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A Chef James, FoodReference.com exclusive interview with Art Ginsburg, Mr. Food. TV personality and cookbook author. Mr. Food debuted on local television in 1975, and has had more then 40 cookbooks published. September, 2006 His latest book is Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recipes for Busy Moms
CHEF JAMES: When and how did you become interested in cooking? Did you cook growing up?
MR. FOOD: Absolutely! I was interested in it from the earliest times when I remember seeing my mother mixing and putting ingredients together. I thought it was great! When I was 7 or 8 years old I wanted to make my own school lunches! Cooking is still as exciting to me now as it was then.
CHEF JAMES: Who are your biggest inspirations? Have they changed over the past 25 years?
MR. FOOD: My mother and my sister were my inspirations. They were both great at making anything taste super. My mother had the ability to take whatever was in the cupboard (and sometimes that was very little) and make it into something substantial to put on the table. My dad was a wholesale butcher who bartered with the local farmers, so Mom was expert at taking whatever Dad brought home and using every bit of it! If it was cauliflower, we'd have it for the next 2 weeks – every which way! The last of them would get peeled, cleaned and pickled – so nothing went to waste!
Those were the days when my dad and I brought back the cattle and had to process it ourselves. Spending all that time in the country taught me a lot about seasons, crops, and cattle. I learned every part of the animals – you know, what was best for what purpose, etc. Those early experiences have stayed with me.
CHEF JAMES: What do you enjoy most about your work? What are your greatest stresses? Your greatest joys?
MR. FOOD: What I enjoy most is the gratification of the people I reach every day. I like showing people how to make things that they can really do, and I give them ideas, hints, and tips that help them get meals on their tables that they get thanks for. I know I’m helping families sit down around the table and have the opportunity to communicate. With our family, the table was always the meeting place – the social place, and I want to share that great feeling with others.
Stresses? Doing very early morning appearances and interviews! (It’s not that I don't like them – but I’m not thrilled about getting up as early as I have to sometimes to be ready for morning drive time…!)
My greatest joys? Meeting people – I love people. I love meeting them, helping solve their problems. When I do book signings and cooking demonstrations, I love seeing the smiles on people's faces – it's so easy to smile back. I love the fact that smiling is contagious! And I hope that I'm spreading those smiles.
CHEF JAMES: Where/how do you organize your recipes in your kitchen at home? On a computer, recipe cards, scraps of paper, etc?
MR. FOOD: The process of keeping my personal recipes on the computer is evolving, but I still rely a lot on recipe cards, small scraps of paper, and my mind.
CHEF JAMES: What are your favorite cooking gadgets?
MR. FOOD: The most important tool in anybody's kitchen – in mine, certainly – is the spice rack. Good knives are right up there too, and they don't have to be expensive ones either!
CHEF JAMES: What are you enjoying most these days, TV, teaching, writing, or cooking?
MR. FOOD: Yes…all of them!
CHEF JAMES: What do you think of the fact that Americans seem to be eating out more, yet cookbook sales are increasing?
MR. FOOD: Between economic issues, and the fact that there’s a more “do-it-yourself” wave these days, people are realizing that we can make more of our own meals again. Sure, we still enjoy eating out – for the sociability and convenience – but we're also eating in more reasonably, and much easier. That’s why my team and I created Mr. Food no-fuss Meals, a franchise of retail meal assembly stores, and wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recipes for Busy Moms. (You can find out more about both at my Web site, mrfood.com.) Sometimes, with our busy schedules, we don't even have time to go out to eat – it's easier to eat in! Moms are indeed busier and more frazzled today than ever, with loads of family responsibilities and activities. I like to make life easier for today’s moms.
CHEF JAMES: If you were stranded on a desert island for a year surviving on coconuts and seaweed, what would be the first meal you would like to eat after you were rescued?
MR. FOOD: A sandwich of thick-cut homegrown tomatoes on country-style bread with romaine lettuce, mayo and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
CHEF JAMES: What is your personal funniest Kitchen incident?
MR. FOOD: Probably the time I was at a festival for a charitable institution and was asked to eat a chocolate-covered cricket. Funny? It wasn't for me, but it probably was for anybody watching. Would I do it again? I would (as long as there's chocolate surrounding it), as I would do practically anything to help those less fortunate!
Instead of trying to show people how much I know, I aim to show how much THEY know! I want people to keep on having fun in the kitchen. If you enjoy the experience, the tastes, the gratification, it will be a guaranteed… "OOH IT'S SO GOOD!!®"