No. I grew up in Jackson, Miss. and I went to college at USM, so I was in New Orleans a lot. I kinda grew up in this city. So even though Im from Jackson, I kind of think of New Orleans as a second home, a second Southern home, because I spent so much time here.
A lot of my friends have restaurants here. Donald (Link) has Cochon, and thats great. But I also like some of the old classics especially because I dont get down here often like going to Galatoires, Brennans for brunch, or whatever, and doing some of the classic places. Central Grocery for a muffaletta and cold beer, that kind of thing. A friend of mine, Scott (Boswell) owns Stella! I went to culinary school with him. I have a few newer ones I like, but I also like the old classics, as well.
Im only here for the night my sons are with me, so were going to go down to the French Quarter and show them around, because theyve never been here before. So, like I said, well hit some of the classic places.
This one is Classics with a Twist, so this is really about everyones favorite classic recipes that Ive done and given them a twist to, or what people think of classic recipes in a lot of ways. So coq au vin, Caesar salad, soft tacos, things like that that Ive taken and given them my own twist. An all-American tomato soup that I do with grilled cheese croutons, because its kind of a take on grilled cheese and tomato soup. Just fun things like that, and a lot of really great cocktails that are kind of throwback cocktails. Just bringing back a lot of classics, as well. Like tonight Im doing ambrosia. Weve all seen it somewhere, but its really one of those old, thrown-together dishes that can be really freshened up with fresh fruit instead of canned fruit and fresh coconut, things like that.
It was really tough. It was actually tougher than I thought it would be. It took a really long time to narrow down what the classics were going to be. Because we had hundreds and we had to narrow it down to a hundred, so that was harder, I think, than anything. And there was a lot of back and forth with myself, my publisher, my writer, my whole team about what they thought of as classic, and what we thought of as classic, and what should be in the book obviously, there were things we would just toss back and forth and brainstorm about, you know, Is this more of a classic than this? And vise versa. So it was a really, really tough process breaking it all down. And then, (figuring out) what were the twists going to be that made it unique, but while still keeping the foundation of the recipe, which was important. Because I dont want to take a Caesar salad and make it into something that were giving it a little Southwestern flair, making it with a little chipotle dressing, chili croutons and things like that but I didnt want to take the classic and completely damage it, and make it a whole other dish.
Just really taking a recipe you really know well. If you do a great whole roasted chicken, then stay with that, but do some different spices. Do some different twists on that. Put it on the grill and do a pomegranate glaze, versus throwing it in the oven. Take it and make it a fennel-spiced chicken versus just putting salt and pepper on it. I think really taking that and working with the spices and the flavors and things and getting brave that way, and then moving into something a little bit different. Maybe then try my lemongrass coq au vin, which is a stewed chicken, but with a little bit of Asian flare to it. So I would say go with something you know, then mix it up a little bit on that recipe. Practice on that recipe, and also dont be bummed out if it doesnt work the first time.
I cook at home all the time when Im at home. Almost every night I cook at home when Im home. But I travel a lot, and all of my work is really fast and furious Its Iron Chef, morning shows, trying to crank out cookbooks or a restaurant menu. Its all really business oriented versus just being kind of organic and enjoying it. And I enjoy those things I enjoy creating but its not when youre just sitting back and enjoying and really focusing on a meal with your family. So I like to do that because, to me, its a completely different experience when youre just home having a great meal with your family and having a glass of wine.
You know, I dont really get nervous cooking in front of everybody. This year Ive been to the White House twice, Ive cooked really once and did a huge dinner at the White House, and I was nervous about that, obviously. I still get nervous about doing Iron Chef, but its more good nervous versus that anxiety-ridden, kind of stressful nervous. Its just more of an excited, OK lets do it, kind of nervousness. I really dont get nervous doing an event like this, like Macys or a morning show in front of a million viewers. Ive done it so long. But I still get excited about it, and thats important. As long as youre still getting excited about what youre doing, then thats a good thing.
I dont face difficulties anymore. Ive been doing this 20 years working in 3-star Michelin restaurants in France, working in the tough kitchens of New York, Napa Valley, San Francisco Ive cooked in really tough cities and big food cities. And then becoming an Iron Chef, that was it. For me, it was never hard again. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues for my male colleagues and my female colleagues. I definitely think its not so much that its male-dominated, its just that we see more male chefs because theyre the ones out promoting themselves. So think women need to step up and promote themselves more, because I dont think they do that enough. They tend to be a little more demure, they stay in the kitchen behind the stove instead of getting out and celebrating their accomplishments and marketing themselves in a good way, in a really positive way. Thats why we just dont see all the amazing chefs that are out there because theyre out there. I think its pretty equal as far as women who own restaurants or are cooking in restaurants. Especially if you take one city, like New York. Its a pretty big number of women there.
This fall Im launching a merchandise line and a food line consecutively, so thats been really, really intense. Then Ive got a restaurant opening in San Fransisco airport in the Virgin America terminal. Were opening two more of my CCQs [Cora's barbecue-influenced restaurant chain] in Baltimore Airport and Houston Airport. I have a new show with OWN, Oprahs new network, that we just started filming. And more Iron Chef, more Food Network. So its going to be a really busy end of the year and a really busy 2011.
I have a really great professional team, and I have a really great wife. And we have amazing help. Were lucky we can afford to have help. We have a great balance that way. And then when Im home, Im home. When Im home, they come first, and I work out of a home office. Its definitely a balance, though, even with all the people around helping it takes a village but I still have to put that extra effort in.