So it’s 6:30 on Friday morning and I’m coming to you live with no coffee. That’s right, I’ve been up for over 20 minutes and I’m still coffee-less. I forgot to set the coffee pot last night and I can’t do it now because if I grind the beans I risk waking up my five year old which will destroy my opportunity for a couple more hours of peace and quiet. It was a tough call, but the peace and quiet won out over the coffee – for now anyway! Just be glad I’m not typing in the word “yawn” every time I actually do or this post would read (yawn) something like (yawn) this (YAWN).
|source: Food Network
Ok, so most of you know that I had the privilege of interviewing Chef Alex Guarnaschelli recently about some of the projects she’s been working on. One of them you’re likely aware of (unless you’ve been living under a rock and/or don’t have cable) – that being her participation in The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, which will air on the Food Network starting November 4th. Chef Alex was 3rd runner up on her season, and now she’s back to go for the win. I, for one, will be glued to my couch to see what happens!
Another project Chef Alex has been working on is in partnership with Haagen Daz – it’s an E-book titled Ode to Summer. It’s a collection of short stories, visual essays, and photos celebrating summer through food & wine, travel & adventure, music, fashion, and art & photography. Chef Alex wrote the forward for the book, and you can download it for FREE from Amazon, Google Play, or itunes. Now I know what you’re thinking “But Mellissa, why do I want to download an e-book about Summer when I’m fully immersed in Fall and have embraced sweaters and scarves and pumpkin flavored everything – isn’t it time to let go and move on?” And I get it, I do, but here’s the thing – Haagen Daz is not only offering this e-book download for free, they are donating $5 for each book downloaded to honeybee research! That is incredibly generous of them – these people take their bees seriously! As we all should, because as Chef Alex mentioned in our conversation, honeybees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the world’s natural food supply. That’s a lot people. So if you like food, and I know you do, then please download this book so they can donate the $5 in your behalf! Also please pin it, and share it on Facebook and Twitter, so that as many people as possible will download this book and help save the honeybees, and our food supply!
Ok so finally, down to the actual interview. I was nervous going in to it because interviewing someone is a skill – you want to be friendly and put them at ease and ask interesting questions so you get the best out of them, and that’s not easy when you’re nervous and have never done it before! I did my research and had my questions ready, but that could also backfire because if you’re tied to questions and not flexible you can miss out on opportunities to actually chat and see where it goes. But when you know you only have ten minutes you also feel pressured to get your key questions asked and answered. And as the interviewer you want to be listening more than talking which isn’t always easy for me since I talk a lot! Ha ha! It’s so much to worry about, and I am definitely a worrier by nature, so there was a LOT of worrying going on!
So while all that stuff is going through my head and I’m getting more nervous as the clock is winding down to 10:20, I get an email from Jillian at Taylor Strategy at 10:19 that they are running a few minutes behind which I really appreciated – they are super organized and really on top of things, and if she hadn’t emailed me I would have been freaking out when nobody called at 10:20. So at 10:30 sharp, the phone rings and it’s Jillian who says she’s going to connect me to Chef Alex. I’m trying to sound calm and cool like I do this all the time, even though I was still freaking out on the inside. She puts Chef Alex on and of course she sounds just like she does on TV which was both weird and cool. I introduce myself and give a 10 second intro of me and the blog, just so she knows where I’m coming from with my questions. I told her that we’re big fans, and that a bunch of you wanted her to know you were pulling for her on The Next Iron Chef. I asked her if she had any talking points she wanted to get out of the way before I started with the questions. She spoke about her project with Haagen Daz (see above) and seemed really passionate about it.
The first official question I asked her was regarding The Next Iron Chef: Redemption. She made it clear that she couldn’t talk much about the show because it hasn’t aired yet, and she didn’t want to give anything away, but she agreed to answer this one question.
Me: How was it going into TNIC this time – Was it hard because you have more riding on it, or easier because you know what to expect?
Chef Alex: Definitely NOT easier, it was much harder the second time around – harder to want something so much and to take another chance. Also you feel like you should know better than to make mistakes since you’ve been here before, but you know you are going to anyway so it’s tough.
Me: A lot of people know you from your role as a judge on Chopped. My husband thinks you guys have a good cop/bad cop thing going on where one judge is usually the bad guy and most vocal about
negative critiques – do you guys draw straws before the show to determine which one will be nice, mean, etc.?
Chef Alex: (laughs)
Not at all – tell your husband we’re not that organized! The show is all organic which is what makes it great, we never know what is going to happen and that’s what makes it so fun to watch.
Me: I loved your face in a recent episode when Aaron referred to a dish as a beautiful and well dressed woman you take on a date and she turns out to be a horrible kisser – priceless.
Chef Alex: (laughs) See what I mean? You never know what anyone is going to say!
Me: What’s the worst thing you ever ate on Chopped or have you blocked it out?
Chef Alex: I really couldn’t say, I can’t think of anything specific.
Me: I’ve always wondered, it only takes about 40 minutes to watch the show (sans commercials), how long does it take to tape one episode?
It’s a long day, it takes about 12 – 14 hours to tape one episode. (!!!)
Me: Is it hard watching yourself on TV?
Chef Alex: Yes! I don’t like it, but I do watch Chopped when I’m not on it.
Me: Paleo is really big right now and the menu at Butter and The Darby both seem very Paleo-friendly, is that by design because of the current trend or is that just the way you like to cook?
Chef Alex: The menus reflect what I gravitate towards naturally. By design and how I like to cook are one and the same. It’s just my sensibility.
Me: What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with right now?
Celery root, peeled and sliced thinly, raw in a salad, makes a great soup, roasted, it’s so versatile. And it’s low carb which works great for you, and I swear I didn’t even pick it because of that on purpose! (laughs)
And of course Haagen Daz ice cream afterwords which balances it out.
Me: Well you have to have your guilty pleasures! Speaking of which, what’s on your DVR, assuming you have any time at all to watch TV?
I do watch TV, mostly when I’m supposed to be sleeping but can’t. Homeland, Downtown Abbey, believe it or not I like watching the Food Network & Cooking Channel. I watch Dexter. (I thought she meant Dexter’s Laboratory (cartoon) you can tell I have a 5 year old) and she said after a long pause, No…the one with the serial killer.” (laughs)
I watch shows like that AFTER my daughter goes to bed, when she is awake we usually watch Super Why or Wordworld.
Me: I know them well! Those songs get stuck in your head at night which is why you’re awake when you should be sleeping. It’s a vicious cycle.
Chef Alex: So true!
(Jillian broke in to tell us they had time for one more question)
Me: So what’s next for you? Can we look forward to a book in the future?
Chef Alex: Yes actually, my first cookbook is due out next fall and it’s for home cooks. I’m really excited about it, thanks for asking.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me today, looking forward to watching you kick butt on The Next Iron Chef!
Chef Alex: (laughs) Thank you! And you asked great questions!
Me: (passes out from relief)
So there you have it. It was 10 minutes long and felt like about two because it went by so fast! I was a big fan before, but after chatting with her in person I’m even more so. She’s very down to earth and seems like she’d be a fun person to hang out and have a glass of wine with. When I came out of the office my husband said “So are you guys BFF’s now?” To which I replied “Of course!” So Alex have your people call my people (OK, I don’t actually have any people, so just call me) and we’ll hang out – maybe make some Celeriac ice cream just for kicks! :)
A special thanks to Cari and Jillian from Taylor Strategy for contacting me with this opportunity, and for being so professional and great to work with!
Don’t forget to take a minute to download Ode to Summer and do your part for honeybee research!
Now I’m off to make some coffee….yawn.