Donatella Arpaia, Katie Lee (and Brett Ratner?) Plot Cooking Shows

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Photo: Getty Images

Now writing for The New York Times Magazine, Frank Bruni profiles Katie Lee, and reveals that although the Food Network didn’t take a liking to a pilot she is said to have shopped them (food-world insiders say Lee’s style wasn’t “catchy” enough), she’s currently working with none other than Brett Ratner (yes, the director of the Rush Hour flicks) on a new show that might be set in the West Village townhouse she snagged after divorcing Billy Joel.

A few months ago I accompanied her to a meeting in Beverly Hills with the two young producers working directly on her pilot. Over peppermint tea on a patio outside the Four Seasons, they and Lee spitballed scenarios for the “Untitled Katie Lee Project.” They envisioned her inviting a small group of girlfriends over to her town house for a “spa night” of healthful eating and facials. They pictured Lee bolting to the home of an acquaintance who is less skillful in the kitchen than she, surreptitiously helping her cook, then dashing away before the acquaintance’s date arrives to a sumptuous meal.
One producer: “The ideas are endless.”

The other producer: “You’re like the girl next door, everybody’s friend. People relate to you.”

The producers said they should ideally show enough of Lee’s life at home so that she could put her stamp on a variety of products — like linens or clothes. “If you’re wearing a sweater, people will want to know what it is,” one of them said. “They should be able to go to a Web site.”

The other: “Yeah, because you’re very stylish.”

Cue Anthony Bourdain: “Just as teenage girls need nonthreatening teen idols, whether they sing or appear in vampire movies, America clearly needs likable people who appear in the kitchen.”

Lee isn’t the only one going after her own show. In a Diner’s Journal pointer to his story, Bruni floats a rumor about Donatella Arpaia, whose first cookbook is coming out: “I’ve heard whispers that Ms. Arpaia, who’s been a regular presence on ‘Iron Chef America’ and ‘The Next Iron Chef,’ will be sautéing for the cameras in the very near future. The cookbook will inform the show, and vice versa, the two commingling to craft a culinary persona.”

How to Cook Up a Food Celebrity [NYT]
The Stove as a Steppingstone [Diner’s Journal/NYT]