"I'm working to be more visible in the food world," a hungry Coolio admits. "What I really want to do right now is get a signature restaurant in one of the Vegas casinos."
He's not joking.
"We can start off really small, I don't care. I just want more people to be able to taste my food."
Coolio, the self-proclaimed "ghetto gourmet," began cooking at an early age, finding his way around the kitchen under the direction and supervision of his favorite chef. Acting as his mother's sous chef, the would-be rapper developed his culinary chops dicing onions and mincing garlic, skills he'd later demonstrate on his critically-acclaimed--but now defunct--Web series, Cookin' with Coolio.
In 2009, Atria Books published Cookin' with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, a collection of 76 recipes and gastronomical insight from the "Gangster's Paradise" MC. Replacing tablespoons with dime bags and teaspoons with nickel bags of salt, Coolio shares mouthwatering dishes for "Salad-Eatin' Bitches" and those with a craving for "Appetizers for that Ass."
Crass chapter titles notwithstanding, Cookin' with Coolio may be one of the finest celebrity cookbooks in circulation. It has a four-and-a-half star rating on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and helped land the ghetto gourmet a spot on the first season of the Food Network's Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, where he finished in second place and took home $10,000 for the Music Saves Lives charity.
"I got that Food Network love, but they still haven't given me my own show," Coolio quips. "They give people shows all day, every day, that don't even have half the talent that I have."
Coolio is even willing to work with contentious chef and former Food Network star Paula Deen.
"I don't have a problem with her, I just think she made a mistake," he says, referring to the recent controversy stemming from racially insensitive comments Deen made several years ago.
"There's no indication that she's a straight-out racist, or that she doesn't like black people or anything like that. I think she just made a hell of a mistake.
"If I was her," he adds, "I would've kept my mouth shut; she wasn't on a lie detector machine, she was under oath. People lie under oath every day, I would."
But until the Food Network or Paula Deen call, Coolio will continue to explore different business ventures.
"I want to do some more acting," he says. "I'm actually getting ready to shoot my own film."
Coolio won't get into specifics, but the Renaissance man does say that he plans to co-write and direct the movie, as well as act. The rapper has already had several small roles in TV and film throughout his career, but feels he hasn't been able to truly shine.
"I want to do films that showcase my talents," he says. "I don't think I've been represented well in film."
He was, however, accurately represented on Nickelodeon in the late 90s as rapper. Showcasing his versatile skills, Coolio penned the catchy theme to Kenan & Kel, starring current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell.
When asked which of the comedic actors he favorites, Coolio explains that the two can't be separated.
"I think when you speak of them, you can only speak about them together," he says. "Kel, excuse my French, wouldn't have been shit without Kenan, and Kenan wouldn't have been shit without Kel. They go hand-in-hand."
Coolio's 50th Birthday and Live Performance. Friday, August 2. LIV, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Doors open at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $40 to $60 plus fees via wantickets.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-674-4680 or visit livnightclub.com.
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