The hardest part of writing an article about Nadia G is that it’s pretty much impossible to find a way to describe her that hasn’t already been done to death: she’s feisty, she’s gorgeous, she’s funny, and she cooks in tight skirts and her trademark stilettos.
It’s all been said before, and if you’ve seen her crazy popular Cooking Channel show “Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen,” you already know anyway.
So instead of the usual descriptions of her appearance (those shoes!) her hilariously made-up Italian-sounding slang, or her bad-girl swagger, I will tell you this:
I want Nadia G for my friend.
I want to hang out with her at a dive bar somewhere in Hoboken where we can drink margaritas and maybe a couple of shots and flirt with the bartender and chair dance when some retro 80s tune comes on, and talk about guys and work and you know, just life, and then, because we are besties and not because I’m a journalist who is writing about her, she can tell me where she gets those awesome shoes.
“Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen” has become the Wednesday night staple in my house, a half-hour of happiness that lifts me past the mid-week slump and hurtles me toward the weekend when I can relax and spend a little quality time with her gigantic Hawaiian burger and Bourbon Vanilla Milkshake Shooter and then unbutton my pants and pat my tummy contentedly.
Nadia’s come a long way from the 2007 web series that launched her career. An early pioneer of online skit comedy, she decided along the way to incorporate food and the love of cooking she learned from her boisterous Italian family, particularly her grandmother. “Bitchin’ Kitchen” was born.
Today she has a bestselling cookbook to her credit and a popular Cooking Channel show now in its third season, but Nadia has stayed true to her beginnings. Her show, like the original web series, includes funny stories about her life, outfits that alternate between biker chick and 50s pin-up girl plus everything in between, and her quirky crew. There’s Panos, the henpecked Greek fish monger; the dark and swarthy Spice Agent; and Hans, the oiled-up and buff fitness guru who leads you through “Three Major Muscle Groups Targeted by Five Sets of Fifteen Reps.”
“What you see is what you get,” Nadia told me. “The Spice Agent is a neurotic fellow. That really is Panos’ wife. How much she yells at him off camera I can’t vouch for. But Hans doesn’t walk around shirtless all the time.”
Every week, the show has a different theme, like “Cheap & Chic,” “Lazy Day Dishes,” “Hitched & Ditched,” and “Geezer Grub.”
She tells me about “Childhood Favorites,” an episode where she gives an adult makeover to timeless kid favorites. Peanut butter and jelly becomes Cashew-Peanut Butter and Spicy Blackberry Jam. Fish sticks morph into Baccala Croquettes with Spicy Tartar Sauce. What starts out as the kind of food my babysitter used to make for me when my parents went out Nadia has turned into food that would have made them stay home altogether.
She jokes about her own childhood, growing up in St. Leonard, an Italian neighborhood in Montreal, Quebec.
“St. Leonard made me what I am today – bipolar,” she cracks, adding that most people think she’s from New York or New Jersey because of her accent that does, in fact, smack of the Eastern Seaboard dialect that dominates every comedy and Mafia movie ever made.
What fascinates me the most about Nadia is how she has done all of this herself. She might seem like an overnight sensation to food TV audiences who are long used to familiar faces like Rachael Ray, Paula Deen and the Barefoot Contessa, but believe me when I tell you she’s worked her leopard print-clad tushie off to get where she is. She has written and produced and directed and starred in her show from its early days. She won awards for Favorite Mobile Series and Hottest Emerging Digital Brand in Canada, and was nominated for Brand of the Year in 2009.
“I think we live in a time where everyone’s kind of become a brand,” she said. “Social media has given more people a chance to do that, so it’s important to have a voice in the media scape. I’ve always been a very loud voice, and I love expressing myself through singing or writing or shoes. I was able to kind of cultivate that, and people responded to it.”
They’ve also responded to the format she serves up on her show. She’s not formally trained as a chef, so that “anyone can do this” attitude is one that carries through.
“I think the biggest issue is that people are very intimidated when you tell them how easy something is to make,” she said. “That’s part of why Bitchin’ Kitchen is so successful - we break it down and make it easy to understand. It’s about getting past the fear of failure in the kitchen, about not just making a meal, but not being afraid to make a mess.”
Hey, that I can do. Thanks, Nadia. Now let’s go out for drinks and talk about those shoes…