Alpana Singh checking out as host of ‘Check, Please!’
By Lori Rackl TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org January 23, 2013 7:45PM
Updated: February 25, 2013 12:45PM
Finding a replacement for longtime “Check, Please!” host Alpana Singh won’t be easy.
Singh, who is leaving WTTW’s popular program to focus on her new eatery and wine bar, brought a balance of both expertise and inclusiveness to the restaurant-focused show. The master sommelier and epicure had a knack for sharing her extensive knowledge in a down-to-earth way, in keeping with the show’s relaxed, homey tone. She could keep the conversation flowing, which isn’t always easy when three strangers — often with divergent palates — come together to promote their favorite restaurants on TV.
“She really elevated the show into a brand that people have a warm relationship with,” said “Check, Please!” creator and executive producer David Manilow. “She helped me make the show into something that connects with viewers.”
Singh joined “Check, Please!” in its third season, replacing original host Amanda Puck. She will remain on the show for the rest of this season, which has a half-dozen new episodes left to air, including one at 8 p.m. Friday.
Leaving the series after 10 seasons is bittersweet, Singh said Wednesday.
“It’s a chapter that’s closing,” she said, “while another one opens.”
Singh and her two business partners debuted The Boarding House in River North late last year.
“I cannot even begin to tell you how much of your soul it takes to operate a restaurant,” Singh said. “It takes an enormous amount of dedication and time.”
While leaving her gig at “Check, Please!” allows her to focus on her new venture, Singh said that after a decade, it was time to go.
“I probably would have moved on to do something else,” she said, adding that she and Manilow talked about the possibility of her departure for about a year.
“I started the show when I was 26,” she said. “People always say, ‘Oh, you’re the ‘Check, Please!’ girl.’ I’m not a girl anymore. I’m a 36-year-old woman. To move forward in life, you have to make difficult decisions.”
As for who will take Singh’s place at the head of the table, Manilow said the field “is completely wide open.” Plenty of volunteers have surfaced since Crain’s Chicago Business reported Wednesday that she was stepping down.
“I’ve had phone calls from people I don’t even know,” he said. “There’s certainly enthusiasm for the job.”
Manilow is looking for someone local — a requirement he has for hosts of all six of the “Check, Please!” installments that air in various PBS markets. (Two of those six hosts are men.) Television experience isn’t necessary, he added, but an extensive knowledge of the city’s food scene is.
There isn’t an urgent rush to find a replacement. The show won’t start taping its 13th season until mid-June.
“We’ll have a whole audition process where people sign up and we narrow it down as we go,” Manilow said. “We might actually end up doing some sort of television special where the search process is something we put on TV.”