An Extreme Chat with Secretary Confidential

by in View All Posts, September 17th, 2009


Yesterday, Extreme Cuisine host Jeff Corwin told Secretary Confidential he had homemade pasta fagioli for dinner — pasta, white beans, red beans, fava beans and broth — along with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. Pretty tame, right? Tonight, tune in and join in on a much different culinary experience as Jeff and crew debut a run of all-new episodes of Extreme Cuisine. We caught up with Jeff to find out where he’s been — like Greece and Morocco — and what’s been on his plate, including one bony dish of fish.

SC: Tell me about the prep that goes into the show and how you choose where to visit?

JC: We do a ton of research. I approach these shows not only as foodie but as a biologist, as a scientist and as an anthropologist [for Jeff’s bio, click here]. I reach into all of these different satchels to harvest information. I want to know where the dish originates from, what makes the dish unique, what sort of environmental connection there is. I’m looking to not only push myself but push the audience. Basically, we chose each location based on the stories, the food and the people. What I want the audience to do is leave their cultural biases behind and jump in the fryer with me. My hope is that they really see how food is the glue that binds culture.

SC: This season takes you not only abroad but to spots in the United States that we never knew could be so exotic. What surprises have you found?

JC: Incredible surprises! That’s the whole thing — Extreme Cuisine isn’t just in India or Thailand. It can be in Louisiana. There, we met Mr. Conny, who is 83 years old and lives without electricity on the Chasile River. And he goes out and fishes for catfish. We cooked them the traditional way, the way his mother and grandmother cooked them. We’re there to tell his story. Or being in Washington and going with the Grande Ronde tribal community as they climb 100-foot waterfalls going after eels. They cook them in a traditional manner that’s been done for hundreds of years.

SC: Have you ever seriously hesitated on downing the food?

JC: No, not really. We were not going to eat food for the sake of grossing people out. We didn’t want to “Fear Factor” it. The big filter for me was to make sure it was an ethical meal, a sustainable meal and a meal that had some root in renewability. I also, realize that if I have any cultural prejudices against food that’s my problem. I had to leave them on the burner and take a chance. And you have to trust yourself and the people you’re with. When you walk through a marketplace and see a dog licking at your ankles and you don’t see any running water and you think, “This meal is raw!”  Then you have to think, “I’m in line with 40 other people; they must know what they are doing so hopefully it will all work out.” And so far it has. Flavors don’t bother me; as long as things fall within my ethical filter it doesn’t bother me.

SC: You travel extensively. Where would you most like to bring your fans?

JC: I have many places in the world where I want to take the Food Network audience. I want to take them to a Boma in Kenya with the Maasai, where you see how the Masai live and eat. We’ll work our way to those places. Another place where I really want to take them is to India. I’ve been there before but what’s neat about this series is I get to approach the visits from a gastronomic epicurious angle. The show’s a cultural kaleidoscope — every region has something unique to offer.

With an open mind and mouth, Jeff Corwin is traversing through land near and far on radical culinary adventures. Check him out tonight on Extreme Cuisine. And let me know where you’d like to see Jeff go!

Eat Well- Secretary Confidential

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Comments (14)

  1. Foodie Fan says:

    Are there plans for Jeff Corwin exploring "Extreme Cuisines" closer to home?

  2. Sally G says:

    It is so refreshing to hear that Jeff is approaching the show from a cultural perspective and not a "Fear Factor" perspective. I was truly worried it was going to be another "look at me eat cow testicles" type of show. The name is really misleading.

    Also nice to hear that he's bringing an environmental and renewability mindset to the series….that aspect seems to be so often overlooked on FN these days….

  3. Maree says:

    I have enjoyed watching Jeff Corwin for years as a Biologist working with animals. It is nice to see that he still holds his ethics high when it comes to preparing foods and taking care of the environment. I'll be watching!!

  4. K. L. says:

    As I sit here reading S.C.'s blog, I cannot help but think its such good "stuff", why are you hiding her/him in a blog? Oh wait, she/he is undercover….still, a great idea for a show! Going behind the scenes of FN. I think you should share this with more people!
    Great interview! It makes me take on a whole new perspective and respect for Jeff.

    • ryan says:

      I totally agree. That would be an awesome show. SC could be our Behind The Scenes reporter for all FN shows. She could travel around to all the sets/shows and give us a behind the scenes look at what really happens. I mean come on in…how can Paula make a pie in 30 minutes and does shows like Chopped really only last one hour. She's awesome! Not some lame o producer, but the real deal the voice of the foodie people!

  5. LizAndrsn says:

    Jeff's show is a refreshing relief from all the other extremist/fear factor types of programs. It's the only one I'll watch! I hope FN sees the value and gives Jeff many more seasons to come.

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