Maybe you've never eaten his food, but now that Curtis Stone has managed to hang on for seven Celebrity Apprentice episodes, much of America hungers for whatever he's willing to cook up. This Aussie chef known as much for his talent as his spiked, blonde bed-head hair and mega-watt smile, became a household name after starring in TLC's Take Home Chef, and he elevated his celebrity status over the years by introducing numerous cookbooks and products for the table and kitchen.
Rumored to somehow still remain single (there's hope for us yet!), he is also called on by The Today Show for regular appearances, often serving on "guys tell all" panels or little vignettes wherein he's asked to treat American gals to a nice night in.
New Times: Ready for the interview? Are you in a comfy chair?
Curtis Stone: I'm actually in the kitchen. I'm making chicken soup for a friend who's a little bit sick.
That's really sweet of you. Any special chicken soup tips?
I found out what their favorite was and it's just chicken noodle soup. I've never actually made one before, so I'm just making it up as I go.
Speaking of people not feeling well, I'd be remiss to not ask you about Bret Michaels. You seemed to bond on
Celebrity Apprentice and now he's going through all this horrible stuff. Have you spoken to him? Is he doing better?
It's so sad. Bret's such a great guy. But I don't want to speculate on his condition.
Understood. Then let's talk about the show. Are you the first chef to appear?
I think so.
Did you try to hook that up or did your agent call to say, "Hey, guess what you're doing next?"
They asked us to do the first two seasons, which we said no to, believe it or not. I thought, with my schedule, it would be crazy. I never thought about doing a reality show before. But I was working with Feeding America
a lot just before we got the call this last time and they said, "We've called you the last couple of seasons. We're trying it one more time. If you want to do it, it's there for the taking." And I was like, you know what? It's such an incredible opportunity to shine such a big light on this charity and also have the opportunity to raise some serious cash for them so I thought, let's have some fun.
Do you think the show portrays you authentically?
All in all, everyone got portrayed quite fairly. Like the producers were saying to us at the start of the show, they only way we can show you is the way you act.
I know reality TV hasn't been your thing, but lots of what you've done on the screen is improvisational. You're pretty comfortable with that set-up, I would think, by now.
I feel like I am, anyway. Usually you're most comfortable when you're talking about something you love and are passionate about which, for me, of course, is food. But we've got a pretty multifaceted business as well. We do all sorts of things from speaking engagements, to writing and selling cookbooks, to promoting and making TV shows, and creating and designing cookware, and meeting with retailers... There are a lot of different elements I've got to deal with.
Why do you think your skills as a chef help or hurt you on Celebrity Apprentice?
Well, you never know what your task is going to be. You know, last week we had to do an exercise video. The week before that was a marketing challenge. All sorts of different elements of your personality and your business sense are tested. You've got to come up with something constantly that's creative.
I've seen a few episodes and noticed that each task reflects the talent or career of the contestants on the show, but I don't recall seeing one that specifically had to do with cooking. Did I miss it?
Actually, it was the first one. We had to run a New York City diner for a day. That was fun for me, although it was a lot of pressure. You know, from the very first challenge you're like, okay, I'm pretty much going to have to do this and my head's on the chopping block.
Let's go back to the charity, Feeding America. What exactly is its function?
It's a hunger relief organization and it looks after a bunch of different agencies. It's a large variety of stuff, all that deal with hunger. It could be an agency that provides canned food for families that are a little down on their luck, right through to supplying a homeless shelter with ingredients that could be cooked and sending people out to help with the production of it.
I got involved when I started with The Biggest Loser. The more I got to know about the charity, the more I was touched by it. You know, it's pretty staggering figures once you delve in. Within America, we tend to look further afield to see there's problems in the world... there's a million worthwhile charities around, but sometimes we should look in our own backyard. I think one in eight Americans is still affected by hunger, which is crazy considering we're supposedly such a well-off nation we have so many great opportunities and all the rest of it.
What exactly do you do for Feeding America?
My experience has been everything from cooking in shelters in New York to doing a lot with the New York City Mission, and the hunger relief agencies here in L.A.
I got involved with David Arquette
. He heads up their entertainment board and posts a lot of initiatives to draw attention to the board.
You're from Australia, originally, and hunger is a huge problem there, too. Why did you focus on an American charity instead?
I'm living here, and I'm paying taxes here, and residing here. I feel like this is home for me right now. Yeah I come from Australia and I've lived in the U.K. before but I think to become part of a place you have to be really active in it. America is such a fantastic place and has given me so many great opportunities I feel like it's just appropriate that you give back, you know?
If you were to become President of the U.S. what would you do to solve the hunger crisis?
They won't let me because I'm not a citizen! But I'm working on it. [Laughs.]
The amazing thing is, as consumers and a population of people, we've got so much power and we don't really realize it. I often say to people, and through my work on Biggest Loser, they often say, "Well, McDonalds and Coca Cola..." You know, they name these big, powerful companies that might be having an adverse effect on people's weight or diabetes issues we're facing. My opinion is, it's not the big companies that are to blame; it's the consumers. If the consumers can be educated about the problem, we can make our choices. And the companies respond to our choices.
Same thing with hunger. I really think if we could make everybody aware of the problem and how we operate day-to-day... Goodness, we waste so much food! We've all been in situations... things get thrown in the garbage and there are people just down the road who don't have enough to eat. That's what Feeding America is all about, the redirection of food to people that need it.
Tomorrow we'll cover the story of how Stone decided to become a chef, how he got started on TV, and why he can't wait to get back to Miami.