The Untold Truth Of Curtis Stone

Once you've seen Take Home Chef, it's impossible to walk into a grocery store without wondering what you'd do if you were approached by Curtis Stone and an offer no rational person could refuse. This Australian chef turned Los Angeles favorite has cooked in as many home kitchens as professional ones, and that's endeared him to viewers all over the world. What don't you know about him?

White truffles are his favorite ingredient

Tasting everything — whether dishes are a personal favorite or not — is part of being a chef, but everyone has those ingredients they really love using. Stone told Travel + Leisure that for as long as he's been in the kitchen, he's been drawn to the same favorite: white truffles. "They totally move you," he said. "I have an instinctual attraction to them. From the very first time I smelled them ... I was working in one of Marco Pierre White's restaurants and I can remember the truffle man coming in, opening the box, and that was it."

When it comes to secret weapons, though, Stone says his is extra-virgin olive oil. He calls it "liquid gold" and says it adds a texture that's just as important as the taste.

He hated his job at first

Stone's passion for cooking and for food is clear, but he told Eater that wasn't always the case. During his apprenticeship, he found out the grunt work in the kitchen was incredibly different from what his mother and grandmother had taught him to do and love. Getting his foot in the door meant working at a hotel restaurant, and as the new kid in the kitchen he was tasked with all the large-scale prep work a sane mind could take.

"I just — I hated it for the first 12 months, if I'm being really honest. I worked in a big hotel and it was just this boring, mundane, peeling onions, peeling potatoes, peeling carrots, slicing onions, you know. Slicing onions was a step up from the rest of the work I was doing."

He did his time on the carving station, too, finishing his prep work in the kitchen then standing out next to the buffet to slice meat. It wasn't even a busy buffet, he says, and it definitely wasn't exciting or glamorous.

He got ridiculed for his first uniform

Everyone has to start somewhere, and Stone told Gourmet Traveller his first introduction to the idea that being a chef was a legitimate career option came thanks to one of his best friends. His father was a chef, and Stone says the long hair, tattoos, and "rock star lifestyle" was the embodiment of what he wanted in life — not the suits and ties of his own father's social circle.

Stone apprenticed in Melbourne, describing it as "extreme heat, long hours, sharp objects, crazy people, blood, sweat, and tears." He also adds he grew to love it, but according to what he told Eater, there was one part he wasn't too keen on.

"... we wore gingham pants and the long white aprons and the big tallboy hats and the neck kerchief," he says. "The neck kerchief really got me. That was pretty special." At the time, there were no celebrity chefs he was following in the footsteps of, and he adds that when he headed off to the club to suit up for Aussie rules football, he was mercilessly ridiculed. No word on whether or not anyone has since apologized.

His must-have kitchen tool is an odd one

Stone told Travel + Leisure that one of the most important tools any chef can have is their knife, and that knife should be razor-sharp. Pair that with a good cutting board, and you're a step ahead of the game. But everyone knows how important a knife is, right? Delish asked Stone if he had any other tricks up his sleeve, and he absolutely does.

It's his own product, a reinvention of an old-school mortar and pestle he calls the Bump & Grind. Never used a mortar and pestle? He says you definitely should, because it's perfect for making spice mixes, pestos, and rubs to take almost any dish to the next level.

He's advocated for letting picky eaters go hungry

In 2016, the Melbourne Herald Sun (via Business Insider) reported on some rather controversial advice. Then a father of two, Stone shared just what he thought parents should do when they were faced with the challenges of feeding a picky eater, and that was simply to let them go hungry.

More than that, he suggested kids who refused something at dinner should be given the same meal for breakfast. "... offer it again later when they're hungry," he said. "I don't see the big deal in letting kids go hungry a few times. They'll eat when they're hungry."

It didn't go over well, and Stone was criticized in media outlets like News.com.au. They also pointed out he had earlier blamed parents themselves for any difficulties they were having with picky eaters, with his critics being quick to remind parents it's not their fault if a child decides to be fussy — that's what kids do.

He's blamed the consumers for their own health issues

When Stone talked to the Miami New Times in 2010, he touched on things from his time on Celebrity Apprentice to his work with the charity Feeding America. He got involved with the hunger relief organization after his involvement with The Biggest Loser, and says that was also when he got a good look at some of the health issues plaguing not just America, but a good portion of the world. He's also developed a theory about just where the problem lies, and says it's with us.

"... it's not the big companies that are to blame, it's the consumer," he said. "If the consumer can be educated about the problem, we can make our choices. And the companies respond to our choices."

