Between her three sold-out cooking classes at Cook’s Warehouse locations in Decatur, Brookhaven and Midtown over the weekend, celebrity chef Sara Moulton took time out to chat with Dish.
Moulton became a breakout personality during the Food Network’s first decade on the air with hits like “Sara’s Secrets” and “Cooking Live.”
For 23 years, Moulton was the executive chef at Gourmet magazine until the foodie bible shockingly ceased publication last year.
She currently serves as food editor for “Good Morning America” and is scouting out funding for a second season of her PBS show, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.”
In the interim, Moulton has penned the brand-new cookbook, “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Dinners” (Simon & Schuster, $35) aimed at the same audience.
After graciously autographing a small mountain range of books Saturday in Decatur, we asked Moulton about her latest tome, her reaction to the 2009 hit film, “Julie & Julia,” based in part on late mentor Julia Child’s memoir and what in holy hell has happened to the Food Network in her absence?
“This is my life too!” Moulton laughed when we asked what inspired the recipes in “Family Dinners. ” “When you’re juggling three jobs and a family, it’s important to outline some strategies that will work for you in the kitchen for dinners. I grew up with family dinners and so did my husband. It was important to us to continue that tradition.”
The biggest mistake being made at 6 o’clock each night in our kitchens?
“Not planning,” says Moulton. “If it’s not in the cupboard, you’re not going to be able to make it. It’s all in the planning ahead.”
Moulton’s recipes in “Family Dinners” also gravitate toward “putting as many ingredients in the same pan as possible so the clean up and prep is manageable.”
Moulton concedes to being saddened over the sudden shuttering of Gourmet last fall but says she understands the business decision.
“It was a combination of things,” she explains. “We were down in ad pages and we were an elegant magazine with a niche audience in an era when the masses are everything. I don’t blame Conde Nast. We cost more to operate and had less of a fan base [than the publisher’s other title] Bon Appetit. But it’s sad for the world.”
Moulton says plans are afoot to keep the Gourmet brand alive, however.
The Food Network pioneer can also make sense of the carnival sideshow that poses as programming on the basic cable food staple these days.
“Some of the most popular shows on TV right now are reality shows, period,” she say. “Viewers want to watch real people laughing, crying, succeeding, failing and being tortured. A few years back, Food Network retooled their programming to attract a demographic of 15 to 35-year-old males. That’s why you have the cleavage and challenges now.”
Still, Moulton says when the network’s new sister outlet, The Cooking Channel bows later this year, it will feature reruns of “Sara’s Secrets.”
Ala the Betty White “Saturday Night Live” campaign, there’s also a Bring Sara Moulton Back to Live Televison Facebook page, thanks to her teenage son Sam “and 500 of his closest friends.”
From 1997 to 2002, Moulton and staff created 1,200 cuticle-nibbling-inspired episodes of “Cooking Live.
“It was terrifying!” Moulton recalls, laughing. “I was always frightened I wouldn’t finish something in time and sometimes I didn’t. But the live cook alongs on Wednesday nights were the scariest. Once, I flat out forgot how to make fortune cookies when I was making fortune cookies live on the air!”
The late Julia Child’s assistant and protege says she loved last year’s Meryl Streep performance of the late cooking icon in “Julie & Julia.”
Dishes Moulton: “I don’t think Julia would have approved, primarily, because she didn’t like the idea of the ‘Julie & Julia’ book. But the film well represented Julia and her memoir [‘My Life in France’]. And I loved that the movie encouraged people to start cooking from [Child’s classic ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’]. It brought her back to life.”