julie & Julia

7 Questions with Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

Hannah Hart of My Drunk KitchenHave you ever gotten so drunk that you did something extremely ridiculous?  Of course you have.  Imagine if someone had gotten that crazy stunt on video.  Now imagine if it then went viral on the YouTube.  Well, that’s what happened to Hannah Hart and the worst part is she’s the one who video taped it and she even uploaded it to the world’s most popular video site, too.

The video in question was meant as a joke.  A way of sharing a laugh with an old friend clear on the other side of the country.  That was four months and 630,000 downloads ago.  Today it is known throughout the Interwebs as Ep. 1: Butter Yo Shit.

So successful was that one drunken evening butchering a grilled cheese sandwich that eight more followed to create a web series called My Drunk Kitchen.  The series as a whole has amassed a staggering 4.6 million downloads, again in just four months.  There’s just something intoxicating about Hannah’s signature, “Hello!”

So what’s her secret?  It’s no secret really, she’s damned funny.  She also sports a nerdy sexuality that surely has fan boys throughout the country Hannah Hart My Drunk Kitchenlove-stricken.  Well cool your jets, boys, Hannah supports the penis embargo.  Or as she puts it “she’s a big ol’ homo.”  It hasn’t stopped her from receiving nearly a thousand marriage proposals, and not just from undersexed geeks and Glee fans either but also from normal people.

When she’s not charming the masses in her quirky cooking (for lack of a better word) show or it’s companion series Advice from the Hart, Hannah is a proofreader specializing in Japanese/English texts for an international translation firm.  According to her web site her free time is spent, “listening to music and doing Sudoku in cafes. She calls this writing.  She enjoys long meandering walks, impromptu dance parties, and artisanal cheeses.”

Sure having a cooking show where the chef gets a little tipsy isn’t new (see Julia Child, Justin Wilson) but one where the host gets three sheets to the wind and the food is iffy?  Yeah, that’s new.  Hannah Hart is the coolest, hippest thing on “the online” right now and that’s why she’s appearing at VidCon 2011 this week in LA.  But she’s neither too cool nor too busy to answer 7 Questions:

1. Have you ever cooked anything on your show that turned out surprisingly well?

Yes! The “America Day Pie Cakes” that I made for the 4th of July episode were edible! Not only that, they were actually tasty. I was shocked.

Hannah Hart My Drunk Kitchen2. What would you say is the sexiest cheese?

Definitely Swiss. Such a tease.

3. The phrase “overnight sensation” is usually a misnomer but not in your case.  How crazy have the past few months been?

The past four months since the first episode launched have been a bit crazy! I was just goofing off and sent my friend a “parody of a YouTube cooking show” and now…this! I’ve been really surprised and really flattered by the positive response.

4. What creates the best cooking drunk – wine, beer or hard liquor?

Champagne! Easily. The most giddy episodes are the ones where I’m bubblin’ on bubbly.

5. Any plans for a spin-off like My Stoned Auto Shop or My Tweeked Chiropractic Clinic?

Ha! All those and more are brilliant ideas. I definitely want to expand the kitchen concept into more comedy. But hopefully people will accept me as just “a girl who likes to make you laugh” instead of “the sloshed chick with the internet thing.” We shall see. Here’s hoping!

6. What can you tell me about My Drunk Iron Kitchen Chef?

It’s going to be FUNDERFUL. If you can get to SF in August, you should. Dates and info to come! The best way to find out about appearances/events is to sign up for the mailing list on the website. I promise no spam! Only monthly e-mails with info.

7. Do you think My Drunk Kitchen could translate well to the big screen a la Julie & Julia?

The real question is: Is America ready to handle such TRUTH? I’d like to think so.

 

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If you haven’t witnessed Hannah’s magic yet enjoy this playlist of her work:

10 Most Influential Chefs Part 2.

This is a ranking of the chefs I feel have had the greatest influence on the American culinary scene.  When the idea of ranking the 10 most influential chefs originally came to me the first thing I had to do was set out a criteria for my ranking.  Here’s what I asked myself:

  • Have they influenced younger chefs?
  • Have they had an influence on the American table?
  • Have they influenced the US dining scene?
  • Have they influenced home cooks?
  • Have they influenced me?

