‘Check, Please!’ celebrates 10 tasty years

“Check, Please! Bay Area” – the TV show made popular by local foodies – is having a birthday.

The KQED program, which airs on Thursdays and Sundays, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a “Taste & Sip” party June 2 at the San Francisco Design Center. More than 40 restaurants featured on the show over the years will provide a variety of delicacies.

“Check, Please!” is hosted by wine expert Leslie Sbrocco. Each episode features three Bay Area diners who dish about a favorite restaurant.

The guests visit each other’s recommended restaurants anonymously. On the show, they sit around a table and talk about what they liked – or didn’t.

Guests introduce viewers to wonderful, out-of-the-way spots that many people have never heard of, Sbrocco says.

“It’s a great show to do,” she says. “People can relate to it. They can put themselves in the seat and at the table.”

Sbrocco says a lot of thought goes into which combination of guests will have the right chemistry, as well as balancing the variety and location of restaurants. A recent show featured a belly dancer, an epidemiologist and a deputy district attorney discussing Japanese and South Asian cuisine in Oakland, seafood in San Francisco and a Basque restaurant in Los Gatos.

Guests apply online to be on the show; if selected, each receives a $125 stipend to help cover the costs of the three meals.

Key to the success is Sbrocco, whose affable personality and warm energy helps relax nervous guests. The shows are pretty much “live to tape,” she says.

“If I do anything well as a host, its making people feel comfortable,” she says. “It’s one big moving puzzle at all times.”

Although Sbrocco does not express her opinion on the show, her wine tips are available on the KQED website.

The program definitely gets noticed in the Bay Area food scene. One local restaurant, Sbrocco says, changed its French fries after a “Check, Please!” guest complained about them. Sbrocco remembers another show where two guests nearly came to blows over a French restaurant. And some guests report that strangers recognize them from the program.

“The nice thing about the show is the audience is everybody from teenagers to 80 year olds,” Sbrocco says. “So many people are into food and it's such a visual show.”

“Check, Please! Bay Area ” is modeled on a similar show in Chicago. Years ago, one of the guests on that program was an Illinois senator named Barack Obama.


Taste & Sip

Where: San Francisco Design Center Galleria, 101 Henry Adams St., S.F.

When: 6:30 p.m. June 2

Tickets: $70 to $80

Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com

Note: “Check, Please! Bay Area” airs on KQED 9, KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM and online at kqed.org/checkplease.

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