We've officially entered the holiday season when you're bag is filled with gifts for your co-workers, friends, ladies who brunch and more. We have a great list of items that are small but powerful that you can have at the ready and shows that you know what your friends and family will enjoy.
| CHARGEHUB X3 USB Charger | TRESTIQUE Shimmering Nudes Holiday Set | FEED PROJECTS Metallic Beaded Kenya Bag | TOZAI Snow Maiden Sake | LVX Caviar and Truffle Nail Polish Holiday Set | MARC JACOBS Decadence Gift Set |
Thanksgiving is this month and while many of us are looking forward to family, friends, food etc. This year, an extra amount of anticipation for the national holiday means the debut of NETFLIX/Spike Lee's 'She's Gotta Have It' which begins streaming on the network for this movie turned series. Rafael V DeLeon plays Manny Garciela and we caught up with him in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
ATHLEISURE MAG: We've seen you in print campaigns and we know that you have acted in a number of shows/films, tell us about your journey in both areas.
RAFAEL V DELEON: Yes, I have! Well, the journey is still ongoing, but I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given so far. When I first moved to NYC, I worked the graveyard shift at a hotel. That was the bottom...I mean, “beginning” of the journey. lol
AM: Tell us about your role in Netflix/Spike Lee's 'She's Gotta Have It', how long were you filming and what was the auditioning process like?
RVD: I filmed scenes over the course of several months. The audition process was like any other; you go in, do your best work, and leave the room knowing you gave it your best.
AM: In your opinion, how has 'She's Gotta Have It' been tweaked from the world it existed in 1986 to now?
RVD: Well for starters, in 1986, social media didn’t exist. The integration of social media and cell phones are the two biggest tweaks. Other themes like: racial inequality, gentrification, feminine empowerment, and social justice were already top-of-mind issues for Spike...back in 1986. “Been Woke” as Spike would say.
AM: What did you know about this movie prior to auditioning and what are your thoughts on this now that you have played the part of Manny Garciela that plays the best friend of Mars Blackmon played by Hamilton's Anthony Ramos?
RVD: I was familiar with the project but had not seen the film prior to auditioning. I had done my research on the film and prepared accordingly though. My thoughts now are “Whoa. What an experience!” To work with creatives at the top of their game both in-front of and behind the camera is a milestone moment for me. You find yourself surrounded by so much talent it’s awe-inspiring sometimes.
AM: With 'She's Gotta Have It' streaming on Thanksgiving, how excited are you to be a part of this iconic series?
RVD: As excited as Spike was when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009.
AM: We know that you live in Brooklyn, where are your 3 favorite places to eat, workout and to grab a beer?
RVD: 1.) Eat- I really enjoy Archie’s Pizza in Bushwick (I hope they read this).
2.) Workout- Any playground basketball court. Always good competition there.
3.) Grab a beer - The Rookery Bar (I REALLY hope they read this).
AM: Do you still play basketball as we know that you played Division I at Temple?
I do still play! A colleague of mine has pick-up every week (shout out to DG) and gets a bunch of ex-division 1 guys together for weekly runs.
AM: What's your personal style when you're going out to grab a drink versus when you're running errands?
RVD: Oh man, when I’m going out I try to dress in something that is comfortable, individualist, and on-trend. When I am running errands? Whatever is clean.
AM: What roles can we see you in next?
RVD:I have a few opportunities in the pipeline, but nothing I can announce currently. I will just say that I am excited for what 2018 has in store.
AM: With Christmas around the corner, what are you doing this season and where will you spend NYE?
RVD: I am spending the week leading up to Christmas with my family in Prince Georges County, MD and will be traveling to Costa Rica on the 26th through the new year!
AM: Tell us about charities that you are a part of?
RVD: I work closely with the Make-A-Play organization, Camp Ryan, and volunteer at a middle school in my neighborhood. Lending a hand in my community is something that is very important to me.
AM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell us that we have not covered?
RVD: I love playing Chess, day-trading stocks, reading The Atlantic, and watching critically-acclaimed films with my Somali princess. Oh, and I still haven’t beaten a local chess-master in Union Square.
Our shoot took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the McCarren Hotel and Pool as well as the famed The Meatball Shop. You can watch Rafael V Deleon on NETFLIX in Spike Lee's, 'She's Gotta Have It' streaming now. You can also connect with him socially.
Twitter | @RafaelVDeLeon
Instagram | @RafaelVDeLeon
Facebook | /RafaelVDeLeon
We're big fans of The Meatball Shop at Athleisure Mag and it was fun to chat with their Marketing Director Natasha Miller about their history, menu, neighborhood locations and spirit.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about The Meatball Shop - what the concept behind the restaurant is, who are the co-founders, when it was created, and current as well as upcoming locations of this eatery.
NATASHA MILLER: The co-founders are Daniel Holzman (Chef) and Michael Chernow, a pair of childhood friends who opened the first The Meatball Shop location on the Lower East Side in 2010. Since then, they’ve expanded to open locations in the Upper East Side, West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Williamsburg. The Meatball Shop is all about eating responsibly sourced, delicious food in a fun, hip location.
AM: What are some of the signature dishes and cocktails that are available at The Meatball Shop?
NM: The beauty of The Meatball Shop is that you can put together any dish you'd like! But, some of our guest's favorites combos are definitely our Classic Ball (a mix of beef and pork meat) with our Classic Tomato over Spaghetti. Our Kitchen Sink Salad is also a big hit with our guests. Our cocktail menu changes seasonally, but I’d say our Moscow Mule is pretty classic (and delicious).
AM: For those who are vegetarian, can they also enjoy the experience at The Meatball Shop?
NM: Totally! We have vegan veggie balls that are out of this world, I like them best with our pesto, but they can be served however you’d like! We're all about cooking seasonally and are always changing up our awesome roster of veggies sides. Currently were serving sides like Roast Brussels Sprouts and Apples, Braised Kale and Tomato Soffrito, and Butternut Squash Sage Rissoto.
