Audience for 'You're the Chef' Continues to Grow

Published 03.22.2000


Pennsylvania College of Technology's "You're the Chef" continues to stir public television viewers. The 30-minute cooking series just completed another successful ratings period and is being picked up by several PBS stations nationwide, including WPSX-TV in State College.

In its second public television season, "You're the Chef" produced by Penn College's Office of College Information & Community Relations and the School of Hospitality in conjunction with PBS affiliate WVIA-TV in Pittston continues to show ratings growth.

With the exception of major sporting events (college football in the fall and auto racing in the winter), "You're the Chef" won its Saturday 12:30 p.m. time slot on WVIA during both the November and February ratings periods. On average, more than 10,000 households are tuning in the series on a weekly basis throughout the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region, the nation's 51st-largest television market.

"These are very solid ratings," commented Mark Thomas, vice president of television at WVIA. "I'm very impressed that the series continues to grow new audiences for public television and has shown ratings and viewership comparable to national cooking programs. The show is reaching the traditional PBS audience and reaches what we hope will be the future PBS audience, the younger demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds."

Hosted and produced by Chef Paul Mach, an assistant professor at Penn College's School of Hospitality, and Tom "I'm not a chef" Speicher, broadcast media specialist at the College, "You're the Chef" teaches the basic procedures required to produce tasty, yet practical, dishes and promotes cooking as a fun, creative activity. During each fast-paced episode, Mach offers his professional expertise, and Speicher, a cooking neophyte, represents the average viewer by quizzing Chef Paul with culinary questions.

"We are quite proud of the success of 'You're the Chef.' said Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour. "Obviously, the series meets the tastes of public television viewers, which is very gratifying. From the College's standpoint, 'You're the Chef' effectively markets the institution by extending the resources of our acclaimed School of Hospitality to the general public."

The series began on local cable in the Williamsport area in 1996 and was distributed to three million cable homes by the fall of 1997. Penn College teamed with WVIA to make "You're the Chef" into a public television series in the summer of 1998, and the series has been successfully airing on WVIA since October 1998.

During its first public television season, stations in State College (WPSX), Harrisburg (WITF) and Philadelphia (WYBE) aired the series. The Harrisburg and Philadelphia stations have committed to broadcast the second season of "You're the Chef" later this year. The second season of "You're the Chef" premieres Saturday, April 1, at 11:30 a.m. on WPSX in State College. "You're the Chef" continues to air Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. on WVIA.

In addition to the Pennsylvania stations, several PBS affiliates in markets across the country have indicated that they will air the series later in the year, including stations in New Orleans; Roanoke, Va.; Muncie, Ind., Austin, Texas; Athens, Ohio, and the statewide PBS systems in Montana and Idaho.

Internationally, Quebec TV will be airing the series throughout the Canadian province. To date, 11 stations/statewide systems covering more than 8 million U.S. TV households have committed to broadcast "You're the Chef" in 2000.

"In its second year of statewide broadcasting and first year of national offering, we're pleased with the excitement that 'You're the Chef' has created," Thomas said. "It's a very competitive market for cooking shows. To attract the attention that we have to this date is very promising and speaks well of the program.

"In this early phase of the national rollout, the show has established a solid base. We believe we can build on this base and grow 'You're the Chef'' into other markets and other parts of the country."

Second-season episodes of "You're the Chef" include "Mushroom Mania" (Six Mushroom Ragout with Savory Polenta), "Loads of Lasagna" (Sausage, Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna), "Super Soup" (Roasted Vegetable Soup) and "Sweet Sensation" (Bourbon Pecan Sweet Potato Pie). "You're the Chef" recipes and show tidbits are available via the series' Web site. Online visitors to "You're the Chef" also can enter the "Recipe Cravings Contest" for a chance to win an autographed cookbook from a past visiting chef at Penn College. In the last few months, recipes have been submitted not only by Pennsylvania residents, but by individuals throughout the country and around the world. In fact, the latest winning recipe is from Australia.

Mach and Speicher are currently in pre-production, planning new episodes for the third public television season of "You're the Chef" this fall. Once again, the episodes will be videotaped on Penn College's main campus in Williamsport, in a kitchen designed and built by faculty and students from the College's School of Construction and Design Technologies.