Ayesha Curry Talks Selena + Chef And Why She Has A Soft Spot For Martha Stewart - Exclusive Interview

Ayesha Curry is the definition of doing it all. She's a mother, business owner, cookbook author, social media star, and more. Not to mention the wife of NBA star Steph Curry. And in between all her gigs, the foodie expert can be found in the kitchen, whipping up quick, easy, and delicious meals with her three kids. Some of those more recent gigs include filming an episode of "Selena + Chef" with Selena Gomez, launching another round of products under her namesake cookware line, and publishing the holiday (and food-themed) issue of the magazine she founded, Sweet July.

Curry also found some time in her busy schedule to speak exclusively with Mashed about all her latest projects. During the chat, Curry also offered up some of her time-saving tips in the kitchen, revealed some of Steph's favorite dishes, and shared the traditions around the table she's looking forward to this holiday season.

Ayesha Curry on filming her episode of Selena + Chef

Can you talk a little bit about your experience cooking with Selena Gomez on "Selena + Chef"?

It was incredible. She says she's not a great cook, but she is, and she's doing it and she's on the third season of the show. So it's like, "You're obviously doing something right." But she was just such a joy to work with, and it was so much fun. Even her two friends that she had on the show as well. It was great. And then she was so generous to let me FaceTime my girls so they could say hi. Gave me serious cool mom points. And all my nieces and nephews. Everybody's like, "Oh my God." So that was cool.

But just a fun experience. I'd love to do it again and go bigger, you know? We started out with some pretty mild recipes, so it'd be fun to do something extravagant the next time. But she was just so sweet in real life, you know? People of that caliber of celebrity, you never know what you're going to get, and she was just so genuine and sweet. So it was nice.

Talk a little bit about the dish that you chose to make and why?

Yeah, so we did the hot honey chicken sandwich. During the pandemic, remember there was like this big battle of chicken sandwiches, and all of the fast food restaurants were going at each other's heads on social? It was kind of comical. But I did kind of all the taste tests, and I was like, "I think I can one-up like this." So I came up with a really easy hot honey chicken sandwich and it just is fire and my family always requests it. So I was like, "She's got to make that." And the episode was themed around, "What can you serve for a viewing party?" So I just felt like it was perfect, because you can grab it, eat it and go.

Ayesha Curry talks about the infamous jar-busting incident on her episode of Selena + Chef

How have Selena's cooking skills come along? We've heard about all kinds of craziness in earlier seasons. And I know there was some kind of incident on your episode?

Everything was pretty seamless. She fried her chicken better than mine. Everything was beautiful. She's just like The Incredible She-Hulk, because I thought I was giving safety tips by saying, "Hey, don't use the knife to smash the garlic. Just use the bottom of the jar," and she pressed down on it and that whole thing shattered. It was crazy. But she was quick on her feet and resilient and got the glass in the garbage and flipped the cutting board over. So we kept it moving.

Oh, one thing that didn't make it into the episode; we actually made a cocktail. Yeah, so we made a ... What did we end up making? I think it was a Moscow mule ... Why can't I remember? But it was delicious. That didn't make it in, but you can see them sipping it during the episode.

Ayesha Curry on her newest namesake cookware line

Let's spend some time talking about your namesake cookware line. What inspired you to launch this?

So the opportunity was presented to me, and honestly ... Okay, so this is going to ... I don't want this to read into other articles that are out there that aren't true, because I don't feel this way at all, but growing up, my best friend and I, we lived in Canada, I'm Canadian, so we lived there, and the most exciting thing we would do was our parents would drive from Toronto over the border to Buffalo, New York because there was Kmart there at the time. And we would love to go into Kmart.

And at the time it was all the Martha Stewart stuff, and we made this pact and we said, "When we grow up, if we are not married or in a relationship, we're going to live together and the whole house is going to be Kmart and Martha Stewart." And so when the opportunity presented itself, I was like, "Ah, now I don't have to do that. I can have my own stuff. That's great."

No, but I loved the idea of being able to put my spin on cookware. And I felt like it was just another avenue to get people excited about cooking, because it's such a lost art, especially with our millennial generation and everybody below that; Gen Z, I think it is, and then I forget what the next generation is.

But the togetherness of preparing a meal together and then sitting down at the table and enjoying it and conversing and getting to know each other, like not on the phone, I think is so important. And so for me, it was just another avenue to be able to keep that alive, but also to make functional products for people that's easy to clean and affordable.

