Magazine Nov/Dec 2012 Love at First Bite

01 November 2012, 17:00
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Love at First Bite

Chef George Duran is a food reformist. His persona both in and out of the kitchen can best be described as effervescent, even quirky. He is overly social and admits he has the knack of being able to start a conversation with anyone he meets because as he says, “everyone loves to eat.” Since I love to eat and he loves to talk, our lunch in Manhattan figured to be a win-win situation.

For the last ten years, George Duran has been a staple in the ever-growing world of celebrity chefs. He has his own TV shows – Food Network’s The Secret Life Of... and Ham on the Street as well as TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off– already to his credit. But it’s his passion for creating inconceivable recipes as well as cooking and teaching others that makes the affable chef an instant fan favorite.

George Duran – born Kevork Guldalian – has loved cooking knee-weakening meals ever since he was born and raised in Venezuela under his mother’s home cooking. His mother Zovig’s Armenian cuisine had such a profound influence
 on him that it eventually led George to pursue his culinary quest in France and inevitably to his present day career.

We meet with George in his Long Island City apartment. Duran’s kitchen is his compound for developing mouth-amusing recipes. As he unearths veggies from his jam-packed refrigerator, he speaks with Ursula, babysitter to his 14-month-old son Bodi, in Spanish, and then transitions back to our conversation with a mix of English and Armenian.

His cooking interests are mainly comprised of Armenian, French, Mexican and South American dishes. Pick any of those languages from a bowl, and he speaks them fluently as well. 
His favorite kitchen utensils – the
dough scraper, pickle picker, and
 laser thermometer gun – speak to his personality. The color scheme of his pots and pans – red, blue and orange – speak to his love for his Armenian heritage.

“My wife Ilana thinks I’m insane sometimes because I do weird things with all of my crazy and stupid tools – like using the laser thermometer to measure the temperature on my son’s back,” Duran says. “I’m just very passionate about food and cooking.”

It is for Duran’s passion that in 2009 Hunts Tomatoes chose him to be the spokesperson for its tomatoes both nationally and for its Hispanic market. While most chefs have personalities as generic as a store brand box of oatmeal, Duran’s energy in his commercial spots makes a can of tomatoes that retails for a dollar appear to be the most succulent can of tomatoes you’ll ever taste.

“They see I have a passion for cooking
and creating recipes, and that is what’s important – to be passionate. This is truly something any chef would love to be a part of. You know, developing recipes while also having the opportunity to bring my humor into it. In fact both campaigns performed so well that they are bringing it back for another six months.”

Currently, Duran is working on Funny Yolk, a show on YouTube’s “Hunger Channel” that lets him loose with a video crew and a fully stocked kitchen as he cooks up wild and mostly unimaginable concoctions. AOL is also looking into World Eats, USA, a show where Duran explores world cuisine throughout the states. Funny Yolk is largely an extension of Duran’s feel for fresh recipes. In one of the segments, he works his imagination to tempt the taste buds of his viewers with a deep fried bacon-wrapped Twinkie bathed in a bowl of chocolate soup. Duran’s loose demeanor is further shown through his comfort food cookbook Take This Dish and Twist It. Inside its pages, George wakes up to potato chips, dresses like a grandmother and stuffs handfuls of marshmallows in his mouth.But all high jinks aside, Duran’s innovative recipes, tips and witty writing make his cookbook a must-have for anyone looking to revamp their boring variations of their favorite meals. Pizza fondue with grilled banana split sundaes anyone?

But enough with all the mouth-watering teasing already. Pizza fondue with grilled banana split sundaes anyone? George Duran answers our questions over some Mediterranean cuisine.

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