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Celebrity Spotlight: Curtis Stone
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 6, No. 1 - January/February 2014

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What is the craziest thing you have ever eaten?

I had to eat all kinds of weird insects during a season of 'Top Chef Masters', a reality food TV show that I host in the US. The chefs were challenged with cooking crickets, worms, night crawlers - even master chefs can only do so much with bugs. No more of those thank you very much.!

Where did your interest and passion for food originate?

I've always been fascinated with food. I first started cooking when I was a little tacker. My mum was a great baker and I used to love cooking sticky things like caramel slice with her and I remember cooking fudge with my granny.
One of my friends was Italian and his father was a chef, I used to go over there for dinner often and I guess seeing him cook sort of started things going.

Why do you think it is important for kids to learn to cook?

There are so many great lessons to be learned from cooking so it's important to get kids busy in the kitchen from a young age, even if it's just to help stir some ingredients in a bowl or to crack the eggs - kids absolutely love doing that!

Cooking is a great bonding activity between parents and their children plus it teaches kids about the origins of foods and flavours, which leads to learning about different cultures.

Cooking is an important lifelong skill and I couldn't be a bigger advocate for getting children involved in both cooking and eating fresh, home cooked meals.

If you could invite any guest to dinner, who would it be and why?

Rodriguez, the great '70s rock icon. I'd make him anything he wants! I have become so intrigued by him after watching his documentary "Searching for Sugar Man".

What is the career you would least like to have?

A job that is repetitious is not for me! I need to be doing something different every single day. I'm lucky enough to have a career where I'm constantly on the move and juggling lots of projects at any one time.

As someone who travels and works a lot, what is your ultimate easy comfort meal to whip up at the end of a long day?

A bowl of spaghetti and some fresh crab, lemon, olive oil, and chili pepper. That is one of my staples and crab is one of my favourite ingredients to cook and eat.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, and I have to admit I don't have a whole lot of it at the moment; I love hiking, gardening, surfing-and cooking of course!

Where is your favourite gourmet holiday destination and why?

I have been lucky enough to travel to over 30 countries and I have tried a vast variety of cuisines - Indian, Japanese, Greek, British, South American, the list goes on. If I had to highlight just one place it would be have to be Buenos Aires. The way the locals cook there is a real eye opener. They cook on grills called parillas and they also cook Asador style. It seems as though the guys behind the grills have been cooking on these pits for their entire life, they're so skilled. It was really special to visit there.

Please tell us about your family.

Don't get me started; I could go on all day! I married the love of my life, Linds, this year in Majorca (Spain) in the company of our closest friends and family. We live in Los Angeles and have a beautiful little boy, Hudson, who turned two a few weeks ago. He's so much fun to be around and he is already taking a big liking to food and cooking. He's my like little sous chef in the kitchen and is a very experimental eater. We have a Golden Retriever, Sully, and the newest addition to our family is a fish named Delta.

Who are three chefs/cooks that you look up to?

I am inspired by so many chefs. I think we can teach each other a lot and push each other and the industry forward by continuously raising the bar.

I'll always look up to legendary British chef Marco Pierre White, whom I worked for in London for many years. I also really love what head chef of Melbourne's Attica is doing. His restaurant is phenomenal and he has such deep knowledge and respect for fresh ingredients, many of which he harvests daily by hand.

I live in Los Angeles and I like to get to as many restaurants in the city as possible. I have recently gone to a couple of Chef Sang Yoon's restaurants, Father's Office and Lukshon, and I recommend these to anyone visiting LA. Sang was a competing chef on this year's 'Top Chef Masters' competition. We formed a great friendship through working on the show together. He's a real character!

Please provide us with a quick and healthy lunch-box snack for kids?

One of the things I enjoy snacking on most of all is dips, and kids love them too. Instead of serving your dips with greasy chips, you can easily make your own crunchy pita bread by baking store bought pitas in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Once browned, rip them up, and they make the perfect accompaniment for veggie-packed dips, such as hummus or tzatziki.

What's even better is you can serve dips with some beautiful, colourful cut up veggies such as carrot, celery or cucumber. The crunchiness of the veggies contrasts well with the smooth, silkiness of the dips - put this little match made in heaven in a lunchbox and you're in business.

Here's another great tip... Always check to see what's left in your kids' lunchbox at the end of the day and if they're not eating something, try to find out why, then serve it a little differently the next time. For example, some kids might find a cut up apple more manageable and appetizing than a whole apple sitting in their lunchbox. Communicate with your kids about their food; it will benefit you both greatly!

What are your tips to help families make their meal plans healthier?

I'm a huge believer in the idea that when you start the week off right, you're more likely to end it better as well. So I think it is key to get organised on a Sunday, or pick a day that best suits your schedule, and get sorted on that day. Write a meal plan and shopping list, and if you know you've got a busy week on the cards, make a couple of meals ahead of time and stick them in the freezer. It does take time and effort to organise a meal plan and bring it to life but a home-cooked meal is always worth the effort. Food simply tastes better - and is better for you - when you cook it yourself.

About Curtis Stone

Curtis Stone is an internationally known chef, TV host, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author. His philosophy to cook as Mother Nature intended inspires him to keep his recipes simple, using local, seasonal and organic ingredients and allowing the food to speak for itself.

Curtis is the host of Bravo's popular culinary competition 'Top Chef Masters', which returned for a fifth season in 2013. He is also a familiar face on dozens of shows including The Today Show, Ellen, Conan, The Talk, The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Apprentice and has just recently been named regular guest co-host of ABC's The Chew.

Born in Melbourne, Curtis' passion for food was inspired as a boy by his grandmother's famous fudge. After finishing culinary school, he took a job cooking at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne before heading to London, where he honed his skills under legendary three-star Michelin genius Marco Pierre White at Café Royal, Mirabelle and the highly revered Quo Vadis.

A regular headliner at global food shows, Curtis was the first chef to debut an eponymous product line at prestigious US retailer Williams-Sonoma. Curtis Stone's Kitchen Solutions launched in March 2012 on HSN and is sold in fine specialty retailers throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Belgium.

Curtis currently cooks out of his test kitchen in Los Angeles and is opening a multi-functional culinary headquarters in the city in January 2014, featuring a showroom, production facilities and his first restaurant, Maude. Curtis has yearned to return to a restaurant kitchen ever since he left his role as head chef at Quo Vadis in London, and is excited to open the doors to guests in just a few months time.

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