Curtis Stone interview: Family mealtime (+ recipe!)

Chef Curtis Stone stopped by the Chatelaine kitchen, and we got to chat! Check out the dad-of-two's "bizarre theory" on picky eating, his go-to meals and mealtime challenges.

Curtis Stone interview
Photo: Curtis Stone Good Food, Good Life; published by Appetite by Random House

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Curtis Stone yesterday in the gorgeous Chatelaine Kitchen! Not only is he beloved by moms everywhere for his dashing good looks and swoon-worthy Australian accent (I learned this quickly when I announced I was interviewing him on Twitter), but he’s a proud dad of two kids—Hudson, 3, and Emerson, seven months—with his wife, former Charmed and Beverly Hills 90210 star Lindsay Price. He’s also got some exciting things on the go: a new cookbook and sweet kitchen gear, which he’s promoting starting tonight at 10 p.m. EST in a big showstopper at The Shopping Channel (don’t miss it!).

Before we start the interview—filled with great tips and insights on picky eaters—Chef Curtis and I had a good laugh about this photo he and I took for this…

Curtis Stone Haley Overland Today's Parent
Photo: Nadira Chand

“I look like a giant!” he said.

“It’s OK,” I said. “Someone said I looked minion-sized.”

So, he remedied the situation…

Curtis Stone Haley Overland Today's Parent
Photo: Nadira Chand

Hooray for chairs! And seriously, how charming? We all adored him.

OK, interview time (and, I know, I know—my initials)…

HO: Can you tell us what mealtime looks like in your house?

CS: Sometimes a mess! [Laughs.] The seven-month-old throws everything around. Lindsay is much better at feeding him and getting that spoon in and out quick; I kind of let him get a hold of it, and [all his food] ends up in his clothes.

Apart from being a mess, mealtime is my favourite time, truthfully, of the day. My days are somewhat flipped because I’m in the restaurant at night, so we have a big breakfast—it’s probably our biggest meal of the day. Hudson and I usually get stuff out of the veggie garden in the morning. We start the day every day with juice. We have a slow juicer that he loves pushing things into and plunging it down.

HO: What do you and Hudson like to put in your juice?

CS: It depends on the season, what’s in the garden and what we’ll get at the market. We’ve just come out of winter, so lots of carrots, celery, apples and pears.

Photo: Curtis Stone via Instagram
Photo: Curtis Stone via Instagram

HO: So, not too green, right?

CS: No, not too green. But now, coming into the spring, there are strawberries…. You can pretty much put anything into a juicer, from beets to brewed vegetables, all the way up to berries and peaches. So, we do [juicing].

Then breakfast changes, of course, daily—anything from breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs, to pancakes. And Hudson’s always in the kitchen with me.

HO: Aww, sweet! So, breakfast is a big event in your house because of your schedule?

CS: Right! Not every day, but days that I’m at the restaurant for sure. We linger over breaky and usually end up in the swimming pool together, and that’s sort of our time. It’s special; it’s nice. I actually prefer it to the evenings because it’s when the kids have just woken up and seem to be at their best—rather than at the end of the day when they’re a little [cranky].

HO: What would you say your top meal-planning tips are for busy parents?

CS: The first thing to think about is picking up your ingredients. Think of ingredients that can do double duty. I can use broccoli in tonight’s dinner, which is dead simple—it’s just steamed broccoli with pan-fried chicken breast. But, then I could also use some of that broccoli or florets for the casserole I’m going to make on Wednesday. Peel the stock or stem of the broccoli, slice it up and use that in a stir-fry. You can get two or three dishes out of the one vegetable.

It means you have to buy less, and you have less stuff in the fridge… You know what it’s like to have a couple of heads of broccoli and you use one, and the other one sort of sits there for a while. You get there at the end of the week and say, “I haven’t used it up yet.” So, I think actually taking five minutes to write out what you’re going to do each night is important. It helps a lot—even if you just write out the five dishes that you’re going to make.

Curtis Stone interview Haley Overland
Photo: Nadira Chand

HO: So you actually do that?

CS: I do, yeah.

HO: Oh nice, you plan for your own family and your restaurant, then…

CS: Right, but that’s a whole different situation. Sometimes I don’t get around to it and cheat, and bring home things from the restaurant.

