5/09/2012 02:28:00 PM

Curtis Stone Talks 80 Plates, Restaurant Plans for LA and New York

Curtis Stone is one of the busiest TV chefs in the biz - between hosting Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates, (which premieres tonight at 10PM ET/PT on Bravo), to his product lines, endorsements, TV guest spots, and now potential eateries in LA and New York, it's hard to believe the guy actually sleeps. (He does, we asked.) We caught up with the superstar chef to get the lowdown on the new show, his upcoming restaurant plans and his thoughts on the ever-changing role of the TV chef. Check out our chat with him below.

Zagat: So what was the experience of filming 80 Plates like?

Curtis Stone: I've gotta say it was just an absolute dream job. When you sort of put together some of your absolute passions and dreams like travel and food and chefs that are naturally sort of competitive... to do that kind of culinary competition between our chefs was really exciting to watch. It was just one of those unbelievable shows in which you got to travel to all the incredible cities and you know occasionally you get to film something where you see something that the tourists can't even get close to - so this is certainly one of those. We were in the back of this little tortellini shop in Bologna, you know, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Z: What was your favorite city/challenge on the show?

CS: It's so hard to pick one. We had a beautiful time in Chiang Mai, ate delicious food and wandered around street stalls for the competition. And on our day off Cat and I went and we rode elephants and had this wild day in the Thai jungle. Experiences like that were pretty unbelievable. There's cities I've been to many times before like Barcelona, which were also cool. We hung out with José Andrés for a day there which was awesome.

Z: How is the judging different in 80 Plates vs Top Chef Masters?

CS: It actually a very different experience because the challenge is so different. With Top Chef Masters you've got these great chefs put under ridiculous pressure and you see their creativity and ingenuity kind of shines through. With this show, it was all about their interpretation of the local cuisine. And when I say local, I mean...we're in Lyon so they've gotta cook Lyonnaise food. Or we're in Tuscany, so Northern Tuscan food.

The chefs have literally from zero to a little experience within that culture and cuisine and only 24 hours to soak it all up and then they have to try to reproduce the food for the locals. As a judge we got to sit with anybody from Nigella Lawson in London to Wolfgang Puck, and we talked the food through, but it was up to the locals to make the decision as to what was their favorite restaurant. Cat and I were responsible for handing out awards to the most valuable chef - so it was kind of an obvious kind of mentoring role on the show which was really nice.

Z: How has the role of a TV chef changed in your opinion since your days on Take Home Chef?

CS: I think what the TV cooking space has done to the industry...I think in some ways it's probably confused the industry, you have some people getting apprenticeships or cooking college so they can get a job on Top Chef you know and that's not realistically how things work. The positive is it's brought a real energy and excitement back to our industry where people are excited and proud and the kitchen has become a bit more of a sexy place again.

The role of the TV chef or somebody in the public eye, whether it's because you have a great restaurant, or write cookbooks, or host a TV show, or you do cooking demos or your'e an ambarassdor for a third-party product, or your own line of kitchen ware, I think that role hasn't changed. You're still inspiring other people to do the same and you try to simplify things as opposed to complicating them and you break it down so more people can get involved.

Z: Would you ever want to do a straight up cooking show?

CS: I would - it's actually something that we've been talking about recently to some different partners. It would be something really exciting for me. I haven't done that for awhile here in the States and I would love to be behind the stove however and whenever it is, you know what I mean. My whole world revolves around food and we develop 400 recipes a year with all sorts of partners whether it's grocery stores to TV channels to publishers and magazine so I love doing that. I love cooking so any time I get to do it I'm a happy man. 

Z: Any new details about your upcoming LA restaurant, or any other restaurant plans?

CS: We haven't signed a deal just yet, we have the space but we're getting very close. It's something we've been working on for awhile. I've also been looking at a couple things up here in New York, not set in stone but we are certainly progressing and getting much closer.

Z: Tell us a little about your kitchen line?

CS: You know I kind of got involved with that business when I was doing Take Home Chef and I'd go into people's kitchens and my whole mission in life as a chef was to bring culture to people's kitchens and happiness to their tables. But when I did that show I realized what the actual skill level of some of these home cooks was and how poor the equipment was and I thought to myself, no wonder people don't cook.  And I just started coming out with ideas or products that could literally change the way you cook - give home cooks the confidence they need to make a home-cooked meal.

Z: What else are you working on?

CS: We're got Top Chef Masters which we've already shot for next season which will come out after 80 Plates. Between the two shows, the line of kitchen products - the new stuff we're just launching here in the states at Bloomingdale's and on HSN, at Dillard's and some other retailers. That's keeping me busy, the shows are keeping me busy, my personal life of course also. It's a lot!

Z: How do you balance everything?

CS: I really love what I do and if you love what you do, you barely work a day in your life. I have an incredibly supportive family and we're all in it together. 


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