AM: If you haven't done so already, can you tell us about Sidepiece?
NM: Sidepiece is the bar connected to our Hell’s Kitchen location – you walk to the back of the restaurant, past the restrooms, through a little hallway, and you’re there! Sidepiece has a totally different cocktail menu and acts as our meatball test kitchen where we serve some super fun dishes like Pretzels Balls and Meatball Nachos, in a speakeasy-esque space. It can also be rented out for private parties too!
AM: With a number of locations in NYC, what is the thought of the aesthetic of the restaurant in relation to the location of the neighborhood that it resides in?
NM: The aesthetic of each individual restaurant definitely changes based on the neighborhood that surrounds it. We want each location to feel like its own restaurant - the Williamsburg location, for example, is more subdued and looks lovingly worn in, while the Lower East Side shop has a poppy-feel, with a deep navy wall coated in bright white metal meat grinders.
AM: We shot a portion of our shoot in the Williamsburg location of The Meatball Shop. What can you tell us about this particular location (when it opened, those who tend to stop in)?
NM: We opened up our Williamsburg Shop in 2011 and it's become a stable of Bedford Ave. We get a lot of neighborhood locals for sure but as the neighborhood has changed we're also seeing a ton of tourists stop in which has been really fun. We recently started serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-4:00pm – this was the first location we started doing so, and it’s been a nice change of pace.
AM: What can we expect with the upcoming holiday season in terms of events or promotions taking place at The Meatball Shops?
NM: We’re just about to launch our latest SHUT skateboard deck design, which will be available on our website. We encourage fans of the brand to check out our other gear as well, like our Ballers sweatshirt, Ballerina Tee, and our jarred Classic Tomato Sauce- which can all be found at www.themeatballshop.com.
AM: What are the Co-Founders' favorite dishes at The Meatball Shop?
NM: Michael Chernow loves a Kitchen Sink with Veggie Balls and Pesto and Daniel Holzman loves a heartier dish of Pork Meatballs with Spicy Meat Sauce over Polenta with a Family Jewel on top!
AM: Are there new dishes (whether ongoing or seasonal) that will be coming to The Meatball Shop?
NM: We just started serving our Grilled Cheese balls in all of our locations this week – they sit like dumplings atop a layer of cream of tomato soup and are dangerously good. Right before Christmas, we will be bringing back our Jingle Jingle Balls made with venison and paired with a traditional Cumberland Sauce. We also have a killer Bread Pudding special for dessert this month!
AM: We know that you can buy The Meatball Shops' sauce and cookbook, are there other items that are available that people can purchase when they can't get to the physical locations?
NM: We love designing merch! In addition to our sauce and cookbook, you can find our "Balls" shirts, Grinder Snapbacks, and Grinder Carhartt Beanies at all of our shops. We also carry limited quality items such as our Hedley & Bennet Aprons, "Mini Meatball" Onesizie, and (Baller)INA Pink T-Shirts that you can find in our different shops!
Avid readers of Athleisure Mag know that we enjoy sharing a number of initiatives that are taking place with our friends at No Kid Hungry and have talked to a number of fascinating chefs that participate in various campaigns with them. Next month is Thanksgiving and as people think of attending and hosting this food filled holiday, Friendsgiving for No Kid Hungry allows you to spread love to those that are less fortunate. This campaign encourages people to add a fundraising component to their feasts by signing up to host and invite friends to fundraise in support of the effort to end childhood hunger in America.
In addition to signing up among your group of friends and family, No Kid Hungry has partnered with renowned chefs and culinary supporters to provide hosts with expertise, recipes and tips to ensure that their fundraising feasts are easy! We took some time to talk to two people who are key to dinners that will take place across tables in the states - Emily Elsen, Co-Founder of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie shops, and Will Elliot, Bar Director of Maison Premiere - both in Brooklyn. We talked with them about how they got into the business, why they have partnered with No Kid Hungry for Friendsgiving and what the holiday season is like for their businesses.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us your journey into the food industry and what led to the creation of Four and Twenty Blackbirds?
EMILY ELSEN: Melissa and I grew up working in our mother's restaurant from the time we were little girls. This laid the foundation for our keen interest in and ability to understand and be prepared for the demands of the food world. When Melissa moved in with me in NYC, we had already had aspirations of owning our own business - not necessarily a food business though! As it goes we gravitated back to our roots, and the inspiration for becoming pie makers came from our Grandmother Liz who was famous locally for her handmade pies. One thing led to another, and after a year of developing and planning and running a small home based pie company, we signed our first commercial lease and have never looked back! We sincerely set out to make the best pie in New York City, and to bring attention back to
pie in America.
AM: You and your sister work together - what are your roles/responsibilities and what are Melissa's?
EE: We both wear a lot of hats, and we do what needs to get done. Melissa has a degree in finance and I have a degree in sculpture and photography - so we naturally have gravitated to roles that employ our strengths.
AM: You have a number of locations, tell us about them and are you anticipating additional locations?
EE: Our original shop in Gowanus is a busy, comfy cozy pie shop that has customers in all day long - it's the flagship. Our Café + Pie Counter in the Brooklyn Public Library offers soups, sandwiches, salads and of course pie. Our seasonal shop in Orient, LI offers pie by the slice, breakfast snacks and treats, espresso and pie a la mode - it's a great summer destination. Our newest location, our Pie Counter + Bar in Prospect Heights is a 10 seat counter that offers beer, cider and wine pairings that compliment our pies. Our four thousand square foot production kitchen is where the magic of the pie making happens and we run nearly 24 hours. We will crank out 5000 pies in a week's time for Thanksgiving 2017. Having this kitchen has allowed us to grow into the wholesale market in NYC and to work with larger clients such as Shake Shack on nationwide distribution, Fresh Direct, and Wholefoods.
AM: With the holidays coming up, we can only imagine how busy a pie shop can be - what are the favorites among customers that we should keep on our radar?
EE: Our Thanksgiving menu has been the same since year two - our takes on the classics have become a tradition for many: Salted Caramel Apple, Brown Butter Pumpkin, Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan and our cult favorite, Salty Honey.
