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A Chat With Pat and Gina Neely

When YumSugar asked me to watch the pilot episode of Food Network's new cooking show, Down Home With the Neelys, I wasn't jumping for joy. The commercials seemed over the top, routine, and like the network had just found more big personalities. However, after watching the show — I laughed out loud — I was hungry for more!

Luckily, I got the chance to speak with Gina and Pat on the phone! They are one warm, fun couple and my Tivo is already set for tomorrow at 11 a.m.

The show is not only a clever, informative cooking show, but it's about the dynamic relationship between the high school sweethearts. Gina Neely is a firecracker, both friendly and feisty. Her husband Pat knows his barbeque and is incredibly personable. To see what happened when I went down home with the Neelys,


With their show Pat and Gina hope to teach America that cooking is a great time to get back to the basics. It's a way to slow down and enjoy family. Food is family to the Neelys, who take a week to film each episode at a rented house in Memphis, Tenn. Known for their barbeque and down home Southern-style cooking, Pat and Gina distinguish themselves from Food Network's resident Southern belle Paula Deen by cooking a healthier cuisine. They steer clear from frying. They grill everything and love to use barbeque flavors to season unexpected dishes. Here's what they have to say:

PartySugar: What's it like being in the business together?
Pat: It's one of the biggest joys in the world working with family. I get to spend every day with my lovely wife. I have extremely workable brothers. The employees at my restaurants are like extended family. Now the producers of my show have become family. Food Network has become like family. We've opened our arms and welcomed everyone into our lives like family.
Gina: Our girls — we have two daughters — work with us in the Summer. I couldn't imagine doing everything that we do alone. The best part is doing it together.

PS: Do you cook at home like you do on the show?
Pat: (laughs) There is no acting involved in our show. Of course we cook at home. We've been cooking at home like this for a long time, way before the concept of the show was even invented. At least two to three times a week we're at home cooking dinner in our kitchen. Thats what makes our show so authentic, it is our lives. It really is who we are.

PS: What's your advice to the everyday home cook?
Gina: Cooking is NOT intimidating, it's not as time consuming or as hard as it seems. It's comforting to use natural products to make something homemade.
Pat: Watch the show! Use food to socially interact. To reconnect with family and friends. Invite your girlfriend over and bake a chicken for her, chat and relax while it cooks. You can really learn a lot about your loved ones by cooking with them.

PS: How will you celebrate Valentine's Day?
Pat: When you are in a good marriage like Gina and I are, every day is like Valentine's Day. We don't need a special day to spend time together we spend time together every day. I fell in love with Gina when I was 15, and I've been in love with her ever since.
Gina: I'll probably make Pat a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.

PS: What did you have for lunch today?
Pat: We had Cornish game hens.
Gina: And grilled asparagus with barbequed butter. Our barbequed butter is made by stirring our barbeque rub into softened butter.

After speaking with them, I want to be a part of their family! And if that wasn't enough to make you interested in their show, here's a sneak peak of the dishes that are yet to come: barbequed ribs, fresh coleslaw, barbeque spaghetti, creamed collard greens, pork chop soup, grilled pound cake, and baked chicken.


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