'Twas the night before Christmas, and if you weren't at the house, you were probably at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek's Sweet Dreams event schmoozing with Art Ginsburg. Wait--you don't know who that is? Yeah, we bet you do. He started out as a butcher then a caterer with a flair for theatre, only to become known as Mr. Food for about three decades as one of America's first food personalities with a television cooking show. (Which, by the way, continues to be syndicated and is enjoyed by up to six million viewers a day.) Mr. Food has also written more than 50 cookbooks, the latest of which is Mr. Food TV Favorites, and trademarked the sound bite, "Ooh it's so good!!" But he's not quite finished making his mark. "I want to keep doing what I'm doing for many more years," he wrote in an e-mail. "I'm so lucky because I love what I do. And when you love what you do, you never really 'go to work.'"
But not every day goes smoothly in Mr. Food's kitchen, we're told. Especially when he has a pancake- and pudding-eating apron to contend with:
New Times: What was your most embarrassing cooking-related moment?
Art Ginsburg: I had to invert a noodle pudding onto a serving plate on camera. I guess I underestimated how slippery it would be, so let's just say that my apron ate the pudding!
NT: And what utensil or technique have you still not mastered?
AG: Flipping items, like pancakes out of a skillet. My apron eats a lot of those, too.
NT: What food item or recipe still confounds you?
AG: I've eaten some of the best Caesar salads in the world. I know all the ingredients but I have yet to make one that tastes as authentic as the salads some of the real pros make.
NT: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served?
AG: I can't decide between tomatoes and potatoes. It's a tie! I would like to be a tomato eaten fresh off the vine or a potato cooked into a brown and crispy home fry.
NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?
AG: Hands down, it would be Julia Child and I'd make something amazingly simple - either an omelet or one of my famous tomato sandwiches with fresh country-style bread; thick slices of red, ripe local tomatoes; a crisp leaf of romaine; salt; pepper and lots of mayo.
NT: What's your favorite food-/cooking-related joke?
AG: It's not a joke. It's just a simple saying that I use all the time when I talk about food moderation: "One piece of cake has half the calories of two pieces of cake."
NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?
AG: I still get pumped up when I listen to "Food, Glorious Food" from the show and movie Oliver.
NT: What is the biggest mistake most cooks make?
AG: Trying to be an artist with food. Making it look fancy doesn't work if the taste isn't there.
NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who...?
AG: ...has too big of an ego.
NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?
AG: A professional golfer. Of course, the way I play, I'd starve to death!