Debi Mazar is being Tru-via to herself. The actress, known for her roles in hit movies like Goodfellas and Little Man Tate, is keeping it all in the family — and the kitchen, really — with her cooking show, Extra Virgin. We spoke to Debi about her sweet brand ambassadorship with Truvia, the importance of teaching kids healthy eating habits, and why there’s nothing wrong with having some frozen chicken nuggets in your freezer.
Debi, let’s talk about your brand ambassadorship with Truvia.
Me being attached to Truvia is a very organic process for me because it’s a product that I have used. I used Stevia in moments when I was trying to have less sugar in my system. A friend of mine happened to have a packet of Truvia. I thought it had such cute packaging; I love packaging and the use of fonts and colors. And my friend who was diabetic said, “Oh my God, I’m using this brand-new sweetener called Truvia.” I tried it and what’s great about it is that they incorporated the part of the leaf that tastes fantastic. It doesn’t have that horrific aftertaste like a lot of artificial sweeteners. And to me, it’s really a gift that they figured out how to make something that’s natural in plants.
I know that good quality ingredients and healthy food options is really important to you.
It means a lot to me because, having a cooking show, Extra Virgin, I’m trying to educate people on the history of how ancient cultures cooked. For instance, a shepherd would have a piece of pancetta hanging from his belt because he wants to flavor his pasta and there’s no refrigeration. I love the idea of how recipes were derived in many cultures.
As for us, we’re constantly baking. My husband’s obsessed with making Tuscan bread, which has no salt and perfecting it as well as his grandmother’s tarts. We do have to cut back on some of the sweets, but really, we’re like a normal family. I’m trying to teach my kids how to eat healthy without making it a rule.
What does mealtime look like in your home?
We bake everything and cook everything fresh. My children I sit down to dinner every single night of their life and we have conversations. It goes from the garden to the table and then it goes from the table to the pan. One time, I was away for two weeks filming something and I came home and my three-and-a-half-year-old was chopping an onion with a 7-inch kitchen knife. My husband said, “It’s okay, she knows what she’s doing! We’ve been practicing.”
Really, we’re not chefs but we’re people who like to cook and we’re into all types of foods. We try to grow stuff; we have a farm in Florence, and I have wild boars my property and 10,000 olive trees. It’s important for me to be able to show my kids how food grows, the animals, the plants, and for them to be able to have that understanding. When they’re young is really the only time that you can educate your children, to get their taste buds to accept garlic or hot pepper or extra virgin olive oil or whatever vegetables you’re trying to feed them. It’s important to take the time to chop up the apple and maybe even add a little almond butter. I’m proud because my kids now are like little mini cooks and they’re learning to know what they put into their bodies.
Wouldn’t you agree, Debi, that when you cook with your kids, they’re more apt to eat what you put on the table?
Sometimes! My daughter has said, “Well, I cooked it with you but I’m not going to eat it.” I say, “Oh really? If you wanna go to the movies this week, then you eat it.” I mean, I will bribe my children. I will say, “I’ll give you $1 if you’ll just eat these lentils. Just try it!” And sometimes it really works! Then they’ll say, “Oh my God, I had no idea this was so good.” And then you’ve moved up and they’ve graduated into eating like a new vegetable and it’s such a huge step in parenting. I think that parents can control it more and be more diligent, and it doesn’t take that much work.
Now do you and the girls have a cheat food? I know that you’re eating very clean but is there one food that you do eat that really is a no-no?
There are foods that I eat for sure that are no-no’s. [laughs] My favorite thing to eat when I’m not around my kids are BBQ potato chips. One quick fix that I do keep in my freezer are chicken nuggets. So if I’m in a pinch, and I’m like, “What are the kids gonna eat it? Fuck it, it’s chicken nuggets and broccoli!” [laughs] But I always make sure that it’s balanced. It might not be what I want, but it’s okay.
So let’s talk about your show Extra Virgin.
Oh, it’s going great. People seem to really have liked it. We’re in the middle of writing and trying to figure out what the recipes are. I develop little light reality segments to drive the food because ultimately, this isn’t a reality show. My husband and my kids are in it, and they have opinions and I think it’s so great to have a real regular family who cooks.
I think people liked the format of being in a real kitchen where it wasn’t us telling you, “Here’s what you need to do.” It was more like, “Come in, let us invite you into our kitchen. Let’s share cooking this recipe, and if you feel you can do it, well, that’s great!” You know, our Tupperware is falling out of the drawer and our pans are stuffed into the oven. And I think that people found all of that refreshing. For me, it’s almost one of the best roles of my life. I get to write comedy, I get to cook, I get to eat, and I get to hang out with all my favorite people.
How would you say you balance it all?
I would have to tell you that I am very stressed out! [laughs]. Like anybody else, I probably sleep only 4-6 hours a night. I haven’t taken a nap in 10 years. But I have the best love support system. I have somebody who doesn’t judge me and accepts me for who I am. If you’re happy because you’re in love, you don’t need that much else. I also have great friends; I have my village. They give me great advice.
But mostly, I just try to find peace from my own spirit, be open to new projects, and constantly be creative. And I don’t feel like to prove myself. I think my work and things that I produce speak for themselves. After all, I’m a real person and I try to be true to my heart. I’m passionate about what I do. And I always hope to deliver well, whether it’s cooking, or acting, or parenting, too. Ultimately, I’m just happy that I’ve been gifted with someone who really loves me and a great family, and that’s all that really matters.