Speaking with George Hirsch, author and highly acclaimed television legend – known worldwide for his cooking and lifestyle series and specials that have appeared on syndicated TV and radio, public television, PBS and Create TV stations for over 25 years, was fascinating and it was easy to see why he has amassed so many devoted viewers throughout the years. His communication skills and energetic personality are like rocket fuel. In a talk with Hamptons.com, Hirsch pointed out he was the first TV host to take a cooking series outside of the studio’s confines and feature lifestyle. Therefore, when he explained that The WNET Group, parent company of Long Island’s only NPR Station WLIW-FM, is launching George Hirsch Lifestyle Radio as a new 88.3 WLIW-FM radio show in the fall of 2021, his excitement was contagious.
Hirsch started off by explaining, “The radio component is a companion to my public television series. I have been on public television for 27 years. On public media, PBS, Create TV stations nationwide. We launched the first series back in 1994 and I am proud to say even at that point I was featuring some East End locations in that TV series.”
About the new radio show, he said, “We are greatly excited about this new project, this new component, this new extension of media with George Hirsch Lifestyle Radio, which will be a one-hour lifestyle program, weekly, that will give us an opportunity because it’s additional time that we have, whereas in the television series, it is 30 minutes at a time.” He continued, “The radio series will give us the time to be able to explore more from just not the East End, but also from very engaging guests that both make it a part-time and a full-time home here.” Chef, award-winning journalist, and life-long East End resident Alex Goetzfried will co-host.
When asked when he knew that cooking was going to be his life, Hirsch replied, “I was probably three-years-old. I actually got caught sneaking into the kitchen and climbing up, using the draws in the kitchen as a ladder and step stool to climb up onto the counter. I don’t think kids can get away with this today, but I was fascinated with the toaster and my parents woke to the smell and aroma of burning toast. That was my first affinity with food and cooking. I kind of always knew it from the very beginning. It was not fashionable back then to take a career in cooking and culinary arts. But food was always a passion and important in my family. It is kind of an extension what the television series and now the radio series is going to be about. You can imagine everyone gathers around the table and that is usually the center part of food and life.”
About the mentors in his life, Hirsch said, “I think it may have changed throughout the years. I had various mentors when I was young, in training me and guiding me. One even saying, ‘George you are just not going to excel in pastry.’ Yet, I won gold medals from the French Government when I was 15-years-old and stood out. They pushed me and prodded me that you need not just the culinary art, but also about the media itself. I think today I might get more grounded and inspired by just maintaining inspiration from being in whosoever company I am in, whether it’s personally or any media platform.”
When talking about a career highlight, he shared, “I think it was a moment that actually brought tears to my own eyes. This was during the kind of end of apartheid [in South Africa] and a group, a handful of chefs and myself, got to travel and be hosted by the South African Government at an event on how things were going to open up in South Africa, and when I was there, I had this epiphany because I was in a presentation that addressed childhood hunger and it brought me to a point where coming back to the U.S., I had to do something about it. The short of that story is, I started bringing back South African exchange students of color that might not have had the opportunity in South Africa to come here and train here to become chefs, and at the same time, develop a nationwide effort that became a global program in hunger relief for children in the United States. I received a humanitarian award for that, but the most import thing was it became a role model for other countries and other culinary and chef organizations.”
For more about George Hirsch, visit chefgeorgehirsch.com.