[This interview originally appeared in the August/September 2011 issue]
When I was a kid, my mother would watch Julia Child. We would sit on the couch and watch this culinary visionary share her stories and cuisine with faithful viewers. In recent years, Rachel Ray rose to prominence with her quick meals and equally quick wit. Now we have the best of both worlds; and then some. Cue Nadia G. of Cooking Channel’s breakout hit: Bitchin’ Kitchen.
Originally a web series, Bitchin’ Kitchen started to rack up big numbers everywhere. The star, Nadia G., brought a genuine, innovative, and inspiring package to her viewers. With her creative food concoctions, like Rehab Recipes and Make-Up Meals, matched with her fashion sense, humor, and overall branding, it was a match made in foodie heaven. Food Network Canada (Nadia’s homeland) picked the series up, and soon after, the Cooking Channel, here in the United States picked it up as well. With Cooking Channel’s thirst for a savvy and next generation viewers, Nadia’s spunky branding was a perfect fit; just like the heels on her feet!
BRINK had the opportunity to speak with Nadia and learn about her favorite recipes, her branding, and how she makes it all work. Read on to discover how Nadia G. ensures that the “message is in the medium.”
What past experiences led you to where you are today?
Wow, a lot of history there. I grew up in a food-obsessed Italian family, and, the fact of the matter is, it was in the kitchen that all the fun went down. We had our best conversations, biggest blasts, and it came a point where I said to myself, wow, I really love the comedy – I was doing skit comedy online – and I love food, and why not bring those two elements together and create a comedy cooking show? And that’s how I created Bitchin’ Kitchen. What’s interesting is that people look at the show and say ‘wow, this is so wild,’ but in fact, I wonder where people got the idea that the kitchen was such a sterile or polite place. In respect to all the vivacious action that was going on in my family’s kitchen, we launched the series online, and it was a huge success. I guess a lot of people could relate to making fun of your cake and eating it too. The rest is history. We got picked up by Food Network Canada, and that was a huge success. [Then we] got picked up by Cooking Channel – it’s one of their top shows – and still to this day we do a lot of activity online. We have one of the most engaged communities in the lifestyle space, huge amount of fans, and every day we entertain. We still manage to stay true to our web roots despite all the success of traditional media.
I agree. Bitchin Kitchen’s web presence is excellent, especially on Facebook and Twitter. It’s seamless. The contests and all the news that’s coming out from Bithcin’ Kitchen is great.
One of the bigger things that we’re doing, and have done lately, is that we had a huge nationwide contest for community recipes to be featured in the cookbook. We’re kind of taking them along for the ride and immortalizing the community’s recipes in our new cookbook, which is kind of unheard of. We have a whole chapter devoted to them and their recipes. We really do love our fans.
I personally have done some of your recipes, and they have always come out great. It’s really cool that you give back in that sense and let people come onboard with you.
Thank you. I’m happy to hear that the recipes are turning out great. I think one of the things that helps is that I grew up cooking by eye, and I don’t have professional training, if you will, like the Culinary Institute of America, so when I kind of describe a recipe and describe the technique, it’s pretty much in laymen’s terms. I think people can really relate to that and not feel intimidated by making that recipe.
You were speaking about the kitchen being a “sterile place,” and one of the many things I love about Bitchin’ Kitchen is the attention to detail. Most episodes have your outfits matching the décor in the kitchen, from your nails and your shoes to the panels in the cabinetry. Is that something you have a big part in or how did that come about?
Absolutely. Basically, I created this brand from pixels to prosciutto. I definitely figured why not have some fun with the kitchen space? People spend a lot of their time expressing themselves in other rooms, or in the outside world, with their clothing, but why not bring that fun and self-expression to the kitchen? And as you’ve mentioned, we definitely do that on Bitchen’ Kitchen.
I know that the show is on Food Network Canada and Cooking Channel. Seems like a great fit for Bitchen’ Kitchen. How did you all come together?
The show was a huge success in Canada. We pitched it to Cooking Channel, and they loved it. It fit in with their next gen attitude in regards to cooking, and it’s just doing phenomenally well. I guess people were ready for something different than the vanilla cooking show, and we provided them with some double dark chocolate.
The Spice Agent, Hans, and Panos have to be some of the best coworkers a girl could have on television. How did their integration into Bitchin’ Kitchen develop?
Straight from the start we always knew there would be one food correspondent, we did a casting, and we had a certain character in mind. The truth is stranger than fiction. These guys show up, and we were like ‘wow, this is just awesome. These guys are hilarious.’ Panos’ family has been in the fish business for generations. He actually owns a fish shop here in Montreal along with his family. That was just such a natural fit. The Spice Agent is such a crazy guy, so ends up talking more about himself and his adventures than the spices sometimes, but we love him for it. Hans is a fun character because I grew up watching women in bikinis hawking everything from toiletries to beer, and I said to myself, ‘when I get a cooking show, I think we’re going to play a little reverse sexism here.’ He’s a great character. People love him and love looking at him.
The titles of the shows and the dishes are fantastic. How do they come to be? Is that your brainchild?
