Bravo’s Golden Boy
You may recognize this handsome Aussie as the host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, but Curtis Stone is also a classically trained chef and best-selling cookbook author with his own line of sleek kitchen products. His latest book, What’s for Dinner?, is packed with flavorful, unfussy recipes for the family on the go, as well as weeknight time-saving tips and ways to stay within your budget. A family man himself, Curtis talks about the challenges of getting home-cooked meals on the table and his favorite kid-friendly restaurants in his adopted hometown LA.
AndrewZimmern.com: How did you go from business school to working for Marco Pierre White at Café Royal?
Curtis Stone: Part way through my business school studies, I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it. I had always loved cooking and suddenly it was so clear that what I really wanted to do was go to culinary school. I worked at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne while finishing my degree, and then took off for Europe to learn from the masters. When I got to London, I knocked on the door of Marco’s Café Royal and offered to work for free just for the opportunity to learn from him. Naturally, he took me up on it! Eventually I worked my way up to head chef at Mirabelle and Quo Vadis, two other MPW restaurants.
AZ.com: What’s the inspiration behind your new cookbook, What’s For Dinner?
CS: The inspiration came when my son was born. I would be in the kitchen holding him and stirring a pot, and it struck me how busy we all are and how many challenges we face getting a home-cooked dinner on the table. I actually almost called the book The Art of One-Armed Cooking! But the right recipe is the one that works at the right time, so I set out to write a cookbook that gave people a selection of delicious and doable recipes that met their needs, whether they were time-poor or looking to eat more healthy dishes.
AZ.com: Your favorite weeknight meal from the cookbook?
CS: That’s a bit like picking your favorite child! I love the Chicken Cassoulet with Fennel and Bacon, because it has such rich flavors, but I also love the New Orleans “Barbecued” Shrimp. It’s so tasty and can be pulled together in 15 minutes from start to finish.
AZ.com: Top time-saving tips for the busy home cook?
CS: First, be prepared. It’s one of the easiest ways to save time in the kitchen. Read the whole recipe to make sure you have everything you need. Then prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. With all of the ingredients ready to go and at arm’s reach, the cooking time will fly.
AZ.com: The best part about hosting Top Chef Masters?
CS: Getting to eat all of the spectacular food created by some of the best chefs in the country!
AZ.com: Most memorable dish thus far?
CS: Honestly, it’s probably all of the dishes made from bugs in the third season. Not the best memory, mind you, but one I won’t soon forget.
AZ.com: What foods do you miss most from your native Australia?
CS: As unpopular as it is in the States, I do crave Vegemite, especially on toast with butter. You can find it here, but it takes some hunting.
AZ.com: Favorite family-friendly restaurants in LA?
CS: When we go out to eat with our 17-month-old son, I like to choose a place that’s fun, bustling and boisterous and has amazing food like Waterloo & City, Ford’s Filling Station, 800 Degrees Pizzeria, and Umami Burger.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
CS: Whatever veggies are in season, Greek yogurt, whole milk and loads of hot sauce.
Check out Curtis’ recipe for Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts and Basil.
Curtis Stone is the author of four cookbooks and host of Top Chef Masters on Bravo. He is also the creator of Kitchen Solutions, a sleek line of cookware sold in retailers worldwide, and writes a monthly column for Men’s Fitness. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Stone honed his skills in London at Cafe Royal, under legendary three-star Michelin chef Marco Pierre White, and at Mirabelle and the revered Quo Vadis. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.