But Richard Rosendale, one of TV's newest celebrity chefs, says his greatest challenges come on the set of "Recipe Rehab," a Saturday morning show that begins airing Sept. 28 on CBS.
On the show, families submit a favourite high-calorie recipe. Two chefs then compete to crank out healthier, lower-calorie versions — and make them easy for amateurs to duplicate.
"Some of the recipes taste really good, but they're laden with fat and sugar and sodium and calories," Rosendale said. "Every recipe that was on the show, it was like, 'Yikes! This is going to be interesting.'"
Rosendale, U.S. captain for the international competition Bocuse d'Or in France earlier this year, faces off against California chef Vikki Krinsky throughout 11 episodes.
"Though I have a lot of competition experience, she's an expert in nutrition. And here I am cooking with butter," Rosendale said. "But it was an even playing field."
They shot four episodes a day, a pace requiring snap decisions on how to rehabilitate a meal.
The importance of his work was never lost on Rosendale, a native of Uniontown, Pa., who worked in Pittsburgh before opening a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. In 2009, the now-38-year-old father of two boys moved to Lewisburg in southern West Virginia — a state struggling with an obesity epidemic.
In the 2011-12 school year, nearly 28 per cent of fifth-graders screened by West Virginia University were considered obese. So are nearly one-third of West Virginia adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There are a lot of great cooking shows out there that are entertaining," Rosendale said. "But if I can do something that's also going to serve a purpose, I want to do that."
Nationwide, more than 23 million children and teenagers are considered overweight or obese, and Illinois-based Action for Healthy Kids says the numbers are "trending in a scary direction."
If childhood obesity isn't curbed, said spokesman Matthew Smith, 39 states can expect that more than 50 per cent of their adult population will be obese by 2030. And studies show that children are more sedentary than ever, spending hours a day on TV, computers, tablets and phones.
"But TV can still pay a role and does play a role in education," Smith said. "Any way we can get a message out that talks about healthy eating, about balanced eating, about active lifestyles ... is a positive. "
Rosendale pointed out that many cooking shows focus on dishes beyond either the imagination or skill set of a typical TV viewer,
"So rather than come up with dishes that people probably aren't going to eat," he said, "why not recreate what people are already eating?"
They can still enjoy spaghetti, for example. But "Recipe Rehab" explores how store-bought sauces are loaded with salt and how easy it is to make a fresher, better-tasting alternative.
At the end of each episode, the chefs illustrate their techniques and offer tips.
Rosendale resigned as The Greenbrier's executive chef and director of food and beverage in June to pursue other, unspecified opportunities. Now he acknowledges it was to do the show, which he hopes will continue after this season.
Before he left the White Sulphur Springs resort, he launched the 44-acre Greenbrier Farm to produce vegetables for his kitchen. The certified master chef also oversaw the opening of five new restaurants and The Greenbrier Casino Club.
"Recipe Rehab" — which used to air on ABC — is part of a new "Dream Team" programming block that CBS and Litton Entertainment announced last month. It also features "Jamie Oliver's 15-Minute Meals."
Oliver, too, has a West Virginia connection: In 2010, he produced "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" in Huntington after a report declared it America's fattest city. He created Huntington's Kitchen, leading classes that teach parents and children about unhealthy foods and healthy cooking. Today, the program is run by Cabell Huntington Hospital.
Dr. Rachel Johnson, nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, said TV is helpful in conveying a message and teaching skills, but what really counts is the example families set.
Healthy food should be readily accessible, attractive and a normal part of the daily diet. Put baby carrots and apples right in front in the refrigerator, Johnson said, and a bowl of grapes on the counter.
And keep at it. Research shows a child may reject a new food as many as 12 or 15 times. But Johnson said that if parents keep offering it, the child will eventually prefer it, whether it's skim milk or bananas.
"Don't give up. Don't force them, but have a rule: You have to taste it," she said. "It is hard not to revert to the chicken nuggets, to the frozen pizza. I know. I'm a mom. ... But over time, they will develop a preference for it."
Recipe Rehab: http://reciperehab.com/
Obesity report: http://bit.ly/16h7Xnf