A Look At Chef James Beard’s Life In Atlanta Premiere Of ‘I Love To Eat’

Theatrical Outfit’s Atlanta premiere of “I Love to Eat” hits the stage this month.

Casey Gardner

Theatrical Outfit is cooking up a one-man play about the foodie’s foodie.

Celebrity chef James Beard was anointed as the “dean of American cookery.” He not only hosted the first food show on national TV in 1946, but he revolutionized the food industry.

You might recognize the name from the James Beard Awards, which honor excellence of those in the food and beverage industries.

Theatrical Outfit is telling Beard’s story with the Atlanta premiere of “I Love to Eat: Chef James Beard Spills the Beans.”

“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with director Clifton Guterman, chef Steven Satterfield of Atlanta’s Miller Union restaurant and Bill Murphey, who is portraying Beard.

Beard’s journey into the entertainment industry first began when he studied briefly at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He believes he was largely expelled due to his openness about being gay.

In the show, Beard makes no secret about his sexuality. In real life, he shared it openly with friends and colleagues within the food industry.

“I Love to Eat” is a one-man performance with live cooking. Bill Murphey, from left, who plays celebrity chef James Beard, is shown with director Clifton Guterman, “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes and chef Steven Satterfield. (Summer Evans/WABE)

After college, Beard traveled across Europe to study voice and theater acting before returning to the United States in 1927. Although he kept trying to get into performing onstage as an opera singer, he decided to go into what he knew best: cooking.

“It was just a part of his existence from the very beginning with his mother, who owned a boarding house with a restaurant. Beard grew up around the kitchen and around food,” Guterman said.

In today’s television industry, we have an entire network dedicated to food, but in Beard’s era, he WAS the food network.

Chef Satterfield said, “Today everything is kind of flashy and highly edited with a lot of drama. He [Beard] was just making a recipe. From what I can remember, he was just very straight-forward, simple, single camera and with him just cooking on camera.”

International chef Julia Child took direction from her friend James Beard when she was starting her career in television cooking. They appeared later together on TV when they co-hosted shows.

Among his philanthropic adventures, Beard also co-founded “Citymeals on Wheels.” It started in 1981 as a one-time food delivery to 6,000 elderly New York neighbors on Christmas. Since then, the operation has grown into a nonprofit organization that has delivered millions of meals to low-income and elderly people. Today, they serve over 18,000 meals a day in the New York area.

You can see the play at Theatrical Outfit’s Balzer Theater at Herren’s starting April 13 and running through May 5.