Huell Howser may not be a national treasure, but he certainly was a Southern California one. The longtime television personality ran his California's Gold show for many years on Los Angeles-area channel KCET before passing away in 2013, but his homey legacy and unending fascination with the smaller things in life lives on.
Recently, KCET’s YouTube page unlocked a bunch of previously unseen episodes of Visiting With Huell Howser, a show which took the same tack as California's Gold by featuring the affable Tennessean doing oddly charming impromptu interviews with locals who, invariably, had something worthwhile to say. Often, that talk revolved around food.
Here are five of the best Huell Howser food gems unearthed by KCET, from a sauerkraut maker in Silver Lake to an old-school mochi-making party in Garden Grove. Enjoy.
Howser tackles the history of pizza head-on in this one, starting off at Larchmont’s Village Pizzeria before hopping magically out to the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. He yuks it up with event-goers, gawks at the newfangled pizza technology, and generally remains amazed that the humble pizza pie has come so far.
One of Los Angeles’ oldest restaurants, Yamashiro has been heading towards an uncertain future for some time. But it’s still there for the moment, and was still thriving when Howser visited. There’s obviously a lot of history to the place, but Howser mostly seems to enjoy leaning on a fence outside while conducting his interview in what has to be his most casual performance yet. Bonus points for Howser being amazed at a vacuum at one point.
Howler heads to Garden Grove in this one, to a small farm making mochi by hand. It’s a pretty fascinating look at a food you may never have cared to learn more about, and the cultural traditions are strong throughout. Everyone’s outfits are predictably stuck in time, of course, but the Howser’s charm spans across all decades.
Who knew that there was a small pickle and sauerkraut maker right off the 5 Freeway near Silver Lake? Howser does, chatting it up with a member of the Kruegermann family at their 25,000 square foot facility. This one is worth watching just to hear Huell try to tackle the word sauerkraut over and over again.
This is vintage Howser, as he starts at a dry cleaners and within a minute is talking to the owner about pita bread — of which they have plenty on hand, naturally. From there, things jump to the pita manufacturing plant and, soon enough, Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale.