Tiffani Thiessen And Nick DiGiovanni Talk Cookbooks And Cooking For The Camera - Shared Tastes

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Tiffani Thiessen and Nick DiGiovanni come from two different generations of food media. Thiessen is a well-known actress whose career in front of the camera has taken her from "Saved by the Bell" to a slew of major television roles, hosting her own cooking shows, and more. She's also currently preparing to release her second cookbook, "Here We Go Again: Recipes and Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers." On the other hand, Nick DiGiovanni is one of the biggest social media chefs on the planet, with a combined following of over 22 million followers across his channels — and the 27-year-old is soon launching his first cookbook, "Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook." While the two chefs may come from different worlds when it comes to sharing their content and teaching others about the joys of cooking, their passions align in more ways than one.

Now, the two have come together for the first time in an episode of Tasting Table's "Shared Tastes" to talk all about their mutual love of family, having fun in the kitchen, and making the most of every ingredient. Thiessen and DiGiovanni shared what to expect from their upcoming cookbooks and discussed the ups and downs of producing food content, from television to social media to writing books. They also revealed some of their favorite leftover hacks and recalled fond memories of cooking for loved ones that have ignited both of their passions for food.

Nick and Tiffani on cookbooks and collaborating

Tiffani Thiessen: Hi, I'm Tiffani Thiessen.

Nick DiGiovanni: Actress and cookbook author and host of "Deliciousness." And I am Nick DiGiovanni.

Thiessen: A very talented chef, contact creator and author of "Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook."

DiGiovanni: Hey, Tiffani, it's so nice to meet you.

Thiessen: I know you know I've been a huge fan of you for a very, very long time. I had to explain to my husband that I follow a very cute guy on Instagram and social media, and the reason why is because you're a great cook.

DiGiovanni: I know we have — it sounds like — many mutual friends, and we've wanted to meet forever.

Thiessen: We do.

DiGiovanni: I'm so excited for this.

Thiessen: Awesome. Well, tell me a little bit about your new book that's coming out.

DiGiovanni: I know you have one too, so I'm excited to hear about it as well. I wish I had a copy around here. I don't have a copy in front of me. It's hard to get a copy of your own book when you start out.

Thiessen: I know. It's so true.

DiGiovanni: Remind me the title of yours?

Thiessen: It's called "Here We Go Again." This will be, actually, my second cookbook. I haven't even gone from all that.

DiGiovanni: I might need to talk to you because I haven't done this before, and it's a lot.

Thiessen: It's a lot. I used to say this, Nick — and you won't totally understand this — but I said it was like birthing a child with four hard corners.

DiGiovanni: It's hard.

Thiessen: I know you're a man, and it's hard to understand that. But every woman would understand if they've had a child.

DiGiovanni: Absolutely. It's hard.

Nick DiGiovanni says family inspired his passion for food

DiGiovanni: My first book [is] called "Knife Drop." It's a bunch of creative recipes that, in my opinion, anyone can cook. I want anyone to be able to pick up this book and make anything out of it. I pulled together a bunch of different things in my background, whether it's family or the different places I've traveled to — the whole nine yards — to try to put all my learnings into one place. I really, truly tried not to hold back with any little tip or any little lesson I've learned along the way. I have tried to work it in some way in this book.

Thiessen: Where did your passion come from with cooking? Where did it start?

DiGiovanni: I think, very simply, it was family. I come from a few different backgrounds, and I also know you love cooking with your family, it sounds like ...

Thiessen: Yeah. Well, it's where it started for me too. It was all the women — they were always in the kitchen, and I wanted to be with all the cool women in my family cooking.

DiGiovanni: Especially, I admired my dad's mom — my grandmother. She would put on these six-course meals for up to 25, 30, 40 people on these big holidays, which is insane.

Thiessen: That's amazing. It's not easy to do.

DiGiovanni: No.

Thiessen: That's like full-on catering.

DiGiovanni: No, she did it by herself. She had ... basically a sole catering company on those days. That was really impressive, even when I was young. I would watch it and I didn't want to get in the way, but I took in everything that I could.

Thiessen: You're like a little sponge.

DiGiovanni: I was a tiny little baby sponge at that time, and then I've tried to stay a sponge all the way through.

