The television food scene has been kind to Memphis this year.
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri recently visited six Memphis-area restaurants for his Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” all of which have opened within the past few years.
Fieri filmed tutorials of how to make best-selling menu items with the chefs of the Elegant Farmer, Rizzo’s Diner, Three Angels Diner and South of Beale in Memphis, as well as Memphis BBQ Co. and Memphis Street Café in Mississippi.
Shortly thereafter, Travel Channel/Food Network ventured to Four Way (Grill) Restaurant at 998 Mississippi Blvd. to feature the historic soul food joint on Food Paradise.
And now, “Chuck’s Eat the Street” will air on the Cooking Channel Tuesday, Oct. 23, for its “Taste of Soul” edition, showcasing Grawemeyer’s, Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs, Rock ‘n’ Dough Pizza, The Peanut Shoppe and Felicia Suzanne’s.
Hosted by Chuck Hughes, the show’s premise is to avoid the more “touristy” streets, and instead discover and elevate a lesser-known street.
“When you hear about Memphis, you always hear about Beale Street, which is great, but there’s a lot of partying,” Hughes said. “For me, being on Main Street, actually going down that street and traveling down it on the tramway, I feel that you get a bit of a better vibe of what Memphis is.”
Hughes got to sit down and talk with the restaurateurs of each eatery, learn about what got them into the food industry, and also cook and try several of the most popular menu items.
“It’s really about showcasing these passionate chefs and bringing that to the screen,” Hughes said. “We try to showcase old and new and everything in between. Ultimately, it’s about the viewer learning how to make these foods and to see that there is so much authentic, great, amazing stuff happening in their own backyards.”
At Grawemeyer’s, which had just opened when “Chuck’s Eat the Street” crews visited in mid-August, Hughes was introduced to chess pie for the first time.
“It was one of those things that’s very, very simple, but then you eat it and you’re like, ‘Wow. How can something so simple be that good?’” Hughes said.
Not only did Hughes get to visit and eat ribs at the Rendezvous’ iconic restaurant at 52 S. Second St., he also visited the warehouse off North Main, which ships more than 2,000 pounds of ribs worldwide daily.
Meanwhile, Hughes was inspired by The Peanut Shoppe’s owner Riddah Abu-Zaineh’s fervor for everything peanut-related.
“Whether it’s the roasting, whether it’s the quality, whether it’s eating them, whether it’s talking about them, he’s just totally, totally passionate and loves what he does and keeping that tradition alive,” Hughes said. “It’s been there for almost 100 years and they’ve been roasting peanuts the same way they did in the beginning of the century.”
At Felicia Suzanne’s, Hughes tried fried catfish, beer and bacon collard greens and grits.
“She walks a fine line between high-end and casual, and it works great,” Hughes said. “All really bold, Southern flavors, local ingredients, and obviously, amazing technique.”
And at Rock ‘n’ Dough, Hughes tasted the Elvis-inspired, wood fired pancake with fried bananas and mascarpone peanut butter dressing.
Hughes and his crew stayed at The Peabody hotel, and were also able to visit Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, although it’s not part of the show.
“There’s just such a sense of history in Memphis that you can’t not feel if you’re there,” Hughes said. “As much as I discovered the food, I also discovered the city.”
Memphis is among six cities that have been filmed for “Chuck’s Eat the Street.” The others are Portland, Maine; New Orleans; San Francisco; Philadelphia; and Anchorage, Alaska.
The show airs Tuesday, Oct. 23, on the Cooking Channel at 7:30 p.m.