Fame Bites goes inside the belly of the entertainment beast. We're dishing out where the celebrities are eating, what they're eating and who they're eating with.
You may best recognize Debi Mazar as Vincent Chase's publicist on HBO's beloved series "Entourage," but she's got a lot more cooking.
Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, are the bloggers behind "Under the Tuscan Gun" and hosts of "Extra Virgin" on Cooking Channel.
We recently chatted up the girl from Queens and her amore about giving back and their philosophy on food.
The last time we saw you on CNN was for Heroes and Midnight Mission. Can you talk to us a little bit about that experience?
Debi: "We decided we wanted to choose a charity that was something local, something that we could give back to – in terms of cooking, in terms of feeding - people in need. And when we looked into it, we were just blown away at how incredible they were in terms of what they actually do for communities.
We cooked on a truck and served food and raised a bunch of money and it sort of ends there. But we love them and we’ve done several different events for them because we like being involved. And, we also bring our children and show them how lucky they are to have an awareness about what’s going on in the world outside their little bubble."
You grew up on food stamps - is that partially why you drove you to become involved with organizations like that?
Debi: "No, not at all. My mom did not have money. She was a single mom, on and off in periods between marriages. My husband, however, grew up on a wonderful farm in Tuscany, in Florence, and his family was so entertaining in terms of growing their own food and using the fruit of their land.
We have very, very different experiences. His is one of coming from another country, another culture – but me, I’m more of an urban kid. And I have no shame – I wasn’t made to feel like I was different or that I didn’t have everything. My home was filled with love. My grandmother always managed to cook.
So me giving back to people has nothing to do really with my experience, it has to do with that I see it with my heart – I see that people are in need. I see that people don’t have the information, but it’s not due to 'Oh gee! I’ve gone through this too I can relate.'
It's probably helped when I’ve talked to people better in certain situations, but my mission in terms of trying to help feed or educate people is just because I like to share good information – it’s not because I was there too and now I’m not.
We’re people – I’m an actress and a cook. I haven’t always had the money rolling in. I’m a character actor, it’s not like I’m Gwenyth Paltrow – so I do have hard times still in my life. And that’s even more why it’s like you know what, I’m not that different from people going through it. I struggle, I look for a better deal at the grocery store. I’m living what I’m preaching. I’m not the celebrity in that way.
People might know who I am, but I’m actually an average housewife to a degree – I go out, I hustle, I look for jobs, I get turned down, I get disappointed, I sell things. I’m like everyone else in this f#$@ed up economy."
What do you think a passion for food stems from?
Gabriele: "I think it’s an obsession, yes, but awareness comes first. All these projects actually started when Debi got pregnant. Before it was the blog, it was me writing the way I saw the food culture and the shopping and the grocery in a different way in America than everybody in Europe.
This is the land of abundance and we take everything from granted. We take the oversized for granted. It’s just part of the lifestyle here. When I cook with my kids when I feed my kids, we try to quote-unquote 'bring them back to reality’ – like listen, don’t take it for granted. Let me tell how it’s done and where it comes from.
… It is not about teaching people, it’s more about trying to raise awareness to make their life easier and be a part of their journey in discovering how to feed yourself and your family in a healthy way on a budget.
When you learn how to cook Tuscan food, it’s a very peasant type of cuisine – it’s very cheap, it’s very on the budget – but it’s fantastic and it’s healthy and it’s clean. There’s no cream, there’s no butter. It’s olive oil and fresh produce."
Debi: "I think it starts at home. We sit down with the kids every single night, not that I want to every night – sometimes I’d rather be out with my husband having a martini at a swanky restaurant – but we sit down with our kids every night at dinner.
We make them understand what they’re eating, where it comes from, we have really good conversations, we talk about our day – because in the first ten years of a kids life, in my opinion, is the only time you’re really going to be able to have this where you develop table manners, family values for food and having that family time.
Everyone’s so busy in their day between the internet and interruptions, we have that quiet time. There’s no television in the kitchen.
I think it begins there, the charitable philosophy. The kids are aware. They want to share, they want to cook, they want to help.
For us, when we created our blog, it wasn’t like 'Let's jump on this bandwagon. Debi Mazar’s career is in the trenches – let’s find something else to do. Oh look, that’s trendy!'
We were blogging five or six years ago. We were doing it to share culture because parents were having to stay home all the time. We were having so much fun cooking together and discovering a new way to have fun as a couple because I was pregnant, because I was at home, because I was out of work - people just started responding to it.
And people want to know how to be healthy and have some variation. We’re really proud because it wasn’t a greatly produced situation – it was a situation for our show to really just share culture and food and feeding.
We had the option to shoot on this fabulous set and we chose to shoot in our own home even though we could’ve shot elsewhere. Because even though it’s inconvenient to have 40 people in my house for six weeks, we wanted to have the feeling for the people that are watching that they’re being invited into realness.
It was nice to have people see me open up my Tupperware cabinet and everything falls on top of me, and I keep my pots and pans in the oven."
Talk about the role of food and emotion.
Gabriele: "Food is everything. I grew up in a place where I could’ve taken it for granted, but my grandmother and my mom taught me not to and to embrace the food culture that comes from my family and my land. For me, it’s heritage – which I feel I need to pass on to my kids. In other ways, it’s my own retirement plan, I want my daughters to cook for me when I’m 70.
Debi: "And you say that because I’ll be dead?"
Gabriele: "No darling, you’ll be with me at the table.
You really can achieve so much by embracing your kitchen and the ingredients. Make it fun, it has to be part of your life."
Debi: "Food brings back memories. I had a mom that wasn’t a good cook, so I would eat my grandma’s food. It was amazing because it brings back a time almost in Technicolor. I see her house, I see her stove, I think about what it felt like when I was sick and it felt like love.
I think about Thanksgiving when everybody was fighting over Nixon and everybody was drunk at the table and how funny it all was and what a shame that we had prepared a meal for three days and everyone was fighting. It brings back such memories.
I think about how I’ve gone through phases in my life where I’ve tried to not eat this, cut back on dairy and carbs and how obsessive people get with the notion of what they have to do to eat right for their blood type. To me, food is a very simple survival thing.
I feel honored when people invite me to their table. I feel that I’m honoring somebody when I invite them to my table. I feel it’s the most incredible experience you can actually have with somebody is to bake bread – it’s biblical."
Absolutely lovely. I miss having a kitchen. I have to do everything on the lip of my sink and no counter.
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