Thiessen: That's amazing.

Tiffani Thiessen is passing on lessons about waste with her newest cookbook

DiGiovanni: I know you don't want to give away too much early on with a book, and I know you've done this all before, but can you give me a little sense of ... I know we have some similar passions on the environment, and it sounds like your new book plays into that a little bit, so I would love to —

Thiessen: Yes. My first book was definitely very family-driven recipe stuff that I grew up doing and modernizing [it] a little bit, taking a lot of the stuff my mom and my grandmother and my aunt were doing and making it my own. It was very family-driven recipes, the first book. This next book that's coming out [is] called "Here We Go Again." It comes out in September, and it was based on ... Now that I have children, my biggest thing is teaching my kids about waste. It's one of our biggest issues in global warming, food waste, so I wanted to teach my children that there's so many things you can do with leftover food, whether it's a little bit of the cereal that's left from the box or that buttermilk that you bought for another recipe. There's other things you can do with it — don't let it spoil.

It was a teaching to my children and also my husband, because he always had this analogy of "leftovers are gross," and I wanted to show him that they're not. You can do really cool things with leftovers. That's the gist of the book, showing how many things you can do with buttermilk, how many things you can do with the bottom of the pretzel bag. [If] there's a little bit left, you can do something with it, and I can show you how to do it.

DiGiovanni: Absolutely. My mom certainly could use a crash course — she'd be upset to hear this — on how to treat your leftovers well. My dad, too, makes a lot of jokes about the leftovers we had growing up, but at the same time, it's one of those things that made me appreciate food every time we had it. Now, that makes me so conscious about all this stuff.

Thiessen: I grew up in a family where my dad worked two jobs to allow my mom to stay home, and we didn't have a lot of money. We were stretching food throughout the entire week. So it came from a way of learning that my mom was always trying to make it ... [to] reinvent, basically, the stuff that we had from the chicken from Monday, and it's something else on Thursday.

DiGiovanni: Absolutely.

Turning leftovers into tasty treats and fun kitchen projects

Thiessen: I have so many great recipes that I created for this next cookbook called "Here We Go Again," but some of the ones that I constantly use [are for] cereal. First of all, there's so many great things you can do with leftover cereal, leftover chips, leftover crackers — there's endless amounts of things. I think [what] my kids love the most is ... I make these cereal milk bars. They're like ice cream bars, but they're from leftover cereal. That's probably one of their favorites. What about you?

DiGiovanni: I would love to taste those at some point. What I've gotten really into is herbs. The first day, I remember sticking green onions into a little simple glass like this, and then seeing them shoot up in the fridge or out on the counter.

Thiessen: That's cool.

DiGiovanni: That's really fun.

Thiessen: So regrowing?

DiGiovanni: It's a little life hack where you never have to go to the grocery store and buy green onions again if you don't want to.

Thiessen: That's amazing.

DiGiovanni: Stuff like that is fun. Those are one of the things that for me, for a long time, would go bad all the time, and I would throw out these old, wilted dill or parsley or cilantro, whatever it was.

Thiessen: What about the arugula bag that you thought you were going to use, and then a couple days later, you're like, "Oh, God"?

DiGiovanni: Yeah. So I've gotten into trying to figure out how to make herbs last as long as they possibly can.

Thiessen: That's very cool.

DiGiovanni: That's been one of my little projects.

Thiessen: It's like a science project. You're doing science in your kitchen. I like it.

DiGiovanni: I've been running experiments on that, so that's been fun for me.

Tiffani and Nick on their biggest kitchen challenges

DiGiovanni: Going off of that, I'm curious to hear ... There are other things that happen all the time in the kitchen where things don't go the way that you plan. What have been some of your biggest challenges in the kitchen?

Thiessen: My challenges are very different cooking now for a family than they were when I was in my twenties cooking for myself or for friends or whatever. It was very, very different. I felt like I was able to laser-focus into a recipe and do pretty well with that. There's always fails of turning the corner and not paying attention, but nowadays, it's all about multitasking in the kitchen. I'm cooking dinner, but I'm still having to help my child with their homework and my husband's needing something, so my biggest challenge is making sure I get it done in time for dinner.

