Interview by Stacey Leebern
This chef has come a long way since making marmalade and fudge in his grandparents’ kitchen as a young boy. Australian chef Curtis Stone has taken the United States on a cooking journey through his television show, Take Home Chef, his television appearances and his book, Surfing the Menu. He has an innate ability to capture audiences through his accent from “down under” as well as his no-fuss, natural recipes. He finds it is completely necessary to cook and share food with your family and friends. Since many can’t find the time to cook dinner on a regular basis, Curtis has made it his mission to provide families with easy recipes—all you need is natural and seasonal produce. He began his cooking career as a Sous Chef and worked his way up to Head Chef at extremely respectable restaurants in SoHo. He was approached by a publisher while working at Quo Vadis about being featured in the book, London on a Plate, about London’s finest chefs. This opportunity led to many advantages in his career and he eventually became known as “Curtis.”
Being a featured chef in London on a Plate led to numerous advantages for your cooking career, such as media acknowledgement, an agent as well as a vast waiting list at your restaurant. At the time, did you have any idea it would lead to fame?
I had no idea at all and to be honest, I thought it was a mate having a joke when they called and asked me to be a part of the book. I certainly didn’t have any idea at the time what amazing opportunities it would bring and the affect it would have on my career. I feel very lucky.
When did you discover your fascination with food? And when did you know that becoming a chef was your calling?
I always had a fascination with food (and eating) from a very young age. I think I was about four years old when I used to cook fudge with my grandmother. She used to let me measure out all the ingredients and lick the bowl, which of course was the best bit! Straight after school, I started a business course; but it wasn’t long before I realized I wanted to be in the kitchen cooking and not stuck behind a desk.
You are a natural food advocate, as you always seem to use fresh ingredients in your recipes. Can you describe the importance of cooking in this manner in regards to the finished product as well as our health, in general?
It’s very easy to overcomplicate a dish with too many ingredients. I believe that if you use quality ingredients, the dish will speak for itself. I like to focus on one or two main ingredients per dish and let the flavors of those ingredients be the hero. I am a strong believer in fresh ingredients and using organic when possible. They say “you are what you eat;” therefore, fresh is always best. You will look better and more importantly feel better when you eat fresh produce as opposed to foods that are packed full of preservatives and additives.
You have appeared on many popular talk shows to share your expertise, such as Oprah, Ellen, The Today Show, Martha Stewart, etc. Why do you suppose you are so appealing to audiences in the United States?
I’m not sure—maybe it’s the accent—and I’m a pretty laid back guy. These days my cooking is fairly relaxed, which I think makes it appealing for people to try at home.
You recently appeared on Celebrity Apprentice 3, where you were nicknamed “The Quiet Terminator.” Tell us how this name came about.
I adopted the nickname “The Quiet Terminator” as I was in the boardroom so often and I managed to escape being fired on a number of occasions. Trust me—it was grueling being in front of Mr. Trump week in and week out! Overall it was a great experience working with so many talented people and raising money for wonderful charities.
Not too long ago, you had your own show, Take Home Chef, on TLC, where you would surprise someone in the grocery store, explaining that you were going to aid them in their meal preparation for the night. What were the most rewarding, fun and shocking parts of doing the show?
I had so much fun filming Take Home Chef. It was constantly rewarding going into people’s homes and teaching them new cooking techniques as well as meals to prepare for their loved ones. There were numerous occasions when the husbands would arrive home for the big surprise and they were fairly shocked to find a strange Australian man cooking in their kitchen!
You have experienced an amazing career and therefore have had the opportunity to undergo incredible adventures. Are there any quests left on your to-do list that you have yet to encounter?
Lots! I love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit some amazing, spectacular places. I will never get tired of travelling as it inspires me to write new recipes and develop new ideas for my books. Next on my travel list is Japan. I love the food and the people but I have never had the chance to travel there.
Finish this sentence: The most rewarding aspect of being a chef is:
bringing people together, often over some kind of celebration to enjoy good food, good company and good times. svm
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