There’s a lot to love about Florida chef Nathan Lippy. The tatted up, mohawked young chef was home schooled by his mom where Julia Child and Food Network stars, including Jamie Oliver and Emeril Lagasse served as teachers. On his popular interactive Ustream cooking show “Food, Drinks and Rock n’ Roll Live!,” he quotes from “The Matrix” and “Swingers,” takes tweets from viewers and mocks his processed food addicted, brussels sprouts-fearing producer nicknamed DiGiorno. During his regular visits to “Today,” the Culinary Institute of America graduate teaches the chardonnay-swilling Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb how to reinvent ramen noodles and create a traditional panna cotta dessert made with milk soaked in Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
“I might use Dr. Pepper or frosted flakes as ingredients but I’m using old school technique with modern intent,” Lippy explains to Dish. “I love to create those moments where people go, ‘Whaaaaat?!'”
But perhaps best of all, when Food Network execs recently rang Lippy on his cell phone to offer him his own show on the basic cable channel, he turned them down flat in favor of a second season of “Food, Drinks and Rock n’ Roll, Live!” the show he created, hosts, writes and produces. The same show that will have a brand-new kitchen in its second season underwritten by Viking starting this summer.
Essentially, “Food, Drinks and Rock n’ Roll Live!” is a fast-paced DIY version of Sara Moulton’s classic Food Network show “Cooking Live” hopped up on Red Bull and infused with a crunchy guitar-laden soundtrack written and performed by the chef for the Twitter generation. In the show’s first season of 13 episodes (it airs live on Ustream.tv Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.), it grew from 33 viewers in the first episode to a season finale featuring an audience of 58,000.
This weekend, Atlanta Food + Wine Festival attendees will have an opportunity to meet Lippy in person at Friday night’s “Break the Rules” event and Saturday’s “A Day in the Garden” event (for tickets and more info, go to the festival’s official website). Lippy has already taped a special festival intro and recipe and posted it on Youtube.
Of why he turned down the Food Network offer, Lippy explains: “It’s a whole different ball game now. The world is changing, especially in media and advertising. I always look at Motley Crue back in the day. They were doing it all themselves and were successful and making a ton of money long before they ever got signed by a record label. They didn’t want to become employees of a record label. They waited for the label to come back to them and say, ‘You’re right. You don’t need us but we need you.’ Now, the Internet is making that same do it yourself approach possible not only for musicians but for chefs as well.”
While Lippy is looking forward to his new deluxe Viking set, the more modest Tampa, Florida kitchen featured in the first season of “Food, Drinks and Rock n’ Roll Live!” retains sentimental value. “I live in the house I grew up in and that’s the kitchen we used for the first season, he explains. “I didn’t really think about it until the seventh or eighth episode when a guy from Canada asked me a question about when I first started cooking.’ My mom watched and called me later and said, ‘Did you realize how poetic it was that you were standing in the same kitchen where you learned to cook?’ We started crying. It was a very emotional moment for us both. I’m glad that didn’t occur to me on the air or it could have been embarrassing.”
On air, Lippy comically crafts his producer DiGiorno’s food phobias into culinary teachable moments. “It’s ridiculous,” Lippy says laughing. “I get mad at him all the time. I’m like, ‘Dude, could you at least try a vegetable?’ He doesn’t like vegetables. I’ve watched him microwave a vegetable DiGiorno pizza and then pick the vegetables off of it. He likes the flavor but doesn’t want to actually eat them! He’s the coolest guy and on the show I really try to push his palette as much as I can because I realize he represents a portion of the people watching too.”
Adds Lippy: “The whole attitude of the show is, ‘Come hang out with me and my friends. No one is excluded.’ It’s kind of like a music video in the kitchen. Basically, we’re saying to our peer group of 25 to 30-year-olds, ‘Maybe it’s time to stop going to the bars and ordering pizza every single night.’ If you want hot wings, you can make a totally awesome version of them for yourself and your friends right in your own kitchen.”
Before we hung up with Lippy, we had to ask: Is the booze that’s flowing in the fourth hour of “Today” for real? “Absolutely it is, dude!” he confirms. “I had some! It’s a delicious, very expensive chardonnay. Those ladies love to talk too which is totally cool but I only have a few minutes to do a dish so I really have to concentrate with those two. And they love to eat. When the camera’s off, Kathie Lee is off camera scarfing my food. What’s a bigger compliment to your food than that? I love that!”
For more info on Lippy, go to his official website.