AM: We know that you have partnered with No Kid Hungry for Friendsgiving. Can you tell us about this initiative as well as how you are participating in this effort?
EE: We’re excited to help support No Kid Hungry’s efforts to encourage people to give back during the holidays. Their Friendsgiving for No Kid Hungry is a fun way to celebrate the season while helping others. You can sign-up to host a Friendsgiving on NoKidHungry.org and receive resources to assist with planning your celebration (from decor templates to recipes), as well as fundraising tips to help your family and friends support their work to address childhood hunger in the U.S. Melissa and I are honored to be in great company sharing recipes to help celebrate the season, with two of Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ most popular Thanksgiving pies, Brown Butter Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Apple.
AM: How long have you worked with No Kid Hungry and why is it an organization that you like being involved with?
EE: We’ve participated in other fundraisers for No Kid Hungry in the past, but this year we’re excited to do more as it speaks to the core of what we believe as a Brooklyn neighborhood business - that food brings communities together. No Kid Hungry is doing immensely valuable work in the food arena, from feeding kids in need directly through programs like school breakfast and summer meals, to teaching families how to shop for healthy food on a budget.
AM: Between running your locations, your book and teaching courses, how do you take time for yourself to stay fresh for the next thing?
EE: It can be very hard to make time for yourself in this industry. Everyone wants a piece of you and the requests are endless. Finding time to get out of town is important to me, I head to the Catskill Mountains to visit friends, or go to our shop in Orient to enjoy the coast during Summer months - and Melissa likes to make sure she keeps her Sundays free for her personal life without interruptions of calls and emails.
Getting enough sleep is hard, but important to try to - and I've learned that I need to work hard to keep a balanced diet and eat enough protein and veggies - when you are thinking about and around food all day every day, sometimes you forget to eat it yourself!
AM: How often do you change your menu as we love that you have some creative pies - what are 3 slices we should try?
EE: The menu changes regularly with the season - about every 3 to 4 weeks, depending upon availability of fruits.
Lemon Chess, Plum Streusel and Matcha Custard, oh and Black Bottom Oat.
AM: When you're making pies is there a playlist that you listen to and if so - what is on there now?
EE: We always have great music on in the kitchen - a huge variety of things get played. Lately, I personally have been listening to Isaiah Rashad, M.I.A., Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Calvin Harris - but I love older hip-hop, Motown, reggae, a lot of pop dance music...anything with a good beat and lyrics.
AM: Tell us your journey into the hospitality industry and what led you to becoming a mixologist?
WILL ELLIOTT: I started when I was nineteen years old on a little island off the coast of Maine. I was in college filling all of the front of the house roles. I was the only bartender in the only restaurant on this tiny little island for about seven years. I was also a musician and as many stories go, I started realizing that I was spending more time in restaurants than
playing music and I gradually fell in love with not only cocktail-making, but food and restaurant culture in general.
AM: You head up the bar program at Maison Premiere tell us what this role entails and more about the restaurant.
WE: The role of Bar Director at Maison Premiere is that of wearing many different hats. Of course, my primary role is the menu development and ideation and creating all of the recipes for our cocktails. But beyond that it's being the bar manager, so choosing all of our liqueurs, making sure the bar is properly stocked, and doing all of the nitty gritty work that goes into running a restaurant! Maison Premiere is a really special place-- it's definitely New Orleans inspired, but also has a horseshoe bar like found in Paris. It makes it a very communal place because you interact a lot with people around you and with your bartender.
AM: What are your favorite signature fall cocktails at Maison Premiere?
WE: My favorite new cocktail for fall right now is our new Pimms Cup. It uses a cool aged plum eau de vie that is really reductive and oily and has such an intense representation of plum. It's just super aromatic and delicious. The drink also has a little bit of cardamom -- overall just textbook autumnal flavors of stone fruit and warm spices.
AM: With the holidays coming up, what are some warm cocktails that we should enjoy on our next visit to Maison Premiere?
WE: We have a few great warm drinks at Maison Premiere. Of course, the classic is the Maison Hot Toddy, which is pretty fantastic. It's one of those great recipes that works with many different spirits, so if you're not a whiskey person you can still enjoy it! I love the toddy made with Calvados, it's perfect for fall. We also have a delicious drink called the Lady Lyndon made with framboise eau de vie, a rose cream (rose flower water on top), pineau de charentes, germaine-robin absinthe which has a lovely tea-like flavor. It's really great.
AM: We know that you have partnered with No Kid Hungry for Friendsgiving. Can you tell us about this initiative as well as how you are participating in this effort?
WE: Friendsgiving for No Kid Hungry is a way to kick the holiday season off right by giving back. And it’s easy. Anyone can transform their next dinner party or holiday gathering into an opportunity to help others. I partnered up with No Kid Hungry to share two of my favorite signature cocktail recipes with people who sign up to host Friendsgiving.
AM: How long have you worked with No Kid Hungry and why is it an organization that you like being involved with?
WE: I partnered with No Kid Hungry a few years ago when I learned that one in six kids in America struggles with hunger. The relationship between No Kid Hungry and the culinary community is 30 years strong and makes sense. There isn’t a community more passionate about food and feeding people. Every $1 you raise can help connect a child with up to 10 meals. Every little bit counts.
AM: When you're not at Maison Premiere, how do you take time for yourself to recharge your batteries?
WE: Working in restaurants and bars can be challenging so to recharge I definitely focus on getting some actual rest, first and foremost. Second, I love to go out to restaurants with friends-- like Four Horsemen, Diner, and Spuyten Duyvil. All conveniently located near where I live in Williamsburg. Also, when I get the time I love to head upstate to relax-- Josh, one of the owners of Maison Premiere, has a great cabin upstate that I like to go up to and my family is from rural New Hampshire so those are both great escapes!
AM: How often do you update your cocktail list?
WE: It's not super regimented, but we generally like to update quarterly depending on the season. We're constantly working to have cocktails that we love and that fit the seasons!