As with any of these types of lists debate will rage.  I invite, nay!  I implore you to use the comments section to offer your own critiques and substitutions.  Let’s start with a review of Chefs 10 – 6:

10. Michael Symon
9. James Beard
8. Graham Kerr
7. Bobby Flay
6. Emeril Legasse

If you are interested in reading my justifications or reasons for ranking who I did, where I did then read Part 1 HERE.  Now let’s proceed with the top 5:

Julia Child5. Julia Child (author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a dozen more cookbooks and host of The French Chef and numerous other TV series).  Ah Julia.  You can find people who dislike Emeril and Bobby and Graham and even those who hate on Jacques Pepin, but everyone loves Julia.  Thankfully those who did not grow up watching her cooking on TV got a chance to know her in last year’s hit film Julie & Julia.  Julia left us in 2004 but her influence on the way home cooks cook is apparent even today.  Sure Beard was first and Kerr the most famous but Julia transcends time.  She taught Americans that not only is it good to dream big but also to fail big.  She made great food accessible to the everyday person and removed the bourgeoisie tethers from French cuisine.  She returned it to the commoner.  I am lucky enough to own a first edition copy of Julia’s second book, the companion to her hit series, The French Chef. It was a gift from one of my own chef groupies and it is the star of my cookbook collection.  I do not cook from it, I cherish it.  Just as we all cherished Chef Julia Child.

Thomas Keller4. Thomas Keller (The French Laundry and ad hoc in Yountville, California, Bouchon in Yountville, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, Bouchon Bakery in Las Vegas, Yountville and New York City, Per Se in New York City).  Do you know why you have heard of Yountville, California?  Because of Thomas Keller.  Before Keller opened his first eatery, The French Laundry, Yountville was just another spot on the map.  Now it is the heart of the Napa Vally wine country.  Many have proclaimed Chef Thomas Keller the best chef in the world.  Of course there is no way to quantify such an accolade.  The kicker for me of Keller’s genius was on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s short-lived Food Network series, A Cook’s Tour where Bourdain and some friends were treated to a Keller tasting menu at The French Laundry and midway through the six hour eat-a-thon Keller had made a course specifically for the chain-smoking Bourdain – a Marlboro Red infused custard.  According to Anthony, “this is like driving a Rolls Royce naked in mink underpants.”  You can watch the entire French Laundry Experience HERE.

Daniel Boulud3. Daniel Boulud (Daniel, Bar Boulud, Cafe Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, DBGB Kitchen & Bar and Bar Pleiades in New York, DB Bistro Moderne in Miami, Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach, DB Bistro Moderne and Lumiere in Vancouver, Bar Boulud in London and Maison Boulud in Beijing).  Boulud is very talented.  He has a devotion to wowing diners and has maintained that reputation for going on three decades.  His restaurants can be found all over the globe ( four countries on three continents) but with Daniel it’s all about disciples.  Boulud has mentored more big name chefs than anyone since Escoffier.  The list of names is ridiculous.  Boulud also starred as the host of a show about the truly extravagant side of dinner parties on the now-defunct HD network MOJO called After Hours with Daniel Boulud.  It was unequivocally the best food porn I have ever seen.  You can watch every episode for free at Hulu.com.  You can’t really call yourself a foodie if you don’t.

Ferran Adrià2. Ferran Adrià (El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, Spain).  You had to see this one coming.  I mean this guy is on everyone’s list and for good reason he created a cuisine.  Although Adrià balks at such talk and even declines to call what he does molecular gastronomy but that is a good description.  Adrià’s unique vision and creativity have produced the bulk of the world’s food trends for the past four or five years – foams, caviars and all manners of deceptive looking morsels.  He has made a small Catalonia village over looking the Atlantic ocean one of the must-see locals on earth.  They flock there for a meal at the current best restaurant on earth.  And they have a sense of urgency about it.  El Bulli is closing its doors in 2014 so that Chef Ferran can work on other projects.  It’s a shame really because if you don’t have reservations already then chances are you may never get to try it.   Chef Gordan Ramsay describes Adrià’s cooking as, “. . .  cooking 20 years ahead of its time.”  Adrià’s disciples are as numerous as his accolades and they spread from Barcelona to LA and beyond.  You could easily make the case for Adrià to be #1 and get few arguments, after all the guy did invent a whole new cuisine.  How do you top that?

