Name: Curtis Stone
Claim to fame: Curtis Stone, the Australian-born chef, best-selling author, TV personality and entrepreneur who has been making waves in the culinary arena since his arrival to the shores of North America in 2006, began his culinary journey in 1994, when he left business school to don an apron and pursue his true life’s passion—cooking. For a few years, Curtis trained in London under a number of legendary chefs, including Michelin-star great Marco Pierre White, before scoring a gig as the host of Australia’s popular Surfing the Menu cooking series. After relocating to the United States in 2006, the chef first attracted national attention as the gregarious host of TLC’s hit series, Take Home Chef, where he surprised strangers in the supermarket and volunteered to prepare an impromptu gourmet dinner for their families. Since then, Curtis has continued to grace the TV screen as host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, a role he will revisit in the upcoming fifth season of the popular reality cooking show, and host of Bravo’s culinary-adventure series Around the World in 80 Plates. A visionary and entrepreneur, he hopes to inspire individuals to ditch the drive-thru and start firing up their ovens at home. But Curtis, who is currently juggling his jam-packed career with the demands of recent fatherhood, knows firsthand how challenging it can be to get a healthy home-cooked meal on the table. To this end, he has published a number of best-selling cookbooks with the busy chef in mind, most recently What’s For Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, a day-to-day guide packed with easy, mouthwatering recipes for every night of the week. A familiar face on NBC’s “Today Show,” he also recently launched his own product line, Kitchen Solutions, sold at retailer Williams-Sonoma. Curtis currently resides in Los Angeles with fiancé, actress Lindsay Price, and their son, Hudson.
Health philosophy: “Choose natural, in-season ingredients. Keep it simple and delicious.”
Biggest inspiration: “Farmers, fisherman and ranchers. They put a lot of hard work into providing quality ingredients that make our food so delicious.”
Favorite motivational quote: Relax. “The best host has the most fun. So relax and enjoy yourself,” the Aussie explains.
Favorite healthy meal: A warm salad topped with grilled vegetables, grilled shrimp and homemade dressing. “It’s great, because you can have dinner on the table in only 10 to 15 minutes. And it’s really healthy and delicious,” Curtis says.
Favorite splurge: “My mum’s sticky toffee ice cream. I actually stole the recipe and put it in the book!”
Five Minutes with Curtis Stone
Spry: You left business school to pursue a career in the culinary arts, eventually training under the legendary three-star Michelin chef Marco Pierre White. What initially sparked your interest in cooking?
Curtis: Honestly, you know what it was? My appetite. My grandma was a fantastic cook, and I always used to stand by in the kitchen and watch her prepare dishes. But the primary reason I became interested in cooking is because I was a greedy kid with a big appetite. I love food, I love eating. So I guess the next extension from eating is learning how to cook, knowing how to make the food you love to eat.
Spry: You are passionate about inspiring individuals to cook healthier meals at home. What are some of the ways you stay healthy in your everyday life?
Curtis: I think you can be greedy and healthy at the same time. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. That’s the key—having a good, balanced attitude toward food. As long as you eat in moderation, you can pretty much eat anything you want…you can eat cheese and ice cream and chocolate every once in awhile. But you also have to eat a lot of the good stuff, too—fruits and vegetables and proteins. And then, of course, you have to balance your food intake with exercise. I live near the beach, so I’m lucky enough to do a little surfing here and there. I’ve also got a beautiful dog that I go running with.
Spry: If you had to briefly sum it up, what would you say is your food philosophy?
Curtis: My cooking philosophy is to take good quality ingredients and treat them simply. If you let Mother Nature do the talking, you’ll end up with something even more delicious. I don’t think cooking should be complicated. Cooking should be fun—it shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t take forever. I think it’s important to strike a nice balance between life and cooking good, healthy food.
Spry: Can you tell us a little bit more about your new cookbook, What’s For Dinner: Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life?
