I Love to Eat

January 8 — February 10, 2013
On the U.S. Bank Main Stage

By James Still
Directed by Jessica Kubzansky
“Beautifully captures Beard’s zest for life.” —The Indianapolis Star

This new play celebrates the life and talent of a Portland, Oregon, original—James Beard.

Before Julia Child, before today’s proliferation of cooking shows and networks, there was James Beard, the first TV chef. He brought fine cooking to the small screen in 1946 and helped establish an American cuisine. But, as is often the case with pioneers, his early efforts on screen have been lost. He went on to become America’s first “foodie,” and the award bearing his name is still the prize most coveted by chefs. Playwright James Still invites you to meet the man described as “the face and belly of American gastronomy” in this play that recreates an evening at Beard’s New York home. 

PCS will join with Portland’s nationally-recognized food community to honor our homegrown culinary star.

Performance times:
Tuesday - Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m
Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Thursday matinees at noon

A full list of performances and dates will appear when you enter the ticketing section of the website.

I Love to Eat runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Please note: Herbal cigarettes are used onstage during this production.

View the cast and creative team bios.

View the playbill for I Love to Eat.

Learn more about accessibility options at PCS.

Performance Times

Evenings: Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Matinees: Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m.,
Thursdays at noon

*Note: These are general performance times. Certain productions may have exceptions. View the season calendar for more information.

This show's run time will be posted below the synopsis at left near the date of the first performance.

Production blog

2013 Year in Review

2013 Year in Review

31 December 2013 & Posted by Alice Hodge

It’s that time of year.


Surprise and Delight, Courtesy of Umpqua Bank

08 February 2013 & Posted by Ethan Keene

Last Thursday, after another fantastic performance of I Love to Eat starring Rob Nagle, Umpqua Bank generously treated our audience members to some delicious little morsels catered by our local French family bistro Chez Joly. Thank you Umpqua!


“Everyone Needs To Eat” – Growing Gardens

06 February 2013 & Posted by Shana

Portland Center Stage partnered with students from Portland State University’s Arts Advocacy class to create a series of blogs about non-profits working to end hunger. The students visited the organizations, interviewed staff, and wrote blogs about their experience from a personal perspective. These blogs will be featured right here, during the run of I Love to Eat. Our fourth installment features Growing Gardens.



Art and photos for I Love to Eat. View on Flickr »

Reviews and Features

Faddah Wolf | PortlandStageReviews.com [Review 23 Jan 2013]

James Beard (1903 – 1985) was Portland before Portland was Portland (or Portlandia, for that matter). Larger than life, big and ebulliant (as the on-stage character says in his hilarious ostentatious fanfare entrance, with Portland rose petals falling on him from the rafters — “Moderation? I’m against it!”) filled with an epicure’s passions (and as this show reminds us, he preferred “epicure,” an American English description, to the continental French words like “gourmand” and “cuisine”), a proto-Portland-foodie with the robust girth and appetites to match it, the quintessential host, world traveled and educated, yet with a love and dedication to his own very American, and yes, even home-grown local Portland flavor, openly gay, at least to close friends — Beard was, in a much less enlightened time, a trail blazer (pun somewhat intended) for many things we now consider common in our happy “Keep Portland Weird” city.

In James Still’s play, I Love To Eat, getting its West Coast Premiere at Portland Center Stage (oh why did it not World Premiere here in his home town? — the shame!), we meet Beard in all his over-the-top glory, in robe and silk pajamas to start, later in his trademark apron embroidered with his initials. We watch, rather enraptured, as he regales us as soirée host extraordinaire, hearing delightful dinner party gossip stories, such as his friendship with culinary queen, Julia Child (“I’m an inch taller than her, she’s an inch more famous than me.”), his travels from boyhood digging mussels on the Oregon coast with his mother, to forays into Opera around Europe and Theatre, before landing in his career as Chef by starting Hors D’oeuvres, Inc. in New York with friends, and lots of great re-living of his career on NBC as the first ever televised cooking show chef. You feel like you’re sitting down to drinks and canapés with the best of dinner party raconteurs.

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Byron Beck | Byronbeck.com [Review 18 Jan 2013]

EAT BEAT: “I Love to Eat” is more than just a great night of theater, it’s also an opportunity to spend time with a really cool guy.

Rob Nagle absolutely nails his portrayal of Oregon-born icon James Beard in a one-man show about a man many may have heard of, but may not know much about (except for those in the foodie world).

At Portland Center Stage, Nagle is not only able to pierce the membrane of a man who popularized the “American” style of cooking (there’s a great conversation about fried chicken embedded in this play) but he exposes the somewhat lonely soul of a man who not only loved to eat, but laugh, love and LIVE.

