Gabriele Corcos is not only a great cook, but also a great writer. The Florence born chef currently stars with his wife, Debi Mazar, in “Extra Virgin” on Cooking Channel. Throughout the show, the duo has given viewers a ringside seat into their inner circle—from running a farm in Tuscany to hosting dinner parties at their Brooklyn home. Haute Living sat down with Corcos and chatted about his unique cooking style, his must-have kitchen gadgets, and his ultimate dinner party guest list.
Tell us about your childhood.
I grew up on a farm, but as a kid I never realized the effect that it would have on my adult life. I always took part in the grape and olive harvest and spent my days off from school working in the cellar of the villa selling olive oil and hanging with the farmers. I have always been surrounded by fresh vegetables, old farmers’ wives cooking, and baking. And to a degree, it was playtime. I never knew anything different.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a cook?
I never wanted to become a cook! As a child I wanted to become a firefighter or cop, but life put me in the kitchen really early. My grandmother kept me by her side at the kitchen counter since I can remember, and my mother taught me how to feed my younger brother on Sunday mornings when she wanted to sleep in and not be bothered. At the age of six, I was alone in the kitchen early on a Sunday morning, and I figured I could bake a cake. I pulled out one of my mom’s books and whipped a marble cake. I stuck a price on it and served breakfast in bed to my parents. That became my allowance for the years to come! Eventually, my parents had me cook pizzas at their parties. For me it was just part of life and a lot of fun.
What are the essential kitchen utensils every young cook should have?
A couple of decent knifes, a couple of wooden spoons, mortar and pestle, and a few pots and pans. I believe that the money should be spent on food and good ingredients rather than on gadgets for your kitchen. As far as I am concerned, if I have good ingredients and fire then I can figure out how to cook a meal!
What would you cook for a romantic dinner with your lovely wife?
Oh, that’s tricky! I believe that being romantic means to fulfill the desire of the moment… at least when it comes to food. For us, even leftovers can be romantic as long as we have time to sit together at the table and enjoy the moment. Our best dates actually happen at lunch time when kids are in school. However, she kind of expects me to make her eggplant parmesan for her birthday—and I comply. That’s romantic.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
Any kind of pasta or Steak Fiorentina.
Describe your cooking style.
Simple, traditional, clean!
Tell us about your cookbook.
I had written a manuscript 10 years ago. After I left Italy—and when Debi told me she was pregnant with our first child—I started collecting recipes and stories from my farm and my family. At the time, no publisher expressed interested in it. When YouTube was launched, Debi and I decided to start filming ourselves and come out with our own cooking videos. It was a success from the start, and after a couple of years, we were offered a TV show on Cooking Channel. Our new cookbook tells the whole story. It opens the door into our house/farm/kitchen and shows readers “the Tuscan way” as we interpret it while living between NYC and Florence.
What can viewers expect this season on your show?
As always, we shot episodes in Brooklyn and Italy. We do have some amazing guests this year like Zac Posen. We cooked at The James Beard House and we built a new pizza oven in Tuscany! Many episodes this year have been shot at our farm, as we dream one day of moving there. It is important to always show the “Green Acres” aspect of living in the country while at the same time being city people.
Who would you invite to an ideal dinner party?
Oy, that’s a tough one! Unfortunately, most of the people I would have loved to meet would require me to travel back in time. My ideal dinner table would sit Leonardo Da Vinci, Marco Aurelio, Ayrton Senna, Valentino Rossi, Marilyn Monroe, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Julius Verne, Pablo Picasso, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and my wife.