The James Beard Award winner has hosted her PBS series for five seasons.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
September 11, 2018
Photo credit: Baxter Miller

Vivian Howard, head chef and co-owner of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, has carved out a unique niche in food television. While most networks and streaming services are rife with culinary battles, how-to series, or single-episode profiles of prolific chefs, Howard’s A Chef’s Life has taken a more personal approach, letting viewers follow her work life and home life as she operates her restaurant, creates dishes, and delves deeply into local and quintessentially Southern ingredients. But while it was announced last July that the series would end after five seasons, Howard will bring the series to a close this fall with a final, seasonally-appropriate one-hour special.

Beginning in 2013, the docu-series examined Howard’s homecoming to North Carolina as she and her husband uprooted from New York City’s culinary scene to open a restaurant at the invitation of Vivian’s parents. As the show’s opening credits reiterate each episode, the series is about more than just the menu, and includes moments of Howard raising her twins, working on the family farm, and “exploring the South on ingredient at a time.” In those explorations, Howard has introduced viewers to a variety of farmers, producers, and purveyors, some of whom will be making an appearance in the finale special. Titled A Chef's Life Harvest Special the hourlong episode will see Howard host a dinner party for a handful of the more memorable characters as she prepares signature Southern ingredients one more time.

"After five seasons, only a handful of dishes remain on Vivian’s bucket list," a statement from PBS reads. "In this final chapter, she tackles them all: Vivian and Ms. Lillie clean out Warren Brothers’ pepper patch to make this late summer relish some call chow chow and others call 'Southern kimchi.' Vivian’s search for a couple of quintessential North Carolina ingredients take her to opposite ends of the state. She finds pawpaws—a tropical-tasting fruit—in a backyard orchard near Goldsboro, NC and heads to the North Carolina foothills to see an old-fashioned sorghum pressing where the juice from the sorghum cane is cooked down to a rich, sweet molasses."

A Chef's Life Harvest Special is set to premiere October 22 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS and the network is also celebrating the conclusion of the series by streaming every previous episode on pbs.org and on the PBS app now through November 30.

Throughout its run, A Chef's Life has garnered accolades ranging from a James Beard Award, Peabody award, and two Daytime Emmy awards. "A Chef’s Life has been more than just a TV show for a lot of people," Howard said. "I’m happy we have the harvest special as the celebratory capstone that the series deserves."

And Howard isn't leaving PBS altogether. She's teaming up with the same production company behind A Chef's Life for a new series focusing on the anthropology and intersection of different food cultures which will air sometime in 2019.

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