Celebrity chef Tyler Florence stops abruptly and backtracks down the hall to where Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi sits in a director's chair, resting her feet. Radiantly pregnant, she wears a knit dress by her London designer chum, Alice Temperley. "You did great today. You're a natural," he says before heading down to Studio D to prep for his own show at noon. On Friday, HSN threw its second 24-hour "HSN Cooks" holiday celebration, drawing celebrity chefs with their product lines from all over the country.
"My first question was, 'Who's going to be there?' " says Food Network's Duff Goldman, star of Ace of Cakes, back at HSN for the second time to promote a line of Fat Daddio's professional-grade cake and baking pans. Television's crowd of celebrity chefs doesn't get to hang out as much as he'd like, and a visit to HSN is a reunion of sorts, as Goldman says, "like a special secret Food Network club."
It was an all-star lineup, elder statesmen Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse sharing the hot lights with relative newcomers like Food Network's Simply Delicioso star Ingrid Hoffmann, a Miami cookbook author and Latin American cuisine expert.
The retail giant's interest in chefs and their products has coincided with the public's infatuation with "chefs as rock stars," says Sandy Conrad, senior vice president of merchandising at HSN. For Goldman, Hoffmann and Lakshmi, HSN is new territory. Each first-timer is invited for camera training, given advice on wardrobe and a kitchen set is designed to their specifications, wheeled in and out of one of the seven sound stages.
"My kitchen here looks exactly like my kitchen at home," says Lakshmi. The tomato-red cabinets and a generous island give the set warmth and a touch of the exotic. It's a fitting place to promote her new line of Easy Exotic spices, teas and accessories.
"This has been five years in the making," she says as the camera zooms for a closeup of her deftly moving hands, one arm crowded with gold bangles. "I've always loved different nationalities' food and wanted to bring them into my own kitchen. So at home I made spice blends."
The fruits of Lakshmi's on-camera efforts, a white bean and sage stew, are spooned up with gusto by longtime HSN host Shivan Sarna. Sarna and Lakshmi have been paired up carefully, a similar aesthetic creating the illusion of two girlfriends chatting in the kitchen.
Not so with Goldman. HSN host Marlo Smith — in such wickedly high heels that her travel from one sound stage to another is expedited by wheelchair — is a marked contrast to the country's reigning cake master.
Baseball hat backward and jeans so shredded they look like a mountain lion got them, Goldman stands around after his show is over showing the crew cell phone pictures of a life-size motorcycle groomsman cake he made recently for the CEO of Go Daddy. The cake is complete with smoke machine, blinkers and an ignition key that triggers the sound of a Ducati's engine.
Razzed about his pants, he looks down at them.
"Oprah gave me a hard time about them, too. These are my good jeans. They're European."
Laura Reiley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293.