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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Talk with Your Mouth Full: The Hearty Boys Cookbook
Extended Online Version
by TRACY BAIM
2007-10-31

This article shared 5134 times since Wed Oct 31, 2007
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Chicago-based Hearty Boys Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh have gone from caterers to restaurant owners and then on to stardom once they won The Next Food Network Star. They have remained at the top of their game, with HB: A Hearty Boys Spot, the Party Line Cooking Show, and now a new cookbook, Talk with Your Mouth Full: The Hearty Boys Cookbook.

We sat down with the long-time couple, both born in Queens, New York, as part of a new history project I am working on.

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Pictured: The Hearty Boys: Dan Smith ( left ) and Steve McDonagh. Book cover. Smith and McDonagh with son Nate. Photos by Hal Baim.

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TB: Let's talk about your teenage years, and what it was like for you, with your own identity you were discovering.

Steve McDonagh: As a teenager I guess, it was kind of hard for me in school because I didn't know I was gay, but I knew there was something different, and obviously the other kids knew there was something different, so it was hard for me, but I definitely found my niche, I had my own group of friends, my theater friends really, but I've always been the kind of person where it's very important that everybody like me. So if people didn't like me in high school, it baffled me. … I was a born-again Christian through the latter part of my high school years [ with ] Campus Life, the youth group. There's a big gay percentage, back then there was. That made it easy for us to, I guess look at different parts of ourselves. … I still feel very guilty when I say that I am no longer a born-again Christian because I really thought that, I really like the basis for that religious movement, the fact that each person has to make a decision if you are Christian or not, to me that was what it was all about. There's just a point when you say, yes I am deciding to be a Christian, not I was born Catholic or whatever.

TB: Was there a point when you did decide that, here I am, I definitely am a gay person? How did that affect your family life, and your schooling as well?

SM: I came out, and came to accept myself as a gay man in college, like the day I stepped into campus. This was 1982 … I immediately gravitated into the theater department … . I always said, you're gay until proven innocent if you're the guy in musical theater. Plus I was in New York, all the time.

TB: Let's bring it to when you guys were both in theater in New York.

DS: We met in New York in 1986, and we both auditioned for The Fantastics, and it was a road show. So they had the auditions in this really kind of seedy place on the second floor over a hot dog stand or something like that on Eighth or Ninth Avenue. It was kind of a cattle-call thing where everyone was in the room at the same time.

SM: It was a turning point in my life, but for you it was, another notch. We were both at this audition, and Dan walked in the room, and I gasped, I literally made a gasping noise.

DS: You were choking on something [ laughs ] .

SM: I was choking on my heart. It was filled with love. But, if you want to put me down as I'm pouring out my heart [ whispers ] go for it. He walked in and I just gasped, and I was like, please let us both get in this show. He was wearing a wedding ring, so I just assumed he was straight, and we were both up for the same role, and they were reading us for the same role, but they liked us both, so they brought us in and gave us different roles, one that he [ Dan ] was too young for, but with the way we both look, and height and everything, they were like, well we like them both so we can go with it. So we went together, and we both got cast which was really exciting, and then I remember one of the first days, in rehearsal, I asked him why he was wearing the wedding ring, and he told me he got it from his boyfriend, [ to Dan ] you were really ahead of your time, because like we said that was like 1986, people did not wear any kind of commitment rings, at that time.

DS: Yeah, well you know I never really dated. I didn't date a lot of guys. … So, I had a boyfriend out of college, I met him in college, and so we were in a relationship, I think we were together for four years, something around there. And it was coming to an end when I met Steve.

SM: So we both got cast, and it was a great time in rehearsal. Dan and I have always immediately connected, we just have an internal connection. We both got cast and we went away to …

DS: … Delaware.

SM: I was like, please God let us be roomies. But we weren't. … But we had such a great time.

DS: It was probably good that we weren't roomies, actually. You know, cause we developed a different kind of friendship, I think If we had been roomies, we just would have been in bed all of the time. So we had a chance to develop a friendship.

TB: So your relationship at that time, it did last a short period of time?

SM: Yeah. We took a walk, and we walked through a field and held hands, and it was pretty electric. Oh, we did more than making out that night, now that I'm thinking of it. … That was the start of our relationship. We dated that whole summer, knowing that Dan was in this relationship, and he's like, well I'm breaking up with him. Of course, he did break up with him, and then subsequently broke up with me, because you just can't go from one to another, so it wasn't much of a surprise really.