That's such an interesting point that you make too, because with TikTok videos and all of this social media cooking, everything is about being out of the box and weird and bizarre and difficult and extravagant and things made of clouds. So it's almost intimidating to be like, "Where do we begin?"

Yeah. It's like, even though all the things look so quick, when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it, you're like, "No, this is still work."

Why her cookware line stands out from the rest, according to Ayesha Curry

Yeah, exactly. There are a million different cookware lines out there. What makes your product stand out from the sort of huge assortment of options we have?

So I just launched my second collection, and with my second collection, I was really able to lean into it and put my spin on it and really lean into the functionality and innovation. So I think what makes my new line of pots and pans so special is that we worked two years on this handle, and the middle of the handle is silicon, but then it still has that culinary chicness of having the stainless steel on the outside. And it doesn't get hot at all. It can still go in the oven. It's awesome.

And then I wanted pans that I could wipe clean, that were like PFOA free and no Teflon, but still non-stick. So we worked really hard on that. And then with this collection, the thickness is so premium. So we tripled the thickness from the first set of pans while still ensuring people have that affordability. So I love them.

What are your go-to products, the ones you're reaching for the most in your own kitchen?

For me, I do a big ... How many inches is it? It might be 16. It's either 16 or 14-inch deep skillet with a lid. And I like it because I can do everything in it. So it's kind of that one pan that is the must-have. And it's wide, so I can fit like four to five steaks in it if I'm doing steaks, I can make like five or six pancakes in one pan, because it's just bigger. And it heats evenly. So whether you have electric or gas, you're going to get an even cook, even sear, whatever it is you're doing.

And then a cast iron skillet is always a must-have. That's something you have one, you have it forever. It gets better with time. And then for me, my family's Jamaican, so we do a lot of dutch oven cooking. And so my dutch oven is really important to me and very well-loved and used in my kitchen.

Ayesha Curry shares her dinnertime routine and family favorites

You're obviously a very busy woman; running a household, three kids, running a business. So much going on. What does weeknight dinner look like in your house right now?

Okay. So the honest truth of right now is, I don't have a kitchen right now because it's being renovated. So there's been a lot of takeout, and I've also been cooking in this plug-in electric skillet for breakfast and stuff to do pancakes and eggs. I even did pineapple fried rice in it one night. But at a certain point that just becomes exhausting, that you don't have your space that you're used to.

So there's been a lot of takeout, but when I do have my kitchen, dinners are usually like 45 minutes or less and it's on the table. That was the whole thing with my cookbook, the second cookbook. Everything's under an hour, start to finish, even with prep. So I like things fast and efficient. The kids get involved now because they're old enough, and then if my husband's home and it's not a game night or they're on the road, then he's usually pouring a glass of wine or something.

What is his favorite thing that you cook?

Oh, so it used to be chicken parm. That was always the go-to. But I feel like he's turned over a new leaf lately and he loves my sweet and spicy scallops that I make. He also really loves when I do ... So he hates pineapple on pizza, he hates warm pineapple, but for whatever reason, when I make the pineapple fried rice, he'll eat that and loves it. And then I think the family favorite right now is the Rasta Pasta. It's like a creamy, curry, tomato-based pasta dish, and it has jerk shrimp in it. It's so good.

You must have used or learned a lot of kitchen hacks, cooking for a family of five during a pandemic. Do you have any secrets or hacks that you can share? 

This might sound super uninteresting, but my hack would be to make triple the batch and then freeze it. Because I mean, going into the pandemic, do you remember there was that period of time when nobody knew what was going on and everybody was stocking up on food? But then that food was going to waste because we weren't doing anything with it and there's no way people could consume what they were bringing into their homes.

So for me, it's really taking the time to prep and then freezing; making sure you have canned goods on hand. There is nothing wrong with canned beans. Having pasta sauce on hand at all times is a kitchen hack for me. You can build on a traditional marinara. I mean, the possibilities are endless. I've even used it as a chili starter before because you need tomatoes in the chili. So it's one of those things; when all else fails, you've got that jar of sauce. You're good to go. You can do something with it.

Ayesha Curry dishes on the holiday issue of Sweet July

Something else exciting I want to talk about is this food issue that just came out for Sweet July. What are some of the highlights for you from this issue?

So we did a column in there on how to give back when it comes to food, especially for the holidays. And that was really important for me to infuse in there, just because the need's always been there, but the need has grown so much in light of 2020. So just to put that reminder in there to people of how they can help during this time, what's supposed to be a time of togetherness, just making sure that other people have the opportunity to experience that, I think was important for me.

