Jeffrey L. Smith (January 22, 1939 – July 7, 2004) was the author of several best-selling cookbooks and the host of The Frugal Gourmet, a popular American cooking show which began in Tacoma, Washington, in 1973 and later moved to WTTW-TV in Chicago, where it aired nationally on PBS from 1983 to 1997.
Smith was born on January 22, 1939. He graduated from the University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Tacoma, Washington with a degree in philosophy and sociology in 1962, and then, in 1965, from Drew University Theological School in New Jersey, which ordained him a minister in the United Methodist Church. He served as a chaplain at UPS, then opened the Chaplain’s Pantry, a deli and kitchen supply store in Tacoma, where he also offered cooking classes to the public.
Smith began his television career in 1973 at a local PBS station, KTPS (now KBTC) in Tacoma, with a show called Cooking Fish Creatively. In 1983, after selling the Chaplain’s Pantry, he moved to WTTW in Chicago, which took his program — now renamed The Frugal Gourmet — nationally to PBS stations. The show ran for 11 seasons, a total of 261 episodes. 
Over the course of his career, Smith published numerous cookbooks, such as Recipes from the Frugal Gourmet (1977), The Frugal Gourmet (1984), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine (1986), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American (1987), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines (1989), The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors (1990), The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas (1991), The Frugal Gourmet’s Culinary Handbook (1991), The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook (1992), The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian (1993), and The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast (1995).
Smith was regarded as a “genius” by some and as a “tyrant” by others. Kathy Casey, a Seattle Times food columnist and longtime friend of Smith’s, described him as a knowledgeable and generous man who “…knew more about food and culture than anybody I know in the food world.” She said he donated both money and time to charitable causes and helped individuals get started in the food industry, even after his retirement.
Smith also had his share of detractors. Irena Chalmers, a faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America and president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, once described him as “the Frugal Gourmet, who is neither”.Chicago Tribune food and wine columnist William Rice wrote, “I’ve tried to cook his stuff, and let’s say it was hit or miss. Some things worked and others didn’t.”Newsweek writer Laura Shapiro criticized him as “a prime example of prominent cooks who may compromise their integrity by being paid to recommend food products and kitchen ware.” She cited The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook as “…especially shocking … the cookbook as infomercial”. In a 1992 Harper’s Magazine article, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison ridiculed him as “…a purveyor of patronizing poppycock … conveyed with the kind of mock anger that is always a mask for real anger.” Smith brushed aside such criticism: “Not many people read Harper’s,” he said. “That’s a very small audience.” He continued, “People criticize me for enjoying good food when I use the word frugal. Frugal doesn’t mean cheap. It means you don’t waste your money. They haven’t read my books. They don’t know the meaning of the word.”