Film & TV

Interview with Chef Curtis Stone: host of Top Chef Masters and author of What’s for Dinner?

By Dana Getz

Internationally known for his roles on “Top Chef Masters,” “Take Home Chef” and other reality food shows, celebrity chef Curtis Stone knows his away around a kitchen. The Bravo favorite gained instant appeal with his simple, homegrown style and unforgettable Aussie accent, making his way from highly acclaimed London restaurants to network television. Now living in Los Angeles, Stone is gearing up to appear at the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival on August 24. We spoke to the Celebrity Apprentice alum about his preparation for the festival, what’s in store for his next cookbook and the non-existent American diet.

When did you first discover your love for cooking?

You know, I think it wasn’t a love for cooking as much it was a love for eating. My first good memory is from when I was in the kitchen at my mom’s house and I had a stick of butter and a bag of raisins out of the cabinet. I was running the raisins down the stick of butter and popping it in my mouth, and my mom was like, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ It wasn’t the healthiest, but the flavor combination of the butter and the raisins was very delicious, and I think ever since I’ve been pretty obsessed with the way things taste. I think from that love of food and love of eating, you develop a real curiosity for how it’s put together and made and where it comes from and all that sort of stuff.

Why and how did you get involved in cooking for television?

It happened by accident. I was working in a restaurant called Quo Vadis and I was the head chef there. Someone was doing a book about London’s finest chefs, and I was lucky enough to be included in the book. And from that book I did some television to promote it, and one thing led to the next and before you know it I had a TV show on the BBC, and then back in Australia I did something else. It just snowballed I guess.

How is cooking for television different from cooking in a restaurant?

It’s really different. When you cook in a restaurant I sort of think what you’re doing is practicing the art of perfection. You’ve got a dozen dishes put on the menu, and then you do those dishes each day—you do a hundred of them a day. So you become very good at specific tasks. But when you’re doing stuff for television and writing cookbooks and developing recipes for head cooks and what not, the work really varies. In my test kitchen we probably develop 400 to 500 recipes a year, so instead of practicing that art of perfection what you’re doing is really drawing on your creativity as you’re developing. You don’t get to make those recipes multiple times—you get to make them once. It’s a lot more creative than doing what I’m doing at the moment, but the flipside of that is that you don’t get to practice as much. You don’t get to hone your skills as much as you do in a restaurant.

Where do you find inspiration for creating so many new dishes?

I sort of look to Mother Nature a lot for inspiration. I’ve got a fruit and veggie garden at home that I spend a lot of time in. I think a part of that growing process is fun to see, and sort of watching them develop and grow over time. When the fruit becomes ripe and you have a little war with a squirrel or a bird and you try and get it before the rest of the wildlife—when you get your hands on that piece of fruit it’s a really rewarding feeling. It’s something you’ve kind of created yourself, so what you do with it is really special, of course you’re not going to waste it after all that energy. You’re probably even more careful with the preparation of it, because you it’s special, you know? You want to do it justice. So I guess that’s where my inspiration comes from: wandering around the garden.

You’re getting reading to appear at the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival later this month. Tell me about your participation in the event and the dish you will be preparing.

I’m going to do a demonstration for 200 people, and we’re going to serve the people that come a couple of different dishes. We’re drawing from my latest cookbook—“What’s for Dinner?”—so we’ve got a couple recipes that I’m going to do really quickly. And then I’ve got a chicken ceviche, which has palm sugar with coconut milk—different ingredients than you’re used to seeing in ceviche, but still delicious—and we’re gonna serve that to 3,000 people. I don’t know if you’ve been to the L.A. Food and Wine Festival before, but it’s an incredible event with amazing chefs and delicious food and fantastic drinks and cocktails and wine—there’s all sorts of stuff to do.

So you’ve been before?

Yeah, I’ve been going for about four or five years. The first time I went I wasn’t actually cooking, I just went to have a look and see what it was all about, and I loved it so I thought I’d get involved the next year.

You’re a host on the show Top Chef Masters, which returned for its fifth season last month. What do you like most about being on the show?

Just enjoying incredible foods from literally the best chefs in the country. We have this crazy kitchen with ridiculous challenges, and it’s so much fun. These guys just produce such amazing food. When we do the challenges I sit there and think to myself, ‘Okay, this chef will do this and that chef will do that,’ but when we say go they all step up and don’t necessarily do what you were expecting. So that’s actually a really nice part of the show for me, to watch people be put under such incredible pressure and to challenge them, and see them do such amazing jobs.

