For this week’s installment with our lovely guest editor, Daphne Oz, we asked her to answer a few of our most pressing questions about relationships, balancing it all, and what it’s really like to work with Mario Batali.
The Chalkboard Mag: Having such a large platform on ABC’s The Chew, people seem to really love your energy and what you bring to the table. What are the main messages/aspects of yourself that you strive to express to viewers?
Daphne Oz: “I think what people are really enjoying from The Chew is a genuine sense of being among friends. We are a total Chew Crew—we talk all the time, go out for dinner, hang with each other’s families. We got so lucky with this incredibly fun, informative, easy-going team and show, and are thrilled to be able to share that camaraderie with our viewers. We get these amazing pictures Tweeted and Facebook-ed to us of our recipes viewers have made at home with their families, and that’s what The Chew is really all about: getting America back to the dinner table, having fun in the kitchen, and enjoying the process.
“I learned cooking from my mother, and she from my grandmother, who made dinner every night for her husband and six children. Like so many home cooks, I have an arsenal of delicious (and generally pretty healthy) recipes I grew up with that are easy enough for anyone to make. I love getting to share these family recipes because they make my message about making health a priority and not an obsession tangible and real for people who want to do this in their own lives. My goal is just to make sure I keep learning and improving. Thankfully, my esteemed co-hosts are excellent teachers who I get to pepper with questions and remind what it’s like to be cooking at home where supplies may be limited, but skills are on the rise!
“My passion is figuring out how to enjoy all our favorite foods while cutting corners on fat and calories where possible and safe. You will never see me serving up ‘rabbit food’ on the show – I love good meals way too much – and you will NEVER see me using artificial sweeteners or flavorings, toxic processed fats, or any other low-quality, ‘food-like products’ just to scrimp on a few calories. I’d rather have you eat real butter and sugar in smaller portions.
“Healthy eating has to be delicious and made from actual food – not processed creations – if I want you to stick with it long term, so my goal is to show plenty of taste bud-tantalizing meals for you to try that are either conscious of ways to make a dish a bit healthier than the traditional version, or so effing indulgent that it’s worth every glorious bite as a special occasion treat. This moderation and attitude of figuring out where to make smart choices and where to splurge carries into all aspects of my own life, whether I want to throw a sumptuous dinner party for friends without breaking the bank or figure out a way to successfully share limited closet space with my husband, so Chew viewers can also rely on me to keep things practical. Of course, it’s more about practical luxury and loving your life than just plain old functionality…
“Most importantly, it’s my job to make you look good, and the best part is having FUN being happy and healthy.”
TCM: What is the best kitchen/cooking tip you have learned from Mario Batali after working with him these past few months?
DO: “The best dishes are often the least complex. Choose a few quality ingredients, prepare them the right (Mario might say ‘best’) way, and then let them come together to create an incredible dish. The goal with food people will love to eat is to let them fully taste all the natural flavors present. Oh, and always take your pasta out of the water one minute before the cooking is complete so the noodles can finish in the saucepan and pull flavors in. It makes all the difference between good pasta and a mind-blowing dish.
TCM: What are the most important lessons you have learned from your parents?
DO: “My parents were big on teaching their children how to be heard and how to listen. I have three siblings, and we are all strong personalities, but we learned from an early age that we could not always be right and that being right all the time wasn’t the goal. It makes us stronger to listen, observe and absorb new and better information. For my parents, it was about us learning how to be a part of a group without losing our sense of identity.
“My parents also fostered a healthy sense of competition, less with each other than with ourselves, where it was always important to try our hardest and, if and when we failed, to learn from our mistakes. Commitment, struggle, success – these are the things my parents wanted us all to learn to be comfortable with so we could hope to achieve happiness and fulfillment long term.”
TCM: You seem to be all about moderation, not striving for perfection. Is this an important aspect of the type of role model you would like to be for your fans? Can you elaborate?
DO: “Hugely important! To create a healthy lifestyle where you are truly in control, it doesn’t help make you more powerful or resilient to set rigid boundaries. If you are creating your own path, nothing is off limits unless you say so.
“Traditional perfection seems so narrow and one-dimensional to me. I do believe that we have ‘perfect fits’ for each stage of life, but also that perfection as a goal has to be flexible and dynamic to change with us as we grow. It’s more important for me to be working towards being better than to be working towards being perfect. One is about letting me find productive ways to enjoy my life, contribute more and receive more—essentially, it’s about continuing to grow. The other feels like it’s about stunting growth by trying to put a fix on how my life ought to look.
“Moderation is key because it puts the focus on making choices! My goal is to choose happiness, and sometimes that means indulging in things I know may not be the healthiest if I feel they are going to add to the richness of my experience overall.”
TCM: What are a few of the things you’ve learned about relationships since getting married in 2010? How do you juggle marriage and career?
DO: “What I’ve learned in a little over a year being married is that happy marriage—like everything else!—is about compromise. Sharing your life with someone you love quickly breaks you of any bad habits. If you’re rigid and unyielding about your opinions, choices or routines, chances are you won’t make for a great partner. At our core, we’re still animals: we want affection, companionship, appreciation, understanding. Think about what Fido would want, and act accordingly.
“The examples of lasting, loving partnerships I’ve seen all put a lot of focus on having fun together, and my husband and I try to find ways to play with and entertain one another every day. Is humor a virtue? I think it should be. Making room for silliness also ensures that serious conversations don’t get lost in a lifetime of being serious.
“We love learning together, having even small adventures, and pushing each other to keep growing. But we do have our fights! Learning how to ‘fight well’ – with honesty and kindness, as bizarre as that sounds – is one of the keys to finding productive resolutions and avoid hurting each other unnecessarily.
“Juggling our various commitments while making time for each other is a process, and it’s one we’re always focused on improving. One of our best resolutions is to leave cell phones in a bowl by the door so that, once we’re home, we’re really present and enjoying one another. We eat together most nights and spend the weekends making great meals with friends (we love to entertain), wandering around NYC and taking road trips or seeing family.
TCM: What other exciting projects do you have lined up at the moment?
DO: “I am working on my next book, due out with HarperCollins next spring. This one is all about getting out of the mindset that you have to wait to have the life you want and instead figuring out your ‘perfect fit’ life for right now. It’s basically about how to maximize this moment, because you’ll never get it back.”