Bitchin' Ingredients: Our Interview with Nadia G

I don't cook, but if I did I'd want to do it in this kitchen! I caught up with the sassiest of the rock and roll cooking queens, Nadia G of Bitchin' Kitchen, shown on the Cooking Channel and Food Network Canada. We talked rock and roll, tattoos, and how comedy and cooking work like a dream. and she kept me in stitches while doing it. Seriously.

How are you doing today?
I'm good. I'm very good. We're actually wrapping our second season, so that's pretty exciting. We've been in production since May 2011, so it'll be good to wrap it up and throw a big party, and then I'm heading to SXSW. So lots of exciting things going on.

Oh, that's cool. So my first question is for our readers who might not be familiar with your show, which I love by the way... how would you describe Bitchin' Kitchen?
Sure. Bitchin' Kitchen is a comedy cooking show where every week we choose a topic whether it's break-up brunches, rehab recipes, dysfunctional family pizza night. We have a couple of laughs about that scene and cook up a meal that goes along with it.

How did you come up with the idea to merge comedy and cooking?
The short answer is I basically grew up in a comedy cooking show. My family's kitchen was where we had our biggest laughs, best conversations. And it is very much about the food for me, but it's also about the story that gets you to the plate. So that's one way of looking at how I got to Bitchin' Kitchen.

Another way is I spent my 20s doing skit comedy, and I did grow up in a food-obsessed Italian family. So at a certain point, I said to myself, "Wow, wouldn't it be awesome to meld the two things that I love the most – food and comedy," and came up with the tangible pitch for Bitchin' Kitchen.

Are you a trained chef?
No, I'm not. I learned to cook from the women in my family.

Really? Because you have such a sophisticated level of cooking when I watch your show. I thought for sure you must have gone to a culinary academy. I'm really impressed. Of course, I'm not a cook. I'm married to an Italian man, and he does all the cooking.
Well, that's it. Yeah, exactly. I'm Italian as well, so food and cooking is a huge part of our culture. But in terms of culinary schools, as I like to say, I went to the culinary institute of hard wooden spoon whacks.

Now you started on the Internet with mobile short segments. Was the idea always to develop those and then perhaps pitch them for a show in the future?
Absolutely. "Think big... end up on mobile." Yeah, right from the start, we wanted to create a multi-platform content, so when we did get the mobile gig, we made sure that the content was close to TV quality: colorful set, great sound, tight, scripted comedy. We had all our duck-call scenes lined up in a row to make sure that this could translate to traditional media.

That's great. Do you do much of the writing or all the writing?
I do all the writing, yeah.

How do you think that cooking and comedy complement each other?
Well, I think it's a really natural fit. For one, when we eat, we're generally having a good time, having these great conversations, having a laugh. So the act of enjoying a meal is often served with a side of great conversation and comedy. That's the best way to digest that meal, if you will.

And then the other reason it goes so well together is that food has become such a prominent platform. It's everywhere – food entertainment, I mean. And what happens with the genre like that is that it starts to evolve. So for example, many, many years ago, news was just news, and then before you know it, you have Saturday Night Live doing comedy news, and then you have The Daily Show. So now that food is such a big platform, you're going to start seeing different ways of presenting that food. And Bitchin' Kitchen is definitely one of the pioneers in that space.

Wow. Have you seen any other shows kind of following your format?
Not quite yet, no. Epic Meal Time, but they have their own thing going on, but they definitely went in the direction of comedy and food together. I do think we're going to start seeing a lot more of it, not necessarily comedy and food but who knows? It could be sports and food or music and food. I think the hybrid show is inevitable, that the evolution of hybrid shows in the food space is inevitable.

How much of you is in your onscreen character?
Well, a lot of me. I get asked that question a lot for me. Bitchin' Kitchen is really my stage, so you're going to get, you know, a distillation of my character. I write this stuff out; I have time to think through what it is that I really want to talk about and what I want to say. Yeah, I would say that's what it comes down to.
Are you that fiery in real life?
Depends how much vodka I've had.

Now as well as yourself, you've got Panos the fish guy, the Spice Agent, and Hans on the show. Do you think that your co-workers are a good representation of the culinary influences in Montreal?
Yeah. Well, I think they definitely, you know Montreal is a very multicultural city, and a lot of people here are first-generation Canadians. So the food is fantastic for that reason. There's a lot of influence from the old country. And I do think we have a lot of fun playing with character types in Montreal, vis-à-vis these characters.

Yeah, they add a really interesting element. Now I want to talk rock and roll with you for a minute because I've heard you say that you love comedy, cooking, and rock and roll.

I even heard that you wanted to be a rock star when you were a little girl. Is that right?

Do you play any instruments?
No, I just sing.

