Curtis Stone, Chef, Author & T.V Guy
I am not sure why but even after several years of publishing GlobalChefs.com I am still never at ease when interviewing other chefs. Even as the chef of a fantastic hotel, I still feel a little nervous, so when I arranged to meet Aussie-T.V-hottie-chef Curtis Stone I decided where better to break the ice than at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. (Please note although I live in San Francisco I did not come up with the descriptive "hottie" word myself, it was from my very good friend Helene.)
It was a sunny day and the new season's produce was on show, we cruised around the market and I soon found out that the T.V chef was a cool guy, a cook just like you and I.
Curtis began cooking at the Savoy Hotel, in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the age of 18. At the Savoy, he worked with many European and British chefs who instilled in him the importance of working abroad to build one's experience and skills. On completing his qualifications as a chef, he set off for Europe to experience life and the cuisines of Italy, France and Spain, before finally arriving in London.
In London, he found himself literally knocking on the door of the legendary Marco Pierre White, the youngest chef in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars. His book White Heat was the first cookbook ever given to Curtis. That afternoon he started work at Marco's restaurant, The Grill Room at The Café Royal.
Nothing is harder than working in the kitchen - is it? Curtis Stone
From The Grill Room, Curtis proceeded to Mirabelle as sous-chef and played a large part in creating the Mirabelle Cookbook. He worked at the restaurant for another year, during which time it was awarded a Michelin star. After winning Marco's trust and respect, Curtis was made head chef at another of White's flagships, the critically acclaimed Quo Vadis. During Curtis' four-year stint at Quo Vadis, he was approached by a publisher and included in a book about London's finest chefs, London on a Plate and this is where the story begins…
G.C - How did you make you way from Marco's kitchen to the television studio?
Curtis - After I was featured in London on a Plate I got a call from Jamie Oliver's agent. That led to several more T.V appearances and eventually to a 15-episode television series Dinner in a Box for U.K. Food. After that I filmed two series back home in Aus' - Surfing The Menu and a reality show My Restaurant Rules.
G.C - So no more kitchen action from that day on?
Curtis - No that's actually not the case, I found that I was missing the kitchen so I returned to London. I worked on relaunching Terence Conran's famous Bluebird Club. I started out with a very ambitious vision but in business things don't always work out how you would imagine. I settled on consulting on the project.
While I have been living in L.A I have been working in the kitchen of a local restaurant and when I go back to the U.K. I spend time working the kitchen with a few of my mates. I never thought I would miss opening 100 scallops!
G.C - How did Take Home Chef and your move to the US materialize?
Curtis - When the network was planning the show they felt that and international chef would be a great fit for the show, my agent sent show reels and I was picked. I was amazed; I had always imagined that I would work in Asia or Europe but never the States. I love it here; it's such a great opportunity.
G.C - Any suggestions to other chefs as to how they could make their way on to T.V. screen?
Curtis - I can't really as it was a sequence of events that got me to where I am. I can offer some advice and that's that you need to have some very thick skin. It is a very competitive world. Remember to be yourself, learn to change your food style, roll with the punches and don't take it too seriously.
G.C - Will there be more episodes of Take Home Chef?
Curtis - Yes there will. We have filmed 120 so far. The new ones that we are taping are not so random. We are responding to viewers who have written in requesting that we cook for friends or relatives that deserve some good food. We recently taped a show cooking for a soldier who was returning from Iraq.
G.C - Do you find it hard to keep coming up with new ideas of what to cook?
Curtis - Yes it is a real challenge. 120 shows mean 360 recipes (3 per show). People have very similar tastes in what they like to eat so that narrows down the ingredient list.
G.C - Is it harder than working in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White?
Curtis - Nothing is harder than working in the kitchen - is it?
G.C - Let's talk favorite things… ingredient?
Curtis - Seafood, wild mushrooms, truffles.
G.C - Cookbook? (This gets them every time.)
Curtis - Err, tough one, err… OK. I love the classics, Larousse Gastronomique and Aussie writer Stephanie Alexander's Cooking and Traveling in Southwest France .
G.C - Professional chefs you most respect?
Curtis - Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Tony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay.
G.C - Music to listen to while cooking?
Curtis - That depends on what I am cooking. If it's pastry then perhaps classical music or jazz. On the savory side, when I worked in London it was the Sex Pistols, it really got everyone moving.
G.C - Last meal before going to see the big man?
Curtis - Well I 'm not sure I would be welcome at the Pearly Gates and I think that all I would find up there is the boring people, but last meal on earth would consist of; foie gras, truffles, pigeon, champagne (lots of it) and chocolate. I would want it to be with my Granny, Mum, Dad and Brother as I don't get to see them too often. If they were busy I would settle for a bunch of Playboy Bunnies. I would have Marco cook it and be sure to send a few things back, just to piss him off!