Last Thursday evening, YumSugar and I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with one of my favorite Food Network chefs and the creator of Napastyle, Michael Chiarello. Michael specializes in homey Italian influenced Northern California cuisine and has been the host of many television shows including Season by Season on PBS, Easy Entertaining on FN, and Napastyle on Fine Living. I love Michael for his friendly, easy going approach toward food and his fresh, delicious, recipes. In October of last year Michael opened his first store, Napastyle, in Berkeley - which is where Yum and I spoke with him. The event was a private party, tasting, and demonstration. In person, Michael is a lot like his TV personality: charming, welcoming, laid back and surprisingly he's more charismatic, incredibly personable, and quite funny.
Before the demonstration began, guests were invited to taste wines from his wine club (if anybody wants to surprise me and get me a subscription to it I would be ecstatic), sample homemade sausages and dips from his store, and to mingle with Michael. Once everyone had passed by the sample table (my favs: the parmesan dip & the rosemary garlic salami), the demonstration began.
For Michael's philosophy on food and life, the difference between taste and flavor in a dish, what he has to say about fellow Food Network celebrity chefs and our interview (including a video with a fantastic Julia Child impersonation),
Growing up, Michael learned at a very young age the importance of sustainability, seasonality, and eating locally. He was raised on a farm in the California Central Valley where his mother taught him about the love that is put into making a meal. He doesn't believe in fast food - which he defines as any meal that is not worth remembering and has jokingly told Rachael Ray, "I can't even clean the kitchen in under 30 minutes."
Michael enjoys turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, being a guest at his own parties, and gray salt. Although his life is beyond busy, he inserts self-imposed speed bumps or meditation time to spend time with his 14 month old baby boy (maybe we should set him up with KatieSugar), 3 older daughters, and his wife (whom he lovingly refers to as his girlfriend because it "sounds better").
Afterwards Michael took a moment to chat with us and even set me up on a date with his sous chef! Here's how it went:
PartySugar/YumSugar: What did you eat today?
Michael Chiarello: For breakfast I had organic cheerios, mangoes, and strawberries. For lunch my wife made me asparagus soup with Point Reyes blue cheese and I drank dinner.
P/YSugar: What are you inspired by?
MC: My mother. That little girl in the crowd, Samantha, who watches my show every Saturday. The fact that food can open your heart and bring people into your life. One time a woman came up to me and told me that she had never gotten along with her mom and when she asked her mom why she had never tried making pasta, the mother answered it was because she didn't have anyone to help her, so the daughter offered. Cooking brought them back together as a family. The best food is like gospel music, it makes you feel good.
P/YSugar: What's your advice to the everyday hostess?
MC: The Greeks set aside time while building the Parthenon to eat, so eat well even while busy. Set aside the time to eat well.
P/YSugar: A successful party is…
MC: Spending half as much time at the table as your guest do. When somebody else cleans up. When the wine is wonderful.
P/YSugar: What’s in your fridge?
MC: Organic Greek yogurt. Mango and papayas. Organic milk. Lots of cooked and ready to go protein.
P/YSugar: What is your guilty pleasure food?
P/YSugar: Is your show filmed in your house?
MC: No, my first show that aired on PBS was but not anymore.
P/YSugar: Did you read the Omnivore's Dilemma and if so what did you think of it?
MC: Yes, I read it twice. Michael Pollan is an amazing writer and he presents the facts as good as he can. He is conventional and brilliant.
Michael jokes about being upset by the fact that he rarely gets invited out to a friend's house for dinner and dislikes that his favorite organic milk is available only in glass bottles. And while his style is definitely different, he loves that his buddy Emeril has brought millions of people back into the kitchen.