Where are you living now? How was France?
Years and years ago, Greg and I were eating in a noodle house in Paris and got into a conversation with a woman who let me have it when I suggested that Paris would be 100-percent perfect if only it had a beach.
Here's the problem with growing up in San Diego: You will be perpetually saying things like that — and meaning them — about even the most gorgeous and cosmopolitan of cities, unless those cities also happen to be surfside.
So, now we're back in San Diego again.
France, however, was really and truly lovely. Especially the beaches. When it wasn't raining. (Turns out it rained a lot in 2008. But this meant I didn't have to put on a bathing suit, which after six months of nonstop eating, was probably actually a good thing.)
What was your favorite thing about being on FNS? And your least favorite?
Most favorite = Paul! Well, Paul and getting to eat, sleep and breathe my passion for French food. And also, the privilege of working with some truly decent producers who treated us all with more respect, kindness and compassion than the average viewer would probably ever believe.
Least favorite = bloggers. Teeth are teeth, thank you very much.
Other than the obvious, in what ways did winning change your life?
The whole experience helped me clarify exactly what about French food I loved, and how I wanted to share that. Turns out, I'm kind of wordy. It also turns out that there are some concepts, ideas and philosophies about food and eating that are probably best conveyed in words. So I decided to write again. (Before I ever went to culinary school, I worked as a science writer.)
In 2008 I helped launched a column in Bon Appetit about cooking for your family, and then, after what felt like about a lifetime living hermit-like, obsessively trying to find all the right words, I just finished writing my first book, How to Eat a Small Country, which chronicles Greg's and the kids' and my travels cooking and eating our way through France, and investigates how and why French food life is changing — is it still the same when there's a McDonald's in the basement of the Louvre? And a Starbucks around the corner from the most venerable bouchon in Lyon? And what do the changes mean for the rest of us? The book will be published by Clarkson Potter/Random House in spring 2011.
Are you pursuing a career in the culinary arts? If so, what are you doing? If not, why?
Right now, writing lets me explore the culture of food and cooking — the hows and whys of what people eat — and still be available to pick up Indy and Scarlett from school, which I love. And I love to write — I'm lucky. But I also love, love, love to cook and want to encourage others to cook, too, so I hope there will soon be a cookbook filled with my favorite regional French dishes to accompany How to Eat a Small Country.
What advice would you offer the next Star?
Thank your family every day for their support. Don't take them for granted.
Do you keep in touch with other finalists?
We all keep tabs on each other. I remain the closest with Paul, but I love catching up with Tommy and Colombe, too. And thank goodness for Facebook so that I always know what Patrick is cooking up in the wilds of Idaho.
What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?
It's hard to top cooking our way through a fire alarm when JAG set fire to his chicken wings during Iron Chef. I think it was the look on Alton's and Bobby's faces: a mixture of incredulity and flat-out fear about what could possibly happen next.
When you look back, what would you have done differently?
Not a thing. You just never know how life is going to turn out. Sometimes the worst and scariest thing imaginable actually leads you down the path to the best.
What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on FNS?
It's important to say "thank you" a lot.
What's your current favorite recipe, and why?
I have five chickens now and a lot of eggs, which makes me pretty continuously enamored with recipes that help me cook my way through the largess. I pickle them and soft-boil them to serve on top of salads, I fry them in olive oil and serve them with roasted vegetables like spring asparagus, and like I learned in Burgundy, poach them in red wine until they're shockingly purple, served lavished with a sauce made from lardons and stock and pinot noir. But the recipe I did on Rachael Ray, the 'controversial' eggs en cocotte (though I'll admit the plating was atrocious), remains a particular favorite. And another good way to use up eggs? Pate a choux, like for the gougeres and profiteroles I made on an episode of Gourmet Next Door. Just remember to beat the dough like your life depends on it. Sure, you could use a mixer. But it isn't half as fun.