Producer Arthur Smith: “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Reach” and his Wife’s Brisket

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 4
May 10, 2023
Arthur Smith (right) with Gordon Ramsay

“We have become a nation of foodies,” Arthur Smith, executive producer of hits such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares,” said.

Food, food television and cooking is in a much different place than it was around 20 years ago, when “Hell’s Kitchen” came along. Debuting in 2005, “Hell’s Kitchen” was the first successful food show on network television; there had been successful shows, but they were on Food Network and other cable channels.

On “Hell’s Kitchen,” aspiring culinary professionals with varying levels of experience compete on different teams in a progressive elimination format. They face a variety of challenges, including serving guests in a professional environment.

Smith, whose background is in producing sports, admits he was not a foodie when he started producing the show.

“I was shown a tape of Gordon Ramsay doing a show in the UK, called “Hell’s Kitchen,” Smith said. “I loved Gordon right away. I could see that he was a special personality. And I loved the title of the show. I did not like the show.”

The UK version was Ramsay teaching celebrities and disciplining them in his “Gordon Ramsay” way. Smith wanted to make the US version more aspirational and broad.

Smith remembers his early meetings with Ramsay.

“He would say in his charming way, ‘You know absolutely nothing about food,’” Smith said. “There were a couple of swear words thrown in there.”

Smith would reply, “I do know something about making television.”

When Smith asked what great qualities every chef needs to have, Ramsay said palate, leadership, creativity, etc.

“At that point I said to him, ‘I promise you that everything that we do in the show will hearken back to one of those key qualities,’” Smith said. “We’re going to put some sportsmanship into it. We’re going to build a restaurant. We’re going to have two sides. We’re going to have two teams.’”

By the end of that conversation, Smith got a “High Five” out of Ramsay, and they were on their way.

While Smith was trying to figure out the puzzle that was the US version of “Hell’s Kitchen,” he had dinner with his wife at an Italian restaurant, and everything started falling into place.

Photo Credit Zach Lyons Photography – Courtesy of Future PLC

It was an open kitchen and Smith was “obsessed” with everything that was going on. He saw the chefs, the timing, the orders going into — and food coming out of — the kitchen.

“‘Wait a second,’” Smith said. “‘This is kind of like sports. I know sports. I came from sports.’ ‘Hell’s Kitchen,” when you break it down, there’s a pre-game, where you’re watching them get ready; there’s the game, which is the dinner service; and then there’s the post game, which is the aftermath: breaking down what they did, sweating it out in the dorm and worrying about who’s going to go home.”

While Smith doesn’t classify himself as a foodie, he admits that his palate has matured. And he does enjoy good food. Arthur’s wife, Wendy’s, “sensational” brisket recipe is below.

“You can’t be around Gordon Ramsay without picking up something,” he said. For example, Smith now knows that Worsetershire sauce is the key ingredient to a great hamburger. And that when you make Beef Wellington, you should not slice it too early, because it will dry out.

A pioneer in nonfiction television, Smith’s experience goes beyond food. Other programs range from “American Ninja Warrior” and “Mental Samurai” to “I Survived a Japanese Game Show.” Smith is the author of the new inspirational memoir, “Reach: Hard Lessons and Learned Truths from a Lifetime in Television.”

“Over my career. I have learned and applied what I call the power of reach,” Smith said. “[It’s] the power of extending yourself. You only realize your full potential [when] you reach beyond what you think you can do.”


Reach is the difference between “a pipe dream and what you haven’t dared to try,” he said.

Whether you are thinking about auditioning for “Hell’s Kitchen,” changing your career path or for instance, writing your memoir, you don’t know what’s possible until you reach for it.

For my full conversation with Arthur Smith, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Learn more about Arthur Smith and his new book, “Reach: Hard Lessons and Learned Truths from a Lifetime in Television.”

* * *

Wendy’s Brisket

2 cups ketchup

1/2 prepared mustard

3/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 cup water

1 (4-41/2 pound) brisket

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and cornstarch.

Remove 1 cup of sauce to a small bowl, add the water.

Mix well and pour into the pan.

Place the brisket in a pan and pour the remaining sauce over the meat.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Roast 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until meat is fork-tender.

Remove meat from pan and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

Serve topped with the pan drippings.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.” Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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