HO: But we won’t tell anybody.

CS: Right, you won’t tell anybody [laughs]. Because I’m not home all the time, I have to make sure they’ve got something tasty in the fridge. Linds does all of the heavy lifting, getting the kids to bed—you know, it’s a mission in itself, so I try to help out at least with the food.

So, that’s the first thing, getting the ingredients. If there’s a dish, like spaghetti bolognese—that’s one meal. But, then you can take half of that sauce and turn it into a chili and have that later in the week. There are a few things like that you could work for you twice.

HO: What’s your favourite family go-to meal? 

CS: Hmm… There’s something so special about roasting a chicken. I think it’s because my mom did it so often and I’d walk into that smell—the chicken and onions being roasted for hours—well, not hours, but it feels like hours when you’re a little kid. I think that’s pretty nice.

There’s something special about bringing a roasted chicken to a table. It’s significant to me in some way. It feels like a family get-together rather than just a quick dinner. But it’s still really easy to make. You can toss the chicken in the oven, and an hour or 45 minutes later it’s ready. You’ve got all this time to play with the sides and get them ready.

HO: You mentioned Hudson helps in the kitchen with the breakfast and juicing—is there any other way that he helps throughout the day?

CS: He’s turned into the most incredible little gardener. It’s bizarre. He’s like, “What’s that Dad?” He’s so inquisitive. And I tell him [what the plant is], and then he regurgitates it at the most hilarious moment. So, if I’ve got friends around, he’ll say things like, “Daddy the nasturtiums needs watering.”

HO: The whaaaa…?

CS: My friends look at me like, “What are you doing to your son?” [laughs]. He can’t get enough of it. And there’s something so beautiful about teaching kids about food, nature, being active with them instead of sitting in front of the television—you know, showing them that you plant a seed and it turns into something a little larger. You take it out and you separate it, and you plant the carrots in rows and water them and take care of them. Two months, three months later, you pull something out of the earth. That’s a special moment!

HO: Yes, and that’s good home-schooling. Is there anything he refuses to eat? Is he picky at all?

CS: Not really. He doesn’t love the texture of a salad leaf, for instance, but then I’ve made lettuce puree, which I know sounds bizarre, but I wanted to see if it was a flavour thing or a texture thing, and he’s absolutely fine with it. I think [this aversion to texture] is normal when they’re little and their teeth are still developing. He’s also not big on fried foods. I think that’s a texture thing as well.

HO: Oh, that’s too bad

CS: Right, I’m sure he’ll grow into that, so I don’t have too much to worry about [laughs].

HO: So, for you, a solution to picky eating is trying to figure out the origins of it?

CS: It’s a strange thing, picky eating, and this is a really bizarre theory, but I do believe in it. I think it’s just introducing kids to that type of flavour, or that type of texture. Conceptually, food can be challenging for people because, if it wasn’t that, then you’d meet a bunch of Indian kids who don’t like spice, Japanese kids who don’t like raw fish. But you don’t. This doesn’t exist.

And I meet people who are like, “How do you get your kids to not eat hotdogs?” And I’m like, “My kids have never seen a hotdog. They have no idea what a hotdog is and I wouldn’t give it to him.” I’m not going to get on my high horse and not let him attend a birthday party [serving] hotdogs; but, it’s not going to be a part of our world.

It’s the same as ketchup, right? I meet people whose kids want ketchup on everything. Don’t give it to them; don’t pull it out of the cupboards (or maybe it’s for one or two things).  If you allow them to put ketchup on everything, then of course they will. It’s sweet, it’s tasty, and why wouldn’t they want it on everything? But, you should be a little more thoughtful with it, I think. I’ll get off my high horse, don’t worry.

curtis-stone-cookbook-apr1615
Curtis Stone’s new cookbook!

HO: So how do you deal with the challenges of feeding the whole family—a baby and a toddler, as well as you and Lindsay?

CS: We sort of take one kid each. That’s kind of our method right now. God knows what you do when you get to three kids! I guess the oldest one is then old enough to feed himself.

Hudson will distract himself very easily. He’ll sit in his chair, and he’s like this [moves around, fidgets], and it’s like, “Dude, stop! Just sit still for a minute!” And he can’t! He’ll work his way down until he’s basically lying down, and it’s like, “Buddy, sit up!” [laughs]. He’s just full of energy. We’re trying to get a little stricter on that rule of “you can’t leave the table, you have to be excused,” and he’s getting there.