You also published your fifth cookbook, What’s for Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, last April. Do you have anything else in the works?

It’s an interesting thing to me when you talk to people and you say, ‘What are your challenges? What do you want the answers to?’ And to me, they usually revolve around time, budget and simplicity. It’s almost like what we’re doing as chefs to write recipes is not competing with each other. We’re competing with fast food joints and take out, all that sort of stuff. There’s a lot of people that can cook for themselves, you know, they have the time and money to do it, but they need incentive. So I’m thinking of writing a new cookbook to inspire people to really do it, to empower people to have fun at the dinner table with their friends and family.

So what is your go-to meal after a long day?

Well, like I said we’ve got a beautiful veggie garden, so it sort of depends on what’s in there, but it’s usually something pretty simple. We grill a lot, so some fresh steaks or some grilled chicken. You’d be surprised how much you can put on the grill.

You also recently got married—congratulations! What’s your favorite dish to cook for your wife?

It depends on where she’s at in the world. Right now she’s pretty chilled out. We just got married, she’s taking a little bit of a break from work, and she doesn’t have to as stressed out about her appearance and her weight, so she’s indulging a little more than usual. But I guess her favorite thing is seafood. She loves good seafood. We have a woodfire oven at home, so whenever I have fish in the woodfire oven she’s a happy girl.

You’ve traveled all over the world. What’s the biggest difference when cooking for an American audience versus a European one?

Oh, good question. There’s a difference in their palettes, I guess. I think the American palette is really comfort-oriented, and they love comfort food. So I’d say that’s a big difference, but it depends where you are in Europe of course. That’s a big umbrella to put over Europe, but it is in America as well—I say that all the time. America is a really diverse country with really diverse eating habits and cuisine. Whenever I travel people talk about, ‘Oh, the American diet,’ and I feel like saying, ‘There’s no such thing as an American diet, it’s impossible to say that.’ There’s a huge difference between New York and San Francisco and Kansas, you know? It’s so diverse and there’s so many different things going on that you could never put a blanket over it, so it really changes depending on where you are in the country.

What are the three kitchen tools every cook must have?

You need a sharp knife. That’s a probably the most important thing because when it comes to preparation it makes it a whole lot easier. You need some good nonstick cookwear. And the third tool would probably be a great blender. That enables you to do a whole variety of things.

What Australian food do you most miss since moving to the U.S?

In Australia we had great Pan Asian food, great Thai food. We were very close to Asia so we had great, quality Asian cooks and we had great, quality Asian venues.

Do you have a favorite dish to cook?

I love making handmade pasta. I really enjoy making handmade ravioli. I did that a lot when I worked in London and I really miss that, so when I get the opportunity I really enjoy doing it.


Fashion rebel: ANTM’s Katie Cleary is paving the way for fur-free trends

By Dana Getz

With a lean, lengthy frame, radiant olive skin and flowing chestnut locks, Katie Cleary was a natural fit for the modeling industry. The Mediterranean beauty got her start as a child model in the Chicago area, eventually debuting her vixen-esque looks on the premiere season of America’s Next Top Model. She went on to land a four-year gig on NBC’s Deal or No Deal, later appearing on shows such as “Tosh.O,” “Rules of Engagement” and “CSI:NY,” as well as the films “The Break Up,” “The Lake House” and “Iron Man 2.”

After several years in the industry, Cleary found herself surrounded by a world where fur means high fashion and leather equals luxury—a challenging realization for a longtime animal lover. She quickly readopted her childhood efforts to rescue and aid animals, volunteering at shelters and joining animal rights protests. Cleary has since founded her own non-profit welfare organization PEACE 4 ANIMALS, launched a radio show entitled WORLDANIMALNEWS via TradioV! and is currently wrapping production on “Give Me Shelter,” an award-winning documentary covering a hodgepodge of animal rights topics. Pausing from her hectic schedule on an early Friday morning, Cleary chatted with us about the truth behind Top Model, her inspiration for “Give Me Shelter” and finding her voice.

What first sparked your interest in modeling and how did you go about pursuing a career?

I started out modeling when I was about 12 years old. Someone approached me at festival in Chicago and they asked if we were interested in doing some kid modeling. My mom said, ‘You know, if that’s something that you want to do then go for it.’ So we started; she would take me to auditions. And then I met Cindy Crawford shortly after that. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my dream. I’ve always wanted to be a model, and a veterinarian as well.’ So I thought, ‘Maybe I can do both and be in entertainment and aid and rescue animals.’ So that’s kind of how I got started with that, and the first big thing I did was Top Model.

