Celebrity chefs are a popular bunch these days—almost like rock stars. Some are literally just like rock stars, on and off the camera. Of course, TV chefs have been around for a long time dating back to the classic pioneer, Julia Child. Nadia Giosa has been dubbed “the Julia Child of the Net generation.” A number of these chefs, now crossover from traditional cooking shows. Obviously Rachael Ray went on to her highly successful daytime talk show (just don’t ever put Nadia G in the same category as RR, the two are like apples and oranges).
Others like Guy Fieri—in addition to having several Food Network programs also is the host of the “Minute To Win It” primetime game show and then there’s “Cake Boss,” Buddy Valastro—who has found his success in the “food reality show” format…
The ironic thing is that while Nadia’s show is anything but traditional, she does hold true to her family and her heritage—the inspiration for all that she does. Just like the unconventional Fieri and his “Knuckle Sandwich” endeavors and yours truly with The Johnny Meatballs Empire. No one however, can really compare to Nadia G, who transformed her extreme you tube show into “Bitchin’ Kitchen” (now airing on Food Network Canada & Cooking Channel in the States). It’s an insane blend of culinary arts, comedy and music. She is going to be a crossover star in whatever area she chooses. “Bitchin’ Kitchen” is already a crossover cooking show—it’s so incredibly unique that it may one day serve as the model for a whole new genre of cooking shows.
As soon as I started watching Nadia I got hooked and immediately contacted her. We seem to share a lot of creative ideas. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to hook up on something—as we both certainly see eye to eye on the importance of constant over the top marketing. She has her own out of the box persona and all the branding that goes with it. This rockin’ Italian chick has already published a book, sells her own “Rock Your Kitchen” t-shirts and guitar-shaped spatulas to name a few BK branded items. She has carved out her niche audience but she has admitted that she does have “haters.” Some may question if the cooking part is just a vehicle for fame but let’s not forget she’s Italian and her pride and passion for food is 100% authentic. Nadia was gracious enough to grant me a phone interview, where we chatted about the progression in popularity of the empire she created with “Bitchin’ Kitchen” and lots more…
JOHNNY MEATBALLS: “Bitchin’ Kitchen” is an absolutely amazing show. You definitely need to be different to stand out from the pack, and you have developed a concept that is exactly that. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. So first things first, are you as fun and wild off-camera as you are on TV?
NADIA G: Thank you, well with a name like Johnny Meatballs how could I refuse? Now to answer your question I think that depends on the context, so my answer to that would be sometimes. I am constantly writing skits and building up “BK” and doing a lot of business-related things…but that all being said, there’s still definitely time left to party!
JM: Ok Nadia, I want to tell you, you have a HUGE following here in my home state of New Jersey. Where I am from, we have lots of Italians and my family actually is Italian by way of Canada and my old neighborhood has many paisans from Southern Italy who immigrated through Canada first. Do you have any plans to come to the New York area? I could see you doing “Bitchin’ Kitchen” on Broadway.
NG: “Bitchin’ Kitchen: The Musical!” Hey, you never know! I’m actually always in New York; I visit at least twice a month. When I go, the first thing I do is shkoff!!! I love New York pizza like Pomodoro’s and just recently I went to The Spotted Pig…There’s so many great places to eat with cuisines of all different cultures. I also used to come to Wildwood every summer when I was a kid. I have a real warm spot for all the kitschy boardwalk stuff and the t-shirt stores and all that.
JM: There’s something about you that myself and a lot of my friends can relate to, you seem to have some “Jersey” in you—maybe it ties to the fact that you came to the Jersey Shore growing up! And of course you know I have to now ask you what you think of the show, “Jersey Shore.”
NG: I think the show is funny but it doesn’t define all Italians. It’s entertainment! Here in Canada, I actually know of a lot of people just like them (not so much with the tanning), but they do dance to that type of music and use the hair gel and all that…There’s different types of Italians all over, and the thing is, we are all from parents or grandparents who were immigrants. I like to think that I can connect with them all.
