Sometimes, there is just that one family you look at and think, "I wish I could be related to them." For a lot of us who watch cooking shows religiously, it's the Deen family. Bobby Deen is lucky enough to be part of that family, and while it seems like they get along so famously while the cameras are rolling, it turns out when the cameras turn off, they still get along famously! Yep, go ahead and be even more jealous.
With age comes wisdom, and when it comes to Bobby (and no, we're not calling him old, so simmer down), he takes pride in living as much of a healthy lifestyle as possible. Sure, he has his vices, but when it comes to his Cooking Channel show Not My Mama's Meals, he has found a way to cut down the calories and still keep the flavor intact. He also has a cookbook, From Mama's Table to Mine, that gives you even more delicious options, all at 350 calories or less. After we had the chance to talk to Bobby and watch him in action on his show, we found that with a little help from his tricked-out recipes, cooking up amazing dishes in a healthy way can be a lot easier and more fun than you think.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): First off, I didn't realize you were a man of so many talents and played the drums and guitar! Any thoughts of opening a House of Blues type of venue down the line?
Bobby Deen: You know, I haven't really thought about that, but how cool would that be? That's a great idea, though. I'll have to give you credit if I do it. [Laughs.] The drums are something from when I was kid. We never had any money, so I don't know how they did it, but my parents made sure I had a little set of drums because I was just so crazy about them. I have always had a set. The guitar is a newer thing in the past three or four years. I found that I wanted to learn something, and once you get to a certain age, you don't really have to learn too much if you don't want to. I mean, I'm done with high school. [Laughs.] I wanted to just try to tackle something, so I tried the guitar. It's very challenging, and it's something that takes a lot of dedication and practice, and I like it. I'm one of those people that if I find something I like, I'm all in. I have a sickness for guitars. I collect them way better than I play them, but I hope to live long enough to be a good guitarist one day.
I have a feeling you'll be just fine. I think one of the things that makes your family so endearing is the dynamic you have. You and your brother, Jamie, get along great on TV, but outside "TV life," is there any competitiveness?
[Laughs.] Yes! There is some sibling rivalry, for sure, but it's all in love and fun. I've got only one brother, and I've always looked up to him, and I think he's just the coolest, greatest guy. I have always wanted to do well and impress him, so I think that is sort of a sibling-rivalry thing. And my mom [Paula Deen], good grief, we're all chasing her! [Laughs.] But it's not an act; we're a very close family. I love them so much. What you see with us on TV is unscripted, so you're really getting to see who we are.
And you have successful cookbooks that you've done with Jamie, and now you've got your first solo cookbook. Is it different doing a book without your partner in crime?
Well, I think this all came about because Jamie and I had this show together years back called Road Tasted, and then he got married and started a family. He's a very civic-minded guy and very family oriented, and I just think we have very different desires. I see what my mother is doing, and I'm like, "Wow, that's what I want to do, too, if it's afforded to me." Also, this cookbook goes hand in hand with the show. Not My Mama's Meals on the Cooking Channel is a direct relative of this cookbook. The timing of it is perfect. I'm just super-proud of it. It's hard for me to believe I'm here doing this on my own because I'm so used to working closely with my family. And I still do work with them now. I mean, you'll still see me on my mother's show, my brother will be a guest on my show, I'll be on his show, and this, that and the other. But to have a TV show and book all on my own–I can't tell you how proud I am.
Your show and cookbook are based around lightening food up. What started you on this health kick?
It happened for me at 30 years old, and I'm 42 now. We were in the beautiful and wonderful restaurant we own called the Lady & Sons, and I found myself working long hours and not really taking care of myself. One day, I just decided I wanted to feel better than I did, so I began to embrace exercise. When you embrace a physically active life, it's going to change your relationship with food. I'm here to tell you: Diet and exercise go hand in hand! I really love fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, biscuits, and sweet tea. I mean, these are the things that I grew up around, and I love them. With this book and with the show, I wanted to see what would happen if I took these traditional recipes that I love so much and just try to toy with them to make them something you could eat on a more regular basis. So it was a natural thing for me; this is my heritage. With the show, I have to say, people are getting to see a real glimpse into my life. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.
Your show is a great concept because, obviously, everything your mom cooks seems amazing, but yeah, you can't cook it every day.
Yeah, and we're in season three now, and they've just bought another season, which is really exciting. I just have a ball doing the show! I think people understand it's not fried chicken that's created an obesity problem in our country; it's the processed foods and preservatives. Unfortunately, a lot of the worst foods for you are the least expensive and the most accessible. I would encourage people to cook at home and do it affordably. That's the criteria for the show. Make it easy and affordable, as well as be low-fat and light. My family always lives by the motto "Do the right thing," and I feel like I am doing the right thing with this show. Look, when my mama calls me and says, "Come over for dinner," I'm going over and eating whatever she is cooking. What I'm saying is, there just needs to be some sort of balance in your life.
You can follow Bobby Deen on Twitter (@BobbyDeen); pick up his new cookbook, From Mama's Table to Mine, on Amazon; and check out all things Deen on www.TheDeenBros.com. Make sure you tune in to Not My Mama's Meals on the Cooking Channel. Every Wed., 6 p.m.