Cookbooks from the stars
There are celebrity chefs, and then there are celebrities who could be chefs. Here's a look at famous folks who also happen to be good in the kitchen.
Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Stanley Tucci played Julia Child's husband, Paul, opposite Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia." His "Tucci Cookbook" has been received well by critics. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Anyone who has seen “Big Night” — considered in some circles to be the ultimate foodie film — probably would have guessed that co-director/co-writer/co-star Stanley Tucci is a bit of a bon vivant. And the proof in the Yorkshire pudding is the actor’s recently released, critically lauded book of Italian cookery, “The Tucci Cookbook.” Described by the New York Times as a “proud and avid cook,” Tucci, who co-starred opposite Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia” as Julia Child’s husband, Paul, isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last famous non-chef to publish a collection of recipes.
Like the explosion of celebrity exercise videos in the 1980s (see Angela Lansbury, Dixie Carter, Sandy Duncan, et al), there have been dozens of cookbooks helmed by spatula-wielding actors, musicians and non-food-centric writers over the years, particularly as of late. Some have been met with acclaim and are well-thumbed staples in the kitchens of homes across the country while others are decidedly more curious, falling into the “what the hell?” category. “Cookin’ with Coolio,” anyone?
With “The Tucci Cookbook” in mind, we’ve rounded up a handful of cookbooks penned by authors, some dearly departed, who feel just as comfortable behind the kitchen counter as they do in front of a camera or on stage.
Do you have a favorite celebrity cookbook that you frequently turn to when in need of gastronomic inspiration? (And remember, we’re not talking about celebrities of the Rick, Padma, Rachael, Mario and Jamie variety. We’re also not counting Theresa Giudice as a celebrity). Tell us about it in the comments section below. What’s your favorite recipe?
Selected works: “A Treasury of Great Recipes” (1965)
Just a taste: Poularde Pavillon, Boccone Dolcci, stuffed frankfurters, Scandinavian fruit soup
Non-culinary credits: “House of Wax,” “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” “House on Haunted Hill,” “Pit and Pendulum”
Before we dig in, yes ... we do mean that Vincent Price. The creaky-voiced, pencil-mustached “Thriller” narrator was also behind a truly classique cookbook published in 1965. Written with his second wife, Mary, a “Treasury of Great Recipes,” like most of Price’s schlocky horror films from the 1950s onward, has developed a somewhat rabid cult following. Although the book does contain a fair amount of original recipes, it’s mainly composed of recipes culled from an array of upscale dining establishments from across the world. A true gourmet, the Merchant of Menace loved to travel and he loved to eat (and he most definitely loved to have a cigarette after each meal). In 2008, Paul Collins penned an amusing tribute to — and kitchen test run of — “A Treasury of Great Recipes” for Slate. It’s worth checking out. Banana Pancake Flambé Stonehenge, anyone?
Selected works: “Eat This … It’ll Make You Feel Better!” (1988)
Cuisine: Brooklyn-style Italian-American
Just a taste: Mama’s Spinach rolls, Grandma’s Sunday Sauce, stuffed calamari, meatballs
Non-culinary credits: “Blazing Saddles,” “Cannonball Run,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Fatso”
Best known for voicing Pizza the Hut in “Spaceballs” and his role as schizophrenic racecar mechanic Victor “Captain Chaos” Prinzi in the first two “Cannonball Run” films, hefty humorist Dom DeLuise liked to eat. And thank goodness, he also wasn’t shy about sharing his recipes. The late actor/director’s compendium of Italian family cookery, “Eat This … It’ll Make You Feel Better,” was a hit when released in 1988 and its popularity, like DeLuise’s ample frame, never really waned. In addition to DeLuise’s simple, red sauced-drenched family recipes, the book also includes childhood anecdotes straight outta Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, along with non-Eyetalian contributions from a few famous friends like Mel Brooks (red clam chowder), Burt Reynolds (beef stew), and doppelganger chef Paul Prudhomme (blackened redfish).
Selected works: “Bruculinu, America: Remembrances of Sicilian-American Brooklyn, Told in Stories and Recipes” (1998)
Just a taste: Baked mashed potatoes with peas, spaghetti and meatballs, orange biscotti, Cuccidati
Non-culinary credits: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus,” “Ghost,” “Batman Returns”
While Dom DeLuise may have had the Brooklyn-born actor-penned Italian-American-cookbook market covered in the late '80s, the late Vincent Schiavelli reigned supreme in the late '90s and early 2000s with several understated, highly regarded tomes that married memoir and family history with mouthwatering recipe-sharing of the Sicilian variety. And although you may not recognize Schiavelli’s name, you’d definitely recognize the prolific character actor’s droopy-eyed visage, especially if you watched network television in the 1980s (“Matlock,” MacGyver,” “Moonlighting,” and the list goes on and on). The guy literally stood out in a crowd — he had Marfan syndrome and was 6 foot 5 — and so did his food writing. In addition to his books, Schiavelli also published numerous articles on Sicilian cookery and, in 2001, received the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for an article published in the Los Angeles Times.
