Photo: Julie Toy
With his new gig as host of "Top Chef Masters," chef (and KitchenDaily expert) Curtis Stone comes ever closer to becoming the ringmaster of America's reality-show circus. Last spring, he made it to the tenth week of Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," and this fall he's been a regular presence on "The Biggest Loser." His new project, "America's Next Great Restaurant," pairs him up with Bobby Flay and a panel of restaurant experts to find an idea worthy of a three-city restaurant chain. We caught up with Curtis this weekend as he was prepping dinner with Wolfgang Puck for the 8th Annual G'DAY USA Celebrity Gala, in Los Angeles.
Slashfood: It's been a busy year for you, what with the 'Apprentice' and working on 'The Biggest Loser.'
Curtis Stone: 'The Apprentice' was bizarre. I was sitting there before the first day and Cyndi [Lauper] was sort of singing to herself and I was thinking, 'What am I doing here with all of these freaks?' But you know what? I made a lot of good friends from it. They all turned out to be really cool. When I first met Bret [Michaels] I thought, 'How are we going to get along? You're a weirdo.' But he's a nice bloke! He's a strange cat, you know, but a cool dude. Sharon Osborne and I ended up becoming really good friends. Cyndi is a sweet woman -- crazy, out there, talks to herself, but kind and generous.
SF: You're taking over the role of host for the new season of Bravo's 'Top Chef Masters.' Why do you think they decided to replace Kelly Choi?
CS: Look, I think Kelly is a real sweetheart, and she's a real foodie. She loves food – I know her; she's a friend of mine. But yeah, I think it's good to have a chef on there who can empathize with the other chefs during the competitions. I'll be on the judges panel, but I'm not going to cast advice, because I don't want to judge my peers. We start filming next week, and I can't wait. 'Top Chef Masters' is a whole different ball game. 'Top Chef' is a great show, but with 'Masters,' these guys are seriously established chefs on the restaurant scene with Michelin stars, James Beard awards and all that stuff.
SF: Are you glad you're hosting instead of competing?
CS: I've just been going through all of the challenges and I'm so glad that I'm not going to have to do them myself -- they're tough challenges. But these guys are brilliant chefs. And as much as it's difficult -- you'll see them stand there shaking their head because they're angry at the challenge -- but they'll still go make great food. I think my role is to sort of empathize with the chefs since I appreciate the technical skill. Food writers just can't. I mean, the interesting thing about a chef's job is that you're getting judged by someone who knows less than you. You have someone come in and comment on your food, but they can't cook it.
SF: What does 2011 have in store?
CS: It's been a bloody crazy year. And this year's the same. I'm doing 'America's Next Great Restaurant,' which airs on March 6th. I was on a panel with Bobby Flay, Steve Ells [founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle], and Lorena Garcia [an executive chef and restaurateur] trying to pick a winner. So that was fun, we were literally running around trying to find the person who has America's greatest restaurant idea. Some of the concepts we were amazing.
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