DS: Steve at that point was ready for a relationship, and I wasn't, I was just coming out of one, and I wasn't ready for a relationship.

TB: So fast forward, how many years later was it that …

DS: We lost touch completely for five years, even though we both lived in New York City, we were both non-equity actors, we didn't run into each other at all. Five years later, I ran into him on the street, in front of his apartment.

SM: Right in front of my apartment. So, I mean, we very very strongly believe in fate, there is no doubt in my mind that Dan and I were meant to be together, there is no doubt in my mind that I would put our relationship against the most staunchest religious right Republican who would say, you should not be together. I would say, this is how the universe wants us to be, together. After we bumped into each other in front of my apartment, it was just a matter of months before I moved to Florida, never to move back to New York, and Dan moved to Maine; if we hadn't bumped into each other in front of my apartment, we never would have seen each other again. … We made a real good friendship connection, and another five years after that, we became a couple again, and Dan moved to Chicago.

DS: We spent the second five years writing letters back and forth, from Maine to Florida. Before the Internet.

TB: Let's talk a little about New York in the 1980s. You were in New York during the crunch years of AIDS, and when it was first starting to be known what it was, and you were in the theater community in New York. As gay men, what were your first inklings of what this was?

SM: Of course it was on the news all the time, and I was watching it, and I remember my mom turning to me and saying, if you ever come home and tell me you're gay, I will throw you out of the house.

DS: Yeah, I can remember, I started college in ྍ, and moved into the city pretty much that quickly because I went to college in New York City. I remember being very aware of it, I wasn't really sexually active the first year of college, so I wasn't worried about it, and no one that I knew in college was sick at that point, but I remember it being very pervasive, because I can remember thinking, you know walking down the street, what would happen if I got it?

SM: At that point there were a lot of questions about the possibility of it being in saliva, and as a child, what does that do to you? To be at your sexual peak as a young man is in your early 20s right? And you're having to shut yourself down.

DS: It was really scary, my first boyfriend that I was with when I met Steve, he had been an escort. In this weird way, I thought that was kind of cool, you know, so it was kind of an attraction for me, which, I don't even know how to feel about that now, it's a little embarrassing. But he got out of that whole thing, and did a complete about face, and he got involved with, and worked for Gay Men's Health Crisis just when they were starting. I remember visiting him at work, and they were in this little tiny office space, just little cubby holes, just at the very beginning.

SM: You know, it's funny to even talk about this, because I guess as we become older, our histories become history, and it was a pretty amazing time. I went to some ACT UP meetings. You think of that now, I guess that's pretty cool, I went to ACT UP meetings in New York City in the early ྌs, Larry Kramer was doing his plays, he wrote me a letter or left me a message or something, saying he wanted me to audition for one of his upcoming plays. Larry Kramer. So going to that ACT UP meeting when people were just so frustrated, I decided not to continue going because I thought that their anger was coming out, they were just kind of lashing everywhere, and it wasn't always appropriate. … But people were so desperate at that time just to be heard. … And Reagan oh my God how mad were we about Reagan? I mean it's amazing now to hear people talk about Reagan being on Mount Rushmore, and the coins, and how everything is being renamed the Ronald Reagan highway, this that, the whole nine yards. Reagan had blood on his hands. He didn't care about the gay and lesbian community, and he didn't do funding, and oh we were up in arms about it. As he got older, and we got further away from that, that's glossed over, not much was said about that, in fact when he passed away, Larry Kramer was the only voice in the wilderness saying, I'm glad he's dead, and I was like, I guess I really needed to be reminded of that, because the man has blood on his hands.

TB: Well, let's move to how you got to Chicago. Being East Coast guys, what brought you here?

SM: I came to Chicago not for any really interesting reason other than I didn't want to live in New York anymore. You lived in New York, and … one day it turns and it starts to suck you dry, and you just have to move. I wanted grass, and a place for my dog, and I wanted a healthy relationship and a little more space. I still love New York, I just didn't want to live there anymore. So as a stage actor, my second choice was Chicago. So I moved here with my ex, which, moving here wasn't a mistake, moving here with him was a train wreck. So that's how I ended up getting here.

