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The Religious Affiliation of the Frugal Gourmet
Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith was famous as "Frugal Gourmet", the star of a television cooking show. Smith was an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.

Jeff Smith's public career ended when male assistant chefs and other men who had worked for him brought charges of sexual harassment against him. His show was taken off the air soon thereafter, and settlements were reached with his accusers for an undisclosed financial sum.

Jeff Smith was regarded as something of an embarrassment to the United Methodist Church at the time, but today there are probably few people outside that denomination who remember that Smith was a member of it, or who even remember who Jeff Smith was. Smith's behavior was aberrant by United Methodist Church standards, but was considered normal and within GLBT culture. Smith was never tried or convicted of any crime.

From: Thomas S. McAnally, "Man claims 'Frugal Gourmet' molested him as a teenager", published by the United Methodist News Service, 27 January 1997 (http://www.wfn.org/1997/01/msg00053.html; viewed 12 November 2005):

Jeff Smith, better known as the 'Frugal Gourmet', has been sued by 36-year-old George Heitman of Tacoma, Wash., who alleges the popular TV chef sexually assaulted him when he was 15.

The suit, filed Jan. 23 in Pierce County Superior Court, alleges that Smith "pursued a pattern and practice of grooming high-school-age boy employees for sexual intercourse" when he ran a Tacoma food-service business.

According to a copyrighted story in the Seattle Times, Jan. 24, the lawsuit is sure to be challenged in part because of the age of the allegations. The court papers also allege Smith assaulted other unnamed young men. Smith, 58, is married and has two sons.

Attempts by United Methodist News Service to reach Smith were unsuccessful but his attorney, Ed Winskill of Tacoma, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer his client "absolutely maintains he is innocent of this charge."

Smith is an ordained United Methodist minister but has not been under appointment by the bishop and cabinet of the church's Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference since he "voluntarily located" in 1973.

"Location" is the process by which the authority of a clergy person to exercise the rights and privileges of a minister throughout the United Methodist Church is withdrawn. Once ordained, always ordained, according to United Methodist officials, but full clergy rights -- inluding annual appointment in an annual conference -- may be surrendered or removed.

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Webpage created 12 November 2005. Last modified 12 November 2005.
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