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Penn College’s ‘You’re the Chef’ Begins Airing in Japan

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s public television cooking series, “You’re the Chef,” is no longer a national show. It’s an international series, thanks to recent distribution in Japan.

The Emmy-nominated and Telly Award-winning series is airing throughout Japan via an educational satellite station. “You’re the Chef” began airing there earlier this month after all 14 episodes from the series’ fifth public television season were dubbed into Japanese.

“Needless to say, it’s funny watching ourselves and School of Hospitality students talk in Japanese,” laughed Tom Speicher, broadcast media specialist at Penn College and co-host/co-executive producer of “You’re the Chef.” “The scary part is, I think I can actually understand Chef Paul’s Japanese alter ego.”

The series features the expertise of Chef Paul Mach, an assistant professor and master teacher at Penn College’s School of Hospitality. Mach works with Speicher, a cooking novice, to produce practical recipes made with readily available ingredients.

“We obtain all our ingredients for ‘You’re the Chef’ from Wegmans, but I don’t think there’s a Wegmans in Japan,” Mach chuckled. “Still, I’m sure with the variety of dishes we make, some will be very appealing to our Japanese viewers. I just wonder if they will think there is any humor between Tom and me!”

The unique interaction between Mach and Speicher is often cited by viewers and programmers as the characteristic that distinguishes “You’re the Chef” from so many other public television cooking series.

U.S. Advertisement, a California company that buys television programming for the Asian market, approached Speicher in January about acquiring the Japanese rights for “You’re the Chef.” The company discovered “You’re the Chef” through the series’ popular Web site.

“After we sent them a demo tape, the company’s representative could see, despite the language barrier, that ‘You’re the Chef’ is a fun show, and that viewers can easily learn from Chef Paul,” Speicher said. “We were quite pleased when they decided to pick us up.”

The episodes from “You’re the Chef’s” current season will air in Japan over the next two years. Speicher said he’s hopeful that future seasons of “You’re the Chef” also will end up in Japan. Production begins on “You’re the Chef’s” new season this June on Penn College’s main campus in Williamsport.

“It’s safe to say that, when we started ‘You’re the Chef’ on local cable several years ago, we never imagined the show would be seen by an international audience, let alone a non-English-speaking country,” said Speicher. “It truly is amazing how this show has blossomed.”

“You’re the Chef” began in 1996 on local cable access in Williamsport. Two years later, Penn College collaborated with WVIA-TV, the PBS-member station in northeastern Pennsylvania, to mold the show into a public television series. After airing on PBS affiliates throughout the state for a few years, “You’re the Chef” went national in 2001. Over the past two years, the show has aired in nearly half the country, including all five of the nation’s top markets.

“You’re the Chef”has already generated some feedback from its new Japanese market.

“Even though we just started airing there, we have received some e-mail messages from Japan,” noted Speicher. “Of course, I can’t read them, because they are in Japanese. Hopefully, they like the show. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some more Penn College students from Japan!”

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