How Ayesha Curry Takes The Struggle Out Of Cooking Dinner

Photo: Courtesy of Food Network.
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This story was originally published on April 27, 2017.
In the scheme of celebrity spokespersondom, the biggest challenge seems to be blending authenticity — one’s actual lifestyle, personality, or brand — with a literal brand, and not have it stink of sellout. In no arena is this more painfully clear than that of the entrepreneurial celebrity mom. Somehow, Ayesha Curry has found the sweet spot.
The sweetheart wife of the sweetheart basketball player (that's buzzer-beating meme-machine Stephen Curry) hosts a Food Network show. She just launched Homemade, a meal kit service designed for families (or adults who like coloring books with their dinner). She’s repping the Cheeky brand’s new foray into children’s dishware, as well as mangoes (literally, the fruit). She also has a cookbook full of family recipes, some of which her Homemade subscribers will get to try.
She rolled all of these sundry pursuits into one event on a rainy New York evening this week — and it worked. Curry was nothing but the industrious mom just trying to get dinner on the table: "Mangoes add some sweetness to your chimichurri! It’s in my book! And look at these cute plates! They also support No Kid Hungry!" At the end, I not only wanted to buy her book, and her outfit, but I wanted to subscribe to the meal kit and generally replicate every single aspect of her life. She cracked the code. I was a food-lebrity cynic no more.
Making her pure-and-earnest (while being paid) persona all the more impressive is how much it's centered around cooking — something we can all agree is a huge pain, and which makes life way harder than necessary. Right? The Curry family can obviously afford a full-time chef should they choose to employ one, so Ayesha's practically a saint for even bothering once in awhile, much less making it such an integral part of their life. She tells me she aims to cook a functional meal for her family once a week, that they certainly eat their fair share of takeout, and I’m elated. I’m already well on my way to being Ayesha Curry (no, I’m not).
But this may help me get there: I chatted with Curry about her top-line tips for how she takes the struggle out of dinner, and the many jobs she’s balancing while doing it.
Getting dinner together is so hard. How do you make it less of a constant struggle?
“Dinnertime is freaking hard — it’s so hard. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but planning: literally writing down what you’re gonna eat, and then prepping things on a Sunday, or whenever, really helps.
“I usually do it on a Sunday; it’s probably chicken scratch on the back of a receipt or something, or on my iPhone, I’m fine with that, but I’ll just take a look at what’s going on that day in our house and choose, okay, today we’ll have chicken; this night we’ll have pasta; that night we’re gonna have pork chops; this night we’re gonna have steak, and the next night we’re gonna do fish. And I’ll go to the grocery store just to pick up the base ingredients. Having a well-stocked pantry is important, so you’re not always having to buy things. So, I’ll do a rice, or if I’m doing pasta it’s some sort of noodle that came out of my pantry, and all I have to make is the sauce. That’s really how you have to plan.”
Tell me what you always have in your pantry, so if I were to give you a plain chicken breast, you could make a meal out of it.
“I always have canned San Marzano tomatoes, whole; they’re just more flavorful that way, and I’ll crush them up myself. I always keep sweet corn in my freezer; I don’t do the canned stuff because it’s full of sodium. Frozen vegetables are actually amazing, because they’re picked at the peak of freshness and then frozen, so it’s the better route to go. I always keep stuff like that on-hand. I have rice stocked in bulk, I have cornmeal in bulk, flour and sugar. Things like soy sauce, mirin, honey, tomato paste, dijon mustard, so you can throw together, like, a fresh quick chicken breast and do a yummy little tomato salsa on top. Throw some rice in the rice cooker and you’re done. So that’s what I do on those nights where I don’t want to go anywhere and I just want to use what I’ve got.”
Photo: Courtesy of Food Network.
Summer is around the corner, and all that great produce. I always feel like you need a secret-weapon salad dressing that you can make in a pinch. Do you have one?
“Oh yes. You do...One thing I came up with is using avocados, and I’ll blend them with oil, rice wine vinegar, a little serrano pepper, honey, a little shallot and you can bulk it and store it — it stores for like two or three days, and you blend everything together until it’s smooth. It’s one of those dump-and-stir recipes, and you get this smooth, green-goddess-y kind of dressing that's creamy without the cream and super-flavorful.”
How do you deal with your girls while you’re trying to get dinner on the table?
“Involving them in my cooking is how I get the meal done. It’s the only way I can finish the meal. My older daughter loves it. My sister got her one of those kid-safe knives, so she loves chopping up the bell peppers or the carrots, and I don’t have to worry. It instills a sense of accomplishment with her, and she feels excited and happy that she’s able to cook with mom, like she has a responsibility. I think that’s special, putting that into your kids at a young age. And there are studies that show kids are more apt to try whatever it is they’ve made with you, so that’s how I’ve gotten her to eat, by cooking with her; 99% of the time it has worked.”
For me, the biggest challenge with dinner is just figuring out what to cook. Do you have that problem?
“Of course! That was the driving force behind starting the meal kits. There are those days, you’re just so busy and the last thing you want to do is have to go to the grocery store, come home, measure, cook, so Homemade makes that easy. Realistically, my family and I, we get takeout a couple nights a week, but I want to be make sure that I’m cooking a great dinner for my kids at least one night a week. It’s really simplified it for me. I’ve been testing the boxes for a while, and it’s a great day when it shows up, because it’s one less thing I have to worry about.”
You’re in New York right now, but generally, what’s it like in your house during the playoffs?
“You know what? It’s strangely normal. More normal than it is during the season, I’d say. I think everybody just tries to lay low. I’m done [traveling] for a little while, so I can go to the games and cheer him on, and cook dinner every night. But, I think the coolest thing is Steph remains normal. He’s not jazzed or acting crazy, he’s not high-strung. He tries to remain even-keeled. I think we help him do that, but I also think it’s really special that he’s able to do that, so we don’t have to deal with the high stress that the playoffs bring.”
You're also supporting No Kid Hungry. As a mom, what connects you to that?
"Especially as a mom with little ones, that's a cause near and dear to my heart. I had been working with them for years, before anybody even knew who I was. And now with my partnership with Cheeky; every package you buy, they donate a meal through No Kid Hungry. The facts are astonishing: It’s 1 in 6 children go to school hungry. By providing meals to everyone, whether kids need it or not, No Kid Hungry is eliminating the stigma and the shame. I’m just happy to be able to lend a voice and make a difference in childhood hunger. It’s happening in our backyard, which I think is so sad."
How do you bring that lesson home to your children, who luckily will not face that?
"I feel like just speaking to them like they’re an adult but finding a fun way to get the message across is the perfect way to teach them. When they’re older maybe I can bring them on a school visit with me, so they can see what’s going on, but hopefully we’ll have solved childhood hunger in America by then!"
Season 2 of Ayesha's Home Kitchen premiers on Food Network Sunday, April 30 at 12:30 p.m. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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