Vol. 16 No. 2 Spring 2004
Inside this ISSUE

A cooking show with a twist

Dr. Richard Hu
Dr. Richard Hu (Class of 1984) is an orthopedic surgeon with an unusual hobby. His day job is orthopedic surgery at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital; at night he’s a chef and television producer. His eight-part cooking show, Close to the Bone: Surgeons and Chefs was launched on the Canadian Learning Channel on March 23rd.

The show has an unusual premise: surgeons cooking cuts of meat they normally see in a much different environment. For example, a thoracic surgeon cooks ribs, a knee surgeon cooks a leg of lamb and a urologist cooks kidneys and testicles.

The set is designed along the lines of an operating room – a kitchen with drapes, an X-ray view books and instruments used for spinal, hip and knee surgery. In each show, a visit is paid to the butcher who describes the anatomy of the animal in question.

Two recipes are completed in each episode. Dr. Hu’s own contribution is an oxtail daube (a dish slowly braised in red wine) and an alligator-tail rice pilau.

Dr. Hu said he started cooking as a child but never had any formal instruction. “I've always enjoyed a good meal, as many of my friends will attest,” he said. “A few years ago, as I sat watching some of the cooking TV shows, I thought these people on the shows seemed very familiar. The chefs really were passionate about the food and most seemed to be sticklers for detail. It reminded me of surgeons and after that there wasn't a big leap to having surgeons talk about what they know a lot about – anatomy – and combining that with cooking.

In the kitchen with Dr. Richard Hu and show host Allan Shewchuk, a lawyer in Calgary as well as a cooking instructor and actor

Dr. Hu said the reaction to his idea for a television show was very good from patients, friends and colleagues but the reception was "less good" from the television networks. “I did try to get some people interested in broadcasting the show in Newfoundland by calling NTV as well as ASN. No-one wanted to talk to me about the show. That was a very common response and I have never had so much rejection since my experiences at the Saturday night dances in junior high school.”

In retrospect, Dr. Hu said he thinks that the concept was a little ahead of its time and the major networks will come around to seeing the attractiveness of this show. Fortunately, Canadian Learning Television took a gamble on it and agreed to air the show.

Is the idea just too strange? Dr. Hu said some people have told him that some of the more "different" recipes were not things that they would cook or eat, “However, that's true of things such as broccoli as well.”

When he first approached other doctors to be on the show, their initial reaction was that he was joking. “I suspect that my general humorous nature fooled them into believing that this was another of my hare-brained semi-thought out ideas that I was spouting off about that week. But when I actually asked them to commit some time and then when they saw the set, as well as the camera crew etc., they realized that this was the real deal. Now, I have mothers of optometrists calling me asking me to put their sons on TV to cook sheep's eyeballs. It was so easy when all I did was surgery!”

Dr. Hu said that surgeons and chefs are quite similar in their outlook on life. “Long periods of training, striving for good results, making sure that things run smoothly in their own worlds, are all commonalities that make the two worlds similar. The opportunity to bring these two worlds together and to produce an informative interesting TV show was the goal.”