Curtis: I wrote What’s For Dinner to try and encourage people to cook dinner at home as much as possible. The cookbook is organized by days of the week and by the particular challenges we all face during the week. We all have busy lives, and getting dinner on the table can often seem like a big challenge. Monday is about health; Tuesday is about time; Wednesday is about keeping the kitchen clean. Thursday is all about budget-conscious cooking—I think a lot of people want to save up money for the weekend. Friday is dedicated to five ingredients…it’s about uncomplicated cooking and getting the weekend started. And then on Saturday and Sunday, I change gears. Saturday, you might host a dinner party and invite your friends over, and then Sunday, of course, is when you are cooking for your family, so this section features more nostalgic comfort dishes. So each chapter of the book has a little collection of recipes that hopefully solve those everyday problems you face when you cook.
Spry: So why do you think it’s so important for families to eat home-cooked meals together?
Curtis: I think when you cook for your family, all sorts of good things happen. From the moment your family walks through the door and smells the food being cooked, there is a certain appreciation for the person doing the cooking. Then there is a lot of communication that happens during the cooking process—you sit around the dinner table chatting with one another, you cooperate to clean up and do the dishes together. So there are all of these great family values that spring from preparing a home-cooked meal. You just don’t get the same benefits from opening up a box and eating it in front of a television.
Spry: You have appeared as a host on a number of American reality TV cooking shows, from Take Home Chef to Top Chef Masters, to, most recently, Around the World in 80 Plates. What is your favorite part about working as a celebrity chef and TV personality?
Curtis: Every now and then, you write a recipe and somebody walks up to you in a grocery store and says, “You know what? We never used to cook seafood in our house. But ever since we found this recipe and this book you’ve written, we now cook it once a week.” Doing what I do, I’m in a very fortunate position of being able to help people and change people’s lives. Hopefully, through writing a book like this, I can inspire thousands of people all over the country to cook more home-cooked meals, which is really exciting.
Spry: You grew up in Australia and have since relocated to the States. From an outsider’s perspective, have you noticed any differences in how Americans approach food?
Curtis: Yeah, totally. I think in America, like the rest of the Western world, we all have these crazy busy lives, and we try and fit way too much into them. We sometimes lose sight of the important stuff. Living in the U.S., we are super-lucky—we have access to beautiful fruits and veggies, to meats and seafood. We don’t necessarily give thanks for that very often. When you travel around the world and meet people who would die to have access to the kinds of foods we have, you realize that we’re really extremely fortunate. I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. But I also think America is going through a huge change at the moment. For a while, we went through a whole period where convenience was key and the microwave was the new amazing gadget. Now, we’re starting to become more interested in farmers markets, in knowing where our food comes from. And I think that is very important.
Spry: How do you keep yourself motivated in terms of eating healthy?
Curtis: Temptation is a really hard thing for people to get around. The truth is, we can all fall off the bandwagon pretty easily. So the key is to think about ways you can tempt yourself with healthy things. Let’s say you work in an office building. Temptation is everywhere—there are cafeterias and snacks in the break room and vending machines stocked with junk food. And then at night if you come home and find ice cream in the freezer and chips in the cupboard…well, it’s going to be easy to be tempted. So instead, flip that negative temptation on its head and replace it with positive temptation. For example, if you keep an abundance of healthy, cut-up fruits and vegetables on hand, you’re going to be apt to reach for a slice of fruit every time you walk past the fridge, just as you would grab a handful of chips from the cupboard. So it’s all about finding ways to make healthy choices more accessible.
Spry: What are some of your favorite ways to stay fit?
Curtis: As a nation, I think we’re so crazy…we go to a gym and walk on a treadmill for an hour when we could simply walk to work each morning. I think there are ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday life. I do activities like hiking, surfing, running with my dog. We’ve got a swimming pool in my backyard, so that’s a good excuse to go swimming every morning. I’m currently teaching my son, Hudson, how to swim.
Spry: So what’s coming up next for you?
Curtis: I’m in New York City at the moment to announce that Bravo is releasing another season of Top Chef Masters, Season 5, which will air sometime this summer. It’s very exciting. I’ll be returning as one of the hosts. And then, of course, my cookbook What’s For Dinner is coming out, so I’ll be traveling all over the nation and the world doing the book tour for that. In a few months I’m planning to get married. So overall, 2013 is going to be a good year!