Food Network Stars and Their Music Friends
When Food Network stars pair up with their musician buddies, you can tell that food and music are just meant for each other.
Ina Garten and Taylor Swift
Taylor has been an Ina fan for years (she owns all of her cookbooks), and Ina has been a longtime Taylor fan (she owns all of her CDs). Food Network Magazine put in a few calls to get them together, and before they knew it, Taylor was in a car heading 100 miles east of New York City to the Hamptons with her mom and brother, and Ina was slicing warm date bread and getting coffee ready for one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. "Just another day at Barefoot Contessa," she joked.
But about the whiskey sours: Ina and Taylor have just put their mustard-roasted fish in the oven and are spreading whipped cream on a Pavlova while bonding over their mutual frustration with people who don't like to eat. "I'll cook for these boys, and they'll be like, 'I'm on a diet,'" Taylor says. "I'm like, 'I can't hang out with you.'" Ina's right there with her. One time, she says, a big television star came to her house for a charity event while on a cleanse and couldn't eat anything. Ina offered the woman a sip of a whiskey sour, and she downed the whole drink and asked for another. "Oh, I've never had a whiskey sour," Taylor says. "I have some in my refrigerator!" Ina replies. And just like that, it's a party. "Hey, Andrea," Taylor calls to her mom. "Come over here. We're day-drinking!" Andrea and Taylor's brother, Austin, come behind the counter, and soon the whole family is tasting Ina's favorite cocktail and diving into the Pavlova with big spoons. No one waits for plates. "I don't always eat it this way," Ina says, laughing.
What started out as a cooking lesson and photo shoot with Taylor and her "hero," as she calls Ina, turns into an impromptu sit-down lunch — the Swift family gathers around Ina's table, talking about Taylor's new apartment in Tribeca and making plans to get together again soon. Taylor invites Ina to her house in Watch Hill, RI; Ina says Taylor should come on her show sometime. Then, in a flurry of hugs and kisses, Taylor is gone. The kitchen is quiet. Ina looks around and says what everyone else is thinking: "Did that really happen?"
Geoffrey Zakarian and Ja Rule
On paper, Geoffrey Zakarian and Ja Rule are an odd couple. Geoffrey is an Iron Chef, restaurateur and possibly the most dapper food personality in the country; Ja (born Jeffrey Atkins) is a Grammy-nominated rapper and actor who recently finished a two-year prison stint. Their worlds collided last fall at the Food Network Wine & Food Festival in New York City, when Geoffrey interviewed Ja for his SiriusXM radio show, Food Talk. Ja told Geoffrey that he was a master of microwaving. He could make anything in a microwave: rice, spaghetti and even cheesecake.
As the two got to know each other, they realized they had more in common than just food. "People would think this Geoffrey is so much different from this Jeffrey," Ja tells us during our shoot at The Lambs Club, one of Geoffrey's New York City restaurants. "There are a lot of things relative in our lives. We both have beautiful wives, three kids." And, Geoffrey adds, "We're both entertainers."
Jeff Mauro and Billy Corgan
Meeting someone you've idolized for years can be a little awkward. Jeff Mauro's approach: Talk about sandwiches. Even a serious dude like Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan can find something to say about sandwiches. Billy tells Jeff, a Chicago native, that he grew up eating at Central Gyros on the northwest side of Chicago. "Central Gyros! We shot there!" says Jeff, telling Billy how he hauled 60 pounds of meat around the restaurant while taping his show, Sandwich King. Billy and Jeff are both in the food business of sorts: Billy owns a tea shop in Highland Park called Madame ZuZu's; in addition to Sandwich King, Jeff stars in Food Network's The Kitchen. Although they have plenty to talk about between them, the real common ground is their mutual love for Chicago. Says Jeff, "Billy has shown that you can be happy in the place where you grew up."
Michael Symon and Sammy Hagar
While on tour in Cleveland 17 years ago, Sammy Hagar stopped for dinner at a new restaurant called Lola. A little-known chef named Michael Symon was in the kitchen, and when he saw his music idol in the dining room, "I almost fell over," he says. "I was a giant Van Halen fan." Sammy asked to speak with the chef, so Michael went to the table and Sammy said, "Cook me whatever you want." "Turned out he's a huge foodie," Michael says. Six courses later, Sammy was a fan of Michael's — with only one complaint: Lola didn't stock Sammy's line of tequila, Cabo Wabo. Lola added it to the bar, and the two have been good friends and drinking buddies ever since. "Sammy makes a mean margarita," Michael says.