When actress Tiffani Thiessen was growing up in Long Beach, California, she says she was enamored of the daily activity in the family kitchen. It sparked a lifelong love of cooking which continues today on her show “Dinner at Tiffani’s,” airing Sundays at 8:00 p.m. on the Cooking Channel. The program’s third season premiered last week.
In a phone interview, Thiessen told me she remembers “peering around the corner of the kitchen, watching my mother and my grandmother. I wanted to be cooking with them.”
Later, as a teen cast member on “Saved By The Bell,” Thiessen was exposed to a new world of culinary possibilities when she traveled through Europe. “That was an eye-opener in terms of learning about other cultures and other types of food,” she said.
On “Dinner At Tiffani’s,” Thiessen hosts and prepares a dinner featuring a guest lineup of celebrity friends.
Previous guests have included many of Thiessen’s former TV castmates from multiple shows - including most of the “Saved By The Bell” cast.
“We’ve had Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who also joined me for my recent Christmas special, Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, most of my castmates from (USA Network’s) “White Collar” have been guests. Bill Bellamy from (Fox’s) “Fastlane,” Lance Bass, Jason Priestly, Seth Green – a lot of wonderful people,” Thiessen said.
While Thiessen insists that she is not a trained professional chef, she said she has learned much about the culinary arts through her association with the Cooking Channel and Food Network as well as her personal experiences in at home.
“If I were to prepare my favorite simple dish, it would probably be a really good roasted chicken,” she told me. “You can’t go wrong with it and I love what you can do with the leftovers. It’s so versatile.”
What about a favorite elaborate dish?
“Oh boy,” she responded. “I think anytime you prepare a meal for 20 or more people, it’s an elaborate dish. It doesn’t matter how easy or difficult the dish is.”
Thiessen went on to say that her holiday season is usually filled with constant kitchen activity, but that her most recent holidays were quite different.
“Mommy got a break this year,” she said with a laugh. “I took it very easy during the holidays. For Thanksgiving, my family and I went to Hawaii and for Christmas, we stayed with my in-laws in Texas.”
(Thiessen is married to actor Brady Smith (“White Collar,” “ER,” “Jag”) The couple have a 6-year old daughter and 1-year old son.)
As a member of the Cooking Channel/Food Network family, Thiessen says she has met most of the celebrity chefs associated with those channels.
“People like Bobby Flay, and really everyone else, have just been wonderful and welcoming to me,” she said.
Of all of the well-known celebrity chefs, who would make Thiessen nervous if they were to visit her home to experience a meal that she created?
“I could name about 10 chefs who would make me nervous,” she responds. “I met Martha Stewart a couple of years ago. I went to her house and I was so nervous because she is the ultimate for me. She could not have been lovelier. Martha is one of those women who can do it all. She has mastered all aspects of entertaining and that’s my thing.”
“Dinner at Tiffani’s” continues Jan. 15 at 8:00 p.m. on the Cooking Channel; this week’s episode is titled “A Mediterranean Feast.”