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Food Network serves up Boitano

Olympic champ's What Would Brian Boitano Make? debuts August 23

Brian Boitano will trade in his skates for an apron in the upcoming Food Network series <i>What Would Brian Boitano Make?</i>
Brian Boitano will trade in his skates for an apron in the upcoming Food Network series What Would Brian Boitano Make? (courtesy of Food Network)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/14/2009) - Most expert cooks would cringe at camera crews setting up shop in their own kitchens, but Brian Boitano is thrilled.

"The guys are great; they always cover the walls and furniture," he said. "This whole thing has been amazing. I've had two dream jobs in my life now, for both of my passions: skating and food."

The 1988 Olympic and two-time world champion, who has been showing off his eponymous 'Tano Lutz (the jump with one arm overhead) for more than two decades, now invites cooks, skating fans and anyone looking for creative new recipes into his San Francisco kitchen for Food Network's What Would Brian Boitano Make?

The show, whose title mirrors the South Park anthem long embraced by the skater, premiers Sunday, August 23 at 1 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network. According to Bob Tuschman, Senior Vice President of Food Network programming and production, it arrived as an unexpected gift.

"A producer came to us with a DVD of a pilot and didn't say who it featured," Tuschman said. "We popped it in, started playing it and surprise -- it's Brian Boitano. We were bowled over. He was so engaging and such an incredible cook.

"Brian has been passionate about food for over 20 years and it really shows. He has really creative recipe ideas. No matter how well you think you know Brian Boitano, you will be surprised how off-the-wall, uninhibited and funny he is."

Typically, said Tuschman, Food Network produces four to six episodes of new shows, gauges audience reaction and determines next steps. But regardless of his new endeavor's future, Boitano isn't planning to hang up his skates just yet.

"I'm skating in some [made-for-TV] shows for Disson Skating, three for sure and maybe four," he said. "I'm doing the Smokey Robinson Tribute show (airing Nov. 22), the holiday show (airing Nov. 29) and my own show, with the band Chicago (airing Jan. 1). I may be doing another show, we don't know yet." Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi are also slated to co-host Disson Skating's Improv Ice, which airs on Christmas Day.

Icenetwork.com asked Brian how his love for cooking got started, how he creates his recipes, and what happened when he met up with a female roller-derby squad.

icenetwork.com: How did this show happen?

Brian Boitano: My friend [skating choreographer] Lea Ann Miller's husband, Jeff Kay, directs shows for Food Network. I told him I had an idea for a show, a combination of cooking and skating. He said, "Let's talk to the producers." We had a meeting, and they said, "Great, how about we take out the skating and concentrate on the cooking?" That was a new one on me; I said great. We shot a pilot, and Food Network liked it.

IN: What was the pilot about?

BB: Another friend, [former skater] Yvonne Gomez, had a baby about six months ago, and I wanted to do a celebration for her. Her mom is a great cook, so we went to her house where she made a paella. I broke down the recipe and created my own dishes.

That pilot didn't go to waste. "We took the show, re-shot some footage, and added to it," Tushman said. "Brian gets ideas for some appetizers, based around the paella. Most of the food he does on the show is for entertaining, wonderful party food geared to pure enjoyment."

IN: How is each episode constructed?

BB: In the beginning of each show, I meet up with friends or other people I know, and that inspires an event and recipes I do for that event. I've come up with all kinds of storylines, 25 or more. Whenever I meet someone, it's a potential subject. They'll say, "I make Chinese food; do you?" And I'll think, "Yeah, I have a great Chinese dish." My mind starts working.

I met some roller-derby girls, and they were having "bacontinis." I asked, "Bacon in your martini, what's up with that?" And they just said, "We love bacon." So I asked what they would like to eat if they came over to my house for dinner. They all said bacon, so I made some bacon corn muffins and a few other things.

IN: How did you get started creating your own recipes?

BB: As soon as the [1988] Calgary Olympics were over, when I was home from tour, I had a group of six or seven friends, and we would meet almost every night for dinner. If we weren't out trying new restaurants, we were at my house sharing recipes and making some great food. Maybe that was because there were so many things I couldn't eat when I was training for the Olympics. I was on a strict diet.

IN: Before Calgary, during one of your "up-close-and-personal" interviews, you talked about how you wanted to start your own restaurant some day.

BB: I never did do that, but it's my number-one asked question. It's amazing how well that interview is remembered. I've never had the time. I didn't know my skating career would last 20 years. I thought I would be looking for something else to do.

IN: As much as you love to eat, you don't seem to have a weight problem.

BB: Skating keeps my weight down. I don't know what will happen if I ever give up skating. There's nothing like running through a program; the weight just peels off.

IN: Is there a cookbook in your future?

BB: It's certainly a possibility, but I would not do it unless there was a demand for it. Right now, I'm just so appreciative of the opportunity I have with this show.