Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Alex Trebek’s Tourtière Trebek

Say au revoir to yet another chicken pot pie

Alex Trebek meets "Alex Trebek" on an episode of SNL's "Celebrity Jeopardy"

Sigh. It was just over two years ago that Alex Trebek, arguably the most-watched TV personality in history, having hosted a mind-boggling 37 seasons of Jeopardy right up until 2020, died of pancreatic cancer. 

So from Jeopardy’s revival in 1984 up until 2020 we all know what he was up to, aside from his numerous TV and film appearances where he played himself. But what about pre-Jeopardy Alex?

I could have sworn he was born in Montréal but I was wrong. He was born in Sudbury, Ontario, to an Anglophone Dad (who was a Ukrainian-born chef whose second language was English) and a Francophone Mom. That’s handy if you live in an officially bilingual country and those are its two languages. At 13 he started working (presumably part-time) as a bellhop at the hotel his Dad worked at. He graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the University of Ottawa, which is something every Philosophy major should trot out at the first hint of an eyeroll from doubters of the value of such a degree.

While still at UofO (is that what it’s called?) Alex joined the CBC where he did all kinds of things, at one point reading the national news on CBC radio. Here is one of the most Canadian things I have ever read: In 1971 Alex was short-listed to succeed Ward Cornell as host of Hockey Night in Canada and was the favorite, but ultimately didn’t get the job because someone very high up at the CBC didn’t want a mustachio’d host. This mystifies me, since some of my Canadian relatives have mustaches, including a couple of women.

In 1973 Alex moved to the US and got into the game show racket. At one point he was hosting High Rollers in the US and The $128,000 Question in Toronto, making him one of only two men to simultaneously host shows in both countries. I had forgotten this, but during that era it was common for game show hosts to go on other game shows. In 1980 (not clear how this worked) he appeared on Card Sharks (a show he was hosting?) as a contestant during a celebrity charity week. I MUST find this episode somewhere, because the other contestants were Allen Ludden, Gene Rayburn, Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, Wink Martindale, Jim Lange, and Jack Clark. Alex managed to squeak out a win against second-place Bill Cullen. Game Show Nirvana.

Then he landed at Jeopardy. He and Art Fleming, a close friend, the original host from when it was on in the 1960s, worked on the revival. Art Fleming left the project over “creative differences” (sadly, wikipedia doesn’t say what those were) so Alex went it alone, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here is a very good wintry way to celebrate the life of Alex Trebek. This is a hearty French Canadian meat pie that is the perfect meal to ward off the chill of a Québéc winter.

What is Tourtière Trebek?

1 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground veal
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup red wine, beef stock or water
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inch)
Milk or lightly beaten egg

In large pan, combine meat, onions, seasonings and wine; cook over low heat for 1 hour.

Drain fat. Stir in bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for about 45 minutes.

Roll out pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in filling; cover with pastry. Cut steam vents in top and seal edges. Brush lightly with milk or egg. Bake in 350 degrees F. oven for 1 hour or until pastry is golden brown.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.



  1. Alex used to host a Canadian high school Trivia/knowledge competition called Reach For the Top during the 70s. It was still around when I was in high school. We came in 2nd for our region twice and lost out going to the TV phase (albeit on local public access.)

    Being the know everything nerd, I was the star of the team.  Didn’t help my social life, but I’ve won enough bar trivia contests and free nachos later in adulthood.

    Parodied by SCTV.

  2. PS: That intro sentence on the main page: I know it’s not technically l’hiver/winter, but when it’s below freezing and it gets dark early and you get possible snowfall alerts from goosed-up weather forecasters that’s close enough.

  3. At Queen’s we called University d’Ottawa… U of Zero.

    To be fair, everyone outside of U of 0 did.

    Every school in Canada has their big “hollywood” guy.  For Queen’s it was Lorne Greene, Pa Adama.

  4. My all time favorite thing on Jeopardy is Wolf Blitzer getting humiliated on Jeopardy by Andy Richter.

    And his problem wasn’t what some players have, which is getting blown out by someone faster on the buzzer. He buzzed just fine, he just kept blowing it. One little irony is swapping Jerusalem for Bethlehem — his supposed area of expertise when he was starting out was Israel and the Middle East.

    And yet Wolf has now been anchoring at CNN for 13 years longer than Walter Cronkite was as CBS, despite overseeing a collapse in CNN’s ratings.

    • Walter Cronkite is a sore subject for me since I just lost out on buying his former Upper East Side townhouse:

      He and his wife Betsy off-loaded that in 1999 and moved to 860-870 UN Plaza, which is one of New York’s toughest co-ops to buy into. I knew that with my notoriety the Board would never accept me as a buyer for that apartment when it went up for sale.


      • The decoration seems a bit dated, but that’s all changeable — I’m actually a bit surprised a large 1880s Upper East Side townhouse sold for “only” $7.25 million and sat on the market that long. Maybe buyers with that kind of cash are really hung up on high rise condos with doormen and gyms. Or maybe something is going on with that block I don’t know about.

        • It could be a lot of different things. NYC real estate taxes are a totally irrational crap shoot, so the ones levied against this one might be 10x more than a twin next door. Maybe Joseph Faccibene and Mary Kay Coyle let the internals go (the plumbing, the heating, etc.; maybe the roof is falling in or the basement now floods) or made some structural “improvements” not shown in the listing photos. That address is also pretty remote. It’s over by Gracie Mansion and Carl Schurz Park, and nowhere near Park and Fifth and Central Park. Wally and Bets probably didn’t care, I’m sure CBS assigned them drivers even post-retirement so they could go wherever they wanted, but maybe that situation changed and they wanted to be more in the thick of things down by the UN among equally interesting neighbors in the building and the surrounds.


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