AM: When you're creating cocktails prior to getting them on the menu, is there a playlist that you listen to and if so - what is on there now?
WE: As a musician, I am definitely inspired by music as part of my creative process-- I've been listening to a ton of post-disco/early 80s New York/Bronx-style music. It's super trippy stuff like Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole and his Coconuts.
Chef Robert Irvine is known for his ability to come into restaurants and turn them around while also boosting the morale of the owners and staff. He is also known for his work with the military through his USO efforts, serving them during the holidays and working out. In addition to his work in these areas, you'll see him frequently on Food Network, morning shows, his own restaurants as well as with additional items within his brand that include gyms, his own food line FIT Crunch and more.
During NY's Food and Wine Festival, we caught up with Chef Irvine at JetSmarter's Meet and Greet at Hunt & Fish Club in midtown to find out about his role as an ambassador with the charter, his work out routine and how he is spending the holiday season.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us the level of your involvement is with JetSmarter.
ROBERT IRVINE: I’m an ambassador and I am also a user of the service as well as I travel 340 days out of the year.
I’ve partnered with JetSmarter to help design handcrafted meals for members – ensuring access to a healthy meal even in the middle of traveling when many people seem to eat whatever is most convenient. I’m excited about this new partnership with JetSmarter because we share the same views about the culture of air travel and never compromising the quality of a meal, whether on the ground or in the air. Each meal is prepared just hours before takeoff, made fresh to order in Manhattan’s Great Performances catering kitchen.
AM: What are your favorite amenities that are available at JetSmarter?
RI: JetSmarter gets me to where I'm going quickly and has changed the way I travel as flights can be booked through the app which saves time and there are a number of routes available. It's a no hassle service which is great for me.
AM: With the holidays coming up what is a typical Chef Irvine feast?
RI: It really depends as I spend a lot of time at military bases serving the nation's men and women. I think the holiday season is so important to spend time with loved ones and those that you honor and to give the gift of time.
AM: How do you stay fit and what is your diet like?
RI: I work out six days a week and I am able to work out each muscle group using low weights and higher reps. I start each session with 30 minutes of cardio and then each day focus on a different muscle group (chest, legs, arms, etc.). Use a low amount of weight so you can do a higher amount of reps, typically four sets of 12 to 15 reps.
I eat small meals more frequently — eight to 12 meals a day, every two and a half hours. My protein is literally — whether it be chicken or shrimp, whatever it is — no bigger than a deck of cards each meal. And my starch — rice, potatoes, French fries even — no bigger than a mouse you use on your computer per meal. In the afternoon, I don't do carbs. I just do protein and salads and vegetables.
There are bonafide BRAVO Real Housewives fans at Athleisure Mag. We love the franchise as a whole and of course, we have certain cities that are favorites, but within each one there is always a few characters that we love! When Real Housewives of Dallas joined the franchise, Cary Deuber was an instant favorite and we took some time to find out more about this mom who works with her husband, enjoys her friends and gives back to others.
ATHLEISURE MAG: We have enjoyed seeing you on Real Housewives of Dallas, how did you get on the show and which of the girls from the first season were you already friends with?
CARY DEUBER: I am thrilled to be an official cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Dallas, which premiered on Monday, April 11th, 2016. I can’t believe we’ve come so far! I was found for the show through a friend online through social media.
I knew Stephanie Hollman before the show, but I’m so glad to have become closer to her and the other ladies. Season 2 also brought some familiar faces with both Kameron Westcott and D’Andra Simmons who I had known for several years before Housewives.
AM: Prior to joining the show, what did you think it would be like?
CD: I had no idea what to expect! :) Honestly, I think that one really can’t KNOW what to expect until they end up in this situation, but it’s certainly been UNIQUE. I thought that it would be a great way to share my story and what I do in business with my husband as a partner. Being in the public eye as a cast member brings a lot of pressure and scrutiny, but we’ve had to learn to keep a thick skin and stay positive. I think that’s what this is all about!
AM: What is it like filming the confessionals and the Reunions?
CD: The confessionals are actually pretty bittersweet for me because on one hand, you get to crack jokes and revisit funny moments throughout the season and really narrate what was going on in your head at the time. On the other hand, you occasionally have to re-live some not so pleasant moments and talk about them all over again whether you’ve gotten past it or not. This is especially challenging when you have a disagreement with a friend or loved one, but in the same way- it is also a bit therapeutic!
You also have to look at the Reunions as a “glass half full” situation as well. It’s great to set the story straight for things that may have been misconstrued, but it can also open wounds if you let it. With both confessionals and Reunions, the most exciting part is dressing up and speaking your truth! I will always be excited to do that. Unfortunately, at Reunions, however, you cannot wear your sweatpants underneath your ballgown like we do in confessionals! Haha!
AM: Was it a no-brainer for you to return for the second season and what do you like about being in the cast?
CD: I think that coming back for a season 2 was a great opportunity: Another chance to grow our business and also relate to others with our personal lives. What I love about being involved with Housewives is how it allows each of us to connect with other people out in the world that we would have never known otherwise. You just never know who you will cross paths with! It’s like having another job - you make connections and friends and stories that will last a lifetime.
AM: You're a working mom with a number of responsibilities in the home and you work with your husband. How are you navigating these realities?
CD: I think that it’s safe to say that I’ll be navigating these different realities for years! It’s honestly different everyday, but I love being able to wear all the different hats. I’m a wife, mom to a 5 year old, stepmom to a teenager and a 20 year old, nurse, and now, I guess a TV personality!
There are so many other multi-tasking moms out there that can relate, and I’ve had some great mom advice and work tips from fellow nurses and health professionals that have really helped! Everyone has a special story, but we can also find ways to relate. This is why I think it’s so key to have such different personalities within the group - to reach the masses and help others feel less alone in their issues (whether they be very serious problems or 1st world problems!).
AM: How long have you been a yogi and is there a specific type of yoga you do?
