Katie Lee loves to cook.
She loves to entertain. If you see her on either of her TV shows—she is co-host of the Food Network’s The Kitchen and host of The Cooking Channel’s Beach Bites—or actually visit her Hamptons kitchen, you’ll be convinced that you are best friends. The down-to-earth West Virginia native is known for her southern charm and relaxed, laid-back entertaining style—both of which are infectious. Lee’s love of the season shines through the re-issue
of her Endless Summer Cookbook. “If someone is new to entertaining, summer is a great time to get started because it can be so much more casual,” she says. The most important component? A grill, says Lee: “Doesn’t the smell of the grill just instantly make
you think of summer?” Here, the culinary personality talks about her love of sweatpants,
preventing pre-party panic, and how she stays fit while eating food for a living.
Growing Up With a Love of Food
We were the type of family that the dinner conversation was always about the next meal. My grandma was my babysitter and she made the best food that I’ve ever had in my life. I started cooking with her when I was 4 years old by making biscuits. I love food and can’t believe I get to have my passion be my career! I always pinch myself because I feel so lucky that someone is paying me to do this.
Behind the Scenes of ‘The Kitchen’
The Kitchen is an ensemble show and we all bring something different to the table. The show is really about having fun while being in the kitchen. The producers took a long time figuring out the right group (our audition process was over a year) because they wanted to be sure we had good chemistry. And we do!
On the Road With ‘Beach Bites’
Beach Bites is a travel show where I get to go to different beach towns and eat. It’s pretty much the best gig on the planet. We have a small crew—there are only nine of us—and now that we’ve worked together for three seasons we feel like a family unit. It’s like we’re on vacation together but making a TV show at the same time.
Discovering the USA
In season three of Beach Bites we focused on U.S. destinations. You always think you have to go somewhere really exotic to have this fantasy vacation but I’ve learned that is not necessarily the case. I went to the coast of Mississippi and Alabama and islands off Georgia and South Carolina and I loved it.
Learning From Locals
In the Bahamas, a local woman was grilling whole fish on the beach. She chopped hot
peppers into sea salt and then rubbed it right on the fish. I have since tried that at home and it’s such a simple thing to do but it makes the biggest difference.
The greatest food country in the world is Italy. I love pasta and would eat Italian food all day, every day, and not miss anything else. I actually did the 23 and Me genetic test and prayed that it would show that I was really Italian. But I’m not.
Preventing Party Panic
Don’t get carried away with making it fancy. I try to make summer dinner parties as laid back as possible. The etiquette police aren’t coming to my house. If someone is new to entertaining then summer is a great time to get started because things are so much more casual.
Keeping Food Simple and Fresh
I love fresh seafood whenever I’m near the coast. I’m really into different vegetable salads in the summertime because you don’t need to do much to them. I love corn on the cob with an herb butter or a great tomato salad served as simply as possible.
Having a Signature Hors D’Oeuvre
I always have deviled eggs ready for my guests and they’ve come to expect them. It’s my West Virginia roots coming out and it’s not a party at my house without them!
Rosé is More Fun Coming out of a Keg
Lieb Cellars in the North Fork is a local vineyard that sells a rosé keg. It contains about 28 bottles of rosé and it just makes it more fun to have rosé coming out of a keg! I have a Kegerator and that keeps it cold and helps it last forever.
The chef Bobby Flay is a good friend and mentor. He has a house in Amagansett and we cook together in the Hamptons quite a bit. I call on him whether it’s for food, career or personal advice. I’ve always really admired Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, but I was so nervous when I cooked for her! I have a pizza oven and invited her over to make pizzas. When I put my first pizza in the oven it stuck to the spatula. Ina put hers in and it was perfect. I kept expecting her to turn around and say “How easy was that?”
For the Love of Sweatpants
I love sweatpants more than anything on the planet. I would wear an elastic waistband everywhere if it were socially acceptable. I am such a homebody. I want to be comfortable at all times and the older I get the less I want to go out and do things.
I am on the board of the Food Bank for New York City and feel passionately about the organization. In my job we make, eat and talk about food constantly yet so many people in New York City are food insecure and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. I’m also involved with 96 Elephants, which is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Surprisingly, NYC has the highest rate of ivory sales outside of China. We worked with Governor Cuomo and passed a bill to get ivory sales banned in New York. It was exciting because that set a precedent for other states to follow.
I have a new digital series coming out called Katie Lee Eats Meat, in Sweats. The idea came from my Instagram stories where I would grill meat in sweatpants. People liked it so much that now the Food Network is doing a series.
New York City
EAT Emilio’s Ballato on East Houston Street. It’s my favorite red sauce Italian joint.
DRINK The Carlyle bar (above) has the best cocktails and atmosphere.
SHOP Hirshleifer’s in Manhasset, NY. It’s a smaller, well-edited department store.
EAT Gjelina is so good. They are so creative with their vegetable dishes and their pizzas.
DRINK Soho House in Malibu. I’m a sucker for sunsets and my favorite cocktail there is a margarita.
SHOP Elyse Walker has the best California-cool clothing. I always find the best ‘easy’ items that I wear over and over. I do my shopping, then go across the street to Café Vida for a big salad.
EAT The Beacon in Sag Harbor has amazing sunsets.
DRINK The bar at Topping Rose in Bridgehampton.
SHOP The Green Thumb for vegetables.
What’s in Her Beach Bag?
Pro Kadima paddles
Sunglasses and hat
Portable gas grill
Photos by (lamb burger) Courtesy the Cooking Channel; (grilled lamb chops) Lucy Schaeffer; (Katie Lee in bathing suits) Jean Philippe Piter