Debi Mazar might be more familiar in her role as the fast-talking publicist Shauna on Entourage, but the next time you see her on the small screen, she’ll be playing a chef. But it won’t be in character. Rather, she’ll be playing herself. Mazar and her husband, Gabriele Corcos, are the hosts and stars of Extra Virgin, a new show debuting on January 19 at 10 p.m. on Cooking Channel. We called them up to learn a bit more about how this cooking couple came to be.
What gave you guys the cooking bug?
Debi: When we met, Gabriele and I were both into cooking for our friends and we had grown up being food lovers. We met in Florence. It was funny because he’d take me to his apartment and share these beautiful, simple dishes. Hunks of cheese, prosciutto, melon. … When I was pregnant and he had come back to America to be with me, he was stunned by the grocery stores and, like, how large the artichokes were. He started to write me a love letter because I was off shooting which turned into a diary. Which really became a cookbook. We were going to call it Food for the Pregnant Tuscan Male, but then a cookbook publisher told us men don’t buy cookbooks.
And did that lead to your blog, Under the Tuscan Gun?
Debi: Yeah, we busted out a camcorder. I’m good at directing and the tech aspect and we had fun and people loved it. We never did it for commercial reasons but here we are now five years later. We don’t like cooking shows — we find them boring. Our show is a hybrid — you see our daughters and our old, broken-down poodle. It’s not much different from the blog. We Tuscanize food. I might make a French beef Bourguignon and Gabi will Tuscanize it on the stove and make it better.
What’s unique about the show?
Gabriele: We didn’t want to teach people to cook but we wanted to embrace food. You know, my oven is where I keep my pots and pans. I don’t have an island. It’s a real kitchen. When we were location scouting, we saw these fantastic homes. But I cook in my own kitchen for my own family, and that’s what we did for the show. It’s about getting some good music and getting the kids off the TV. It’s less dangerous for them using knives than TV–
Debi: My four-year-old is really chopping onions, every single day.
Gabriele: She’s already on the 12-inch chef’s knife.
Where did you learn to cook?
Gabriele: My grandmother and my mother. The reason I started was because my mom was a schoolteacher. On Sundays she’d be like, “Don’t you fucking dare wake me up before 11,” so she told me where all the stuff was and I’d cook with my grandmother. So one day when I was about six I decided to bake a cake. I didn’t have an allowance so I put a price on it and I served breakfast and that’s how I got my allowance.
Do you have assigned roles in the kitchen?
Debi: Gabriele is more of the chef, and I’m the sous-chef and our daughters are the sous-chefs. I’m generally the dishwasher. I have an ADD thing going on. I want the counter spotless and Gabi will place the dishes on the tile counter and just stack them up. We agree to disagree. But he thinks I’m disrespectful when I smash garlic, but I say it doesn’t have feelings. He can be a purist for some things but we have a lot of fun exploring dishes together.
You must have pretty busy schedules. Do you make time for family dinner?
Debi: Always. We sit down every night at 6:30 or 7. And on weekends we have a lunch with wine — well, the kids don’t have wine, of course. This is something we want to give our children. Our friends have kids and nannies usher them about and they’re eating crappy food. By the time kids are 12, you lose them. This is the time they learn manners — saying “please” and “thank you,” not having elbows on the table — we’re creating ladies who have etiquette. It’s crucial to their well-being.
Do you go out to eat ever?
Debi: We never go out, because if we go out to dinner, then it means we’ll probably also go to the movies. And between dinner and the movies and getting a babysitter, it’s about $400 for the night. So we have people over for a great meal. It’s been our way of having a social life.
Check back tomorrow for when Debi and Gabriele reveal where they get their Tuscan on in New York City.
Have a tip or restaurant-related news? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.