CD: I have been practicing yoga for over 15 years, and I truly love it. I personally like to think of yoga as "my church" because it represents a safe place that I often retreat to for true self-reflection and soul balance. For me - yoga is just a way of life, release, and a great type of exercise! It is all about moving your body, finding a way to connect, identifying peace, and taking a little time for yourself to refresh your mind & body at the same time.
I typically gravitate towards vinyasa flow power yoga.
AM: You're very stylish - what's your personal style at the office, when you're out and about and for charity events?
CD: What style at the office?? Haha! For work, I generally wear black scrubs, which totally save me during the day because they look neat and feel like pajamas! They also work for running quick errands during the day, as I don't really make time to change before going out.
When I’m not at the office, though, you can typically find me in some sort of yoga gear or workout athleisure look that can transition well from the grocery store or carpool lane to the yoga studio. Lines like F.WORDS, K-DEER, Alo Yoga, and Spiritual Gangster are some of my top favorites.
Now, when it comes to charity, my husband and I typically prefer to support anonymously, but on the occasion that we attend an event, I defer to my personal stylist (my husband!) to help me out! I’m more of an everyday shopper, and he is great with special occasions. I usually gravitate toward something from Cavalli, Marc Bouwer, Herve Leger, or even a local designer here in Dallas that I love, Mackenzie Brittingham.
AM: What is your style secret weapon?
CD: My plastic surgeon and husband Dr. Mark Deuber is totally my style secret weapon! As an expert in the aesthetic field with European taste, Mark’s eye for detail and style has totally gotten me through several events when I had no clue what to wear. He will sometimes surprise me with a new dress or pair of boots without me even trying anything on!
AM: What charities are you involved in?
CD: ConnectMed International is a group that I travel with and assist with cleft lips and palate surgeries as well as other congenital deformities or injuries.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization near and dear to our hearts. I personally have a "little sister", named Leslie. She is in third grade and has a younger brother who is 4. I have a school placement which means I go to her school to meet with her. Generally, I go every other week. We play games, draw, make each other cards or just chat. My dream for her is that she is able to achieve her goal of becoming a dentist.
After serving as a Big for 2 years, I can wholeheartedly say that my Little Sister has changed my life just as much as I have changed hers. Supporting this BBBS in makes matches like ours possible.
AM: In Dallas where should we eat, shop and get a cocktail?
CD: I love Nonna for great food and cocktails. It’s one of our family go-tos and not too far from home! Stanley Korshak, Neiman’s, and Lululemon are probably my most visited shopping spots in town. As a mom on the go, I’m usually on a tight schedule and need a place with a good variety to pick up everything I need!
Bistro 31 always has a great cocktail menu upstairs, but I have to be completely honest… I’m really partial to Mark’s world-famous Deuber-Ritas! He should bottle that recipe and sell it!
AM: For the holidays, what are you looking forward to and how does the Deuber family celebrate?
CD: We are all looking forward to things slowing down a bit. Our family just likes to get together and really spend time with those that matter the most. I miss my stepson so much during the year, as he’s away at college, so we all look forward to having him home with the rest of the Deuber bunch. I can’t wait for cold weather, tree decorating, and holiday SALES!
A typical Deuber family holiday includes Mark and I actually cooking together for once, everyone around the table, and lots of thankful hearts. It’s a great opportunity to teach our little one about sharing and helping others, so we always find a special way to involve the family in giving back to those in need.
Our Style Director grew up in a suburb in the Midwest at a time where everyone knew their neighbors in their subdivision and events were celebrated together. When her father mowed the lawn, it was a time to gossip with other fathers in the neighbhorhood and their wives planned ways to come together. The highs and lows were celebrated through food. Now more than ever, the need to bring warmth to the everyday through food is an essential. We had the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth Heiskell, who just released her lifestyle cookbook, What Can I Bring, to talk about how she got into the culinary industry, a Today Show Contributor, a caterer and how we can approach incorporating food into lifestyle situations. We laughed more than any interview we can think of and the food and the presentation of it from this book is from a place of love.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us how you came to this journey as a cook, TODAY SHOW contributor and writer.
ELIZABETH HEISKELL: I started in highschool with a catering company and my mom was really good friends with the owner of the company and so I would go and cater on the weekends. I would work during holidays and when I came home from college and I would work for her. So when I finished school, I was looking for a job and ended up finding a husband instead of a job and then very quickly had a baby right after we got married. I hadn’t planned on working as I was just going to raise children and my family and that was just what I was going to do. Then I had this friend that I just adored and she had just moved back to town. She didn’t have a job and she would just come over to my house and literally every morning, we’d visit and have so much fun!
Her husband was making her get a job. So it was so bad that I would load up the baby and then sit in the car while she would go off to do interviews and then we would go eat lunch – it was awful! Finally, I said, “this is ridiculous, we just need to start our own company and then you don’t have to get a job and we can still hang out!” I told her that I had this idea call Instead of Flowers. So basically instead of getting flowers, you called us and we would bring you food. If you had a friend that died or someone who had a baby or sick – we would take food. So we did that and of course our husbands called it, “Instead of a Job”, but it was really successful and it moved into catering almost immediately.
Then we moved from Memphis back to the Delta in Mississippi where I’m from originally and I slowly started catering again and then I became the head chef at Viking Corporation – which of course is the stove company. I was there for 8 years while still catering and then we were approached by this couple that owned a farm in Oxford. They had just bought it and were going to develop it with house, but then the market turned and they thought they were just going to hang on to it. In the meantime, they had started a farm down in Louisiana and they were servicing New Orleans with some of the most beautiful vegetables that you have ever seen. So they decided to shift plans with the property that they were holding onto and to work with someone to do the same things that they were doing there.
So my husband came home from work (he was a builder at the time but had grown up as a farmer) and started talking to me about all of this. We had just built my first house as we had lived in rental after rental after rental – it was my first house. We were going to live in that house, we were going to die in that house – I wasn’t going to go anywhere – they were going to have to lay me out on my dining room table when I was dead for people to see me - that was it! I wasn’t going to go to Oxford Mississippi! He wouldn’t shut up about it and I agreed to look at the property in Oxford. We went down to Lousiana at their other farm and they started pulling out vegetables that I had never seen before! This was 7 years ago before we even had a WholeFoods. You’d see these vegetables in magazines but the thought that you could harvest them and cook them took me to a whole other level.
