'Campfire Cafe' ready to make debut on Charter cable channel

Monday, December 11, 2006

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- When cable television subscribers tune into "Campfire Cafe" for the first time Dec. 18, they won't get to see exactly the same outdoor cooking show that has been airing for five years on satellite -- there are two new co-hosts who bring their own unique perspectives to cooking under the stars.

But the main ingredients are still in place -- equal parts family entertainment, tasty results and the joy of cooking outdoors, according to co-hosts Pamela Alford and Larry Wisehart.

"Campfire Cafe" will begin airing Monday through Sunday at 8:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Charter cable channel 11, said Alford, who was one of the creators of the show with original host Johnny Nix. But Nix recently quit to spend more time at home, so now Alford hosts the show with Wisehart, who has also been with the show from the start as its sales and marketing director.

The changes with the new co-hosts will be noticeable, he said.

"It's more informational," he said. "There are a lot of cooking tips and food tips. We have kicked it up a notch or two with recipes, we're really doing gourmet food under an open fire. Before, we did some really nice recipes, but we've kicked it up."

This is the fifth year for the show, which is produced in Marble Hill and shot on locations across the country. Until now, it's been on DISH and DIRECT satellite systems. Wisehart said it has been available in 66 million households each week.

The one thing that won't change is the taste of the food, he said.

"The recipes have always been Pam's anyway," he said. "They were her recipes and she directed Johnny. She and I have always been behind the scenes all along. Rather than hire a new host when Johnny left, we said, 'What the heck? We've been doing it all along anyway.'"

Wisehart describes himself as "the guy" on the show. He enjoys using open fire, steel and cast-iron dutch ovens. Alford, who has written an outdoor cookbook, brings the expertise, he said.

"She's the feminine side of it," he said.

But those unfamiliar with the show shouldn't expect what many think of outdoor food.

"This is not s'mores and hot dogs and beans," Wisehart said. "We do just anything. Anything you can cook indoors, we can cook outdoors."

The two recently filmed a series at Opryland that featured an island theme. They've also filmed a segment with Oprah Winfrey's personal chef. But Wisehart thinks people are really drawn to the cooking and the personalities.

"There's a lot of interaction between the two of us," he said. "I'm the cowboy with boots and a big belt buckle. But I've liked cooking all my life."

Both see the Charter debut as a big step for the show. Wisehart points to the 35,000 area households who subscribe to the cable company's network. So far, they have taped 160 shows.

"Food is a universal draw for people," he said. "Everybody has to eat. And a fire draws people. People will come to see an outdoor fire. And as long as there's a fire, you might as well be cooking something around it."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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