The Tuesday Thirteen: PBS Chef Christy Rost Discusses Cookbooks and Cooking Shows
The Tuesday Thirteen
Chef Christy Rost
Christy Rost is a PBS television chef as well as a cookbook author. Find out what she says it takes to create cookbooks and television specials.
Not only are you a chef, you are also a Registered Nurse! How did you get started cooking and where did you get your training?
Christy First of all, let me say thank you, Miranda for this interview. You have a terrific blog, and I am honored to be included in Mangoes and Chutney.
I started baking when I was 12 years old and fell in love with it. I loved the ritual of measuring and mixing ingredients, baking them in the oven, inhaling their intoxicating aromas, and watching my family’s smiles when I presented them with my latest kitchen project.
I turned to cooking in my early-teens, using my mother’s recipes at first, and later delving into cookbooks to expand my repertoire. I am basically self-taught, and what forever influenced my cuisine and approach to cooking was the year my husband and I lived in Paris with our young sons. I loved the passion the French have for food and its preparation – the sheer simplicity of cooking with the freshest ingredients available, and the artistry of presenting and plating the food.
But above all, my passion has always been entertaining….gathering folks together and spoiling them a little. Baking, cooking, and decorating are all an important part of that for me.
Thank you for that wonderful introduction! Do you think the heightened interest in celebrity chefs has been good or bad for the industry?
Christy I think the interest in celebrity chefs – much of it fostered by television cooking shows – has been a good thing, as it has inspired an exciting passion for food, wine and cooking for so many. And who started it all? Julia Child, the original television celebrity chef who cooked her way into the hearts of millions on PBS and simplified French cooking for American home cooks. On August 15th, many in the culinary industry will celebrate what would have been Julia Child’s 100th Birthday, and I plan to toast Julia with a glass of Champagne in recognition of the grand lady who encouraged me to one day have a show on PBS.
I also think that thanks to the heightened interest in celebrity chefs, there’s a significant segment of the American population for whom dining out has become a grand culinary adventure, and that passion has translated into home kitchens. People are open to trying unfamiliar foods, flavor combinations, and cooking methods. They’re shopping in farmers markets, joining CSA’s, planting gardens, attending cooking classes and wine tastings, reading and writing blogs, purchasing new cookware and culinary equipment, updating their kitchens, and gathering with friends to cook together. For these food enthusiasts, cooking like the celebrity chefs they admire has become a passport to a new, exciting, and flavorful way of life.
Do you have any memorable kitchen disaster stories?
Christy When I was a young mom and was visiting my folks in Illinois, one of my sisters was also visiting. On a beautiful early-summer day, her mother-in-law was coming for lunch and my sister was anxious to impress her, so she made a lovely quiche. As my sister removed the quiche from the oven and walked to the counter, the dish slipped from her hand and the quiche landed face-down on the floor. My sister was horrified and neither of us moved for a moment. Then calmly, I carefully scooped up the quiche with a metal spatula, placed it back into the dish, arranged thinly-sliced tomato on the top, and popped it back into the oven for 10 minutes until the filling was firm. When the quiche came out of the oven, we sliced and served it without saying a word about the disaster in our mom’s kitchen. Thank goodness all the guests were seated outdoors on the patio. They never knew – and the quiche tasted great!
We, the audience, never really get an inside look at the making of a cooking show and after it’s all said and done, we see an episode that’s about 50 minutes long. How long does it really take to produce an hour long show?
Christy This is a great question, as few really know what goes into creating a television cooking and lifestyle show. For A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving, my one-hour production that is broadcast annually on PBS and Create television stations nationwide, planning began 3 months before filming. We started by creating a story board to outline all the elements we wanted in the show, then identified how many cooking, decorating, home renovation, and history segments we needed to film. While the producer lined up the crew and the overall script was written, I selected my recipes, scheduled culinary assistants, booked plane tickets so our sons could be with us for this Holiday show, arranged for hard-to-find or out-of-season ingredients to be shipped, designed the decorating segments, made arrangements to film a shopping segment in a local supermarket, and did much of the grocery shopping.
Prep assistants did all of the chopping, measuring, and other food prep, though I baked the cheesecakes myself. Since my new studio kitchen was still under construction, we rented two additional ovens to roast all the turkeys, and set up long tables for cookware, mixing bowls, and food preparation. All of the cooking segments were filmed in one day, but it took almost a week to film the entire show.
Tell us a little about your first two books, The Family Table: Where Great Food, Friends, and Family Gather Together and Where’s My Spatula? Fast, Healthy Meals When Your Kitchen or Your Life Is A Mess. Who is your target market?