Yes, absolutely. I create the concept and write the scripts, so it’s a bit of alchemy, and sometimes I think about what topic I’d like to talk about and then come up with recipes that work well. For example, if you’re making a ‘break up meal,’ you want to cook up something light, something friendly – something take out. And then there are other cases where I’ll have this really awesome recipe in mind and think ‘what could this recipe be perfect for?’ and then come up with the theme for the show. It’s in between those two.
The Bitchin’ Kitchen brand is very strong. How involved are you with day-to-day operations?
I’m completely involved with the day-to-day operations. I check in on Facebook and Twitter daily. I have meetings with my community manager and try and figure out what fun we’re going to cook up for the weeks to come. I sit in the edit room and I design merch. I’m involved with pretty much everything.
How has being on television shaped the success of your brand?
It’s been phenomenal. Television has such a wide reach, and when we started this project, as I always like to say, ‘it’s not about the medium, it’s about the message,’ so for us, whether its TV, cookbooks, web, mobile, we’re stoked to have Bitchin’ Kitchen available on all these platforms and also creating some cross media – going cross platform. Being cross platform is so awesome; someone watches the show, then they comment on Facebook. It’s been fun bringing everyone together from all the various mediums that we have available to us.
Any lessons in business you would like to share?
When it comes to social media, the key is to really be involved with your community and what that means is that you don’t just a have a Facebook page up there and spam your community, ‘hey! I have a great new video!’ ‘Hey, I have a great new recipe!’ It’s about engaging them in conversation and asking them about them and by starting a project on the web – and you know, a lot of people these days start businesses on the web, whether it’s a business or a media project – it’s your fans that are going to get you to that traditional media deal. Don’t sign TV deals unless you’re an A-lister [because] you don’t get a TV deal signed so easily, so you’ll need a proven concept [and] a tangible fan base. Treating your fans with respect online is what’s going to help get your project to the next level.
You have a new cookbook coming out. Tell us about the process that went into this new book. How does it differ from the previous book?
It was an interesting process because our first cookbook is so wild. There’s no other cookbook that looks like it out there. It’s a cross between a comic book, a coffee table book, and it really kind of embodies the rock and roll comedy cooking essence of Bitchin’ Kitchen. And, so when we got this next book deal, we were like, ‘wow, how are we going to top this?’ and we did. The concept has become more refined over the years. The food photography is absolutely gorgeous. It’s [all] just been taken to the next level. It’s just gorgeous and funny, a great conversation piece, and I’m totally excited about it. I designed it again myself, which I love to do. I designed the first cookbook as well. It’s just a lot more fun themes and great recipes: dysfunctional family pizza night, girls’ night in, student schcoff-fest, so you get a lot of good stuff in “Cooking for Trouble.”
What’s your favorite recipe in the book?
One of my favorite recipes in the new book is gnocci poutine. I think it’s kind of representative of the fun fusion we do on the show. Pouatine is a hot mess of fries, gravy, and cheese curd that is very popular in Montreal, Quebec, where I’m from, and gnocchi is made out of potatoes, so why not take those delicious potato dumplings, boil it, pan sear it a little bit to get the crispy golden edges, and smother it in homemade cheesy gravy with melted cheese curd.
What foods can’t you live without?
I’m a sucker for deep-fried foods. I love fried chicken. I love panzaratti. I do try and be careful, but the old Italian saying goes ‘everything in moderation and especially moderation.
What’s coming up next for Bitchin’ Kitchen?
We got a cookbook, [and] we have a new season, complete with a one hour Christmas special, which is really exciting. I’m working on an album right now. I’ve always loved to sing and to write comedy songs. We aired the first music video ever in a cooking show: Rehab Recipes called Never Drinking Like That Again, and so there’s a lot more songs to be expected in the next season, [as well as] some fun comedy rock and roll coming your way.
I saw that episode. It was excellent, and I remember when you started singing and everything came together. It was so great; so unexpected. That’s what I love about Bitchin’ Kitchen: you never know what to expect, and it’s not your typical show. It’s really fun.
Thank you. I’m happy that you noticed. Every episode has a little something, and I think this comes from my sketch comedy roots. In Rehab Recipes, you have a music video, in Dish on Dating, we’ll rattle off a top ten list of the worst opening dating profile lines ever. It’s just fun to keep people on their toes and not stick to a formula. I think Bitchin’ Kitchen has been pretty groundbreaking for the cooking show genre as a high bred show, and I’m super excited and proud about that. And I think in the future, we’ll see a lot more cooking shows that have a little something extra on top.
Your fashion is always topnotch. Do you have a favorite look? How would you describe your best fashion moments?
When it comes to fashion, I love juxtapositions. So, I love having the long blond feminism hair and the shaved side. I love pairing cowboy boots with a girly dress. Women are very complex creatures, and I try and express that complexity in the fashion choices that I make. I’m happy that kind of shows through. People definitely can’t wait for the shoe shots – that I know for sure.
Any final words?
I’m just so honored that everyone is loving the show as much as they do, and the important thing here is to make cooking fun again. I’ve been given an opportunity to get people back in their kitchen and rocking their kitchens. Come say hi on facebook.com/bitchinkitchen – we’d love to meet you!
For more on “Bitchin’ Kitchen,” visit bitchinlifestyle.tv
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