Selected works: “LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About” (1999)
Cuisine: Southern soul food
Just a taste: Macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, liver and onions, smothered chicken
Non-culinary credits: A whole lot of Grammy Awards and a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Showboating R&B diva and shortly lived sitcom star Patti LaBelle has hawked just about everything that there is for a showboating R&B diva and short-lived sitcom star to hawk: sauces, seasonings, perfume, bedding, wigs, lipstick and her heart (to the junkman, of course). However, it’s cookbooks that Lady Marmalade herself is best known for selling, and she’s sold a lot. The legendary, food-loving performer’s cookbook authoring career started off on a gleefully grease-drenched note, but with her latest release, “Recipes for the Good Life,” LaBelle’s recipes have become just a touch more health-conscious. (LaBelle went public with her Type 2 diabetes diagnosis several years ago and, in the process, transformed from a diva into a “divabetic.”) Still, it’s fabulous, finger-lickin’ soul food that the High Priestess of Good Vibrations — and recent “Top Chef” guest judge — is most famous for.
Selected works: “Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s: Love, Laughter, and Lots of Good Food from my Tennessee Mountain Kitchen" (2006)
Cuisine: Southern comfort food
Just a taste: Banana pudding, pan-fried catfish, garlic-cheese biscuits, green tomato cake
Non-culinary credits: “9 to 5,” “Rhinestone,” “Steel Magnolias,” a theme park in Tennessee
But of course Dolly Parton has her own cookbook. Filled with over 125 recipes passed down from her late mama as well as friends and other family members, Parton’s foray into cookbookery is as exuberant and unpretentious as you’d expect from the bosomy songbird who grew up in a one-room cabin with 12 siblings in the Great Smoky Mountains. Explains Parton: “I still like to try new foods as often as I can. But when it comes to cooking for myself and my husband Carl and my great big extended family, which numbers into the multiple hundreds these days, what we really want to eat is what comforts us most: good, hearty food rooted in Mama’s cooking and those country gatherings of my childhood.” And Parton isn’t the first celebrated country songstress to release a cookbook: Loretta Lynn (hominy grits), Tammy Wynette (chicken and dumplings), Naomi Judd (deviled eggs) and, most recently, Trisha Yearwood (jalapeno hush puppies), have all dabbled in a bit of food-related brand extending.
Selected works: “Don’t fill up on the Antipasto: Tony Danza’s Father-Son Cookbook” (2008)
Just a taste: Ricotta cheesecake, escarole and bean soup, baked clams, lasagna
Non-culinary credits: “Taxi,” “Who’s the Boss,” “The Hollywood Knights,” “She’s Out of Control”
Ever want to meet Tony Danza’s extended family outside of Angela, Mona and Samantha? Well, here you go. Co-written with Danza’s son Marc, a chef, this 2008 cookbook from everyone’s favorite Brooklyn-born boxer-turned-sitcom star-turned-talk show host-turned-reality show English teacher is one part compendium of simple, “like my mamma used to make” recipes and one part story of an “an Italian immigrant family that grew strong in America and really lived the American dream.” And in addition to standard Italian-American fare like calamari, baked clams and eggplant parm, Danza-loving foodies will find a handful of recipes for party-friendly comestibles like “Super Bowl Guacamole” and ribs included in the tome. Also, weirdly, Jackie Collins wrote the forward.
Selected works: “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet” (2009)
Just a taste: Radicchio pizza with truffle oil, cauliflower steaks, barley casserole, crispy tofu slices with orange dipping sauce
Non-culinary credits: “Clueless,” “The Crush,” “The Babysitter,” Aerosmith videos
Has the Ted Nugent cookbook been collecting dust on your shelf for a few years now? When not pre-masticating mochi for her toddler, 1990s teen ingénue-turned-animal rights activist Alicia Silverstone is reigning supreme as Hollywood’s vegan queen and her book of veggies-only cookery, “The Kind Diet,” has proved to be somewhat of a phenomenon.