It's literally like, [my son] needs help with math, and then my daughter needs something, and then my husband, and then I got to go out and get the chicken eggs and all these different chores at once. I'm not just cooking. The simple task of cooking is not just cooking anymore — it's truly the multitasking. That's my biggest challenge now. What about you?

DiGiovanni: That can be tricky, I'm sure. I haven't quite dealt with that exactly, although I will say ... Growing up, we all had chores at home — and I have three younger brothers — so this is great. When your chore doesn't feel like a chore, it's the best kind of chore you can possibly have.

Thiessen: I agree.

DiGiovanni: Mine would often be dinner — cooking dinner or making the meals, which everyone was very happy about. Eventually, most people in my family caught on to the fact that it didn't feel like a chore for me, and then I would get looped into the garbage and looped into cleaning the dog's bed out and that kind of thing, but that was great for a while. I got away with that being my chore.

Thiessen: Was that your first love of getting into cooking — the chore that you had to actually cook?

DiGiovanni: If I try to think back, it was probably more seeing food as that thing that tied all of our family together and purely loving food. I remember one of my favorite foods as a kid was radishes, and radishes are very bitter. I don't even know if I like them that much now.

Thiessen: You had a thing for radishes back then?

DiGiovanni: I would get a stalk, and I would chew them off the end of there. They're so bitter and intense, so I can't believe I was able to do that, but I would always ask my mom ...

Thiessen: It probably says something about your palate. That's pretty amazing, because that's not normal for a child.

Both Tiffani and Nick understand baking struggles

DiGiovanni: Ironically, I wouldn't consider myself as a very good sweet [person]. I'm better with savory. Sweets and baked goods are not my forte. But I also enjoy ... If I go to a restaurant, I would rather get another savory dish as a dessert course than get a dessert.

Thiessen: Me too. I'm totally the same way.

DiGiovanni: Which is funny. But another part of it, as a kid — and I'm sure you've dealt with this, having kids — is I would literally reach into the pantry and take handfuls of sugar and eat the sugar. I just wanted sugar. I found early on that if I gave my mom an ingredient list of stuff to make a lemon meringue pie that I would share with the family, sugar's got to be on the list, and I was getting my sugar fix that way.

Thiessen: I get it. All right.

DiGiovanni: Very interesting.

Thiessen: Sneaky.

DiGiovanni: Yeah, which is great.

Thiessen: That's funny. I know my daughter loves to bake. She loves to bake more than she loves to cook with me. What's a food fail for you? What was a food fail in your kitchen that you remember — a big one?

DiGiovanni: It's interesting, because in a way, it's different now, right? The most recent one was probably [when] we had set up this huge project. We tried to do the Guinness World Record for the biggest dumpling.

Thiessen: I saw that.

DiGiovanni: It was a major, major fail.

Thiessen: You can't win them all.

DiGiovanni: The dough melted off the dumpling. It was horrible. We tried to make this big contraption with a big box that was a steamer, and it was going to be a 50- to 75-pound dumpling, and then it melted.

Thiessen: Holy moly.

DiGiovanni: That is such a funny thing to say as my food fail, but that was probably my latest food fail.

Thiessen: But one to remember, one to put on the board?

DiGiovanni: Definitely one to remember still.

Cooking for television vs. social media audiences

DiGiovanni: The things that I do with food now are so all over the place. I'm sure the same for you — it's been funny ... [a] kind of all-over-the-place path.

Thiessen: It's fun. I literally purely found you via the social media aspect. It wasn't even through our connections. I liked your videos, and I liked your energy on camera, and you're super fun to watch. It's funny how food has taken over social media. It's pretty amazing how much people who don't even cook just like to watch food videos. 

Back in my day, it wasn't social media; it was Food Network. You would keep Food Network on, and you would keep it going all day long because your kids could watch it or it was non-offensive. It was a nice, easy thing to have in the background.

DiGiovanni: It is interesting. It's been interesting for me also — and I'm sure [for] many people — to watch how the whole space is evolving. What do you think about all of it, the fact that TV is not fizzling away, but it's different than it used to be?

