Curtis Stone isn't easily ruffled. On a rainy morning in Los Angeles, the celebrity chef and author of last spring's, "Relaxed Cooking" cookbook is a picture of calm as a swarm of prep cooks scurry around steaming pots in Wolfgang Puck's enormous catering kitchen. The staff is frantically preparing dinner for 800 guests attending a gala for G'Day USA: Australia Week, honoring well-known Australians in the U.S., but Stone casually grabs a bottle of water in the middle of the chaos and shrugs with zen-like calm. "Cooking for this many people equates to a headache, but I guess you've got to do it at some point," he says, taking a swig from the bottle and settling on a chair.
If he seems unconcerned that entertainment bigwigs like Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Olivia Newton-John will soon be sampling his roasted rack of Australian lamb served with a ragu of braised lamb shoulder, well, that's Stone. His mind is already leagues away, puzzling over why Americans tend to favor beef. "Aussies eat nearly as much lamb as we do beef," he says, "which is entirely different from the U.S., where the ratio is probably 95 to five."
He ticks off the ways Australians use lamb: burgers, cutlets, stir-fry, lamb kabobs on the grill -- all typical of the country's robust style. "I always think of cuisine as representative of its culture," he muses. "If you think about French cuisine, it's very meticulous and that's the way they are, very romantic and very detailed and refined. And I think the Aussie culture is a bit anti-authoritarian," he says. "I mean, we come from a bunch of convicts. Ned Kelly was one of our heroes -- a bush ranger who used to rob people. We have that kind of rebel spirit and I think that shows up in our food. We break a lot of the rules."
He pauses, frowning. "I like to think of Australian food as fresh and natural and organic, but it's sort of been skewed lately. I think we've become the most obese nation in the world. It's awful. Totally against our culture." He's planning to address obesity on this side of the equator on a soon-to-be filmed show for NBC, titled "Losing It," where he'll team up with "The Biggest Loser" uber-trainer Jillian Michaels to help overweight Americans learn to dramatically change their lifestyles. "She'll break them down Jillian-style, and then I'll try to rebuild their world in terms of cooking," he says. "We're not going to come in and build them a new gym," he says. "We have to work with their budget. If they spend 100 bucks a week on food, that's what I've got to work with."
The star of his other upcoming project wouldn't know much about budgets: Stone is a cast member on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, which airs in March. "I was pretty nervous about it," he says, "but I think it's going to be a really funny season." He laughs, describing interactions with fellow cast members Cyndi Lauper and Brett Michaels as "off the wall." He can't reveal the outcome of the show, but don't count him out: If anyone can keep a cool head in the middle of chaos, it's Stone.