With one spot left to go I’m sure people are already making a list of chefs they think belong on this list more than others.  You’d be hard pressed to find fault with any top 10 chef’s list that included the likes of David Chang, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Laurent Tourondel, Larry Forgione, Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa or Alice Waters.  If fact if you asked me to do this again in six months chances are you’d find one or more of them on that list.  By mentioning that I have just given you a clue that none of them are my #1 most influential chef.  That goes to . . .

Wolfgang Puck1. Wolfgang Puck (Spago in LA, Chinois in Santa Monica, Postrio in LA and Las Vegas, CUT in LA and Las Vegas, Trattoria del Lupo and Springs Preserve Café in Las Vegas, Five-Sixty in Dallas, The Source in Washington DC, Wolfgang Puck B&G and WP24 in LA, Wolfgang Puck in Orlando, Wolfgang Puck Grille in Detroit, 20.21 in Minneapolis, countless cookbooks and official caterer for the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball).  Puck’s career has been ridiculous.  Many consider him the first rock star/chef because he was the first chef (sans TV) that people actually knew about.  He was the first chef to have people show up at his restaurant just to get a glimpse of him.  His gig catering the Governor’s Ball at the Oscars was the catalyst to it all and it is something he still does to this day.  He was really the first chef to build an empire of multiple restaurants.  Puck is responsible for introducing two cooking styles – Fusion and California Cuisine.  He has an impressive list of disciples.  He pioneered branding for chefs and has also done a number of hit TV shows.  Most importantly, if you ask many of the other great chefs discussed here they’ll tell you that their number one influence is Puck.  To any who have read much of my writing you may have noticed that I usually refer to him as “the incomparable  Wolfgang Puck.”  From where I sit that is the best way to describe him, incomparable.  Though numbers ten through two may change for me depending on the barometric pressure or what color socks I’m wearing Puck will always be #1.

Alright there’s my list.  Rip me apart in the comments if you like.  It’s all good.

El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, Spain.

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7 Questions with Graham Kerr

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

In the tabernacle of celebrity chefs three names stand head and shoulders above the rest: James Beard, Julia Child and Graham Kerr.  Beard was the original cheflebrity having published his first cookbook (Hors D’oeuvre And Canapes available at amazon.com) in 1940 and he was pioneering food television as early as 1946.  Child’s journey from house wife to household name has been well documented, most recently in the hit film Julie & Julia.  Sadly Chef Beard left us in 1985 and Julia back in 2004 but Chef Kerr, he’s still going strong.

Graham Kerr’s star began to rise in the late 1950’s when he was named chief chef catering adviser for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.  That coveted post led to a series of recipes for radio, magazines and, ultimately, a book, Entertaining with Kerr. Eventually Kerr caught the eye of NZBC producer Shirley Maddock who put the jovial Scot on New Zealand television in 1960.

Graham Kerr the Galloping GourmetSeveral years on TV down under soon brought the New World knocking. CJOH-TV wanted Kerr to star in a new show to be shot in Ontario. To make things better Kerr’s beloved wife Treena would produce the show inspired by a book Graham had co-written with Len Evans entitled The Galloping Gourmets. For making the move to Canadian TV Kerr would be paid the incredible salary of two million dollars.  That’s unheard of today much less in 1967.

Things were going well for Graham and Treena Kerr.  The Galloping Gourmet was a hit easily justifying the big pay day.  Even though some (mainly doctors and nutritionists) were critical of Kerr’s unabashed use of butter, cream and rich, fatty cuts of meat the North American viewers were in love Kerr’s classic French food and gregarious personality.  Graham was a star – bigger than Beard, bigger than Julia.  Things were good.  But like everyone that has ever lived the Kerrs were on that roller coaster called life.

In April of 1971 the good times came to a screeching halt.  Graham and Treena were passengers in an RV that was rear-ended by a speeding produce truck.  The world’s most famous chef was paralyzed for a short while.  It would be three years before he returned to television and when he did it was with a different purpose.

Kerr was still cooking the rich foods that had made him famous but his close call had led him to Jesus.  It was not long before his faith would collide with the often anti-freedom of religion folks that permeate the entertainment industry.  He had decided to include a Bible passage in the closing credits of his new show, Take Kerr.  The media was not happy and as a result the show only lasted one year but new shows and opportunities would make him the chef of the 1970’s.

