with a lot of the principals involved, I think it would have been pretty ugly,” says Deborah Holton, a Portland Oregonian reporter who has followed the story closely. Court TV had asked to cover the trial, and it could have featured testimony against Smith from more than a dozen people who didn’t sue him, as well as the seven who did.