DS: I lived in Maine, I had a business in Maine, a café and a catering business. I was also in a relationship up there, which was a mess, so, you know I've been in three relationships in my life, and I don't imagine that I'm going to be in another one. … So when that ended, we again had been in touch for those five years, and I thought to myself, now is the time to make the move, because I always thought that Steve was the one that I shouldn't have pushed away and walked away from, so I wanted it back. So we got back together when we both broke up with our exes, and I moved to Chicago.

SM: I moved to Chicago like ྗ probably, maybe ྘. I was 29 years old, I was here for just a matter of months before I had my thirtieth birthday party.

TB: So let's talk about the incarnation of the Hearty Boys.

DS: Well I moved here in ྜྷ and I still owned the café back in Maine, I had leased it out, but I wanted to start the catering business here. I had worked for myself by that point for a good four or five years, I didn't want to work for anybody else. So we started the Hearty Boys here, out of our eight-by-eight apartment kitchen in ྜྷ.

SM: So we were in Lakeview, on Hudson and Belmont, right by the lake. … I was doing theater here in Chicago ever since I got here. I also knew that when I was between jobs, I didn't want to work for anybody else anymore, working as a waiter or whatever, so it was easy when Dan got here to just say, let's just start our own catering business. So we printed up little fliers with little tear sheets at the bottom with our number on it.

DS: We worked for another catering company when I came here for, I don't know six months, that I was actually working for the other catering company for cash. … It happened pretty quickly, and this is the deal with the Hearty Boys. We wanted to do what we know. As a gay couple, I wanted to go to somebody's house, because we'd catered parties for other people, for other gay people. And you come in there, and it would be us and a straight guy, or you know just some random, somebody else. We wanted to say, we'll make you comfortable in your house …

SM: [ With ] gay-friendly staff, and we know you, we know your lifestyle, we're going to cater to that. What's really funny is, we weren't going after a niche market … with disposable income, we're saying this is who we are, this is who you are, we just want to work with what we know. And it took off really quickly, because it was a niche thing with disposable income, and honest to god, it's funny to see the larger caterers now, all going for that. There's one large caterer that has its gay and lesbian section. So I guess you call in and say the secret word. … We just wanted to literally serve our community.

TB: How soon did the restaurant come into play?

DS: The restaurant took a while, we took like this, kind of [ winding ] path. We catered out of the Hotel Florence down in the Pullman district.

SM: Because they just called us one day and said, we've heard about you will you just take this kitchen over for us?

DS: So we saw a good opportunity there as well, because we thought, we can cater out of this kitchen as well, because Steve was always afraid of getting caught, working out of our eight-by-eight kitchen in our apartment. Which, we came to find out that everybody starts out their catering company that way so, no big deal, but we worked out of the Pullman kitchen for like six months, but in that time, we were able to save up enough money, by running that restaurant as well, that we were able to find that space in Lakeview on Halsted. … In Boystown, which was a godsend.

SM: Dan was driving down Halsted, and he called me up, he's like, there's a place on Roscoe and Halsted. Well you know it's a no-brainer, then we're also right in the middle of our community.

DS: I truly think that we would be somewhere very different today if we hadn't gotten that space. So it was just perfect, it was the perfect space for us.

SM: That was 2000, that was right about the millennium.

DS: We took the money that we made at the Hotel Florence, and we pumped it into this space on Halsted. It wasn't a ton of money, so we did most everything ourselves. We rehabbed the space ourselves. It was an old coffeehouse. … So we did everything, we tore the coverings off the walls, we tore plaster off the walls.

SB: We stripped it down to the brick, and replastered, and did all the painting, and took off the doorknobs and shined them all up.

DS: We opened up as a gourmet takeaway at first. We had the catering business out of the back kitchen, and we had the front space.

TB: Let's talk about the break, I mean the TV show. When did that happen, and how did that happen?

DS: The TV show happened two and a half years ago, somewhere around there. We'd gone from gourmet takeaway to a café in the same space on Halsted. Steve, up until that point had still been acting, so he had gotten a gig with public supermarkets down south. He was going to be a spokesperson for them. It fell through at the last minute, so we knew about Food Network and their search for the next Food Network Star.

SM: They say, we're looking for the next Food Network star, send in your tape. You don't really, because who's really going to win that, right? But I was so pissed about this contract falling through.

DS: His thing fell through, so we though oh what the hell, we'll just put a tape together and we'll send it in and see what happens.

