Friday, April 17, 2015

Interview: Haylie Duff — It's a Dream Come True

Haylie Duff, courtesy the Cooking Channel
Actress and singer Haylie Duff is perhaps best known to audiences for her roles on “7th Heaven” and in the cult classic “Napoleon Dynamite,” but nowadays, when she’s not preparing for the birth of her daughter, the soon-to-be first-time mom is cooking up a storm on the Cooking Channel. Her series, “The Real Girl’s Kitchen,” begins its second season on Saturday, April 25, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and Haylie promises lots of fun, surprises and, of course, food.

Celebrity Extra: I know that your show started out as a blog, then became a book, and now it’s a series. How did that evolution come about?

Haylie Duff: Well, we kind of did everything backward, which is funny. I think most people end up on food television in some way, and then write a cookbook related to their series. But I didn’t really have a plan to ever actually be doing anything in the food world. I started my blog as a way of sharing my experience of learning how to cook and realizing that I was enjoying it and falling in love with how creative you get to be. Everything grew at a nice, organic pace. After the cookbook came out, I was approached by OraTV, which is the company I produce the show with, and they offered me a Web series.

I felt like: “Oh, I can do a couple of episodes of a Web series. It’s kind of low pressure, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to keep doing it. Or if people don’t respond to the show, then it’s like, no harm, no foul.” I had so much fun making the show. By the time our promo was released online, we got a call from the Cooking Channel saying they wanted to buy the show, and it just grew from there, which was probably one of the most insane moments of my life to get that phone call. I am so excited to be starting season 2. It’s truly like a dream come true.

CE: For those who aren’t familiar with the show, can you tell me about the show and what viewers can expect?

HD: “The Real Girl’s Kitchen” really just is about a real girl in the kitchen: me learning how to cook, and sharing recipes that I love, and cooking for my family and my friends. Nothing is really a format on the show, which is what I love so much about it. It is very loose, and every episode is different. And we get out of the kitchen. A very fun way to share the love of food with someone is getting out there in the field, so to speak, and going to farms and farmers markets. We describe our style of food as “healthy decadence.” It’s a balance of healthy food and indulgent things as well.

CE: Speaking of healthy decadence, I’ve already bookmarked your recipe for creamy kale and pea pesto, and I can’t wait to try it!

HD: Oh good! I did that for the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. I did my first cooking demo there this year. I’ve cooked on morning shows and things like that, but I had never done a live cooking demonstration in front of, like, 200 people before. We ended up turning it into an episode of the show where you see the behind-the-scenes stuff of my recipe — testing what I’m going to make on stage, and then the episode will end at the festival. I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but it was terrifying to get up in front of that many people.

CE: I know you like to include your family and friends in episodes of “The Real Girl’s Kitchen.” Tell me about their involvement with the show for season two.

HD: We had a surprise birthday party for my mom. I love to mess with my mom. She hates to be on the show, but she’s so funny, I force her. She’s a riot; everybody loves Mama Duff. I told her I was going to be out of town for her birthday, and so she was giving me a hard time. And, of course, I surprised her in the end.

There are a lot of my friends on the show, and my family. We do a great Italian episode. My fiance is Italian, and he is always giving me a hard time, saying that Texas girls can’t make Italian food. So I set out to prove him wrong this year. It was a lot of fun. There’s another great episode where my buddy Jimmy — who is kind of a man about town with the ladies — has a date, and he suckers me into cooking for them, and then he pretends that he made the meal. It’s all very loose and fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

CE: Do you incorporate your pregnancy into the show in any way, like showing how you’re eating and/or cooking habits have changed?

HD: We didn’t because when I first started shooting, I was pregnant, but I didn’t look pregnant. And sometimes they change the order of the episodes when they air, and we were concerned that it would be confusing if an episode aired where I looked very pregnant and then another where I didn’t look pregnant. So we just avoided mentioning the pregnancy all together for season two.

However, I just finished shooting a summer special for the Cooking Channel that will kick off their summer programming, and I got to be very pregnant for that. I’m excited that I get to share pregnancy cravings and all kinds of fun stuff in the summer special.

CE: How have your eating habits and cooking methods changed since you’ve been pregnant?

HD: In the beginning of my pregnancy, I was never really sick or anything. I wasn’t nauseous, but I really just wanted light and healthy food. I had a lot of green smoothies and a lot of fruit. But as my pregnancy has advanced, I’ve become more lenient with what I allow myself to eat. There’s definitely been more pizza, more macaroni and cheese — you know, all the good things in life. And now that I’m done shooting and just enjoying these last few weeks, Matt and I are definitely eating some bad meals around here.

CE: You’ve got all this stuff going on professionally, and you’re preparing for a new baby. How do you fit it all in?

HD: I’m renovating a house, too. Isn’t that crazy? They tell you that you get this weird burst of energy when you’re pregnant, and it’s really true. The first trimester you want to take a nap every day. But after that, there’s something that takes over where you’re Superwoman. I can’t believe how much I can fit into one day. I’m sure that will calm down once the baby is here. I think it comes from nerves of not knowing what to expect and wanting to have everything in order before she arrives. And my mom is very much a multitasker as well, so I think I inherited that trait from her.

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