Susan Irby

WTVC Exclusive: Bikini Lifestyles’ Susan Irby

Not too long ago I was writing for a site called Paper Palate doing cookbook reviews.  One month I was assigned two cookbooks from Adams Media’s $7 Meals series.  Both were written by Susan Irby.  While doing my research I learned that Susan billed herself as “the Bikini Chef.”  I’m a guy so of course I was intrigued.

Stuart and Susan Irby

Susan Irby and I at the Taste Awards

After doing some more research (Susan calls it stalking) I stumbled onto her site and we began communicating via e-mail about the books.  That led to Friending each other on Facebook and following each other on Twitter.  From time to time we even spoke on the phone.  In January of 2010 I was a judge for the Taste Awards and Susan was one of the Red Carpet Ambassadors for the Award Show.   Finally we got to meet IRL as the kids call it.  She remains to this day one of the best friends I have in this whole celebrity chef world.  I don’t even mind that she’s an Alabama fan.

Three years ago Susan began a radio show called Bikini Lifestyles that expanded on her persona as the Bikini Chef.  It was a show unlike anything the listeners of LA had ever heard.  Three co-hosts and celebrity guests from every field all talking about healthy eating, exercise and fashion.  The show would occasionally venture off its set formula to include dalliances into culture like wine, the Oscars or when a certain Wannabe TV Chef was asked on to discuss the history of Mardi Gras in America.

The show was a hit so it should come as no surprise that TV should come knocking.  Bikini Lifestyles is now a TV series on PBSTM BL:TV is like nothing national public television has ever done.  The majority of their food related programming has followed the stand-and-stir format pioneered by Julia Child.  Perhaps it is time to stir things up a bit.  Bikini Lifestyles is more of a lifestyles show, like The Chew, than it is a cooking show.

So just what is Bikini Lifestyles about?  Let’s find out.

First tell me about your Quinoa book.

I’m very excited about my Quinoa book.  Ever since I started writing it I see Quinoa everywhere.  I have over 200 recipes and I invited some of my chef friends to contribute a few recipes like Chef Brendan Collins.  I’m excited.  You can pretty much use Quinoa anywhere you use rice.  It’s going to be a great book that will appeal to a lot of people, I belive.

When does it come out?

July 3rd.

And it’s called the Alabama Fan’s Guide to Quinoa right?

[LAUGHS] Nooo… It’s called the The Complete Idiot’s Guide Quinoa Cookbook.  It’s got pretty much everything you need to know about Quinoa.

How did Bikini Lifestyles come to be?

As long as I have been the Bikini Chef people have been saying, “You should be on TV.”  You know how that goes, Stuart.  Well just out of the blue last year I got a phone call from this production company out of New York and they said they wanted to do a pilot.  And I was like, “Oh yeah right.”  Delete.  Delete.  Delete the message.  They kept calling back so finally I decided to take the call.

And so, we went to New York and shot the pilot.  They sent the pilot out and they got a lot of interest.  And now Bikini Lifestyles is the only food and fitness show on the air, at least that I know of.

What can viewers expect to see on Bikini Lifestyles?

It’s wine, dining and work out.  We have a little bit of wine, we have food, we have a little bit of fitness.  In one episode we’re doing Pilates, one we’re playing tennis and in one we’re boxing but we wind up each show with fashion to prove we can clean up well.  You just get the whole flavor.  We’re living an everything in moderation lifestyle.

Tell me a little about your co-hosts.

We’ve been doing the radio show for almost three years and we just really work well together.  Let’s start with Denice (Fladeboe) she’s the voice of reason.  She’s very elegant, she’s a world traveler and she runs her family automotive business and they’ve had that business for over 50 years.

Then we have Steve.  Steve (Valentine) is the complete opposite.  Steve’s a scene-stealer.  He brings a lot of um… um… I don’t know what the right word would be.  I don’t want to say chaos but sometimes it feels like that.

When was the official premiere of the show?

The show’s premiere was April 15.  So far we have had more than 50% of the PBSTM affiliates express interest.

Did you do anything special like throw a viewing party?

Actually we threw a launch party on the last day of shooting and while we had our film crew there we wanted to film our launch party.  So they filmed it and we did a live broadcast of the radio show from it with Chef Brendan Collins who’s one of the chefs on the show.  We had a pink carpet so everybody got to walk the pink carpet.

So what’s next for the Bikini Chef?

Season 2.  You can rest assured that wine, dining and working out will be on the agenda.


Check local listings for schedule in your area.  Also available on independent cable networks.

2011 WTVC Food Blog Awards

WTVC Awards
Welcome to the very first Wannabe TV Chef (WTVC) Food Blog Awards.  These awards are my way of recognizing some of the best foodie sites on the Online.

Some of the people awarded I have had the pleasure to meet in person and others probably don’t know me from Adam.  Now sit back and meet the winners of the 2011 WTVC Food Blog Awards:

Best Site by a Professional Chef: Big Jones Blog by Chef Paul Fehribach

Best Site by a Home Chef: Average Betty by Sara O’Donnell

Best Lifestyle Site: Jolene’s Trailer Park by Jolene Sugarbaker

Best Health & Fitness Site: The Bikini Chef by Susan Irby

Best Instructional Site: Food Wishes by Chef John Mitzewich

Best Outdoor Cooking Site: Deep South Cooking Outfitters by Gene Fox

Best Food Writing Site: by Michael Ruhlman

Best Celebrity Chef Site: Alton Brown (just a lowly cook) by Alton Brown

Best Niche Site: Happy Little Bento by Sheri Chen

Best Dessert Site: Bake and Destroy by Natalie Slater

Best Site With a Cause: Bloggers Without Borders – A Fund for Jennie

Best Branded Site: Bitchin’ Kitchen by Nadia G

Graham Kerr the Galloping Gardener?