Why did you decide to try out for Top Model?

Well, I really didn’t know what it was all about. Someone sent me an email, and it’s weird—I got the email and all of a sudden I tried to check back to see who it was from and it was gone. It was really weird; it was the day before the deadline. I was in college, and I would always send tapes from college because I was in Wisconsin and I thought, ‘Who knows, maybe they’ll pick up one of these shows or whatever.’ So I would just send in audition tapes to MTV and stuff, and I really didn’t think anything of it, I just sent them the tape. Then Tyra called me back when I was studying for finals and I was shocked. I had no idea that they were even gonna call me, let alone Tyra. I picked up the phone while I was literally studying for finals, and I thought my friends were messing with me so I said, ‘You guys, stop. Why are you messing with me?’ And Tyra said, ‘No, this is really me,’ and I said, ‘No it’s not.’ And then she said ‘Pack your bags, you’re going to L.A.’ I was freaking out.

How was your experience on the show?

You know, it was interesting. It was an experience. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad. It was something that really kind of prepared me for entertainment. It was very interesting as far as, you know, having people telling you things you didn’t necessarily want to hear. It’s all for TV, too, so it’s not really about the modeling as much as they try to say that. Obviously they want viewers, so they’re going to try to make drama and have as many people with conflicting personalities in view. I think that’s something that was important, so it’s not really about the modeling as much as it is the drama.

Would you recommend it to other aspiring models?

I would, but I wouldn’t take it seriously. I would just kind of have it as a platform to get you started in the business, because a lot of people do watch the show and it has a tremendous following. So I would say if you want to get a jumpstart on your career it would be a good thing, but definitely don’t take the show seriously because it is about viewers.

How did your life change after the show?

It definitely gave me a bit of a platform to kind of go on to my next career move. I moved out to Los Angeles a couple years after and my first audition out there was Deal or No Deal. I had mentioned I was on Top Model and they loved it, they wanted some girls with a bit of a following. So I think that I got Deal because of Top Model, which was great. I was on that for about four years, and I did a travel show on HDNet in between, as well as a few other shows and campaigns while I was doing Deal. So it was cool. Then Deal gave me a platform to branch out and do the big stuff.

Do you still talk to any of the girls from the show? I know Adrianne Curry is from around the Chicago area.

You know, I haven’t seen her in a long time, but I talk to Shannon [Stewart]. I recently just got in contact with Nicole Panatonni, but that’s pretty much it.

You’ve also been in a couple films. Did you find acting to be a natural progression from modeling?

It’s interesting. Acting is much more of a challenge, but I think it’s good to be able to go back and forth from both because a lot of models don’t want to act. Modeling prepares you for acting I think, because you have to take direction, it’s really important to know your lighting, to know your angles, and I think that really is very helpful for acting.

When and why did you first get involved with animal rescue and aid?

I started rescuing animals when I was really young with my mom in Chicago, and I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was in entertainment, so I thought maybe I could try to raise awareness for animals through entertainment. So basically I thought, ‘Okay, well, the entertainment industry gives you a voice so start there.’ So I started working with places such as Shambala and the California Wildlife Center, and started raising money for them in awareness. And then we did the “Diamonds Not Fur” event for spcaLA to pass the “Fur Free” bill in West Hollywood because we found out that most of the fur comes from China, and much of it is dogs and cats because there’s no regulation. These animals are essentially tortured for vanity and fashion, which is ridiculous. So that was my first big campaign, it was with Betty White. I produced it for over a year. The second big event was “Stars 4 Stripes” hosted by Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison to save the last 1,500 tigers left in India. It’s gotten to the point where we’re gonna lose a lot of these species, and our children might just have to read about them in storybooks. That’s what I’m trying to fight right now, and it’s an uphill battle.

It’s interesting that you mention how frequently animal products are used in fashion. Being in the fashion industry, do you find that challenging to deal with?

Yeah, that’s actually how I started the event with Betty White. I was at a photo shoot for a diamond company and the stylist gave me a fur vest. She said, ‘Okay, put this on with the diamonds,” and I said, ‘Absolutely not. I would rather go naked and wear the diamonds than the fur.’ I thought that was a great slogan, so I called my publicist and said, ‘What do you think about this? Do you think we should do something with this?’ And she said, ‘Yes, let’s go for it.’ So I planned the event without even realizing the fur free movement was in full force at that point, so I started going to the fur free protests and then the bill passed, which was great. I think it’s really about using your voice and knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, and not being afraid to speak up. A lot of girls will just go with the flow because they need a paycheck or they don’t wanna ruffle any feathers, but really it’s our job as models because we’re putting our reputation on the line for a product or a company. So you have to use your voice, you have to speak up, because if you’re in their ad or commercial or whatever you’re representing the product and you’re tarnishing your brand. So I encourage people to speak up.

