Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brian Boitano Interview

Brian Boitano
I watch the Food Network show, What Would Brian Boitano Make? for its humor, its easy, healthy food and because it's shot in San Francisco. While wrapping up filming of the second season, I got a chance to talk with Brian Boitano about the show and more....

I saw photos of your street cart episode online recently, that looked like fun. What have been some of the highlights of shooting this season?
It's even better than last year, we're just finishing up, I did a fun episode with the scooter society and with Manuela (the very Spanish mother of a skating friend). Manuela makes a comeback. Lots of real people; friends really liked the first episode with her. Also my French handyman Guy, who doesn't ever work. We're going to have reoccurring characters.

What's your process for coming up with recipes for the show?
There's a theme first--like the Chinese episode. I think about what my guest likes to eat. For example Manuella had never had Chinese food and didn't think she'd like it. She likes Spanish food, she likes Paella. So I created a fried rice dish for her. What happens is I keep a notebook in the kitchen and take notes. But I don't do measurements. I write it step by step, then I break it down with measurements later. When I first learned to cook I would read recipes and measure everything and then I realized it's not fun, it's like skating where everything goes according to a strict plan.

I try to come up with food that fits what my guests want, for example with the roller derby episode I was just trying to please my guests (that prominently featured bacon). In reality I have a very healthy diet. You have to enjoy the flavors of food and not just fat. I think that you don't have to have a lot of fat and cream, I like how I feel when I'm eating lighter. It's not hard to put cauliflower and apples together to make a puree. It's really a San Francisco mentality. For me that means being green in the kitchen and food that's accessible. My producers are purists not in a stuffy way but about fresh ingredients. They shop at the Ferry Building and Rainbow Grocery, even Bi-Rite and Cal-Mart.

I'd describe the humor on your show as cheeky. How do you get away with being on the Food Network and seemingly making fun of it at the same time? You don't fit the mold....
The Food Network was happy to go in a different direction. I watch the Food Network all the time but I understand the challenge to stay fresh. For example I'm trying to find different ways to say "flavorful." I try to avoid saying things like "depth of flavor." I shoot one episode in 5 days so I have time to think things through. One day is just for cooking. It gives me a break to think about it and I can focus on the action happening behind the scenes. It's easier for me to come up with ideas because I'm not in the kitchen all the time.

Is your goal to be like Martha Stewart and have a line of products, magazines?I would love to do that, it would be really fun, it would be right up my alley. I have an idea of what I would like. I have an opinion about everything, even jarred foods. But for now I'm happy doing what I'm doing.

How much of the styling is your own?A lot, I lay out how I would do thing and the production team takes it from there. I like a rustic style. I have really easy going friends who aren't fussy. I have the attitude that if my friends can't make it I won't do it on the show.

Is there anything you haven't been able to do on the show?
I want to do an olive oil cake next season, if we get picked up. I wanted to do an episode of casseroles since I grew up in the 70's my mom made casseroles a lot. I hated them! So I wanted to do a modern twist on casseroles. The production company film was against the idea, apparently they don't film well.

What Would Brian Boitano Make with radishes?My favorite thing is to serve them the French way, with a little plate of salt. and people just dunk it. Great with drinks or wine.

What Would Brian Boitano Make with swiss chard?It's a staple for me. I eat it a lot. I would saute it in olive oil and galric and a little red chi flakes, salt and pepper.

What Would Brian Boitano Make with sardines?I like sardines! I would do little remoulade and probably grill them but fried is good too. Those are the two ways I like serving fish, grilled or fried. I like to cook it on the skin side and so it gets all crispy.

Your show features a lot of entertaining. Do you have people over to your house often? Oh yeah! Not when I'm filming. I'm too tired but I give dinner parties, pizza parties, I have a brick in the oven. I do game night and sometimes serve hors d' oeuvres and drinks.

Alder of Vinography mentioned that you're something of a wine lover. What styles do you prefer? What's your house red and your house white?
It's weird I'm into a white wine kick, I went years of dirnking red, and now white. I like Pinot and Merlot and not a big Cab fan, unless they are less tannic on the back end. I like blends of Cab Franc and Merlot, Bordeaux, I just buy everything, I generally stick with California wines but I'll get on a kick with Italian wines like Amarone and Barolo. Because he's Italian, my dad likes Montalcino Montepulciano. I always try to order to a different wine so I can learn more. I'll get a case of something. Right now I'm drinking Chardonnay, Rombauer and Trefethen.

You live in San Francisco, where do you like to eat?I love Frascati for the dark chocolate bread pudding, I like Polker's for salads and for when I don't feel like spending a lot of money. Amarena is good, a little expensive but good. One of my favorites is Pompei's Grotto on the Wharf. When my mom and dad were dating they used to go there. The food is really clean and simple. Best fish in the city.

Thanks Brian!