Thiessen: It's different. It's funny. Even five years ago, when I was doing a TV show, the stand and stir was slow. It was very conversational, which it still is, but nowadays with social media, it is so fast. The cuts are fast; the recipes are fast. It's a whole different ball game than what I was doing on Food Network and Cooking Channel five, six years ago. It's a very different pace, and I think it has a lot to do with the younger generation and how you see that people are almost ingesting a lot more a lot faster.

DiGiovanni: Absolutely. Well, we were talking about social media, and there's all these young, new people writing books now. And now with the internet as big as it is, why would anyone want to go buy a cookbook? But having those ... You have that intense personal touch on it, where the recipes in both of our books have so much more love than some random recipe that you look up online ... Food is all about those little nuances and those little extra touches.

Thiessen: I like the stories that go along with the food. You can see I have rooms of cookbooks all throughout my house; it's not just in the kitchen. I love buying cookbooks, because they're almost like coffee table books to me, to a certain degree, but also, I like reading the stories of where the food or the recipe came from. I read them like a normal book. I do know there's a lot of people out there — I know they're not all like that — but that's what cookbooks do for me.

DiGiovanni: Absolutely. It was a dream when I was younger to write one, and I always said that if I ever wrote one, I wanted it to also serve as a coffee table book, where it can be beautiful photos, and I want little fun blurbs in there and that kind of thing. So I totally am on the same page as you.

Thiessen: Love it. It's like a memory book for you too, later on, that you'll get to look back and see.

DiGiovanni: Exactly.

Nick DiGiovanni has big plans to break more Guinness World Records

Thiessen: On a personal note, Nick, tell me, what else do you have? Do you have any other Guinness World Record thingies you want to do? They're very fun for me to watch.

DiGiovanni: They're fun.

Thiessen: I know the audience loves watching them.

DiGiovanni: They're very fun. We recently did our ninth one. It's not out yet or anything, but that was our best planned-out one so far. We felt really good with the whole thing. It looked perfect. We were very, very happy with it. We just did our ninth one. We're definitely getting better at getting all the planning in place.

Thiessen: Can you tease what it is, or not yet?

DiGiovanni: I don't know if I'm allowed to. At Guinness, they're very strict, actually.

Thiessen: Okay. Good to know. I've never done Guinness. I don't know — I've only drunk it.

DiGiovanni: Well, I was going to tell you — you have a lot of cookbooks in your house. They have a record for most cookbooks.

Thiessen: Oh, really?

DiGiovanni: You should look into it. It's actually currently held by someone — I live in Boston; it's held by someone from Massachusetts — but you might be able to —

Thiessen: Do you know how many it is?

DiGiovanni: Yeah. It's 2,000-something, so I don't know if you'll hit, but maybe ...

Thiessen: I might be just under 1,000.

DiGiovanni: That's impressive.

Thiessen: My husband doesn't think it's impressive, just so you know.

DiGiovanni: I do think we'll probably do more Guinness World Records on the road or crazy food projects.

The one person Nick DiGiovanni wishes he could cook for

Thiessen: I have a good question for you. If you could cook for anybody, who would it be that you haven't cooked for yet? I know you've cooked for a lot of celebrities and stuff.

DiGiovanni: The person has to be alive?

Thiessen: No. Let's go totally on the winds.

DiGiovanni: It can be anybody ever?

Thiessen: Anybody.

DiGiovanni: Okay. That's a great question. Do you have an answer, while I'm thinking?

Thiessen: I would want to do somebody way back in the day. I would have to go back to the four [burner] stoves — make it difficult.

DiGiovanni: If I could cook for anybody, I'd probably cook for my grandmother. I'd probably cook for my dad's mom.

Thiessen: Everybody watching this right now just went, "Aw."

DiGiovanni: I truly would.

Thiessen: That's sweet.

DiGiovanni: She never got to see my love for food. I was too young at that time, and I think she'd like that.

Thiessen: That's pretty awesome. That's a great answer. I love that. That's really sweet.

Click here to pre-order "Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook," available on June 13. Follow the latest from Nick DiGiovanni on TikTok and Youtube.

Click here to pre-order "Here We Go Again: Recipes and Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers," available on September 26. Follow the latest from Tiffani Thiessen on Instagram.

This interview has been edited for clarity.