By Tina Safi
Bethenny Frankel is no desperate housewife.
star, a graduate of the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, is a natural foods chef who recently penned the book, "Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting," which is a New York Times bestseller.
On the show, Frankel's quick wit and ironic sense of humor get her noticed. Off the show, her signature cocktail, the SkinnyGirl Margarita, has become a hit.
Frankel will be in Huntington Beach on April 27 to sign copies of her new book.
How did you end up on "The Real Housewives of NYC?"
I was at the Bridgehampton Polo, and Jill Zarin came up to me and was like, "You skinny (explicative), you have to be on this show called 'Manhattan Moms.' " I looked at her and said, "I'm not even from Manhattan, and I'm not a mom." Everyone advised me not to do the show for two months because basically, it was against the image I was trying to build for myself. I was getting on a plane a few months after Jill asked me, though, and it just felt really right. The show really changed my life.
You are clearly close with Jill Zarin. What about the other women?
Jill and I became close through the experience and by being completely supportive of each other. We were not as close before we started filming. The one thing that we have is this incredible bond; we are like sisters and we fight like crazy, but we are extremely loyal. In that same way, LuAnn de Lesseps, Ramona Singer, Jill Zarin and I all stick together.
How much do you have to restrain yourself for the camera? That fight with Kelly Bensimon was pretty intense …
She is the outcast, and she's pretty much on her own with the rest of the cast. I wasn't really restraining myself during that fight, though, because I was in shock. It's like you need goggles and a rain slicker to prepare for a storm, but then all you can do is stay quiet and watch it.
Describe LuAnn de Lesseps, Kelly Bensimon, Jill Zarin, Ramona Singer and Alex McCord each in one word.
Ramona: Spitfire. LuAnn: Darling. Jill: Yenta. Alex: Desperate. Kelly: Calamity.
Do you watch the show each week as we're seeing it?
I see it four days before, but we don't know what they are going to show. I usually know what's going to happen and I'm not surprised, but on one out of like 20 shows, I say things that I don't love. On one show, I said, "People are envious of me and that's natural," and then I saw it on television and I was like, "What kind of a moron would even say that?" I mean, I did say it, though -- I own it. It's not just editing like people say.
Do you read people's comments on the blogs? Kelly Bensimon has really been getting bashed.
I'm always writing and so busy, so I don't have that much time to read them, but I think I've figured out why people are so passionate about Kelly. The reason is that everyone knew that one girl in high school who was popular but wasn't particularly intelligent or great and thought that she was better than you. I think no one could believe it when they saw her, because it took them back to high school and that mean girl. It's like "Mean Girls" for adults. Except it's not cute to be a mean girl when you're in your 40s. I mean, it's never cute to be mean, but … people really hate her.
On the show, you're sort of like everyone's younger sister, and it seems like this season, they're constantly giving you advice. Do you appreciate it, or do you think, "Stop already, I know how to get a man …"?
I think it's cute that everyone cares. It is funny and it's a great subject matter, and the main thing is that people love to hear themselves talk. I go with my own advice, but as Jill says, "We plan and God laughs." I think LuAnn's advice is hilarious, because she's telling me to lean in and speak softly, like a geisha. She is training me to be a geisha. And then Alex tells me to sleep with the person on the second date, and Ramona's telling me to just land the private plane and the husband. It's great.
The Countess is getting divorced, and Kelly recently beat someone up. What do you think about these recent events?
I know that Kelly is seemingly irrational and I can't really even speculate as to what happened. I mean, I wouldn't even know how to punch a guy, Jesus. As for LuAnn, she's doing what I would do, which is lying low, focusing on her kids and her life.
So how did you get into cooking?
I loved it my entire life, and I always wanted to go into health. It has definitely evolved, though.
And how did you get into natural foods?
I am extremely healthy now, but a couple of years ago, I was obsessed with food and dieting, and I was 20 to 30 pounds overweight. In my new book, "Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting," I talk about this unleashing of your skinny girl by teaching people that there is no forbidden food. People are really losing weight using my methods because you never think, "I was bad today and I'll be good tomorrow" and you're not punishing yourself.
What are some food items everyone should always have in their kitchen?
Pureed vegetables in the freezer, soups, whole grain bread, hummus, edamame, gazpacho for the summertime, cucumber for salads because it is a diuretic, brown rice, cans of white tuna (Costco has the best), all-natural peanut butter, a chunk of parmesan and nuts. Basically, if you have a green, a nut and a cheese, you can make a great salad. I also love frozen butternut squash and sweet potatoes, which are so easy to make. I make more than I cook, and then it's ready all the time. I mean, I go out a lot and I make for myself a lot, too. You have to live. You don't have to go out and skip the steak. I teach people how to drink and how much to drink rather than not drink at all.
What was the last thing you ate?
A frittata at the hotel and at 2 a.m., after the Bravo A-List Awards, I ate a chopped salad and calamari.
And you also have some upcoming releases?
Yes, my SkinnyGirl Cocktail will be in stores in June. It has 96 calories a serving and is $16 a bottle. Also, in January 2010, I will be releasing a book that is kind of like a food diary following 21 days of my meals.
When was the last time you took a vacation?
For the love of God -- a vacation? I went to Aruba with Jill over Christmas and let me tell you, that was not a vacation. I was surrounded by 20 of Jill's yenta relatives all screaming and yelling at each other, and it was not relaxing. A vacation is lying in bed and staring at the ceiling.
Speaking of vacation destinations, have you ever been to San Diego?
I've been to Del Mar a million times because of the racetrack. I've been to La Jolla many times also. I love, love, love San Diego. What's not to love? It's relaxing, it's beautiful and it's full of perfect blonde people and frozen drink places.
So you're familiar with the Del Mar racetrack?
Where the surf meets the turf is absolutely beautiful. Nothing is as great. I mean, the Saratoga track is wonderful, but I really think nothing beats Del Mar in terms of just how nice it is.
Could you recommend some great skinny cocktails for San Diego events?
Of course: Try a skinny cosmopolitan, a skinny mojito or a skinny mint julep. I had one of those skinny mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby, and after two of them, you want to put a gun to your head.
And you'll be in Huntington Beach for a book signing on April 27?
Yes, and if people can't make it to the signing, they can mail me a copy of my book with a self-addressed envelope and I will sign it and return it within a week. Also, everyone should check out the macaroni and cheese recipe in the book. It is absolutely decadent and comforting.
'NATURALLY THIN' BOOK SIGNING
7 to 8:30 p.m. April 27
Barnes & Noble
7881 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach