Art Ginsburg, the delightfully dorky television chef known as “Mr. Food,” died Nov. 21 at his home in Weston, Fla., after a struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
His death was announced on his Web site.
Mr. Ginsburg — who enticed viewers for decades with a can-do focus on easy weeknight cooking and the tag line “Ooh! It’s so good!” — was diagnosed just over a year ago. The cancer had gone into remission after treatments and surgery but returned this month.
Mr. Ginsburg had an unlikely formula for success in the era of reality cooking shows, flashy chefs and artisanal foods. With a pleasantly goofy, grandfatherly manner and a willingness to embrace processed foods, he endeared himself to millions of home cooks via 90-second segments syndicated to 125 television stations around the country.
And though he published 52 Mr. Food-related cookbooks, selling more than 8 million copies, he was little known to the nation’s foodies and mostly ignored by the glossy magazines. That was the way he liked it.
“They’re on the Food Network. They’re getting a lot of national publicity. And they’re getting big money,” he said of fellow food celebrities during a 2010 interview with the Associated Press. “I was always the hometown guy. I don’t want to be the super celebrity. When you need bodyguards, that’s not my deal.”
Mr. Ginsburg grew up in the meat business and eventually started his own catering company. He made his television debut in 1975 in Upstate New York on a local morning program. His Mr. Food vignettes were syndicated in nine television markets by 1980.
His popularity peaked in 2007, when he was appearing on 168 stations.
Mr. Ginsburg was generous with the enviably broad reach of his culinary pulpit, frequently inviting up-and-coming celebrities to do guest appearances with him.
He “was a warm, gregarious man who knew food is more about love and sharing than a fancy ingredient list,” said Rachael Ray, whom Mr. Ginsburg invited on air long before she was a celebrity.
In recent years, Mr. Ginsburg eased his involvement in the day-to-day operations of the company he founded, Ginsburg Enterprises, which produces the television segments and oversees his many other ventures, including a line of houseware.
The company also produced television segments that did not star Mr. Ginsburg, billing them as the “Mr. Food Test Kitchen.” It plans to continue producing and syndicating those segments.
— Associated Press and staff reports