Some 20 years ago, having learned that his high fat, high calorie cooking style was killing his wife Graham Kerr changed his approach.  Known to the world as the Galloping Gourmet, Kerr was famous for making classic French cuisine layered in butter, cream and fatty cuts of red meat.  Weight Watchers actually declared him public enemy #1, an amazing display of hypocrisy when you consider the toxicity of their diet food.

A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen GardenIn 1993, he published Graham Kerr’s Minimax Cookbook and in the blink of an eye invented something brand new – healthy food that also tasted good.  Prior to that people were faced with either enjoying their food or enduring it.  Kerr refused to believe that low fat, low calorie food had to be low flavor as well.  “Minimax” quite simply means minimize the fat and calories and maximize the flavor.

Two decades and two dozen books later, Chef Kerr has created a craze.  He is almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of extra virgin olive oil in this country.  And a legion of talented chefs have followed in his footsteps like Nathan Lyon, Jamie Oliver and Susan Irby to further explore the world of healthy, tasty food.

However, Chef Kerr has not ceased his own explorations.  With the ever deteriorating food system in this country thanks to factory farming and genetically modified foods the next logical step would being growing his own food.  These days the fictional world of Mad Max doesn’t seem as far fetched as it once did.  It only makes sense to safeguard oneself against the tribulations of hyper-inflation or the fall of western civilization.

More and more people are starting their own gardens.  Count Graham Kerr among the lot.  “Why?” you may ask.  In Kerr’s own words:

In my long career as a gourmet/nutrition teacher I have cooked just about everything that grows, but I’ve never grown a thing I’ve cooked.  So I got to thinking about the earth-to-table process.  I decided to go back to the starting line and run the whole race from the beginning.

Kerr’s newest work Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden is an instruction manual to taking what you eat back from a corrupt government and the agribusiness giants that control it.  Though it contains a hundred recipes it is not a cookbook.

Growing at the Speed of Life shows you with great detail and illustration exactly what Kerr did to construct a garden that is brilliant in its design.  The garden is a model of sustainable, organic efficiency.  Kerr describes what he did and eloquently explains why he did it.

Additionally Kerr has compiled an extensive catalog of virtually every edible botanical on the planet.  He not only describes its flavor and nutritional value but he also suggests pairings and preparation techniques.  This is also where the recipes come in; they demonstrate the variety of flavors available to someone with a proper garden.  I’ve never scene such a comprehensive guide to fruits and vegetables.

I have been highly impressed by the attention to detail in this book.  Each process is described so that you can understand not only how to do something a certain way but why that way works.  It has inspired me to try and start my own garden this spring.  If I can grown my own produce between that, the fish in the creek and the squirrels in the trees I should be okay should the Mayan prophecies prove true.

If you haven’t already be sure to check put my exclusive interview with Chef Kerr from last fall HERE.

Cooking the Unthinkable: Sea Urchin

Cooking the Unthinkable is a series that examines some of the more eccentric ingredients. Whether you are a fan of the bizarre or are preparing for the eminent collapse of Western society this series will help you better stomach weird food.

If you believe that cooking has to include some application of heat then you may not agree that sea urchin is something you “cook” with as it is almost always eaten raw.  Well, loosen up, dude.  Gosh!

Sea UrchinWikipedia describes a sea urchin as, “small, spiny, globular animals which, with their close kin, such as sand dollars, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. They inhabit all oceans. Their shell, or “test”, is round and spiny, typically from 3 to 10 centimetres (1.2 to 3.9 in) across. Common colors include black and dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, and red. They move slowly, feeding mostly on algae. Sea otters, wolf eels, triggerfish, and other predators feed on them. Humans harvest them and serve their roe as a delicacy.”

Uni or sea urchin roe (technically their gonads) is growing in popularity in American sushi bars.  It’s a Red Badge of Courage ingredient among those who seek to put a little adventure into their lives.  Count me into that group.  Recently I was on the West Coast and decided I would take the Uni plunge.

Uni from Kabuki in HollywoodI saddled up to the sushi bar at Kabuki on Vine St. in Hollywood armed with a gift card courtesy of Susan Irby (aka the Bikini Chef).  I boldly ordered two Hamachi Toro (Yellow Fin tuna belly) rolls and two Uni rolls along with a sake cocktail.  A bit sparse I know but it was after all breakfast.  The Hamachi Toro was amazing, simply amazing.

The Uni was an experience in texture.  The taste was mildly seafoodie while not overpowering with the distinct after taste of gray matter.  Anyone who has tried animal brains knows what I am talking about.  The bitterness is brief and can easily be covered up with a proper use of wasabi.  I liked it.  But the texture was very strange.  It was incredibly smooth almost like a soft custard pudding or pudding only fish flavored.  That’s it!  Uni is fish pudding.

Would I eat it again?  Sure but I prefer Toro or salmon skin rolls.  Salmon skin rolls will change your life.

Uni from Kabuki in Hollywood

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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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