And then we wanted to give people variety. So we did like four different tablescapes and built out the menus for those four different themes, just because people are in different moods this year, not everybody wants to go all out. And so we did a really rustic style theme, we did a glam theme if you are feeling fancy, we did traditional. So I loved the idea of giving people variety.

How does this holiday food issue play into sort of the larger goal of what you're trying to do with Sweet July?

I think, for me, given that it was the holidays, it just made sense to kind of wrap our arms around food. And I wanted to give people value for going out and purchasing the magazine. So it's really like a mini-cookbook, in my opinion, and something people can keep on their shelves.

And I really think that is the point. We want each issue to be kind of evergreen and for people to collect them and be able to reference them, not just in a certain year, in a certain month. I really want it to be something that people could have, where they're like, "Oh, I remember that story. Let me go reference it and see."

And then, of course, we have our web hub as well, where we kind of go beyond what's able to be put in such short form in a magazine. We're able to expand on the ideas that we talk about. So it's been nice to have that.

Ayesha Curry shares her family's holiday traditions

Are you the one who cooks for everyone on Thanksgiving?

I am. Yeah. It's been that way for years. And this year, I'm still not going to have my kitchen, and so this is the first year that it's not going to be me. We're going to have it at my sister-in-law's house. I'll still go over there and make some sides. But if she doesn't go past her due date, she'll have just had a new baby. So we kind of want to keep it low-key this year. Which is fine. But Christmas, Christmas, it's on and popping. I'll have my kitchen back by then.

Do you guys have any food traditions around the holidays?

Christmas time, I always, every year, for like the past six years now, I've always made prime rib, like a big prime rib, and then scallop and leek potato casserole with lots of Gruyère cheese on top. So I've always done that and kept it. That sounds elaborate, but it's pretty simple because it's two solid dishes and then it lasts for days. And then usually the day after, I always do lasagnas.

What would happen is Stephen had games on Christmas for the past few years, either the day before or the day of. And the first year I started that tradition, they won. So I had to keep it going.

Absolutely.

Yeah. So we'll see. Fingers crossed.

What is your all-time favorite holiday dish, whether you're making it or not?

Okay. Traditional holiday would be the mac and cheese and the candied yams. I mix them together on my plate.

Sorry, what?

Yeah. I mix them together on my plate. I can't eat them any other way. It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving to me if I don't do that. And then I'll go around, being so obnoxious. Then I go around and I look at everybody and I'm like, "You got to mix it together." I'm like, "Try it, try it." They're like, "Oh God," and then they ultimately end up loving it and it becomes their thing too.

And then nontraditional, my family's Jamaican, so we always have oxtail and rice and peas in our spread.

Ayesha Curry on some of her favorite restaurant guests

Who are some of the coolest people that you've cooked for or served at your restaurants?

We served Barack Obama at my restaurant, and that ...

Can't really top that.

That was pretty freaking epic. And I got to saber a bottle of champagne there and didn't realize until after that the secret service was inching in, like, "This girl has this knife!" It didn't process. I was just celebrating, I was excited.

That's amazing.

And then just the other day actually, given that it's Veterans Day today, we had a lot of the military and the army and the Navy and the Marines. They were in town because it was Fleet Week out here. And so troops were just walking in uniform all around the streets, and I saw a group of like eight troops outside of the restaurant, and I was like, "Oh my God, go ask them if they're hungry." So we had them come in and were able to serve them. It was so nice to just give back in a small way for people who are fighting for our lives every day.

Ayesha Curry shares her top picks with Mashed

Who is the one chef that you'd want to cook you dinner?

Outside of Michael Mina, because he cooks me dinner all the time, if I had to pick somebody different — José Andrés.

What's one ingredient you could never live without?

Brown sugar.

And what is your go-to fast food order at which restaurant?

Ooh. See, I don't do fast food that often, but when I do, it's almost always a McDonald's fish filet sandwich with extra pickles and french fries, and sweet and sour sauce, because I like to dip my fries in sweet and sour sauce. Ooh, ooh, Or Popeyes; the quarter popcorn shrimp bucket combo.

That's definitely going to be the most unique answer that we've gotten.

You can catch Ayesha Curry in the newest season of "Selena + Chef", now streaming on HBO Max, and be sure to also check out the latest edition of Sweet July.