When the 80’s began Kerr was again on top of the world and in high demand.  However, in 1986 something happened that would forever alter his gallop.  His wife and partner, Treena suffered a stroke which was soon followed by a severe heart attack.  His high fat, high calorie food was killing her.  Now in his fifties, Graham Kerr completely reinvented his cooking style.

Graham and Treena KerrThis is where I enter the story, if only from the fringe.  I was a struggling musician in Nashville who had yet to understand that this fascination with food could eventually pay my bills in ways that music never had.  Working nights as a line cook at a Tex-Mex restaurant I often awoke to the cooking shows on day time cable TV.  That included the Graham Kerr Show.  The show revolved around his “Minimax” approach to cooking; it was revolutionary.

By this time there had been cooking shows about healthy cooking and there had been shows about food that tasted good.  But this was the first show about healthy food that was genuinely tasty.  “Minimax” meant that the recipes minimized fat and cholesterol while maximizing aroma, color, texture and taste.  No show before or since has influenced my cooking more than the Graham Kerr Show.  I learned tricks that have helped me my entire career.

Gone was the butter and in it’s stead an ingenious oil blend – 15 parts extra virgin olive oil and 1 part toasted sesame oil – the result was a liquid very similar in flavor to clarified butter.  Also missing was all that heavy cream; it was replaced with evaporated fat free milk.  Brilliant!  The argument can be made that Kerr was responsible for salsa supplanting ketchup as America’s most popular condiment once he explained about its many healthy attributes while remaining exceptionally flavorful.  He also extolled the important role fresh herbs and produce play in making food delicious without adding unnecessary calories.

After dozens of cookbooks and hundreds of hours of television Chef Graham Kerr still found the time to answer 7 Questions.

1. How many countries have you called home?

United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA (5)

2. From Entertaining with Kerr to Gathering Place you’ve done some 450 hours of food television; is there one series that you think best captures who you really are?

Gathering Place, an in depth search for lifestyle solutions in my life.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Andre Simon (Food & Wine Society Founder)
Maitre Chef des Cuisines Silvano Trompetto (Savoy, London)
Master Chef Karl Guggenmoss, Culinary Dean, Johnson & Wales University

4. Who was better in a street fight, Julia Child or James Beard?

Julia

5. What do you think of this new era of celebrity chefs with their Beatlesque followings?

A rather crowded wave of surfers without a clear line to the beach and diminishing waves.

6. The new Cooking Channel is showing The Galloping Gourmet; do you ever watch it?

I must admit that we no longer have TV.  I’ve only ever seen 4 episodes.  When you watch what you do you can become an edited person.

7. What’s next for Chef Graham Kerr?

A daily web blog on seven major changes we must make by 2020 on www.grahamkerr.com, starting November.

For those of you who have never scene Chef Graham in action enjoy this classic clip from the Galloping Gourmet.

The Gift of Julia

Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday.  Like many other chefs around the world I would like to share one of my favorite Julia memories.  The following happened in 2009 while I was the executive chef at Mars Hill Cafe.

With the Oscar buzz for Julie & Julia, the nation is savoring the gem that was Julia Child. Julia was one of the original cheflebrities and her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking changed the way Americans eat forever. Her bigger than life persona inspired a generation of home cooks to attempt classic French dishes like Coq au Vin and Coquilles Saint-Jacques.

The French Chef CookbookRecently a regular customer to the café presented me with the gift of a first edition copy of Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook. The book was published in 1968 as a companion to her long-running TV show, The French Chef. The book had belonged to the customer’s mother who passed away in 2007. I would like to share with you the note she signed inside the book. I am only including first names so as to protect my benefactor’s anonymity.

Dear Stuart,
This book belonged to my mother Mary. When I discovered it I thought of you. The tasty dishes you prepare for Mars Hill Café are wonderful and delightful to the taste buds. It is my hope that this book of treasured recipes enhances your career and aids your dream of becoming a top rated TV chef.

Bon appetite!
Glynis

The book now occupies a prominent place in my living room. It is a treasure I will keep the rest of my life. Or at least until my niece graduates from culinary school. That gives me about 15 years to enjoy it.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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