Valerie Bertinelli burst onto the scene back in 1975 as good girl Barbara Cooper on the CBS sitcom One Day At A Time. Flash forward, and Valerie is now a Golden Globe winning actress, an Emmy Award winning host, a New York Times best-selling author, and a darn good cook. Valerie and I caught up about her two Food Network shows, the lasting friendships she made on Hot in Cleveland, and she shared some amazing summer vegetable recipes to try out before the fall sneaks up on us!
Katie Couric: You’re hosting a new season of Kids Baking Championship on Food Network. Do you think any of the kids on the show could teach you a thing or two?
Valerie Bertinelli: I am constantly learning new things from them! When they started the show I didn’t even know what pâte à choux was. And these kids are making this amazing dough, and I was like whaaaat is thiiiiis? Of course the first time I made pâte à choux I curdled it, but that’s beside the point. I learn a lot from these kids. It’s a lot of fun to watch them. Some of them seem to be amazing cooking prodigies, but others are like, “I just like this! It’s a passion of mine! Oh and I also do gymnastics and play soccer!” They just love baking at the end of the day. It’s a release for them when they come home… like it is for a lot of us. Bake something, everyone! You’ll feel better!
Katie: One of the other shows you’re working on right now is Family Restaurant Rivals, in which three families face off to win a grand prize. If you and your family were to compete on the show, how do you think you’d stack up?
Valerie: We would definitely not stack up! First of all, I don’t work well under a time crunch, which is why I’ve never done a food competition show. I’m happy to judge, but when I’m up against a clock I just can’t! But there are a lot of good cooks in my family. My brother and sister-in-law on both sides — my husband (Tom Vitale)’s brother and his wife, and my brother and his wife, are really good and they cook a lot. But these families that come on the show, they all run restaurants, so they really know what they’re doing. To watch these families work together in the kitchen… sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s sweet… sometimes I feel like I need to say, woah! Guys! Remember you have to go home together! Be nice! It’s tense sometimes, but you can also see how much they love each other.
Katie: It’s been a little over four years since Hot in Cleveland ended, and we all miss the amazing chemistry between you, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and of course, Betty White. Do you keep in touch with Betty White and your costars?
Valerie: We do! We text each other all the time. We’re all trying to get together for a lunch date soon. Betty sent me the sweetest video after I won two Emmys in May, and it just made me cry. It was the sweetest thing in the world. And in response I take videos of me and my cats and send them to Betty. She loves my cats!
Katie: Despite all of your many accolades (Golden Globe winner! Emmy winner! New York Times best-selling author!), your most important role is in your Instagram name, WolfiesMom. How did you feel when you found out he was going to be walking in his dad Eddie Van Halen’s footsteps and become a musician?
Valerie: Well at first I was very scared. The music world is… oh gosh. It’s a scary world. So I was concerned. But he’s got a really good head on his shoulders, and he’s so ridiculously talented, that of course he has to share that. I can’t wait for his record to come out next year. I can’t wait for people to hear what he’s doing. I’m a proud mom, to put it simply. I want to scream from the rooftops how talented he is. Sometimes when he’s rehearsing I sneak by to watch. He’s going to get so mad at me that I’m talking about him, but I’m just so proud of him!
Katie: I can’t let you go without asking you about some recipes! I’m on a bit of a sandwich kick these days… the other day I wrote in a GrubStreet food diary about my sandwich obsession, which is tomatoes with mayo. Do you have a favorite sandwich?
Valerie: That sounds delicious! I love mayo. And tomatoes when they’re ripe… amazing. For me, it varies. My favorite sandwich when I was pregnant with Wolfie, which was a long time ago, but I still love it. It was turkey and roast beef with muenster cheese and mayo on rye. I just loved that sandwich. I haven’t had it in a very long time, because I probably had them three times a week when I was pregnant with Wolfie.
Katie: As the summer winds down, I have found myself with an overflow of summer squash in my garden and I need to get rid of it! Do you have any suggestions for what I should make?
Valerie: Absolutely! I have a delicious end of summer vegetable gratin recipe that’s super easy, and will use up some of those eggplants you’ve been growing, too. I’ve also got a darn good ratatouille and romaine salad for any squash you’ve got left over when you’re done with that gratin!
Katie: Thank you so much Valerie! You can catch Kids Baking Championship Mondays and Family Restaurant Rivals Saturdays on Food Network, and for more amazing recipes from Valerie be sure to visit ValerieBertinelli.com
This interview appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.