So we ended up selling my beautiful house and moved to Oxford and started growing them. The plan was that Luke would grow the vegetables and that I would sell them. That’s the way it was going to be because I was a chef and knew what the restaurants wanted and what they needed and I was connected to them in Memphis and in Oxford.
The crates were a thousand pounds because there were crates of squash and tomatoes. It wasn’t feathers that we were selling and it was the hardest 5 months of my life. I went to Memphis 3 days a week and sold these vegetables and then we had a barn on the farm that we were redoing so that I could get back to catering and of course we’d use all the vegetables in the catering company.
It was a perfect marriage and then I had wanted to be on the Today Show for 17 years. I remembered sitting in my house back when I had Instead of Flowers seeing Martha Stewart on with Matt Lauer with a Turkey that she was making. I told my friend, “One day, I’m going to be on the Today Show and I am going to show my grandmother’s Pillowcase Turkey and it’s going to be fantastic.” My children would always ask me if I could take them to New York and I’d say, “we can go to NY as soon as I get on the Today Show.”
So I was asked to do a dinner for Andy Lack in Oxford at Roanoke. I cooked out of William Faulkner’s kitchen and I was the first one to cook out of his kitchen since his death. It was 12 people at the dinner and he was coming back out of retirement to take over as the head of NBC and that was on a Thursday and he was taking over on Monday. I knew that this was my chance. Honey, we put the dog on!
AM: So wait – what was this dinner like?
EH: It was the most magical thing that I had ever done. We had silver on the lawn, the oak trees were uploft, beautiful bars and we served mint juleps out of sterling silver cups with sterling silver straws as that is what Willian Faulkner served. We passed ham and biscuits because he always had a ham everytime he had a party. They were seated at his table – it was a magical night and at the end of it, Andy just held my hands and said, “you need to understand that you are wildly talented.” And I said, “Oh Andy – you tell all the girls that!”
I sent him a package reminding him of my interest to be on the Today Show and I didn’t hear anything for about 2 and a half months and my fingers were bloody from hitting the email button!
I wasn’t going to let it go and we have a Bloody Mary mix called Debutante Farmer Bloody Mary Mix that was born on the farm with Luke growing 10,000 tomato plants and me having nothing to do with them as we only had 6 restaurants.
I knew that Andy loved Bloody Marys as I had already put some in his room at the hotel and he drinks the mix every morning – not with the vodka but he loved it.
So I FINALLY got a call from the Senior Producer of the Today Show and I talked to her for 2 hours as I was headed to Nashville. It didn’t dawn on me how long it was as I was driving to Nashville and I know she didn't get a word in edgewise and my Suburban was filled with tomatoes. So at the end of the conversation she said, “we’re going to send a crew to you and I really want to see what you’re doing there. We’ll get one of our anchors to come down to be with you.”
She said, “I know, you want to be on the Today Show with Matt Lauer – there isn’t a person up here who doesn’t know what your dream is. We will get you on, but if you don’t mind we’d like to come and do a segment on you.”
They came down with Erica Hill and did a beautiful segment and it was nominated for a James Beard – which I didn’t know until after the awards happened. Then she called and it was about a month before Thanksgiving and she let me know that they wanted me to come up and to do the Thanksgiving Turkey. She didn’t know that that was what I wanted to do – just my friend. So I came on and did the turkey in 3.5 minutes with Matt and I thought that that was it. That was my dream – we went to Tavern on the Green, had champagne and went shopping with the girls.
That’s how we got to all of this and because of the Today Show, Sid Evans (Editor in Chief of Southern Living Magazine) called and said he wanted me to come to Birmingham to do Facebook Live and webisodes. We then had lunch with Katherine Cobb the Editor at Time Inc and Oxmoore House had this idea of What Can I Bring which is based on a column that they already have in the magazine and with that column they wanted to do a book. I had already thought about doing a book about 3 months before this and my prayer was that I wanted to do one but it had to be simple and easy as I didn't have time to find an agent, a publicist etc. I just wanted it to be the easiest book that I could write. So Katherine told me about it and I was like "Katherine that was my first job – ‘Instead of Flowers’ that’s what I did.” I can do that with my eyes closed – lock me in the room for 2 hours and I’ll have a book for you.
After that I agreed and I wrote a little bit and Sid said we’ll see if you can write and if not, we can get someone to help you write. I let him know that I thought I could write it and he said, “we’ll be the judge of that.” I sent him a few things so that he could pitch it to Time and they said the book went through. I asked Katherine if Sid thought that I needed someone to help me write and she said, “oh no no you’re doing this all by yourself.” It’s so funny as English was my worst subject and to see this book sitting here, I can’t believe it! It’s beyond! I just wrote what I was thinking and I figured that Katherine would fix whatever needed to be done and she never called – and now there is a book.
AM: Tell us more about the Debutante Farmer.
EH: So, we started with the Bloody Mary Mix and started canning it. So we had big stove pots we would mash the tomatoes down and cook them, strain them and then add what you do – Wooster, Garlic, Salt and Lime – that’s it – nothing else. We canned and canned. I’d take it to friends and then people started asking for it and it became this thing. So then we found this wonderful guy that makes it for us and he uses local tomatoes and does right by the product. So now it’s a really great product. The next step will be to work on the Pimento Cheese, Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Okra - all of those things will follow suit with this. Because there is nothing better to me then Cheese Straws and Bloody Marys and Pimento Cheese and a Pickled Okra.
The Bloody Mary is the only thing that can drink at 9am and no one is going to roll their eyes at you or to put you in the Betty Ford Clinic! They just think that you’re getting in your vitamins.
AM: What foods are classic to the Mississippi Delta?
