Joan Rivers, 77, The indomitable actress, comedienne and hostess with the most-ess had just returned from London where her documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work, premiered when she agreed to sit down with Gourmet Live and discuss her favorite topic: food. Just don’t ask her to cook.
Gourmet Live: Do you cook?
Joan Rivers: I don’t cook. My big joke is that the B on the oven stands for “burn.” I can’t cook, and it makes me terribly sad. I would love to be all things to everybody, but I can’t. My big threat to Melissa (her daughter) as a child was, if she was really bad I’d say, “You’re going to bed with dinner!” She’d cry and cry and cry. I have a chef now.
GL: So when did you hire your chef?
Joan Rivers: I was doing the Carson show as a guest and I came home afterwards and cooked a meal for my husband and some friends. After dinner we took a walk and all my guests stopped at a deli and got sandwiches. And my husband said to me, “You know, you can’t cook. You can write a joke. So hire someone that can cook and you write the jokes.”
GL: What was that (last) meal you cooked?
Joan Rivers: Lobster Thermidor. I did a really terrific job. I love good food. I love pretty food. It has to be attractive. I don’t care what kind of meat it is but it should have a beautiful orange or yellow vegetable next to it. Or greens. The plate should be gorgeous and the food should have shapes!
GL: So will you eat anything as long as it’s pretty?
Joan Rivers: I’ll eat anything as long as it’s in the shape of a flower.
GL: If someone sent you bull testicles you’d say yes?
JR: I’d say look how nice. It looks like a flower!
GL: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
JR: I like comfort cooking so probably something like a delicious shepherd’s pie or steak. Take me to a great men’s steak house, I’ll love it.
GL: Especially for the men.
JR: Exactly! And when you look down at a steak and baked potato with sour cream. Oh! Heaven!
GL: But you’re so small. How do you eat like that?
JR: I don’t eat after 3 pm. I’m very hungry in the morning and at noon time but by 3 o clock I don’t care if I don’t eat again. As long as I can have a glass of wine at night, I’m good.
GL: What will you do for Thanksgiving if you don’t eat after 3?
JR: I host Thanksgiving every year at my house. We will have a load of sweets! I love sweets! I would like to be at a table where they serve dessert first. That, to me, is heaven. Three courses of dessert would be great.
GL: Who is the best cook you know?
JR: A friend of mine named Joe Cicio who was a vice president of Macy’s for years. I think gay men are the best cooks. He makes the most amazing food. He’ll come to your house, you’ll tell him you have nothing to eat; he’ll go in your kitchen and come out with something amazing. He’ll whip up a stew or a salad. I don’t understand it.
GL: Does your chef get jealous when there’s someone else in the kitchen?
Joan Rivers: Yes. He’s very competitive. My cook Kevin — he and his wife Debbie — I was the first job they took as a couple. They owned a restaurant before in Pennsylvania, so they’re really chefs.
GL: How did you meet them?
JR: They just got tired of dishwashing. It would be a Saturday night and two thirds of the staff wouldn’t show up and they’d just had enough. They said, “Let’s just go into service.” Their thrill is when I say I’m going to have a dinner party and you decide what the menu will be. People have great meals at my house! Debbie always makes amazing desserts. I mean, we’re all children. Desserts should be something very special.