What was your inspiration for the “Give Me Shelter” documentary?

I woke up one day and I thought, ‘There’s all these issues going on right now with the ivory trade, tiger trade, puppy mills, dog fighting, etc. I get hundreds of emails a day about these issues, something needs to be done on a grand scale, and it needs to be done now.’ So I said, ‘Okay, well why don’t I just call a bunch of my friends in entertainment that love animals and see if they want to be a part of a documentary?’ So I called Tippi Hedren, Allison Eastwood and a bunch of other people that are really big animal advocates. We started doing interviews at my house, interviewed over 40 people—we had over 72 hours of footage from all of the big animal organizations together—and talked about all these issues. We’re almost done editing; we’re doing all the sound mixing right now which is awesome. It should be out in October, fingers crossed. So that was really the inspiration, just using all of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to really try to get it out there and tell a story about how we need to change as a species, and to be a voice for all these poor animals that are losing their lives.

What do you hope to accomplish with the film?

I would say number one is definitely raise awareness, and number two is change people’s views on animals. The number one question I get asked is, ‘How does one person make a difference?’ And I say, ‘Well, it’s easy. I’m one person, and I’ve made a tremendous difference.’ But I’m in the entertainment industry, so for people at home it starts in their own backyard. So whether you want to volunteer at a shelter or a sanctuary or a rehabilitation center, or even in your backyard have plants that a lot of animals are attracted to—you could have a little garden for animals to come and actually eat certain vegetables in your yard. So there’s little things you can do. A lot of people just don’t know where to start, and I totally get it, it can be very overwhelming, but you can pretty much Google anything.

How was the experience of producing different from anything you’ve done before?

You don’t have to take direction from anyone, which is great, and you make your own plot line and you make your own time. You have all the creative ability to really kind of run with the project, which is great because I’ve never had that before. So I think that that’s so unique. I’ve had it with charity events I’ve produced, but never on this scale.

You’re involved in so many different projects. How do you handle all the stress?

Oh my God, it’s stressful from the moment I wake up unfortunately. I have a lot of coffee, and I do yoga. I started meditation, which seems to be very helpful, so I’m really hoping to continue to meditate and be able to take control of all the projects that I have so I’m not manic. But it is a lot of work, sometimes I feel as if I’m doing the work of five people—but it’s worth it.

Since your career interests are so varied, what type of work do you ultimately want to be doing?

I would say my goal is to produce and host, so I’m trying to work with a couple networks right now and pitch a couple animal-related shows that I would also be the host for, and possibly doing more documentaries.

If you hadn’t gotten involved in the entertainment industry, what do you think you would be doing?

I would be a veterinarian. I would definitely work with animals; I know that that’s my calling. I can’t explain it; I just knew it when I was as young as five or six-years-old. And then I thought, ‘Well, maybe if I’m a model I can raise awareness for animals that way.’ Which is crazy, I don’t know how I was thinking that at such a young age. Being a veterinarian takes so much school, and school’s not my favorite subject. Although it’s very important to get an education, and I did get a degree in business and marketing,  I think that there’s several other ways besides being a veterinarian or a zoologist to help animals, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Lastly, since you’re from Chicago, what’s your favorite thing to do while in the city?

I’m actually heading there tomorrow for the first time in a year. I love seeing my family and my friends, I love going downtown to a couple of the cafes on Rush Street, and I love going shopping on Michigan Avenue.


Life After The Bachelorette: A Chat with Chris Bukowski

By Allie Duncan

Chris Bukowski never imagined he would be a contestant on Season 8 of ABC’s The Bachelorette. A Bartlett, IL native, he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and eventually attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He majored in Hospitality with a focus in Food and Beverage before eventually landing a job with the New York Islanders in New York.

“I moved out to New York for work and was happy there,” says Bukowski. “My friend Shannon from Bartlett nominated me for the show without my knowledge. She wrote a three-page letter explaining why I should be on the show. I didn’t get to see it until after filming wrapped.”

What happened next is history. The Bachelorette casting team tried to get in contact with Bukowski a number of times via phone and email to no avail, as Bukowski believed a friend was playing a joke on him. He ignored the team for two months before moving back to Chicago, where the casting team had said they would be conducting interviews at a nearby hotel.

“I figured I would just meet with them since it was near my condo,” says Bukowski. “I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.”