And Emerson, he’s still trying to figure out how to control his arms. So if you’re spoon-feeding him, it could get absolutely anywhere. But it’s good fun, it’s a bloody mess, but it’s good fun.

HO: Do you puree your own baby food? (I mean, I’m going to assume you’re making your own baby food…)

CS: Oh yeah, for sure. Emerson is just seven months, so he started with avocado, bananas. Now, it’s squash, apples. He’s literally only just being introduced to baby foods. It’ll sort of happen fast, once he gets that down. Because you know, you get to that moment of, “Oh my God, is he choking? Is he OK? Why is he turning red?” So, you take it step-by-step. As soon as he’s progressed on to protein, we’ll just blend a little bit of what we cook.

HO: We’ve all been wondering if you do all of the cooking at home, or does Lindsay do it? 

CS: No, I love it, but truthfully Linds does a lot.

HO: Is she a good cook?

CS: She’s um… If she’s going to cook dinner, she’s a great cook for the kids and she does that really, really well. But, if she’s going to cook for adults, she takes a while to do it. She needs a script—she’s an actor, so she needs a recipe. And it literally takes her all day, which she laughs about, as do I. She just does it at her pace, which isn’t, you know… She takes her time. But, she does a really good job.

HO: So she’s cooking the family meals for the most part? Or do you bring them home from the restaurant?

CS: A little bit of both. When I’m home, I cook, but I’m not there five nights a week. So, Linds probably snacks more often than making herself a big, formal dinner. She’ll probably have a little bit of salad, something simple… She says she didn’t sign up for the calories! [When I am home], the second she walks through the door, I have a bottle of wine and she knows I’m getting ready to cook something fabulous.

******
Check out some of the outtakes of our interview on my Twitter and Instagram. This is one’s my personal fave—swear I wasn’t punching him!

Curtis Stone interview Haley Overland
Photo: Nadira Chand

Head on over to The Shopping Channel tonight! Curtis will be doing a live show starting at 10 p.m. EST, continuing throughout the day on Saturday, for a special “Cooking with Curtis Stone” show.

Curtis’s “Chop Chop” Deluxe Food Chopper will be the Today’s Showstopper item this weekend on TSC (available at a discounted price of $48.60, down from $79.99). And you can find more kitchen essentials and solutions by Curtis Stone, including his awesome new cookbook Good Food, Good Life over at TSC.ca.

Before we go… Here’s an excerpted recipe from Curtis’s new book!

Curtis-stone-shrimp-risotto-apr1615

Risotto with Shrimp, Arugula, and Lemon Cream

This super simple risotto is elevated by a dollop of lemon cream. If you’d like a veggie risotto instead, switch out the shrimp for a handful of spring peas and a bunch of chopped asparagus and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

SERVES: 4
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 25 minutes

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1¾ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups loosely packed arugula (preferably wild or baby)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small heavy saucepan, bring the chicken stock and water to a simmer over high heat. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large deep heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until golden brown. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minute, or until it is well coated. Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute, or until most of the wine has evaporated.

3. Add 1 cup of the hot stock mixture to the rice and cook, stirring almost constantly and keeping the mixture at a steady simmer, until it is absorbed. Continue to add the hot stock mixture 1 cup at a time, stirring until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding more, and cook for a total of about 18 minutes, or until the rice is creamy but still al dente (you may not need all of the stock).

4. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the shrimp is just opaque throughout. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. Stir in the arugula and lemon juice and season to taste with salt.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the lemon zest just until thickened. Divide the risotto among four wide serving bowls. Garnish each one with a dollop of the whipped cream and some pepper and serve immediately.

THE ABSORPTION METHOD
Risotto rice is cooked by the absorption method rather than by boiling or steaming. Stock is added gradually to the rice, slowly plumping up the grains. Simmering the risotto, not boiling, is essential to ensure a creamy yet al dente consistency.

Love!
xo Haley-O
Celebrity Candy: Follow along as Haley Overland delivers the latest scoop on celebrity families—plus sweet celeb interviews! You can’t have too much of this candy, so check back often.

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