Gentle yet honest, nonjudgmental and decidedly less sanctimonious than fellow healthy living proponent Gwyneth Paltrow’s lushly produced and apparently not ghost-written cookbook (which, to be clear, isn’t vegetarian/vegan), Silverstone’s tome, however, may be hard to follow if you don’t live in close proximity to an Asian supermarket or tend to incorporate spices into your meals. Or meat.
Selected works: “Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, All Day Long” (2010)
Cuisine: Southern/comfort food
Just a taste: Oxtail stew, creamy pork hash, braised lamb with white beans, cornbread
Non-culinary credits: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “On the Pulse of the Morning,” “Letter to My Daughter,” Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
A cookbook by Maya Angelou may at first seem like a bit of a novelty (although certainly not of the same curious caliber as cookbooks by, umm, Miss Piggy and Coolio). But think about it … it does make perfect sense that an octogenarian storyteller — a true national treasure if there ever was one — whose written work has been devoured by millions is also capable of crafting completely devourable recipes. Arkansas-born Angelou has penned two cookbooks: 2004’s “Hallelujah! The Welcome Table” and 2010’s “Great Food, All Day Long” which offered much of the same — delectable, divine Southern fare — but with a more portion control-centric twist. She tells The Guardian in 2010: “Writing and cookery are just two different means of communication. Indeed, I feel cooking is a natural extension to my autobiography. In fiction, the story can be molded to the author's needs but in autobiography you have to tell the truth. The reader has to believe what the writer is saying or else the book has failed. The same applies to cooking; if there is no integrity to the recipes, no one will trust them.”
Selected works: “If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons” (2011)
Just a taste: Barley and vegetable Risotto, pecan-crusted trout, shiitake sesame grit cakes, vegan reuben sandwich
Non-culinary credits: Nine Grammy Awards, millions of records sold, a failed relationship with Lance Armstrong
While we totally applaud singer/songwriter/environmental activist extraordinaire Sheryl Crow’s commitment to eating seasonal, organic and locally grown edibles, we’re still having trouble getting over the title of her debut cookbook, co-authored with longtime personal chef Chuck White. We guess it has a better ring to it than “All I Wanna Do is Eat Some Tums.” A survivor of breast cancer, the genre-hopping songstress and toilet paper conservationist looks remarkably well-preserved for her age (50) and for that she largely credits the healthy — and not strictly vegetarian — cuisine introduced to her beloved “Chef Chuck.” (We have a hard time believing that the sometimes gratingly preachy Crow was scarfing Big Macs in the back of her tour bus before teaming up with White). MNN food blogger Robin Shreeves shares her favorite recipes from the kitchen of Crow.
Selected works: “The Dead Celebrity Cookbook” (2011)
Just a taste: Katherine Hepburn’s brownies, Elizabeth Taylor’s chicken with avocado and mushrooms, Patrick Swayze’s chicken pot pie, Bea Arthur’s vegetarian breakfast
Non-culinary credits: “The Daily Show” (former movie critic), “The Frank DeCaro Show” (Sirius XM Satellite Radio)
While radio host and performer Frank DeCaro isn’t exactly in the same league as the others on this list (sorry, Frank), we just couldn’t not include “The Dead Celebrity Cookbook,” a collection of recipes culled from the kitchens of over 145 dearly departed famous folk. Although DeCaro is clearly more obsessed with the deceased than their culinary creations, celeb-obsessed gourmands will still probably have a blast attempting to recreate Michael Jackson’s sweet potato pie, Mae West’s fruit compote, Joan Crawford’s poached salmon and Liberace’s sticky buns. Or they’ll just have a good giggle reading the text, because honestly, some of these recipes sound absolutely foul. And just in time for the holidays, DeCaro has released a follow-up book, “Christmas in Tinseltown,” which includes seasonal delights such as Nat King Cole’s ham loaf and Dinah Shore’s fruitcake.
And for dessert:
Valerie Bertinelli: "One Dish at a Time: Delicious Recipes and Stories from My Italian-American Childhood and Beyond” (2012)
Eva Longoria: “Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends” (2011)
Suzanne Somers: “The Sexy Forever Recipe Bible” (2011)
Amy Sedaris: “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” (2006)
Al Roker: “Al Roker's Big Bad Book of Barbecue: 100 Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue” (2002)
Al Roker: “Al Roker's Big Bad Book of Barbecue: 100 Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue” (2002)
Sophia Loren: “Sophia Loren’s Recipes and Memories” (1998)
Frank Sinatra: “The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook” (1996)
Ann B. Davis: “Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook” (1994)
Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford: “Cookin with Regis & Kathie Lee” (1993)
Related cooking story on MNN: Great deals on cookbooks to jumpstart your holiday shopping
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