CHICAGO -- Art Ginsburg, the delightfully dorky television chef known as Mr. Food,died at his home in Weston, Fla., Wednesday following a struggle withpancreatic cancer. He was 81.
Ginsburg - who enticed viewers for decades with a can-do focus on easyweeknight cooking and the tagline "Ooh! It's so good!" - was diagnosedjust over a year ago. The cancer had gone into remission following earlytreatments and surgery, but returned earlier this month.
Ginsburg had an unlikely formula for success in this era of realitycooking shows, flashy chefs and artisanal foods. With a pleasantlygoofy, grandfatherly manner and a willingness to embrace processedfoods, Ginsburg endeared himself to millions of home cooks via 90-secondsegments syndicated to 125 local television stations around thecountry.
And though he published 52 Mr. Food-related cookbooks,selling more than 8 million copies, he was little known to the nation'sfoodies and mostly ignored by the glossy magazines. That was the way heliked it.
"They're on the Food Network. They're getting a lotof national publicity. And they're getting big money," he said of fellowfood celebrities during a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. "Iwas always the hometown guy. I don't want to be the super celebrity.When you need bodyguards, that's not my deal."
Ginsburg grew upin the meat business, and eventually started his own catering company.He made his television debut in 1975 in upstate New York on a localmorning program. His Mr. Food vignettes were syndicated in ninetelevision markets by 1980. His popularity peaked in 2007, when he wasappearing on 168 stations.
He also was generous with theenviably broad reach of his culinary pulpit, frequently invitingup-and-coming celebrities to do guest appearances with him.
"Art Ginsberg was a warm, gregarious man who knew food is more aboutlove and sharing than a fancy ingredient list," said Rachael Ray, whoGinsburg invited on air long before she was a huge celebrity. "He was asupportive and loyal friend and I'll miss his smile and warm hugs. ThisThanksgiving I'm thankful I knew him."
In recent years,Ginsburg eased his involvement in the day-to-day operations of thecompany he founded, Ginsburg Enterprises Incorporated, which producesthe television segments and oversees his many other ventures, including aline of housewares. The company also produced television segments thatdid not star Ginsburg, billing them as the "Mr. Food Test Kitchen." Itplans to continue producing and syndicating those segments