It’s not uncommon to turn on the television and find a Yale alumnus filling the screen. But move away from C-SPAN and cable news channels, and the number of former Yalies begins to drop. One recent graduate, however, is forging a path into new television territory as he expands Yale’s presence to the Food Network.
Two years ago, with a successful season of his New Haven public access cooking show “Camupus Cuisine” under his belt, and graduation only a few months away, Dave Lieberman ’03 was approached by the Food Network about taking his show to the national level. After first spending some time after graduation working to develop recipes as a chef in restaurants in New York, Lieberman is now ready to begin his rise to foodie idol: His new show, “Good Deal with Dave Lieberman,” which features the former Bulldog showing viewers how to combine simple ingredients to create meals for special occasions, will premiere at the end of this month.
In a phone interview, Lieberman explained that “most young people need some motivation to get in the kitchen, and a great reason to cook is the people you care about.” In keeping with this philosophy, on each episode, Lieberman shows viewers how to prepare a meal for a specific occasion, whether hosting a backyard barbecue or a romantic anniversary dinner. He also takes his viewers to the market and provides tips on choosing ingredients and cooking on a budget.
Lieberman’s post-graduation plans were a long time in the making. By his freshman year at Yale, Lieberman was regularly impressing friends with delicious meals, even cooking for his a cappella group, the Alley Cats, when the group toured in Florida.
A fellow Alley Cat, Andy Sandberg ’05, fondly remembers Lieberman’s skills.
“I don’t know if Dave uses any secret ingredients, but I have to admit that I caught him cooking chicken one night with an open bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup in his hand,” Sandberg said. “I wasn’t about to start asking questions, because the food always tasted good, and I was usually relaxing on the beach while Dave was standing over the grill.”
Lieberman’s friends were so impressed by his cooking abilities and entertaining kitchen banter that they suggested he share his talent with a larger audience. In the days before the birth of YTV, cable access provided the only opportunity for undergraduates to get on the air, so Lieberman assembled a team of fellow students and began producing his own show.
The show, “Campus Cuisine,” brought the TV audience into the kitchen of Lieberman’s apartment, where, on each episode, he taught a fellow student how to make a new dish.
Guests on “Campus Cuisine” sometimes walked away with more than just cooking skills. Natalie Bevacqua ’06 and James Huerta ’05 actually met on the set for a blind date-themed episode and have been together ever since.
“It’s really great to have your first date on tape,” Huerta said, admitting that the couple has watched it once since the premiere.
Lieberman has always loved to cook — some of his very first memories are of helping his father prepare Passover dinner. Fascinated by the process of turning a bunch of ingredients into a delicious meal, he became an avid fan of television cooking shows.
“On Saturday mornings, when most kids would be watching cartoons, I’d be tuned into the cooking shows,” Lieberman said. “I did find time for ‘the A-Team’, though.”
When Lieberman was seven years old, he made his first leap into the kitchen.
“I saw a recipe on television that I wanted to make, so I bought all the ingredients and spent the afternoon cooking for my family,” he recalled. “It was salmon with Italian dressing wrapped in lettuce — and it was awful!”
Now beginning to establish himself on the other side of the television screen, Lieberman is also making his case for celebrity chefdom with a new cookbook: “Young and Hungry: More Than 100 Recipes for Cooking Fresh and Affordable Food for Everyone.” This volume promises “simple and delicious” recipes perfect for helping twenty-somethings discover their inner Julia Child. The book, like Lieberman’s television show, is organized by occasion, making it simple to determine which dish to prepare for Monday night football or Friday’s big date.
Lieberman has some advice for the culinary-inclined romantics on campus. When asked to name the best food to cook for a date, he doesn’t hesitate, despite his own traumatic history.
“Salmon,” Lieberman said. “It feels elegant and special; it’s really easy to cook, almost impossible to screw up and has a very sexy texture and color.”