You may have seen Curtis Stone on “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Top Chef Masters,” “Take Home Chef” or even “The Biggest Loser.” This globetrotting celebrity chef recently stopped in the Queen City to promote his “Kitchen Solutions” line of sleek, eco-friendly cookware at Belk at SouthPark mall. The takeaway? Simple, straightforward food is the way to go and, with the right tools and right ingredients, is always attainable for the home cook.
You started cooking with your grandmother; what family food legacies have influenced your cooking style?
The thing about my upbringing was that the style of dining has really stayed with me. I think back to when I was a kid, and my mom would make us set the table, make us sit down, there was no television on during dinner. That was taken quite seriously. And I think it really deserves that, and I appreciate it. My mom was also a healthy cook. She used vegetables, there was no candy in the house—it was a healthy house. At the time, I was like, ‘I want to have candy like my buddies,’ but looking back I’m really grateful for it, so that’s what’s’ stayed with me.
How has becoming a parent changed your approach in the kitchen?
It really has changed my approach. I had a little vegetable garden before my son [Hudson, 1] was born, but then I thought, I really want him to learn where food comes from, so now I have a big veggie garden, a really big one. So I go out there with him and he doesn’t totally get it just yet but we pick strawberries together and it’s really special. Of course I do cook already with him and when you’re cooking food that you grew for your son that’s pretty special. You grew it, you cooked it. I think the other thing that’s changed with me since I’ve been cooking for him is that you really use food in its purest form. You know, it’s puréed carrot. And as you’re feeding him, you get a little, even if it’s wiped off the side of his face, and you think, carrots are so sweet! You really think about the flavor of each ingredient. There’s no seasoning, there’s no messing with it, it’s just pure ingredients, and it’s beautiful. It really teaches you a lot about food.
What’s your one can’t-live-without ingredient?
My favorite ingredient in the world is truffle, you know those little disgustingly good mushrooms. They’re unbelievable and I’ve been lucky enough to go to that region of Italy and experience it, and I just love them.
We’ve gotten to know you through “Take Home Chef,” “Top Chef Masters,” and most recently “Around the World in 80 Plates.” What’s your craziest TV moment?
When I did “Celebrity Apprentice,” I walked into a room with Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne, Cyndi Lauper, and Gov. Blagojevich—I looked around and they’re talking amongst themselves, mostly all talking about themselves, and I walk in and think, I’m the only normal one here! What am I doing here? Because when they ask you to be a part of the show, you’re competing for charity [Feeding America] and you could win a million dollars for them. And you think, you could feed 10 million people! So you really get caught up in the charitable angle of it. You get there and then you think, they’re all crazy! Then you meet Trump and you’re like, You’re even crazier than the rest of them! That whole show was pretty surreal for me. I was very new to America at that time. That level of madness and celebrity, it was actually really fun. And I made friends with half of them. Bret Michaels two days ago asked me for my meatball recipe, Sharon Osbourne texts me cooking questions, it’s pretty funny.
It must be a comfort to be back in the food realm on TV—what’s coming up for you?
So we go back into production of “Top Chef Masters” Season 5 this summer, and any time you get a show to season 5, you’re like “woohoo!” so that’s great. And that will start in May/June. My new cookbook, called “What’s for Dinner?” really is for the home cook. I’ve seriously listened to them and the time constraints, and the health conscious constraints, and all those things going on, and I thought, how do you craft a book that really answers the question, what’s for dinner? So I’m just putting that to bed now. As soon as you send it off to the editor then you have to start the press for it, there’s a long tour for that. I’ll start in New York in the new year, so I’ll get right into that promoting that book.
A favorite recipe we should look out for from the new book?
That’s really home cooking, there’s an incredible lasagna, a spaghetti and meatball that’s just wild, there’s roast chicken with sundried tomato butter. It’s all stuff that you think, that’s not out of the ordinary, but it’s just delicious food. Which is what I love about it.