EH: Well just the ones we were talking about. We have such notoriety for our fried foods and things that aren’t healthy like Pimento Cheese and Chicken Dumplings which are fantastic. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that we have the vegetables and the produce and the ability to grow it with the land that no one else has. We have beautiful Farmer’s Markets and people are moving back to this seeing this huge resurgence. When I grew up, we had a vegetable patch and most of my friends did. We had big lunches everyday and it’s going back to that but it wasn’t very long ago. So I still remember this as it’s not 2 generations or 3 generations – like it is in a lot of other places. There was a meat and 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 including sliced tomatoes, creamed corn, wonderful black eyed peas – oh my God! So although we’re famous for the fried chicken, it’s moving to a healthier aspect and I honestly think that we will be known as almost the vegetable basket (just like the bread basket in the midwest) – because we do know how to grow the vegetables and they flourish there.
AM: What Can I Bring debuted this month, what can people expect when reading this book?
EH: Number one it’s funny. I wrote it just like I’m sitting here talking to you talking about my favorite pound cake recipe.
Even though I am going to promote vegetables and healthiness all day long, there is sometimes a need to take a shortcut to get to the end result! The whole point of this book and why it's important is that when people are sick or hurting or celebrating – if you stop your world and take your time to care for them, by bringing them something that you made, it’s like God magnifies it and impacts them in ways that are lasting and memorable forever. I have a friend and I talk about this – my youngest daughter had an eye surgery and she was only 6 months old and we had to go to Baltimore. She was blind in one eye and it was terrifying. We came home and my neighbor saw me getting out of the car and she came over and hugged us. A few hours later, she brought back a beautiful roast chicken with lemon rice, asparagus and muffins. That was 19 years ago and I can still tell you everything that she brought. I can’t remember what I ate yesterday or where I was but I remember every single thing of what Lee Fife brought me that day. That is the reason why this is so important. Especially in our day and time today – there’s nothing more important than sharing your time with someone else. That’s what this all boils down to and that’s why the book is doing so well.
AM: So can anyone give you a lifestyle situation and you can give them a dish/dishes that can pair well with it?
EH: I can – that’s the catering background that I came up in!
AM: Oh great as we have some Athleisure situations that we’d love to know what it can be paired with! We always like asking 3 things and this seemed perfect! First up, what’s a great meal for a girls night in?
EH: Ok [laughter] Ok Girl’s Night In – now this is funny because usually with a girl’s night in or at least my friends, the wine starts flowing first. So what happens is that everyone starts talking and their mouths are moving a mile a minute. I mean, we're the loudest group in Oxford, Mississippi and you want things that are easy - easy- easy to pick up. So a gorgeous charcuterie board with beautiful cheeses and bread and honeycombs are perfect because you can just eat it. Just a little nibbles and noshes is what I call it. So a wonderful tiny BLT – things that you don’t have to fix and make a plate to stop that energy. Because the energy of those kinds of parties are so fun that you don’t want people to have to stop, go sit down, get a fork and a knife to eat – because the mood is ruined.
AM: Second one – your friend just moved out of her home office and her business has its first space and you want to bring her her first lunch – what can we bring?
EH: Mmmm ok so if you’re traveling with anything, you want to make sure that it’s easy and portable. I love Chinese To Go containers. I think that they are the most adorable things in the entire world. So I would have the most beautiful marinated vegetables and put that in and then I love salad.
So we have the marinated veggies in the to-go containers because packaging is fun and it makes it. Do another to-go container lined with Bibb lettuce and put your chicken salad in there and tie it up with some crackers and bread and then have some finger pimento cheese sandwiches. Honey, that is the most delightful lunch ever! But then put it in a great basket and take it to her and then she has something to remember the lunch by and the food is always going to be fantastic, but then you want to take it to the next level and consider what it looks like, how portable it is and what is the impression that you’re going to make when you give it to somebody. If you threw that into an old to-go container, yes it’s going to taste great but is it going to be spectacular? You want to put an exclamation point at the end of that lunch, not a period.
AM: And finally a tailgating -
EH: Oh shut up – you don’t know nothin' about no tailgating! I mean …. That’s all we do down in Oxford, Mississippi and right now we’re in the throws of it with LSU being home this weekend. Our tailgating is very different than most. Because we put a lot of effort into it but there are things that you have to remember. Number 1 – it’s weather dependent, you want to make sure that if it’s boiling hot you don’t want to do a bunch of mayonnaise and shrimp – things that go bad. Because people are drinking so much and talking so much (much like the Girl’s Night In), you want to make sure that things are already assembled like the hangover slider and you can pop it in your mouth. You don’t want to have to set your drink down to fix something. You want to be able to hold onto that drink and pick it up whether it’s chicken tenders – fried chicken all day. Same thing with wonderful roast beef sandwiches with bleu cheese. I have a wrap that’s a flank stank wrap that I love that has carmelized onions and bleu cheese and it’s easy to pick up and put in your mouth.
This is not the time for crudité or no damn marinated vegetables – we are all in on this tailgate. And a lot of pick up sweets like cookies that have you theme on them, tent name or greek name. That’s a ton of fun!
It’s so easy to pull in the car right there, unload everything, set it up, cars go out and then the cars come back in to load it up at the end of the night. So we do it up! There are a ton of tents that have chandeliers and candleabras – we’re talking tablecloths, overlays and everything. You have to come – you’d die and everyone is dressed up, I’m talking cocktail dresses. Huge flower arrangements although many times I do my own but last weekend, I didn’t have time.
When I started tailgating, that’s when I realized I’m competitive. My tent, I'm going to know that I won because when I walk by every other tent, I can tell you that it was me. I mean we kill it every single time. We’ve made gameday twice!
AM: For the holidays, what are things that people should have on hand in terms of gifts to give delivery men?
EH: Delivery men, I give them beers – just kidding but I do give it our trash guys and put a bow on it, they love it! You want something that is easy and portable and that they can snack on when they are driving around. I love Rosemary Cashews which is one of the recipes in the book and Fried Walnuts will make you swoon. Put them in a great bag and tie them with a festive ribbon and they can take them home and serve them to their friends.