He says it's similar to the hunger problem, too, and believes people need to be educated about food waste and getting that food into the hands of other people, not the landfills where so much ends up.

He almost burned down a heritage building

Celebrity chefs always seem to have it all together. They have all the best in the kitchen, after all, and they have the ever-important ability to edit what the rest of us end up seeing. That makes it easy to forget they're not perfect, so let's talk about the time Stone came clean about the worst meal he ever made (via Oprah).

He says it was for his sister, and he was riding high on his success in running a new restaurant in London. He invited his sister and all her friends in for a meal, saying he was going to try the new menu out on them. It didn't go as planned, though, and when he started up the old fire oven it started to smoke. There wasn't actually a fire void, so it started a fire in the ceiling and nearly burned the place down — and it just happened to be a heritage building. "... all in the name of cooking this massive meal for my sister."

One of his shows inspired his cookware line

In 2015, Stone partnered with Target Australia to create a new line of affordable cookware. The Curtis Stone Collection included 80 pieces designed to be within everyone's budget, and he told The City Lane his inspiration came from the time he spent in cooking in a range of home kitchens for his show. "... I was blown away by how difficult it was to cook at home," he said. "Cooking at home should be a pleasure, but it's not all the time."

This wasn't the first appearance of a Curtis Stone cookware line, and he went on to say that while he started working with the high-end (i.e. expensive) Williams Sonoma, he wanted to make sure everyone had access to tools that would make cooking fun. Why branch out? "Everybody eats, and I don't want our cookware to be only for the wealthy."

He has his personal favorites for when he wants a taste of home

Celebrity chefs have all the best tools and all the best ingredients at their fingertips, so what does Stone cook up when he's feeling a bit nostalgic for family, Australia, and some old favorites?

Labneh tops the list of dishes he gave The Social, and says this tangy, yogurty, cream cheese-like dip started out in the Middle East and spread in popularity to Australia. Stir-fried chili crab is another go-to when he's craving a taste of home, along with piri piri chicken with slaw. They're both flavors popular in Australia, and he adds that for dessert, there's no option but a traditional Aussie favorite: a tropical pavlova.

His Princess Cruise restaurants are incredibly personal

In 2015, Stone took his menus to the high seas, partnering with Princess to open restaurants on four of their cruise ships (via LA Weekly). The SHARE eateries presented a whole new set of challenges just starting with sorting out the logistics of fresh ingredients.

Not Quite Nigella got a behind-the-scenes look at the interior of the SHARE eatery on the Sun Princess, and says the eclectic look of the restaurants was carefully designed and based off Stone's home. When he sat down with the design team, they asked if they could start by wandering around his house and taking pictures. They did, and the result is that some of the decor — right down to books and knick knacks — is identical to some of the elements in Stone's own home. It fits in with his philosophy, too. "Restaurants are so personal. You spend so much time in them they sort of become a little like your second home." In the case of SHARE, that's literal.

He aims for perfect portions

Eating just the right amount is trickier than it seems, especially in a restaurant setting. How many times have you walked out of a restaurant stuffed to the point of discomfort, just because you didn't want to waste anything? There are also those places where you finish your meal but you're still hungry. So where's the balance?

Stone told Eater this is something he's not only very aware of, but takes into consideration every time he overhauls his menus. He aims for something he calls "ample sufficiency," which basically means he tried to design all his menus so guests aren't hungry when they leave, but aren't uncomfortable, either. It's no secret he loves his tasting menus, and he says that's where the challenge is. He balances not only the number of courses and the number of bites each guest is going to take, but also needs to take into account the fact that different foods leave you feeling different levels of satisfied. "Trying to get that right, I think, is a real craft."

His early attempts at flavor were pretty gross

When Stone opened his Beverly Hills restaurant in 2014 he called it Maude, after his grandmother and culinary inspiration. He sat down with Honest Cooking about a month later, and talked a bit about how both his grandmother and mother (pictured) helped instill in him a love of cooking, eating, and sharing. "They've always told me to cook what I love, which makes sense, right? You're gonna be way more excited and passionate about cooking food you love to eat over something you're not that into."

It's great advice whether you're cooking professionally or just for your family, and it's advice Stone says has guided his culinary career. His earliest memory about experimenting in the kitchen is one he says his mother was a little baffled by, though. She came into the kitchen to find him rubbing raisins on a stick of butter and eating them. He says he always liked to experiment with flavors, but his mother asked something most of us would say: "What on earth are you doing?"