“Extra Virgin’s” Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos on how they stay sweet

gabrieleanddebi

Part reality show, part cooking show, “Extra Virgin” tracks TV actress Debi Mazar and her Tuscan husband Gabriele Corcos as they work together in the kitchen to feed themselves and their two daughters (premiers at 8 p.m., Wednesday on the Cooking Channel). Now in its fourth season, the show peeks into the lovebirds’ charmed life, with dashes of Mazar’s signature snark and Corcos’ tasty recipes.

How do you explain the success of the show?
Corcos: I think the secret of what we’re doing is it’s a real story. What you see is the way we live as a family. We’re not teasing you with difficult Tuscan recipes. Everything we do is really true, it’s really cheap and it fits into the life of modern families everywhere.

You seem so sweet to one another in the kitchen.
Mazar: It’s the life we want to let you into. Because trust me, we’re normal. We scream, the kids have meltdowns, they don’t want to eat their vegetables. But with our show, the food is the story. People don’t want to see ugly on TV. Or if they do, they can always go watch some other channel. This is a cooking channel.

How does food bind you together as a family?
Mazar: Sitting down at the table is a sacred event. It’s the heart of the home. People have ginormous homes or crappy little homes, but the kitchen is where we always end up sitting. It’s where the stories happen, the family happens.
Corcos: And the kids’ homework.

The recipes look so easy.
Corcos: In Season 1, the culinary team said my steak wasn’t a recipe. I turn on the fire and wait till the last minute to add a pinch of salt and pepper. It doesn’t say anywhere that a good piece of meat should be covered in sauce.

Do fewer ingredients mean lower grocery bills?
Corcos:  When there’s a bottle of wine on the table, it’s usually more expensive than the food for four.

Have you ever considered opening your own restaurant?
Corcos: I do not consider myself as a chef. I don’t need to wow you with my food.
Mazar: You wowed me.

In what ways do you complement each other on the show?
Mazar: I trust my husband to know what it is we’re cooking, and I know that I have comedy covered. I do have my off-days, which we all have, whether it’s because you didn’t get enough sleep or you had an argument about bills. We’re normal, so all those factors play in. But we’re also professional.

Do the recipes always go so smoothly?
Mazar: We made this incredible sauce that had been cooking for hours, and we had to blend it. I put it into a blender that wasn’t my normal blender, and I unscrewed it wrong. The bottom stayed on and the whole batch went all over the counter. You have to improvise, and we did.

What has changed over the course of three seasons?
Mazar: Our daughters’ tastes are changing. The way we cook is changing. We’ve burned out our family favorites. We have to come up with new favorites. It’s about us exploring as a family.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@washpost.com.

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