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Valerie Bertinelli Dishes on Foodie Movie Night and Her Lemon Tribe

Celebrated actor and Food Network host Valerie Bertinelli is once again participating in the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF). Bertinelli has been featured in the annual food event for the past five years, which coincides with the debut of her Food Network series, Valerie’s Home Cooking.

In addition to leading a culinary demonstration at the Grand Tasting Village, Bertinelli will host an all-new event during this year’s festival. Foodie Movie Night in the Park, sponsored in part by the Miami Film Festival, is a family-friendly evening that blends the worlds of food and film. Who better to host than a woman who has a history in both realms?

“There’ll be food, there’ll be drinks, and it’ll just be a lot of fun for everybody,” Bertinelli says of the event. The film selected to screen is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The actress confesses it’s been a while since she’s seen it, but she describes the 2009 film as “a fun, magical food movie.”

Guests will also have the opportunity to mingle with Bertinelli. “I’ll talk a little bit, do a meet-and-greet, walk around, and I'll watch the movie with everybody,” she says. “I'll be there to just have a good time.”

The Italian cook and Delaware native says her favorite part of the annual food festival is meeting the people who participate and attend. “I love running into the chefs and people I know, but I’m most looking forward to meeting everyone who comes out for the events.”

Fans will recognize Bertinelli from her time as a sitcom TV actor. She starred in the original 1975 comedy One Day at a Time as Barbara Cooper and on CBS’s Hot in Cleveland for the show’s full six seasons from 2010 to 2015. It was around the time she was wrapping up work on Hot in Cleveland when she decided to switch things up in her career. “I’ve been cooking longer than I’ve been acting,” she admits. “We were a very food-centric Italian family growing up.”

She published her first cookbook, the cleverly titled One Dish at a Time, and had an idea. “I called up Food Network and pitched them an idea about a cooking show where I would travel through Italy to discover new recipes and talk about my Italian ancestry,” Bertinelli says. “They weren’t interested in that.”

The network was, however, interested in Bertinelli. They passed on her initial concept but offered her an in-the-kitchen-style afternoon show. She notes other famous food women got their start with a 30-minute program on Food Network, including Rachael Ray, Ree Drummond (also known as the Pioneer Woman), and Trisha Yearwood.

“I said of course and jumped at the opportunity!” says Bertinelli, who will soon begin filming the 11th season of Valerie’s Home Cooking.

She's whittling down the recipes for this next season, which is scheduled to begin production at the end of February. She’ll go straight from South Beach to a television set.

Bertinelli finds inspiration for her recipes in the simplest, most relatable way possible: by eating. “When I go out to eat at restaurants or friends’ houses, I’m always looking for any meal that sparks my interest,” she says. She’ll let the tastes linger on her palate before getting creative by adding or subtracting ingredients to make a new dish. “I take what I can from the initial flavors that I love and turn it into something new that’s easy to make at home.”

As the title of her show implies, in each episode, Bertinelli invites people into her home and cooks for them. “I always try to come up with simple recipes because I want people’s lives to be easier in the kitchen,” she says. “I want my life to be easier in the kitchen too. I want a really great meal with minimal mess and cleanup.”

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Bertinelli’s favorite ingredient is not something traditionally Italian, like cheese or olive oil, but rather something round and bright. “I love lemons!” she cries. “I love their versatility and how you can use them for savory as well as sweet dishes. I just think they're the most versatile fruit we have — and they kept me from being nauseous when I was pregnant,” she adds with a laugh.

As an homage to her favorite fruit, the chef refers to her loyal followers as the “lemon tribe.” Bertinelli shares she receives hundreds of direct messages with images of lemons from followers on social media. “Anytime they run into a lemon, they think of me,” she says of her fans. “It just makes me so happy, so I thought that together we could all be a lemon tribe. That’s where the term came from.”

Bertinelli’s lemon tribe can catch her Saturday, February 22, at the Foodie Movie Night in the Park, and during Sunday’s Grand Tasting Village on February 23.

Valerie Bertinelli hosts Foodie Movie Night in the Park. 7 p.m. Saturday, February 22, in Peter Bluesten Park, 501 SE First Ave., Hallandale Beach. Tickets cost $25 via sobewff.org.

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