Curtis Stone, as the Take Home Chef on your hit TLC series, now in its second season, you ambush people in the grocery store and follow them home to help them prepare dinner. What’s the most surprising thing you learned from going into other people’s homes?
People don’t have much confidence in the kitchen.
What’s the biggest thing you would change about most people’s kitchens?
The kitchen should be a place you are proud of and want to spend time. Make it nice and surround yourself with beautiful food, natural light, and good music.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2009?
I am going to learn how to speak Spanish, which will probably turn into something to do with food. If you can get your head around another language, you can get your head around another cuisine.
What’s one food we should all eat more of in 2009?
Fresh vegetables. The other day, I was munching on a raw carrot that was so sweet and delicious. We need to appreciate simple things. Not everything has to be covered in sauce.
In fact, you yourself start every day with a smoothie. Why?
I started a while ago when I was given a great blender. I throw in fruit with orange juice and blend it up. The energy you get from fresh fruit is a great way to start the day. It cleanses the system, keeps you regular, boosts your energy, and rehydrates your body after a night’s sleep.
What about coffee? Do you need that in the morning to get going, too?
I drink two cups a day that I make myself in an espresso machine. Coffee doesn’t have many positive health attributes, but I don’t think it’s terrible if you drink it in moderation.
If that is your worst health habit, what’s your best health habit?
I swim most mornings. I run and then jump in the pool before I start my day. I laugh a lot, too, which I think is important.
If we followed you home tonight, what would we find in your fridge to cook for dinner?
Nothing, because I am on the road. I usually keep a well-stocked kitchen with some beautiful cheeses, good quality chocolate in the cupboard, and good organic eggs.
A lot of your fellow Australians, such as actor Nicole Kidman, swear by Vegemite. Do you?
Vegemite is a salty, dark brown paste that we spread on toast. Americans have peanut butter, and we have Vegemite. I grew up eating it as a kid and still have a jar in my kitchen.
Who’s healthier: Australians or Americans?
Australia was just voted the most obese nation in the world. We seem to have adopted the whole processed-food culture. Everyone is in a rush and no one has time to cook. This may be because the economy was so good, but now that it’s not, things may change.
How do you stay in shape when you are on the road?
I’m pretty active and like to move around. Whenever I am in New York, I soak up the atmosphere and walk 20 or 30 blocks. Living an active life can keep you in shape. When I am at home, I surf, swim, or run on the beach.
Do you listen to music when you cook?
I always cook to music. If I am in a rush, I put on heavy metal or funky dance house music to get moving, but I can also listen to classical music if I am making pastries or dessert.
What grocery shopping or cooking tips do you recommend to those of us who want to drop 10 pounds in the New Year?
If you look at your average plate of food, 80% should be good stuff. What comes out of the ground is always healthier than what comes out of a package. Your body tells you what you do and don’t need. It always comes back to a good balanced diet of some fruit and some vegetables. My dad was trying to lose weight and I said, “Try putting healthy food into your body before you put other stuff in.” Make vegetable soup and eat it before you have the other stuff you want for lunch. For breakfast, if you normally eat cereal and toast, start with a fruit plate or smoothie.
What’s your favorite meal to cook for yourself?
A bowl of spaghetti and some fresh crab, lemon, olive oil, and chili pepper. That is one of my staples.
You just launched the Curtis Stone Range of Kitchen Solutions, a sleek line of eco-friendly cooking products available at Williams Sonoma. How can kitchenware be green?
We use soy-based ink and recyclable cardboard for packaging. It’s a work in progress; we are not 100% eco-friendly yet. I don’t think anyone can say that they are. I am a surfer and love being outdoors, so we try to be as sustainable as possible in everything we do.
You got your start working for notorious chef Marco Pierre White. What’s the most surprising or unusual thing he ever taught you?
He taught me so much. He is a very keen hunter and would shoot 100 days a year. That taught me a lot about the entire food chain and life cycle. When you are given a pheasant and have to hang and pluck it, it holds a little more weight than when you pick up a chicken breast that is skinned and packaged in a way that it absorbs juice. You get to see the lifestyle of the animal and that makes you feel real respect for the product.
You have two nephews. How can we get kids to eat healthier?
I never try and force them to eat fruit. Instead, chop up an apple and leave it in bowl. Sooner or later, their little hands will grab a piece and start munching.
What would you prepare if you had friends to dinner?
It is nice to be able to share food and have a nice smell in your home when they arrive. I make a big focaccia bread. When the guests arrive, they can smell something coming out of oven.
If you had to lose one sense -- taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing -- which would you choose?
Sound. I could never go without smell or taste, so it would have to be sound.
Any early food memories?
My mom used to roast chicken and whenever I walk into a home and smell chicken roasting, it is such a nice memory. You always hear people saying ‘my mom makes the best spaghetti and meatballs,’ but the truth is she doesn’t. What was so amazing was the love she put into it.