Trisha Yearwood is country music royalty. Married to superstar Garth Brooks, the Grand Ole Opry member shot to fame in the early 1990's and has since sold over 12.5 million albums worldwide, won three Grammys, three Country Music Association Awards, and performed at the White House during President Bill Clinton's inauguration. If that's not enough, the gorgeous singer is also a two-time New York Times bestselling author, hosts Trisha's Southern Kitchen on Food Network, and kicks off a country-wide tour this Wednesday, February 19 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. If you're wondering how Yearwood went from microphone to food processor, the story is as down home as the dishes she demonstrates on her Emmy-award winning television show. "It's a complete second career. I'm as surprised as anybody," she tells us. We spoke with the country star about family, the art of storytelling, and even got a few kitchen tips.
New Times: How exactly did you go from Grand Ole Opry to Food Network?
Trisha Yearwood: It started with my cookbooks. I was approached by some publishers to write a book in 2005 or 2006. My agents said there was interest in my writing an autobiography. First of all, I'm in my 40's, so I feel like a memoir is years down the road, but I know families that do these little homemade cookbooks that they pass around to their sisters and daughters. I thought that it would be really cool to have all these recipes that you collect in a shoebox somewhere in one place. At the time my father, who was a great cook, had just passed away, and so my mom and my sister and I got together to collaborate on this, never dreaming what it would do. I remember getting a call that it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. Then a second book did better than the first one and there was talk of doing a television show. For a while, I really resisted. I just didn't think cooking would be enjoyable anymore if I had a show where I stood behind a counter saying, "now you add the milk, and the eggs, and whatever". But Food Network said I could do whatever I want. So, I thought if I had my sister and best friends and family on the show, maybe it could be fun.
You're no stranger to performing, but how was hosting a cooking show different than singing on stage?
At first I was intimidated by these chefs that I have such great respect for. I'm not a trained chef and what I know is how my mom and my grandmother cooked, so I'm kind of more representative of how most people cook. I have to say that a few years ago, doing something like the South Beach Wine & Food Festival would have terrified me, but the chefs I have met over the last few years through Food Network have been so wonderful. No one ever made me feel like I don't have any place there because I don't have formal training. I will say, that in the past five years, the chefs I met and the foods I've tasted makes me want to go to culinary school and take it to the next level.
There's a certain joy in your show. With family and friends, it looks like you're doing just what you want to do.
I think it's smart to stick with what you know. I also think maybe I'm inspiring people who think cooking is too complicated. If you show an audience of regular folks that you really need a few basic ingredients and some salt and pepper and you can make a good meal, they might be empowered to try more difficult things. I also realize there's a real value in teaching people the basics. Because if you don't know how to boil an egg, you just don't know. And, if you make a mistake, what's the worst thing that can happen? We don't have a script for the show. The basic script is the recipe, and I know that by the time we have a commercial break, I have to get this thing in the oven. That's my goal and I have to tell the story that's related to the recipe and my sister's probably in the kitchen with me. It's very natural. We're not acting.
Does your experience in country music help you tell that story?
I think so. To stereotype all of us, for country music fans, it's really about stories and family. Country is one of the last places where telling a story can really live. People ask me, do you have to experience every song when you sing it? Not really, but every song feels like a mini-movie and for three minutes, I'm a character in that movie.
You're hosting the festival's Southern Kitchen Brunch for the second year in a row. What do you have planned for that?
There are always five or six other chefs at the brunch, and I try to figure out what would go along with the theme. I know we're doing Key lime cupcakes. I have a Key lime cake recipe that's become everybody's favorite. I just made it for a friend of mine for her birthday. It's great because it's bright green, so it's pretty, and there's a Key lime glaze that seeps into the cake and then it's topped with cream cheese frosting. It looks impressive, but it's really easy to make. And what I like, too, is when we were planning the festival last year, the organizers were talking about what musical act they could hire to perform at the brunch, so I asked, "well, could I do it?" and they said yeah. Because I'm one of the only cooks who actually also sings. So I love that I was able to do both. I got to host the food part and meet everybody and have them taste the food and I got to do a few songs. So I'm going to do that again this year.
You said earlier that you would love to go to culinary school. If you had to choose tomorrow, which would it be -- cooking or music?
I would love to find some time to further my culinary skills, but music is first. If I had to pick one, I would pick music. We do incorporate music on the show, a little. We put it where it makes sense.
Trisha's Family Tips:
The secret to moist Southern fried chicken is to brine the meat. Salt your chicken pieces, cover them with water, put plastic wrap over the top and let it soak overnight. The salt will soak into the meat. Don't worry, your chicken won't be overly salty. This is the secret to good fried chicken and it's that simple.
If my mother would over salt something, she would dice up a potato and stick it in the pot. That potato would soak up the extra salt and help temper that dish. Since then, I've heard other people talk about it. It works.
You simply do not go to any cookout without deviled eggs. if you ever make deviled eggs, you want to make sure the yolks are perfectly centered, but the eggs are constantly moved around during shipment, and the yolk can settle toward the bottom. So, the night before cooking the eggs, flip them over in the carton. When you cook the eggs, that yolk will be right where you want it to be.
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Southern Kitchen Brunch, hosted by Trisha Yearwood, Part of the New York Times Series; Sunday, February 23 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, 1605 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach ($150).
Trisha Yearwood will also host a culinary demonstration at the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents & KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations on Sunday, February 23 from 3:30 - 4:15 p.m. (afternoon fix tickets are $125).