JM: There definitely needs to be more unification among all the different classes and groups of Italians, I can see you bridging that gap. Now we are both children of the ‘80s, and the “feel” of “Bitchin’ Kitchen” to me, contains hints of the cult Saturday morning classic, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,”—except of course you are an Italian female in stilettos who cooks. You sing, you have weekly themes and even your own language. Are there any comedians or performances you’ve looked at as inspiration, and how did you assemble your cast of characters?
NG: I grew up watching Peewee too, and also great comedians like Chris Farley and a little bit of Carol Burnett when I was real young. And I loved watching “The Golden Girls,” which was a brilliant piece of comedy writing. Right now I really love Chelsea Handler. As far as the characters, we had a casting call for them and I found that the most authentic characters were the ones that fit best. Like taking Panos, the Greek fishmonger…his family has really been in the fish business for generations. We expanded him to meat as well because we don’t only cook with fish…and the Spice Agent is someone that really knows his spices!
JM: Well if you ever need a “Meatball King from New Jersey, give me a call!
NG: I will…and then you may just find yourself on season 2!
JM: You went from hosting your own series of web shows to Food Network Canada and now Cooking Channel. I’ve been making web videos of my food related adventures for a while now and recently was on the reality show, “My Big Friggin’ Wedding” on Vh1, which documented my big Italian wedding as well as my start-up meatball business. My meatballs are not gimmicks, but because I have my own way of doing things it takes a bit of convincing for others to taste them and believe how good they are. You’re obviously passionate about what you cook, but do you ever find people may not take you seriously because of your style?
NG: That’s a great question, and at the end of the day you can’t take yourself too seriously. At first I was bothered when people said negative things about my show but now it just rolls off my back. Most of the time, I now get people to convert. After they actually take the time to watch my show, they see that the food is solid! Yes I do a lot within the comedy format but my approach is just making accessible recipes that I feel anyone can make. I’m not a culinary-trained chef but anyone can cook and I have found that a lot of the dishes I prepare inspire new generations to try them, out.
JM: Your rockin’ attitude also has some elements of a Guy Fieri, my culinary hero, who similarly has his own laid back look, vernacular and somewhat rebellious nature unlike most of the “vanilla” celebrity chefs out there. I see you as more like him than say a Giada type. Would you agree with that?
NG: Well you know what, some people like vanilla and some people like chocolate. I definitely am a huge fan of Guy. He’s a great guy and I always get hungry watching him tour the country with “Triple D.”
JM: One of my favorite shows. Do you have a favorite recipe or dish?
NG: I’d have to say pasta. Right now I’ve been working on a dish called “Gnocchi Poutine,” which incorporates the Canadian food of poutine, which is French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I’m not talking about the red gravy as a lot of you in your area call it, but brown gravy.
JM: Well I only call the red kind “gravy” on Sunday with the meatballs, but that’s sparked lots of debates around here! So what is next for Nadia G?
NG: Ha-ha!! Well, I’m excited to be a host in the upcoming ZAP Fest (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) Festival in San Francisco…I’ve also been writing a lot of comedy songs and I am planning to release a compilation CD. And of course, I’m designing lots of new Bitchin’ Kitchen t-shirts and other “merchandise.” Tell all your friends in New Jersey to follow me on my facebook fan page! (http://www.facebook.com/BitchinKitchen).
JM: Oh we already are, Nadia! Hey, can I send you a copy of my “Meatball Song,” I think you’d enjoy it?
NG: Please do!
Big thanks to Nadia G for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat on the phone with me!
…And take it from Johnny Meatballs here; this girl will be a nationwide sensation before you know it. Think “Alice in Wonderland” with Alice as mad as the Mad Hatter (but in wayyyyy hotter high heels). But you don’t have to take my word for it, tune in Wednesday nights at 10:30 and Saturday nights at 11:00 on Cooking Channel and see for yourself. My words can’t begin to describe this weird, wild stuff “The Nadster” brings to table (pun indeed!) She has mass appeal and if I can help spotlight her even a little here, we’ll all be speaking her language soon—a slang that consists of the familiar Southern Italian sub-cultural dialect—none of which contain the phrase “E.V.O.O.” She can be cute and campy but also a bit raunchy and risqué, offering something for everyone—young and old, male or female.