After an action-packed season, Bachelorette Emily Maynard eliminated Bukowski from the show after his hometown date in Chicago. Although he did not win the girl, Bukowski still took away some lessons in love.

“I learned that love is possible,” says Bukowski. “I think what the show did was make me open up and realize what I’m capable of emotionally, insofar as expressing myself to a girl. Basically, The Bachelorette is a sped up relationship, a thousand miles per hour. It’s just you and her, and she’s the only girl in the world. If there’s not that initial interest or initial connection, then you won’t have a good time on the show.”

Bukowski’s time on reality television did not end after being sent home on The Bachelorette. He then appeared on Season 3 of ABC’s Bachelor Pad, where he soon became known for being a womanizer.

“I’m really more authentic than I seem on TV,” says Bukowski. “And they didn’t show this on the show, but Sarah and I decided that if we won the money, we were going to give half of it to Habitat for Humanity. I do a lot of charity work now. We realized that there were people out there who need the money more than most of us do.”

Sarah Newlon was Bukowski’s partner on the show, where they competed against other Bachelor alums for $250,000. The two started a romance onBachelor Pad, much to the dismay of the other female contestants.

“Sarah is great,” says Bukowski. “She’s probably the most real girl on the show and the one I could relate to the most. She’s the one who would have been in my friend group back at home. But once you leave the show, it’s just tough. I went to D.C., and she’s in St. Louis. You have that relationship on the show, but after it’s all said and done, it’s not that easy when you’re in different places. But we definitely still talk.”

Newlon isn’t that only castmate that Bukowski keeps in touch with post-show. He cites many of his former cast members as being some of his best friends now.

“I keep in touch with Kalon, Jef, Arie, and Ed, who is a little crazy,” says Bukowski with a laugh. “I’m really good friends with Jaclyn and Rachel. Even people who weren’t on my season, I talk to a lot.”

Aside from staying friends with his former castmates, Bukowski plans to go into business with a few of them. He recently moved to Washington, D.C. to open a restaurant in Clarendon, VA.

“My life changed a lot after the show,” says Bukowski. “I always had dreams and goals I thought I’d reach in my early 30s that I’m reaching now because of the opportunities and publicity from the show. I always wanted to open a restaurant and now I am able to – it’s going to a be an upscale sports lounge with small plates, where you can go to watch the game during the week, too.”

Bukowski’s excitement about his restaurant venture is palpable, and he explains that it’s been a team effort with his friends and family being supportive in helping him. He’s shooting to open the restaurant sometime in the spring with the timing being around April or May.

Bukowski plans to eventually open a few restaurants on the east coast before returning to Chicago.

“I would love to settle down in Chicago, “ says Bukowski. “I miss it so much. Chicago is my favorite place. D.C. is great, too – it’s different, but I definitely love it.”

He says he’d love to try every restaurant in Chicago, and he roots for all of its major sports team. However, the Cubs are closest to his heart, as baseball is Bukowski’s favorite sport. He does note, though, that the Bears are fun to watch.

“If the Bears are losing, I’m throwing stuff in the house,” says Bukowski. “There are only 16 games in the season so it’s intense. But if the Cubs are in the playoffs, I can’t even watch. I’m a mess hiding in the closet.”

Bukowski will be back in Chicago for Christmas, which he plans to spend with his family. He’s still looking for that perfect girl, though.

“I don’t really know what the perfect girl is,” says Bukowski. “I’m still looking for her. As far as her personality, I like a girl who is confident, self-motivated, and someone that will lean on me – but not too much. She has to have her own thing going on, too. Physically, I notice the eyes first, and I love good eyes – they’re number one. A good smile is number two.”

But when it comes to dating, Bukowski says he doesn’t date much. He loves going out to different restaurants and trying new things, but he says dating is tough.

“It’s hard to know who I am going to enjoy having a first date with,” says Bukowski. “There’s a 50% chance that you’re not going to have a good time. But if you go out with someone you already know, then you’ll probably have fun. It’s hard to find someone new to have fun doing new things with.”

Bukowski should have no trouble finding a girlfriend, though, having been voted “Class Hottie” in a high school class of more than one thousand people. But it’s not his only priority.

“What’s next for me, aside from my new restaurant, is finding myself a wife,” jokes Bukowski. “I have all these good things going on so it’d be nice to share it with someone else. But you can’t go out there and make something happen – it has to happen naturally. So maybe I’ll go back on Bachelor Pad.”

Here’s hoping that we have another season of watching Bukowski on Bachelor Pad!