Cat Neville Has Big Plans For Emmy-Nominated ‘TasteMAKERS’ — And A New Gig In Hermann
For 22 years, if you cared about food in St. Louis, you took your cues from Cat Neville. The co-founder of Sauce started a second food monthly, Feast, not long after leaving Sauce in 2010, and soon after that started “Feast TV” on Nine PBS (KETC), bringing her love of cooking and eating to local screens. She was a cheerleader for local talent, a tastemaker for local gourmands and a glamorous presence in a city that’s often short of them.
And then she went national, launching “TasteMAKERS” through Nine PBS for a national audience in 2018. In its first two seasons, the show drew a coast-to-coast audience (it aired in 170 media markets, including all 30 of the biggest). In recent weeks, its second season notched a Daytime Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Culinary Series.
But the pandemic upended plans for a third season of “TasteMAKERS.” Like many PBS shows, “TasteMAKERS” has to come up with its own funding, and that funding dried up after COVID-19 shut down the country.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Neville said she is working to line up new financing. She feels confident that a third season will be on the air by the spring of 2022.
“It is disappointing that the funding for the show was derailed during the pandemic,” Neville said. “But there’s tremendous interest in bringing it back. The stations are like, ‘Would you please bring it back?’
“People love this show,” she continued. “And I hear from people across the country who email me and tell me how much they like this type of storytelling around food. These products are the foundation of what makes American food so great. And they’re so regional.” That’s why, she said, the show is only in part a food show; it’s also a travel show. “It’s not just, ‘Here’s a great cheesemaker, let’s talk about this cheese,’ but, ‘Let’s show the environment where they are.’”
As far as funding, Neville added, “I have some really significant irons in the fire.”
In the meantime, she has a new gig. Neville left Feast in April, taking just one week of vacation before starting a new job as chief curator at the Hermann Farm + Museum in Hermann, Missouri. It’s home to a museum that celebrates the German settlement of the area, a working distillery and a history that encompasses the founding of Missouri’s wine industry, which, Neville explains, led to California’s as well. (The Dierberg family, which owns the farm and museum, also owns nearby Hermannhof Winery.)
To Neville, the work exploring and telling the farm’s story fits neatly into the interests she increasingly focused on at Feast and now explores on “TasteMAKERS” — the land where food and drink come from and the people who cultivate, harvest and prepare it.
She said the job feels like a logical next step for a career that’s been devoted to exploring the craft of food and beverage. Still, she’s not sure she’d be there today if not for the reset offered by the pandemic and some soul-searching, in which she realized that being a magazine publisher kept her away from what she loved best.
“Once I started doing the television work, I really started to understand what made my heart sing,” she said. “And that was being in the field, and being connected to people directly. When you’re the publisher and the editor of a magazine, a lot of the work is behind a computer. I wanted to put my boots on and be out directly working with people.”
Neville said she was shocked by the Daytime Emmy nod, which came out of the blue two weeks ago. She’ll find out if she’s won on July 18 (she’s certain she won’t). But in this case, she said, it really is an honor just to be nominated.
“Compared to these other productions, 'TasteMAKERS' is much, much smaller,” she said. Being nominated alongside “Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro” (hosted by Ina Garten) and “Lidia’s Kitchen” (hosted by Lidia Bastianich) has her starstruck — no matter what happens in two weeks.
“That is the thing that’s just so humbling, amazing,” she said. “[These are] people who I deeply admire for the quality of their work.”
Neville cited Pati Jenich, host of “Pati’s Mexican Table,” which also airs on PBS, as a particular inspiration.
“She’s an icon in being able to tell really deep and meaningful stories about food,” she said. “What interests me about food storytelling is not just the surface. I want to dig into the culture, the meaning, the stories of the people and how they do what they do. And she does that really well.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.