For Katie, culinary personality and co-host on Food Network’s hit show “The Kitchen,” cooking wasn’t just a hobby growing up – it was a way of life.
Raised in a modest, tight-knit West Virginia family, each evening centered around the dinner menu. Eager to get involved, Katie began cooking at the tender age of 4 under the guidance of her mentor Grandma Dora. Katie’s latest book “Endless Summer Cookbook”, was recently released to rave reviews. Her first cookbook, The Comfort Table, was released in 2008, soon followed by The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions (2009). In addition to her cookbooks, she published her first novel, Groundswell, in 2011. Katie sits on the Celebrity Board for Feeding America and is an active support for 96 Elephants. When not working or volunteering, she enjoys surfing, traveling and playing with her pug, Fionula. She resides in the Hamptons.
You’re the quintessential American beauty and chef! How did you get into cooking?
Thank you! That is quite the compliment. I started cooking at a very young age, as I basically grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen. She was my babysitter and was always cooking up something delicious.
Who is your ultimate inspiration as a chef?
My grandma will always be my number one inspiration, but on a daily basis, I get so much inspiration from the farmers where I live, in the Hamptons. I love to go to the farm stand and see what looks good and take it home and be creative. I have fairly simple taste and I find that if you start with the best quality ingredients you can find, you really don’t have to do much to them to make them shine.
I love the idea behind your show “The Kitchen”… all the chefs are so different! How did it all come about?
We have the best time on “The Kitchen.” We are getting ready to film our 100th episode and our two-year anniversary. I can’t believe how lucky we have been with the success of this show. The casting process was quite lengthy, it actually took about six months of chemistry testing before the producers put our group together. While we all didn’t know each other well when the show first started, now we are all great friends and really enjoy our time together when filming. All of us come from a different background and have a different cooking style, so there is something for everyone. I learn so much from my co-hosts!
You’re such a foodie… how do you keep your svelte figure?
It is a constant battle! I love to eat and I also love my skinny jeans. I exercise about five days a week. I am a big fan of Tracy Anderson Method and I occasionally take a Soul Cycle class and I love to take long power walks.
What is your fave cook book of all time?
All of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks are my favorites. Her recipes are so delicious and always work.
Thanksgiving is such an American tradition… although it’s all about the turkey I wanted to find out if you have signature side dishes?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and my favorite meal to cook. It’s all about the sides. I always make a sweet potato casserole and my mom’s recipe for cranberry relish. Last year, Jeff Mauro (co-host of The Kitchen) made the best recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes, and that dish now has a permanent place on my Thanksgiving menu (recipe on foodnetwork.com)
What is your advice for the person who will be their first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner?
Keep it simple and plan ahead! The first time I hosted Thanksgiving, I bit off way more than I could chew. I thought I had to make a dozen side dishes, elaborate hors d’oeuvres, homemade bread, and a bunch of desserts. It was way more than I could handle. I ended up burning myself and having to spend dinner with a bag of frozen peas rubber-banded around my arm. I was so exhausted that I went to bed after dinner while everyone else had fun. It is totally acceptable to ask others to bring a dessert and don’t feel bad about buying hors d’oeuvres or doing something assembly only. Make lists of everything that needs to be done so that you can check it off and not forget anything. Set the table the night before. And just remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect to be great!
It’s also a family affair… what is your safe proof for the kiddies table?
Kids need something to do to keep them entertained. Find a Thanksgiving craft to keep them occupied. Better yet, if you’re the one cooking and hosting, put another family in charge of the kids’ crafts so you can stay focused.
What is your fave appetizers since it’s a long day?
Deviled eggs are always on my menu. Other than those, I like to do assembly-only hors d’oeuvres to keep things easy. I take a log of goat cheese and coat with apricot jam and sprinkle with pepitas for a quick bite and everyone loves it.
Do you have a signature drink?
I set up a self-serve bar area so guests can help themselves. I always have red and white wine open and people can choose, then I have ingredients for a signature cocktail that can be served with alcohol or not. For Thanksgiving, I stay in the fall theme and serve a cranberry cocktail. Cranberry juice, ginger liqueur, and sparkling wine. To make it non-alcoholic, the cranberry juice can be served with ginger ale or sparkling apple cider.
During the holidays, I have a “house red” and a “house white.” I buy a case of each so that I don’t run out. Pinot noir is a great pairing with turkey, as is Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc. It can also be fun to try Beaujolais nouveau because it is just coming in season and the bottle is very festive and inexpensive. Rosé is a great and versatile choice as well.
What is on your playlist?
I turn on Pandora and let it go. A great station for Thanksgiving is Yacht Rock.
What is your decor motto on this day?
I stay in theme with fall colors. I like to do center pieces that serve double duty, like a bowl full of pomegranates dusted with edible gold glitter. They make for a pretty centerpiece, then I can eat them in the coming week. Or, I’ll fill the bottom hurricane vases with red lentils and a candle. I use a lot of votive candles and I usually will buy one or two bouquets of flowers then divide them into smaller arrangements.
You’re a fashionable woman…. what will you be rocking this Thanksgiving Day?
When I am hosting, I think about wearing clothes that look nice but are also functional. No bell sleeves that might get caught in a sauce, no light colors that might show a splash, and comfortable shoes are a must.
What is your mistake proof make-up and hair hostess for this evening?
I time my cooking so that I’ll have about an hour to myself before guests arrive. I like to wear my hair pulled back in the kitchen, so a simple chignon is my go-to. I always put a powder compact and my lipgloss in a drawer in the kitchen so I can reapply throughout the night.
Finally… how do you “detox” or re-program the day after Thanksgiving?
More like the week after Thanksgiving… I love my leftovers!!! I keep up my workouts throughout the weekend and the week after I try to eat really healthy to make up for all of my sins.