You wouldn’t think that the rapper behind “Gangsta’s Paradise” would know his way around the kitchen, but it turns out that Coolio is something of a foodie. Last year, rather than settling in for a mild-mannered retirement with a Grammy, three VMAs, several movie roles, and a handful of TV appearances, the 46-year-old traded in his microphone for a spatula and started hosting his own online cooking show. The viral success of those “ghetto gourmet” webisodes led to a book deal, and as of this past Tuesday, the world now has Cookin’ With Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price. Chapters are titled “It’s Hard Out Here for a Shrimp,” “Appetizers for that Ass,” and “Salad-Eatin’ Bitches.” Salt is not measured in teaspoons, but doled out in “dime bags.” Chicken isn’t carved into breasts, but “breastesses.” The pantry is the “pimptry.” It’s something to behold. (See also our “10 Amazing Quotes From Coolio’s New Cookbook, Cookin’ with Coolio.”)
We recently spoke to Coolio over the phone from a hotel in Las Vegas, where he now lives, about Ratatouille, a frozen-food line, and the possibility of having Thanksgiving dinner with a “real, live, in-the-flesh” pimp.
How did you first become interested in cooking?
I used to watch my mom cook all the time, and then I tried to cook something when my mom was not home and I got in trouble. I was about eight years old. My stepfather worked graveyard, so he was sleeping, and I was home from school, and I got a terrible–well, let’s just call it what it was–I got a terrible ass whoopin’. Because of that my mom said, “Oh, you wanna cook? Well, get yo ass in there, and chop up these onions.” So I was the designated onion-and-garlic chopper.
You managed to keep it up during your rap career?
I was always bragging about my cooking when people came over. I started getting into cooking more because I went through this period when I wasn’t enjoying my meals. After my mother passed away, I just wasn’t enjoying food anymore cause nothing tasted right to me. I went on a quest to recreate my mother’s meals, and I actually made a lot of things better. Basically, I took out the heart attack and the cholesterol.
Who have you met through cooking that you otherwise wouldn’t have?
Check this out–guess who I met last night? I met a pimp. Hah! I met a pimp! And he’s saying, “Man, I can get down too.” He was telling about his tilapia. We started talking, and actually, I’m gonna go over his house, and we gonna get in the kitchen and get down and see what he got. We’re talking about maybe doing Thanksgiving together with our families and whatever. But he’s a real, live, in-the-flesh pimp. And when I say pimp, I mean while I was standing there–excuse my French–but one of his hoes walked up and handed him about $1,200. Haahaahaaa!
I also met a gay butcher. I met this butcher that worked in Alberton’s. That’s like hella gay, and we started choppin’ it up. And we talkin’ about maybe doing a restaurant here in Vegas, like a small little breakfast joint.
Are we’re going to see Coolio brand foods in the future?
Definitely! We gonna do frozen food. And let me tell you why we gonna do frozen food. You ever watch Ratatouille? Ok, well, in Ratatouille, it was pretty much a travesty for a real chef to do frozen food. You know, pizza rolls, and burritos, and all that. And the critics was dissin’ Gasteau. Well, Gasteau had passed away, but you know the little guy, they was dissin’ him. But here’s the thing: frozen food, most of it is pretty bad, wouldn’t you say? I’m gonna take the whole concept of frozen food to the next level. I’m gonna make frozen food-that look good, taste good, smell good.
Every component to the meal will be individually sealed. So the steak’ll be in one plastic wrapper. The spinach’ll be in one. The mashed potatoes’ll be in one. And you’ll cook em all separately and then put ’em on the plate. You don’t want your flavors coagulatin’ in the freezer. I’ma do it really simple, but really really really tasty, and when you take it out it’s gonna taste like I just cooked it right in your kitchen.
I want everybody to eat good, whether they rich, poor, middle class, or poverty stricken. When people taste something of mine I want them to close their fuckin’ eyes and go “Mmmm, tastes is good.”
Could everything from the cookbook become part of the frozen-food line?
Except the short ribs. I’ma say that because them bones might break the plastic, and I don’t want no freezer burn gettin’ on my stuff.
Throughout the show and in the cookbook you tend to exclaim “Shaka Zulu!” What’s up with that?
I was talkin’ to my kids one day, and my daughter said, “Dang, daddy, you cuss too much.” And I say, ‘What, what I say?’ And she says–excuse me–“You always sayin’ ‘motherfucker’.” So I started substitutin’ “Shaka Zulu” for “motherfucker.” Like if I drop something on my toe, or stub my toe on a threshold, and I[‘m about to] go, “Motherfucker,” instead I’ll be like, “Shaka Zulu!” I’ll be like, “Damn Shakalakaka!” That’s where it came from.
So I just took it from there and started using “Shaka” for, like, an expletive. Instead of bein’ like, ‘Ooooh Weee!’ I’ll be like, “Shaka Zuluuuu!’ And then when we started doin’ the cooking show, you know Emeril got his “Bam!” and I like that, so I said I’m gonna have to get me somethin’ like that, so I started using my “Shaka Zulu.”
What’s your favorite recipe in the cookbook?
You know what? I have to read my own book. I really like my short ribs and I like my spinach. I like my Fork Steak. I like my Finger-Lickin’, Rib-Stickin’, Fall-Off-the-Bone-and-Into-Your-Mouth Chicken. Those are the ones I make at home on a regular basis. I made some Soul Rolls last night.
What’s your favorite ingredient to use?
Seasoning salt, baby. I got three favorite ingredients: seasoning salt, pepper, garlic and onion.
Which celebrity chefs would you most like to collaborate with?
Gordon Ramsay and Emeril. Emeril, because of his style and the stuff that he uses–a lot of it I have no concept of. And Gordon Ramsay I would like to work with because he’s business-savvy. That motherfucker’s a genius. He got that one show where he go and come to your restaurant, when that shit is about to go under, and he’ll come in and turn your shit around. He just got some great business models. He might make me a couple more million.
Snoop Dogg made some pretty famous Cognac mashed potatoes with Martha Stewart. Do you think you and Snoop could work on some cooking ventures together?
I love Snoop Dogg, but when it comes to cookin’, I’ll cook Snoop Dogg’s ass under the table. There’s no comparison, that’s not Snoop’s thing. But shit, when it comes to makin’ money, he got me beat.
A.C.P.: Assistant Chef Pimp
Beat like a red headed step child: Beat, as in eggs
Blasian: Black Asian
Coagulate: How a gangsta’s foods get together, interchangeable with “combine”
Dime bag: The gangsta’s equivalent of a tablespoon
Ghettalian: Ghetto Italian
Nickel bag: Half a tablespoon
Pimpron: An apron for a pimp
Peench: What a gangsta adds instead of a pinch
Salad-eatin’ bitches: Vegetarians, or any individual who regularly enjoys salads
Shaka Zulu!: an exclamation of deliciousness or pain, a kid-friendly version of “Motherfucker”
Skin like Hannibal: Peel, as in cucumbers or carrots
Spin it like a stripper on a pole: Stir
Cookin’ With Coolio: Fork Steak & Heavenly Ghettalian Garlic Bread