SM: So that's what we did, we just sent in a three-minute tape, it was very much us, we were just making fun of Food Network and we did our food, and we've done a lot of like, three-minute spots on morning shows and so it was pretty easy for us.

DS: Yeah, we're familiar with it.

SM: After it went out I thought, you know we might really get a call about this. But to get a call and find out that we're one of eight, we were concerned, because it was 10,000 entrants, so to be one of eight was the hard part, then we just had to, you know, knock the rest off systematically.

DS: Any truthfully, I thought, once we met everybody and were in the process of taping the show, I thought OK, I feel pretty good about what we're doing.

SM: It was scary the first night though, wasn't it?

DS: It was, it was really scary the first time, meeting everybody, because you didn't know who you were going to be up against. But we held our own, and I felt good about that because I'm not classically trained, I never went to school to learn how to cook, I've just taught myself as I went along but I was feeling pretty good about it. I always thought that we would probably get to the final two, but we would never win because it was an America vote. America votes for the next food network star, and I thought, OK they're not going to vote for the gay guys, it's not going to happen. We'll get to the final two and that will be great.

SM: Because we were also very much 'out' on the show. The very first episode, our very first task was to make eggs. I was running through this in my head, and I thought, screw it. Screw it, I'm going to say this. We got up and I looked at the camera and I said, you know we have an unfair advantage because you're asking us to make eggs and as gay boys, we know brunch. I was like, that's either going to fly, or sink.

DS: They kept it in.

SM: And it took off because that's who we are. The other thing was, we had been planning for a long time, we're thinking how can we get a TV show, a cooking show? Because there are no cooking shows with a gay couple. How many gay people of either sex are in the kitchen? Tons, you know. I thought, this is a no-brainer, and if we don't do it, somebody else is going to do it. We managed to do it through this weird sort of back-door talent search so, we were really fortunate that we had the opportunity.

DS: The thing about it though was that, on Food Network's Web site during Food Network Star, they had all of these threads of conversations that people could start, and the biggest thread that they had was about us. It was about us being gay, and a lot of people would write in and say, 'I couldn't even eat their food because they've touched it.'

SM: With their dirty hands. Yeah.

DS: So there's still that out there. The nice thing was that there were a lot of people that defended us then. So it's hard, because we have gotten, or heard about e-mails from people who write this weird crap about, 'I can't watch them because I think about what they do in the bedroom.'

SM: That's a real e-mail.

DS: Well, you know that's your sick head going on, because I don't look at a straight couple and think about what they're doing in the bedroom if they're cooking together, but we get that.

SM: That was a weird thing. I think that one of the things that we're proudest of in our lives is that we are the first gay couple to ever have a national TV show. You don't hear that, though.

DS: And not a lot of stuff has been made out of that.

SM: That's kind of a big deal. I mean television has never had a real-life gay couple on television. Not only just, to just actually be us. It's not a reality show where somebody is trying to outdo each other or hurt each other or any of that other nonsense; people are invited into our home and are really learning about us. I think that was what was so vital to us during whenever our show is on. It's to try to get America to see a real, normal, God-willing, relationship.

DS: The name of our show is Party Line with The Hearty Boys. It started in 2005, and it's an entertaining show, so it's about cooking. Steve always does some kind of an entertaining tip, and stories because we like to tell stories, any time we do the show or personal appearances, we always weave in stories about our experiences.

TB: Talk about the book that you've done.

SM: Our first book [ is out now ] and it's called Talk with Your Mouth Full, and it also kind of follows the line of our TV show and our life, it's not a collection of recipes, it's stories about how we got here, and it's real-life tips. I always say I don't want to get all Martha Stewart on your ass, it's real-life tips; if you're going to use a chafing dish, how much water do you need, how do you open a sterno. The most important thing to us as caterers is to make it accessible, and just show people how they can have parties in their own home, and that's kind of our shtick.

TB: Why do you stay in Chicago [ the show is taped in New York ] ?

SM: I think that this is kind of where we both would have ended up, no matter what. Because it's, [ to Dan ] don't you think that Chicago is like the most user-friendly city?

DS: We both say that we love New York, and we both do. New York is a hard place to live, we both lived there for easily 10 years. It's a hard place to live; it's a hard city. By hard I mean concrete, everything's concrete, it's hard. Chicago is an easier place to live, it's a great metropolis, there's a lot going on here in a lot of different ways, there's a lot going on in the food scene in Chicago, which is great for us. But at the same time we get to have a house, we get to have a yard, we're very near the lake.

