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“It seems like he’s been around for a really long time in my market,” said Lynn Hetzler, 48, of Ashton, Ill. “We also see chefs from the Chicago area and you wonder where in the heck these people live that they get food like this. But he (Mr. Food) cooks food that locals can cook and eat.”

That hometown effect may be Art Ginsburg’s golden ticket.

“He’s nationally recognized but locally embraced,” Rosenthal said. “Everybody thinks he’s local. So that trust and feeling of connecting with him, he’s like everyone’s favorite uncle.”

Ginsburg grew up in the meat business, ran a catering company and started appearing on television in the early `70s on the show of a friend. His Mr. Food vignettes were syndicated in nine television markets by 1980. Now, he has close to 4 million daily viewers.

He credits the mainstream food culture for continued success.

“The Food Network certainly has helped instill interest in cooking. That’s for darn sure. I think that’s helped me, too,” said Ginsburg, who’s in his 70s.

The main difference between him and the big names on television like Rachael Ray, with whom Ginsburg is friends, is that he considers himself a friend or neighbor of his fans.

“They’re on the Food Network. They’re getting a lot of national publicity. And they’re getting big money,” he said. “And I’m quite comfortable, but let me tell you something. I was always the hometown guy. I don’t want to be the super celebrity. When you need bodyguards, that’s not my deal.”