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April 25, 2011
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A Passion for Family, Food & Olive Oil: My Conversation with Gabriele Corcos, star of The Cooking Channel’s “EXTRA VIRGIN”

Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, stars of the Cooking Channel’s “EXTRA VIRGIN”
(Photo courtesy of Gabriele Corcos)

Growing up in Fiesole on the outskirts of Florence, Gabriele Corcos was taught to love and appreciate food and where it came from.  He also learned the intricacies of Tuscan cooking from his mother and grandmother.  Today, Gabriele and his wife, actress Debi Mazar, are the stars of their own cooking show on The Cooking Channel called “Extra Virgin”, which can be seen at 10 PM EST on Wednesday nights.  They are also the creators of a video web series called “Under the Tuscan Gun”, which was the initial inspiration for their new show.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gabriele about the show, Italy and what’s on the horizon for Debi and him.  Gabriele, who is a musician by trade, and Debi started a video web series about 5 years ago called “Under the Tuscan Gun”, which has since evolved into a web e-zine (aka an online magazine).  The name, which Debi came up with, was a spoof on the popular book by Frances Mayes and movie starring Diane Lane entitled “Under the Tuscan Sun”.  The gun in the title was a reference to Gabriele’s mother because she would tell Debi that she needed feed him & take care of him like she did back home.  The web series was a way for Gabriele to share recipes of from his Italian upbringing.  Gabriele, who states he is not a chef, wanted the web series to show that regular people can cook extraordinary, simple meals.  “Under the Tuscan Gun” has become a popular series with over 49 episodes.  Gabriele says that he produced, directed and filmed the episodes.

“Extra Virgin” is an extension of “Under the Tuscan Gun” in that it is still Gabriele and Debi’s vision that is being portrayed on the small screen.  Gabriele might not be doing all of the technical work, but they are still cooking in his “small kitchen” in his home.  Gabriele said he’s a regular guy.  He’s like everyone else; he keeps pots and pans in his oven for storage.  So to keep it real, Gabriele felt that is was important use his home kitchen instead of a studio or someone else’s grandiose digs. 

Besides cooking, “Extra Virgin” is also about Gabriele and Debi’s life.  They have two daughters that play integral roles in the show.  Besides playing with knives, Gabriele is also playing with Barbie dolls.  What I love is that Gabriele and Debi include their children in the cooking and the breaking of bread.  This is something many parents do not do nowadays.  We need to have our children involved in cooking so that they appreciate their food and become conscious eaters as they grow up into adults.

Gabriele said that the feedback and ratings for the show have been very good.  He said that even people who were skeptical about the premise of the show have since come around.  He said the show is very organic and is a work of passion, which is easy to see as you watch the show.  Even the t-shirts he wears on the show have become quite popular, so much so that Gabriele has started his own fashion line called Peace and Pasta.  Some of the writing on the shirts include: “MAKE SAUCE NOT WAR” and “LESS VIDEO GAMES MORE CHOPPING”.  The t-shirts will be available for sale through www.peaceandpasta.com

“Under the Tuscan Gun” is still a fundamental part of what Gabriele does.  Besides being a repository for all of the previous webisodes, it has evolved into an online magazine.  Gabriele has assembled some excellent writers to cover topics that Gabriele finds significant and need covering.  Gabriele will also continue posting his cooking videos, as well.  In fact, he and Debi made one for Valentine’s Day.   

Coming from Italy, I had to ask Gabriele about his thoughts on Italian food in America.  He said that when he first arrived he was critical of food.  He said, “Who is Alfredo?”  He is not as critical nowadays, but it is his goal to tell people how food is in Italy.  His Tuscan upbringing provides this inspiration.  Gabriele prides himself on using peasant recipes in his cooking at home and on television.  He is passionate about the heritage of food.  It provides him with ideas and inspiration.  Eventually, Gabriele wants to go back to Fiesole and start a farm on his ancestral land.  He currently produces extra virgin olive oil on his land, but his goal is a large, working farm.

I look forward to many more episodes of “Extra Virgin”.  It is a show all Italians/Italian-Americans can be proud of.  Gabriele and Debi have a special chemistry that many shows nowadays are lacking.  They have a passion for food, cooking, their family and each other.  So make sure you tune into “Extra Virgin” on Wednesday nights on The Cooking Channel.  And if you don’t have the channel, call your cable/satellite provider and demand it.  In the meantime, you can also check out www.underthetuscangun.com for all the latest information on what Gabriele is up to.  Enjoy!! 

 

Gabriele & Debi (Photo courtesy of Gabriele Corcos)

Living to eat,
Tony Mangia


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