Christy I wrote my first book, The Family Table, to inspire families and friends to gather around the table as often as possible to celebrate the most important things in life – love, family, good health, and good friends. The book featured 250 flavorful recipes, extensive wine notes, and was divided into 4 sections: Everyday Meals, Weekends, Entertaining at Home, and Holidays. I still receive heartwarming comments from those who use The Family Table often.
I wrote Where’s My Spatula? while my husband and I were restoring our historic 1898 mountain home. After 12-hour days of hard, physical work at the house, we would return to our small condo each evening with only one thought – how quickly could I get dinner on the table? I realized that many others faced that same question every day, so I wrote Spatula to help busy cooks get delicious, nutritious meals on the table based on ingredients I always keep in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. The book contains a pantry list, and while many of the recipes take under 30 minutes, they’re easy and pretty enough to serve to guests.
My target market for my first two books is people of all ages who love to cook, as well as those who have never cooked and would like recipes they can be successful in creating. Many of my recipes have become family traditions in homes across America, and for dishes everyone raves about, it’s hard to beat Old Chicago Minestrone, Goat Cheese and Hazelnut Delight, Onion Soufflé, Rack of Lamb Dijon, or Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Shortcakes.
What were the biggest challenges when writing your cookbooks?
Christy Time. There’s never enough, because a cookbook is much more than the writing. Developing and testing recipes is a time-consuming process – all of which must be done before the recipes can become part of the manuscript. Also, knowing when to stop writing! It’s hard to say, “I’m done”, because there are always so many more recipes and ideas!
Is it difficult writing multiple cookbooks and not overlapping or having similar recipes? How do you come up with new book ideas?
Christy Because I continue to develop as a cook and embrace new flavors and types of cuisines, overlapping isn’t much of a problem when I’m working on a new book. There’s always something new that excites me and I can’t wait to share it with my readers.
Coming up with a new book idea is something I can never force. It has to happen on its own – usually during an “a-ha” moment. In the case of The Family Table, the idea came like a flash one morning as soon as I woke up. I even knew the book title! In my newest book Celebrating Home, the idea was inspired by my passion for all things HOME – cooking, decorating, entertaining, and the little touches my guests exclaim about whenever they come to visit.
As the author of two cookbooks, a spokesperson, radio personality, culinary instructor, and a popular guest presenter for retailers, home shows, and charities, with everything you had going on, what inspires you to keep writing books and taking on new projects?
Christy I’m inspired by a never-ending passion for family, friends, home, style, food and wine, and a desire to share this passion with others.
You have a third book coming out this fall. Celebrating Home, A Handbook for Gracious Living, seems to combine all of your talents. How long have you been working on your new book and tell us why it is more than just a cookbook.
Christy Celebrating Home is the book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It contains a beautiful blend of recipes with incredible flavors, inspiration to identify and appreciate the little things in our homes that bring us joy and make us smile every day, home decorating ideas and how-to’s to help readers achieve the beautiful, gracious home they desire – all illustrated with more than 100 gorgeous photographs to make this book a treasured resource for all things HOME.
For aspiring cookbook authors, would you recommend the route of self-publishing or finding a publisher? Do you think it is more work to self – publish and do you think it is worth the extra work because you have more control over your final product?
Christy This is a tough question, as it’s different for every author and the world of publishing is changing so quickly and dramatically. I went the traditional publishing route because publishing was a big unknown for me and I needed someone who knew a lot more about it than I did! And, self-publishing a cookbook can be an expensive out-of-pocket venture. On the other hand, with print-on-demand and e-books, aspiring cookbook authors have way more options than I did when my first book was published in 2004. I’ve had good experiences with both of my publishers when it came to having a measure of input over my final product, though that is certainly easier after the first book or two.
What would you say is the best process for finding a publisher?
Christy I would suggest getting a literary agent. The agent will evaluate the cookbook manuscript and send it to publishers that are the best fit for a particular project.
Of all of your projects and talents, which is your favorite to work on at any given moment?
Christy I love television, whether shooting my own shows or being a guest on another show. Television is creative, spontaneous, and exhilarating. It can also be very personal, as I’m always aware of the viewer who is watching the show from their sofa or favorite chair. Providing them what they really want to see or learn is part of the fun.
Television requires focusing on the most important elements of a recipe or a project, because that’s what captures and holds the viewer’s attention. And it has to be entertaining! In those final moments before the floor director counts down 3-2-1 to begin filming, I love the feeling of knowing I’m about to be a guest in someone’s home.
What is next for Chef Christy Rost?
I’d like there to be more books, more television shows, and……
Thank you for a wonderful interview Chef Christy! I look forward to your upcoming projects! Learn more about Chef Christy Rost and her available cookbooks on her website ChristyRost.com.
The Tuesday Thirteen is an interview series that asks thirteen questions to your favorite people in food. If you have questions you are curious to ask food bloggers, cookbook authors, publicists, food photographers, etc., please send your questions to email@example.com.