SM: That's the most important thing. To me, it's the visual expanse. I always thought in Manhattan, you have to get out of the city, every weekend, I need to get away. I've never thought that since I moved to Chicago. Driving down Lake Shore Drive, that visual expanse just clears my head, and I never feel trapped. Chicago is the only place I've ever lived in my life, where you can just be hanging out with a couple friends, and you're driving down Lake Shore Drive late at night after just leaving somewhere, somebody in that car will always say, God it's pretty here. It's only in Chicago.

TB: So let's talk about your son, and what went into planning for that.

SM: What went into planning to adopt?

DS: I remember moving here in ྜྷ and I remember this one conversation … we talked about adopting. It's sometimes been on the back burner. When we bought our house four years ago, in Rogers Park, we bought it because we knew we were going to start a family. It's a big house.

SM: It's a family house. … I always knew I wanted to be a dad. I used to think, man if I were with somebody like Dan Smith, it would be pretty easy. … Going through the adoption process, I think one of our favorite parts of it was, you have the meetings all the time. We go there as gay people. We have already mourned that loss of having a natural child. We did that when we were teenagers, right? We figure it out. We know it, it's a given, we move on. So for us, we're in a place of all possibilities, this is great! We can have a kid!

DS: We're giddy.

SM: Yes, exactly. However, the other couples there, the straight couples are still in the mourning phase. They're there because they don't have a choice, and they're doing second best. And it was kind of awkward because, things are going on, people are saying things, and jokes are right at the tip of my mouth and I'm like, shush.

DS: Bite it back, bite it back.

SM: We get in the car and I'm like, you know, when she said, she was asking how much it costs if there's twins, I wanted to say, you're looking for a two-fer. And he said, yeah me, too, but you can't make jokes in there, it's just not funny.

DS: But, you know, the process took a while. The paperwork process takes a long time, it takes as long as you need it to. We kind of dragged our feet on it, it took longer, but we just wanted the paperwork to be perfect. It really didn't need to be, but once we went into the adoption pool, they said it takes between nine and 12 months. It took us four months, which was amazing because, we had some things that we wanted. We wanted a child who was a similar race to both of us, because Nate's going to have some issues growing up as it is, having two dads. We didn't want to compound that by having a child who's Asian or African American. That's what we wanted.

SM: I just was really uncomfortable with becoming even more of a conspicuous family. That's my own issue.

DS: So we were prepared to wait, plus we were both over 40 when we adopted, and that supposedly works against you.

SM: I just, just turned 40.

DS: [ rolls eyes, laughing ] So we were prepared to wait, but we didn't have to, and the cool thing about that is that we got a call from Nate's birth grandmothers, because his birth grandmother has a partner, so he has lesbian grandmothers, which is great.

SM: And they found us on the Internet, through The Cradle's Web site, which, we're on the Web as people that are looking to adopt. At that time we were the only gay couple on the Web site. We were the only gay couple on The Cradle right then, looking to adopt, although other couples have, it just happened at that time we were the only ones.

DS: So they followed us from The Cradle Web site to the Hearty Boys Web site, to the Food Network Web site. So they knew everything about us.

SM: So I knew, I just knew that we were going to have a son. I could just visualize it, I knew it was going to happen. So if we ever got a call from The Cradle saying, there's a little girl that was born, and you're up for placement, I just knew in my heart it wasn't going to happen. When I got home, Dan was away, and I got home, was reading this e-mail, and she said, My partner and I are grandmothers, and my brother is gay, my daughter is about to have a baby boy next month, we want to make sure that, with an open adoption that the family understands my family, et cetera, and you guys seem so warm and everything. I almost started crying, and I literally said out loud, I said 'Nate's here.' I'm choking up just saying that, but I knew Nate was here. I called up Dan, and he was at his parents' and I'm like, Nate's here. I knew it. And they were talking to other families, but I knew it was Nate.

DS: He read me the letter, and it was the same thing, I had the same reaction. We met with the grandmothers and Michelle, the birth mother on Father's Day, and she was eight months pregnant. They made the decision that night, they called us that night.

SM: Because they wanted to tell us on Father's Day. Pretty cool.

TB: In your own birth families, what has bringing Nate into the picture meant, to make you as a couple in your families' eyes?