AM: So what’s a typical holiday dinner like at your home?
EH: I was raised that my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my mother all had beautiful beautiful holiday dinners – they’re always perfect. They were PERFECT. The thing that is difficult for me is that my house is where everyone comes and I wouldn’t have it any other way – I love it more then anything. But with the catering company by that point, I’m a little exhausted. But still, it’s 25 people for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – whatever the holiday is and everyone comes over.
I am really funny, I don’t usually let people bring things to my Thanksgiving or Christmas because I want them to enjoy themselves and it’s how I can give back to them and … I don’t trust them! There are some people in your life that you can’t entrust them with key parts of your dinner, there are some people that just need to bring the rolls an the wine - or just the vodka!
AM: What charities do you support?
EH: St. Jude – We have the Taste of St. Jude which is an unbelievable event in Oxford, Mississippi and I have been on the board for about 5 years. We raised over $237,000 last year – this is in Oxford! We get things donated like trips and I do a lot of the culinary packages. We auctioned off a dinner for 40 people on the 50 yard line in the stadium the night before the LSU game.
We will be in the stadium, we bring in a Celebrity Chef Ryan Trimm is going to be cooking. Literally, they will sit on the field and have dinner with the stadium lights on – nobody is in there but them. That went for $10,000 this year.
We do a Pig, Pizza and Produce event. We have a great chef in town that does barbecue with amazing pigs and then we have an amazing wood fire pizza place that brought their ovens out and I did all the produce. We auctioned that off for $8,000.
I auctioned off a VIP tour to the Today Show. So there are tons of trips and events and our team is second to none.
Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude, the LeBonner House, Young Life, Doors for Hope – there are so many. It’s weekly that we’re doing something because I honestly feel that I have been given so much and blessed beyond that God will give back.
One year, my husband figured out how much we as a company had given out in time and money and he said, “we can’t afford this” and I said, “we can’t afford not to do this.” God will give it back to me a million times over. It doesn’t matter what it is but the moment that I feel that I don’t have enough to give to someone that is in need, that’s the minute that I will not have enough to give. That’s how I believe. We give a ton and we get a ton!
Alison Sweeney has literally grown up on TV from her first commercial at the age of 5 for Kodak, various shows and then in 1987, she came to the soap opera, Days of Our Lives which she spent over 2 decades as Samantha Brady. She is also known for her roles as the host of NBC's Biggest Loser, Hallmark's Murder She Baked and more. This Daytime Emmy and Soap Opera Digest Award winner and nominee continues to share her love of life in Food Network's Kid's Sweet Showdown as a host (she has hosted and co-hosted various Food Network specials).
We took a moment to sit down to talk with this Soap Opera queen to chat about her Food Network special, how she keeps a healthy mindset, what she's up to for the holidays and her personal style.
ATHLEISURE MAG: We've been fans of yours for a long time as we got our first glimpse of you as Sami! How have you crafted your career to take on so many roles and opportunities beyond those of just the Soap Opera world?
ALISON SWEENEY: Thank you for being fans! Growing up on a soap opera, where we learned so much dialogue each day, taught me how to be in the moment and how to plan. That upbringing has helped me throughout my life as I now tackle various roles. I make a point to continually push myself, but always to keep it manageable with a schedule and to only look at what’s next on the list. By focusing on what I’m doing in the moment, I’m able to give it my undivided attention before moving onto whatever is next. Plus, as my kids are getting older, I’m able to accomplish much more during their hours at school and with after school activities.
AM: We're Food Network fans for sure, how did Kid’s Sweets Showdown come about and what can we expect from this show?
AS: As followers of mine on social media know, I love to cook at home and I’m a big fan of Food Network. I’ve hosted several specials for the network so when they asked me to host Kid’s Sweets Showdown for the holidays, I jumped at the opportunity.
AM: Being healthy is a mindset, but it's also about making a time commitment, how are you able to do this during the holiday season especially with children and so many other responsibilities?
AS: My family and I are incredibly active and we view the holiday season as a time to get out and do so much more because we don’t have limitations with work, school and other responsibilities.
Whether it’s taking a hike or skiing down the mountain, it’s a great time of year for us to have fun while still being healthy
AM: Outside of the holidays how do you stay healthy from favorite meals, workouts, etc that you do?
AS: I love cooking at home and with my kids helping me. I think by making our own meals, we’re more aware of what we’re eating. Our go-to favorites are shrimp and veggie kabobs that my kids and I prep and my husband grills. For workouts, nothing beats a long run with good music and it’s a great way to explore neighborhoods or cities if I’m traveling.
AM: How did the partnership with Arm & Hammer Spinbrush come about and why are they a perfect stocking stuffer?
AS: I’m a big fan of Arm & Hammer products and believe in having a strong and confident smile so when Arm & Hammer approached me about working together to raise awareness of their Spinbrush and toothpaste, it was an organic fit as they’re products I already used and a daily routine my family and I are committed to. Plus, who doesn’t love a fresh toothbrush for the new year! It’s a great stocking stuffer and one that my kids look forward to each year.
AM: With the holidays, it's literally almost 6 weeks of so many activities - do you have any traditions and how will you be spending it?
AS: My family and I always disappear to the mountains for some time in the snow. We love being first on the chair lifts and last off the mountain before curling up by a fire.
AM: What's your holiday style suggestion from what you would wear to a holiday brunch, holiday activities with your kids, Christmas and New Year’s Eve - do you have any go to staples?
AS: I love to have a sparkly top or shoes to be extra festive over the holidays. I also learned a great tip years ago which is to carry a handbag so one hand is always full, providing less opportunity to
graze the food at holiday parties.
AM: When the holidays are over, how will you bring some much needed zen and centering back into your life as you embark upon the new year?
AS: My family and I are creatures of habit so the first day of school is the first day we return to our normal routines and get back in the mode of school and work. The holidays always give us a great time to take a break so when the day comes, we’re ready to tackle life again in the new year and to make every day count.