Ina Garten and Stanley Tucci talk culinary arts, connection at Scripps Presents

Two portraits of a bald man with glasses, and a smiling woman with brown hair holding up a creamy dessert.
Stanley Tucci and Ina Garten spoke virtually at Scripps Presents on Oct. 7. (Courtesy: Scripps Presents)

Knock knock! Who’s there? Stanley Tucci and Ina Garten.

While this may sound like the start of a groan-inducing joke, it instead (luckily) describes the two speakers at the Scripps Presents event on Oct. 7.

What could Ina Garten and Stanley Tucci possibly have in common? Well, for one, they have eight Emmys between them. Additionally, both share a passion for food and the ways in which we cook and eat. It was this culinary expertise that was the subject of the Scripps Presents event, as Garten and Tucci engaged in a conversation about Tucci’s new memoir “Taste: My Life Through Food.”

The memoir is not Tucci’s first successful venture. He is the director of five films and has acted in 70 films, as mentioned in the introduction of the talk. Some career highlights include “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Easy A” and the “Hunger Games” trilogy. He is also a producer, writer and the recipient of two Golden Globes and four Emmys, including one for his most recent series on CNN, “Searching for Italy.”

Garten can hold her own, too. She is a New York Times best-selling author of 12 cookbooks, as well as the host of “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network, which has been awarded four Emmys.

It was exciting and explosive to see these two talents speak about food, family and everything in between. “Taste” is the “story of Stanley’s life, from childhood until now, but told through the lens of food. And we’re talking about a lot of food,” Garten said. 

It was a delight to see two culinary experts share their love for gastronomy. Both Garten and Tucci share a similar philosophy when it comes to food.

“Your recipes are the way I love things,” Garten said. “They’re taking the intrinsic ingredients and making them taste better. They’re classic; they’re simple. But they’re right.”

Garten’s only warning for “Taste: My Life Through Food”:  “I think it should come with a warning sticker: If you read this book, you will be very, very hungry.” 

The conversation shifted to Tucci’s ideas of recipe creation, in which he highlighted the importance of accessibility for cooks of any and all abilities.   

“[The recipes] are very clear,” he said. “They make you feel like you can do it, even if you’re not an experienced cook. They make it possible.”

For Garten and Tucci, cooking is about more than just food. It’s also something that can bind communities together and build self-confidence and self-sufficiency. It is important to learn how to care for oneself, and for Tucci, a big part of this is learning how to feed oneself. 

“I think that’s one of the exciting things about reaching out to people about cooking, which is ‘you can do this,’ and ‘you should do this,’ because it’s a really wonderful expression of love,” Tucci said. “It’s a wonderful activity to do with your family and kids and even just for yourself. It’s this incredible sense of accomplishment that occurs, when you have successfully made a meal, almost no matter how simple that meal is.” 

This sentiment was echoed by Garten, who stressed the importance of cooking as a way to connect with people and to share your love and care with those around you.

“The food is important, but also it’s the connection you get with the people that you share food with,” she said. “It’s about taking care of them, it’s about loving them, and it’s about getting everyone around the table.” 

One of the highlights of the talk was the way in which Tucci interweaved charming personal anecdotes with his experiences of food and recipe-making. Through his stories, the audience was able to travel to his childhood home in Katonah, New York, where his mother’s love for cooking inspired the same in him. They experienced the crowded restaurants of his ancestral homeland, Italy, where a lot of his technical culinary knowledge was gained. 

“Taste” also covers the subject of his two-year battle with oral cancer, which was the source of much personal conflict and pain. The cancer took away Tucci’s enjoyment of the culinary, and with it, his love and passion for food. 

“When you can’t eat, when you can’t drink — even water — it’s so painful,” Tucci said. 

Thankfully, Tucci was able to recover, and rediscover his love for the culinary arts. Moreover, he was able to appreciate cooking in a new way, as his temporary loss of taste allowed him to truly understand and appreciate his love for food. 

“It made me realize how much I love eating, cooking, drinking, sharing food, and that my whole life is really about that,” Tucci said. “It’s more important to me now than just about anything else that I do. And the fact that it was taken away from me for a while, and was almost permanently taken away from me, was terrifying.” 

The conversation was intimate, engaging and funny. With nearly 1000 online attendees, comments and questions were constantly rolling in, as everyone was immersed in the knowledge of these two cultural figures. After covering technical knowledge of how to make everything from a ragù sauce to baked potatoes, the event left a sweet taste in everyone’s mouth.  

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