SM: I think what was the coolest thing is that it reconnected me with my dad, and we hadn't been talking for 25 years. With everything that was going on, my dad reached out to me, which was hard, he's an older man. He reached out to me and now we have a relationship again, and it's because, a large part because of Nate.

DS: On my side, my parents have always been great with me being gay, and always accepted Steve. But my dad, you know [ an ] Army guy, as good as he's been with it, when Nate was born, it solidified the fact that we are a couple.

SM: That's true.

DS: In his eyes, so he always asks about Steve when we're on the phone now.

SM: Well, all of the sudden he kind of acts like he raised me now, too. Because he talks, and he's like, well you know, with Dan and his brothers, and you, I did the best I could. I know he's trying to be inclusive, but I'm like, I wasn't there but thank you. You did great. He always does that now. He thinks of me as a son now, and we can't be more of a family.

DS: We're very very blessed that way. Because I know that that's not the case, all the time.

SM: Both families come together, in fact both families came in to meet Nate's birth grandmothers. They've all met. That's a little threatening and odd, but everybody is great with it.

TB: And they're from here?

SM: Nate's birth grandparents are from Buffalo Grove.

TB: Let's talk business. I think a lot of gay business owners have remained closeted over the years, and you've been a role model, not just in the mainstream scene, you as a gay couple, but also as openly gay business owners and never shying away from that.

DS: We didn't set out to be gay role models, it came naturally out of the fact that we were both in theater, it was OK to be gay. I think for me, anyway, the hardest time I've had in terms of being out, is the fact that we're nationally known now, and that we do get these e-mails from people, and sometimes we're not welcome because of who we are. I always say to myself, this is who I am, and I'm not going to hide it to achieve something. It's who I am, and take it or leave it.

SM: I think that for our legacy, being an out couple on TV is such a blessing, such an opportunity. I am always wanting to reach out, to be a role model. I want that. We've gotten letters from kids in high school, or younger, saying it's great, it gives me hope. I want to put us out there as an American family. There's nothing threatening, and we have such a great opportunity to be in everybody's household, so that everybody can say, I do know a gay couple and they're dads and their son has been on the show. I think it's a brilliant opportunity, and as far as being business owners, there's another opportunity. We never set out to be role models in that way, we just wanted to be who we are, and to let the LGBT community also be comfortable in who they are.

TB: You also give back to non-profits. Can you talk a little bit about how you have supported, through gift certificates, and actual donation of your services and such.

SM: Yeah, well it's just giving to non-profits and other groups in Chicago to support our community as well as they are supporting us of course, helping us buy a house, you know it's a no-brainer to us, it's just a given.

DS: We've also been lucky that, when we started out we did little stuff, whatever we could, gift certificates and stuff like that. Now we're able to go and offer personal appearances, which bring in more money for those types of things, and it's also nice to have the time to do that, because we've gotten to a point in our business where I'm not chained to the stove, and he's not chained to the computer. So we can start to really give back in a larger way.

SM: Sometimes I feel guilty about that, I feel like we can't give enough. Chicago is filled with groups that are all doing terrific things in different areas. And you want to help them all, and all of them are trying to make money by throwing fundraisers. Fundraisers need food, you want free food, you go to a caterer. You want to go to the gay caterer. Bang! You can imagine the phone calls we've gotten over the years. I'm always like, I wish I could help everybody, but I'll always feel guilty that we can't do enough. I'll never feel like it's enough.

TB: Is there anything final you want to say about the next stage for HB? Where do you hope to take the business?

SM: Well, the next thing that we're doing right now is going to be very cool, it's called HBTV, and it's kind of the experience that we've had, we're trying to give to other people. We're building a TV studio kitchen, Dan and I will come out and we'll do a demo, talk about what it's like to work on camera. Using a teleprompter, looking up when you're cutting, keeping going if there's something going on.

DS: Using a stage manager.

SM: Then we're going to get the audience in front, and they'll do their own three-minute demo tape.

DS: I'm telling people it's kind of like cooking karaoke.

SM: We haven't had our feet under us for a couple of years, with the book and the TV show and all the rest, raising a baby, it's been crazy. But only now are we able to reach out to [ groups ] and say OK, I hear you're doing such and such, this is what I want to give. Only now are we able to become a bigger player in the community, and give back to our community more.

Talk with Your Mouth Full: The Hearty Boys Cookbook ( Stewart, Tabori & Chang; $27.50 ) .


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