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Phoenix-area woman, grandson launch TV cooking show for teens

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Flip on AZ-TV 7 next Saturday afternoon and you’ll catch the pilot episode of “FoodBall,” a game show geared toward kids, cooking and football fans.

May 23 marks the television debut of the clever show co-created by Billy Butler and his grandmother Margaret Clark.

“It’s essentially teaching kids that there’s more out there than just your chain fast food restaurants,” beamed Butler.

The first episode features all of the energy of highly popular TV reality cooking shows: snappy graphics, a menacing referee — calling a penalty on a fresh-faced teen who broke food handling protocols — and a panel of accomplished chefs waiting to call the game moments after Valley teens plate their culinary creations.

“All the things that you see on the show you can make for yourself,” assured Butler, who just turned 18 and graduates from Mountain View High School next week.

He came up with the idea to build a cooking show for kids while on a journey with his grandmother to Italy six years ago.

While at a bistro in Florence, “he looked up at me from his dish and said, ‘I’ve never had such great food in my life!'” Clark remembered, and that launched his idea to start developing a show.

Clark said she was eager to fuel her grandson’s great idea.

“All of the other kids that were on the trip were playing with their video games, while we spent a lot of time sketching out a show,” she said.

“I never really thought that it would go this far.”

The grandmother with a mission set off to talk with the director of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale.

“He said, ‘I have just the guy for you, John Paul Hutchins,'” she said.

Clark and Butler found the former standup comic to be a perfect blend for the show concept. After creating a second pilot on a very limited budget, Clark said they took it to established Valley film director David Rawlings.

“He said, ‘All you really need to do is tweak it a tiny bit,'” said Clark.

Clark and Butler give a great deal of credit to the East Valley Institute of Technology for providing a filming location inside its culinary kitchen, cosmetology students as makeup artists and production facilities for help with producing all 10 episodes.

Butler said the show’s contestants are students from high schools across the Valley, including, Perry (Gilbert), Chandler, Arizona School for the Arts (Phoenix), Chaparral (Scottsdale), Horizon (Scottsdale) and several others.

Six years and 10 episodes later, Clark and Butler’s dream is now a reality show. You can catch the first season of “FoodBall” on AZ-TV 7 Cable 13 beginning next Saturday at 4 p.m.