Who are your musical influences?
Oh, man, there's so many of them. I love a lot of Riot Grrrl stuff, from The Distillers to Bikini Kill. I love a lot of punk rock, Rancid, even some, you know, NOFX. I grew up listening to Guns N' Roses. I love Iggy Pop. I would say in these days, my absolute favorite band is The Kills. So I would say garage, punk, Riot Grrrl would be the magical mix.

So if you had a band, do you think you'd be in that genre?
Yes, absolutely. And you know I love to have fun with the genre, too. I'm a big fan of electro as well and more eclectic styles like La Roux and Shiny Toy Guns. So I think it would be a cross between garage/indie/punk and some electro because I am a big fan.

You mentioned The Kills, but what other bands are you listening to right now?Listening to right now... that's a good question. I've been listening to a lot more hip hop these days, which has been fun. To say that I've been discovering any new bands – not so much. I've been in the studio a lot, so I haven't really had the opportunity to listen to a lot of new bands. But I look forward to this next month off.

You said you were heading down to SXSW. What will you be doing there?
We have a big event, a Cooking Channel event at the Beer Garden, so that's going to be a blast.

Are you going to check out any shows while you're there?
You know, I'm here for interactive, so it's the nerdier part, which I have no problems with. I'm a big nerd myself sometimes. Coming from the digital space, I find it all very interesting and fun. But I unfortunately won't be there for the music part, so that kind of sucks. When we get back to Montreal, I have a new tattoo planned and I have an appointment, so I've got to go get it done.

Oh, do you? What's your new tattoo going to be?
It's a pretty big piece on my left forearm that fits in scripts, and it just says, "Hungry." That pretty much describes me.

That's awesome!
Thank you.

I can't cook, but I love food, so I understand that. I always feel constantly hungry.
Yeah, and hungry for everything else, too, besides food. Hungry for life and hungry to get it all. You know, hunger is a fantastic thing. In the first world! Hunger in the third world is a bit more problematic. Hunger in the way that we're thinking about it, lucky us.

Exactly. Now you come out with a new cookbook this year. Want to tell us a little bit about that?
Oh, yeah, Cookin' For Trouble. I'm super excited about this cookbook. I designed it myself. I always design my own cookbooks. As I mentioned earlier, we started this show online, so it's me who did all the branding and the web design, et cetera. So I love to get my hands dirty and do the graphics. And this book... it's gorgeous! There's over 75 full-color recipes, all the schematic comedy that you would in find in Bitchin' Kitchen. The photo shoots are out of this world. It's like David LaChapelle meets a cookbook meets Mad Magazine. So it's quite interesting. And I think, just like we've kind of pioneered a new hybrid genre in the cooking space, our cookbooks are the same way, which is a lot of fun. It translates really well to the printed page.

Which is great! I'm going to order one for my husband so he can keep cooking for me.

So do you have anything new that you want to talk about coming down the road?
Well, just basically... we have a huge social media presence. We entertain our friends 24/7 on Facebook and on Twitter, so come on down and say, "Hi." You know, we have weekly supper clubs and contests and just plain wasting time on your boss's dime. It's a lot of fun.

Great. Now I have three final questions for you. These are what we call the CB3, and they're the three questions we ask all of our guests. The first question is which do you prefer, Thriller or Purple Rain?

In school, were you a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, or a criminal?
Hmm, I would go with a brain, basket case, princess, and criminal.

So everything except athlete, huh? Okay. And finally, you're in charge of a music festival. You can choose any five artists, living or dead, to perform on the bill. Which five do you choose, and what song do they perform as a final jam? And you can sing with them.
Oh, wow, for each band. Okay. Well, definitely, we'll get The Kills. And I think the final song should be "Fuck the People." That's a great song to go out with. And then let's see. I'm going to go with The Distillers' "Cincinnati;" that's an epic song. Hmm, I'm trying to think of some, this is not so easy. I'll do Guns N' Roses, but like we have to revive the old Axl. So it's like, you know, you said living or dead? Do you know we'll have to revive whichever Axl existed in the '80s and the '90s. So we'll do Guns N' Roses by reviving the real Axl Rose, and he will sing "It's So Easy." So let me see. Now we need two more bands, right?

Yep. This is a hard one, I know.
Let's go with NOFX. That's always fun. And they will sing "Lori Meyers." And we have one band left. Yeah, we'll have Shiny Toy Guns, and they'll sing "Le Disko."

Now if you could have them all perform together and you could sing a song with them like as a final, final song, what would you pick?
So final song that they could sing all together? Hmm. Wow! Okay. That's a tough one. I guess whatever... just their styles... they're all so different.

Well, it could be a song that isn't one of theirs, too. Like what's your favorite song that you would love to sing with all of those bands?
I don't have a favorite song. I have like hundreds. Well, listen, let's have all these people get drunk and sing "We Are The World." Well, actually, you know what? I'm going to change my answer.

I'm going to have all these people sing the theme song to Perfect Strangers.

Oh, wow. That's interesting. Nadia, thank you so much for talking with us today.
Thank you.

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