Apr 25, 2014

Back Home With The Neelys {Q&A With Pat and Gina}

Pat and Gina Neely became what must feel like Food Network stars overnight.  They had no idea they would be on TV, yet alone have their own Food Network Show.   They are committed to keeping their values and actually prefer that you do not refer to them as celebrities. They consider themselves "real" people. Admittedly, with more money now. Gina will be the first to tell you that she does not consider herself a celebrity. However so humble they might be, it is hard to argue with the fact that they are indeed famous and viewed by millions.

Ironically, as I am writing this post, I am watching them as guests on the Arsenio Hall Show making their WTF Burger that is made with shallots to keep it moist and topped with pepper jack and white cheddar. As if this was not enough, 4 strips of bacon and a handful of pulled pork is piled on.  To top it off, their homemade BBQ sauce seals the sandwich between two slices of brioche with lettuce, tomato and red onion.  This monster burger is one that will challenge your ability to take that first big bite.

I recently met both Pat and Gina at a book tour for their latest cookbook, Back Home With The Neelys.  They are warm and inviting and make you feel like you are a part of the family from the moment you meet them.  It was as if I was hanging with family from back home. I laughed from the time I sampled bites along side them, during the Q&A Session, and chatting it up with them while snagging a photo (or two or three) and getting an autographed copy of their cookbook.

I am literally telling Gina at this moment to "act right and stop tripping so we can take this picture". I kid you not when I tell you I was laughing most of the night with these two.

If you are wondering whether the chemistry you see on TV is real, from what I was able to gather from meeting them it appears to be real.  After asking them how they are able to work so well together in the kitchen, they shared that their secret is to know thy role.  In case you have not noticed on the show, Gina takes the lead in the kitchen, while Pat chops the onions and asks, "Sweetie, how may I help you?" Conversely, Pat takes the lead on the grill. Gina is passionate about the fact that she does not grill.  She is not trying to get smoke in her hair.  I found myself shaking my head and saying, AMEN.

When asked, " How do you handle arguments that occur just before airtime or when you are about to go on stage", Gina quickly responds , " You come out and do your damn job".  Pat follows up and adds that they do not stay mad at each other for long.  Working together in the restaurant industry for over 20 years has taught them a lot about how to communicate with one another and regardless of what is going on they know how to get the job done.  Pat shared that even if Gina was mad at him while working at the restaurant, she would clearly express herself to him and then turn right around and greet the next guest with a smile. Always remaining professional. They made a commitment to one another that it may not always be easy, but they are going to make it.

When asked if they felt any pressure to include recipes in their latest cookbook that follow the latest food trends, Gina spoke about her experimentation with Kale.  She admits that she always thought of Kale as a garnish, but has now come to love it.  There are 3 recipes in the cookbook that use this trending ingredient: Kale Salad with Chopped Almonds, Feta, and Champagne Vinaigrette, Lemony Chicken and Kale Soup, and Halibut with Kale and Mushrooms. Pat also shared his first experience with eating kale.  When Gina presented it to him, he responded, " Kale, What The Hell?".

In case you have not picked up on it yet. What you see is what you get with the two of them. They told me personally, that after being together for 35 years, it is best to be who God made you.

The Neelys are passionate about Family, Love, and Food.  Their motto is to relax and keep it simple in the kitchen. Do you (i.e. be yourself) and keep love alive.  Life is too short to live with regrets. Release those grudges and invite the family back to the table for a good old southern home cooked meal.

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