That’s the big message that “I Love To Eat” shares with its audience on the mainstage of the Armory. It’s not just about food, nor would it work if it was just about food; we have plenty of reality shows that do just that. No, this show is about the passions of one man, including his much missed and beloved Oregon, and how he was able to share that with not only with his dining companions but with the world. I could have spent the whole night listening to Nagel channel James Beard and his stories. And isn’t that what a good dinner host is supposed to do?

Opening night of this West Coast premiere was capped with a larger-than-life party, to benefit Portland’s soon-to-open public market featuring James Beard’s name, held in the lobby of the Gerding Theater featuring not one, but four, Portland-based James Beard Foundation winners including Gabe Rucker, Philippe Boulot, Corey Schreiber and Greg Higgins.

Bob Hicks | Oregon Arts Watch [Review 18 Jan 2013]

Once upon a time in the upscale eating houses of the last century, a dining room was a dining room and a kitchen was a kitchen, and never the flame would meet.

But something was stirring.

As the best restaurants took pains to disguise the existence of the back of the house and serve their customers in a patrician hush, millions of customers at America’s bustling corner diners sat at the counter, gulped their grub, and stared eagerly into one of the greatest improvisational floor shows devised by industrial humankind: the clattering, chattering, rough-and-rowdy turmoil of the short-order grill. Who needed radio or TV when you could watch a tattooed guy flipping a flapjack or hear a waitress shout out an order for “Adam and Eve on a raft”?

Once they escaped the slavery of their own home kitchens and ventured into the world of public eating, Americans knew instinctively that a kitchen is a theater. But it took a certain kind of chef/entertainer to bring the high and low worlds of cookery together and create one of the country’s favorite forms of show business, whether you were out on the town or entertaining in: Let’s all gather in the kitchen! In the new food world baked up by celebrity chefs from Julia Child to Paul Prudhomme to the traveling kitschmeister Guy Fieri, open kitchens and molecular gastronomy and pop-sociological references to “the third place” mix easily with food carts and rib joints and designer pizza palaces.

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Jonathan Frochtzwajg | Portland Monthly [Review 18 Jan 2013]

It is a strange-but-truism of humans’ strange-but-true psychology that the most sociable people are also often the loneliest. Famed chef James Beard was one such walking contradiction, at least as represented in Portland Center Stage’s new production about the Portland-born epicure. The one-man show, written by the Los Angeles–based James Still and directed by L.A.’s Jessica Kubzansky, is a well-staged and excellently acted—if not fully satisfying—“character” study of a man who was known for his clubbiness, but for whom countless dinner parties never quite stuck to the ribs.

First, for the nonfoodies among us (this reviewer included), an introduction: James Beard, born in Portland in 1903, helped come up with the concept of distinctly American cuisine, was America’s first television chef, and gave his name to “the Oscars of Food,” the James Beard Foundation Awards. Beard was a dyed-in-the-wool social animal, a consummate host, a razor-sharp wit, an unpretentious cook (his motto was, “good food, honestly prepared”), and a zealous sensualist. He was also a failed opera singer, an out gay man in a closeted society, and, as already stated, a rather lonesome person; it’s in bringing these darker, compelling facets of Beard’s life to light that I Love to Eat is most valuable.

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Kris Haines | The Crippled Critic [Review 18 Jan 2013]

I saw “I Love to Eat” at the perfect time in my life, I have just begun to cook and I’ve had enough successes that I’ve arrived at the “this is fun!” stage. If playwright James Still’s portrait of James Beard is accurate, Mr. Beard does not seem to have ever left that stage. He was a foodie, but not a food snob. My favorite parts of the play were the little pearls of wisdom he gives the audience about food, cooking, his own process, and tips and tricks.  One of these is his distaste for pretension, (he hated the word “cuisine” to describe American cookery.) There’s a moment where he lavishes praise on fellow TV-chef Julia Child’s garlic mashed potatoes, though he quick to wonder whether the cream sauce is necessary….

The play shares its name with Mr. Beard’s cooking show, the first of its kind, and the title does seem an apt description of the man and his philosophy. He loved to eat, and viewed food as a path to happiness. Some of us got to share in his love for food right there in the moment, as the actor (Rob Nagle)  prepared onion sandwiches for the first row….

The highest compliment I can pay the show is that it has inspired me to seek out one of James Beard’s cookbooks…. Throughout the show Mr. Beard insists that it was his mission to convince people that cooking is not something reserved for the elite, and I will take him at his word, his approach is very enticing to a beginner, and seems to start with a love for eating. I have that in spades, oh and I have a monogrammed apron just like his… I’m well on my way!



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