Talking Turkey with the Food Network’s John Catucci
The host of You Gotta Eat Here chats with CAA about travel, comfort food and the enduring appeal of butter
John Catucci knows he might just have the best job ever. The 43-year-old Torontonian is the host of the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, a weekly exploration of the best comfort-food restaurants on the planet. From poutine in Montreal to fish and chips in London, England, if it’s dripping in grease, chances are Catucci has eaten it on television. He recently talked to us about the success of the show, what makes comfort food so great (hint: lots of butter), and how, when it comes to spices, he’s a big baby.
CAA: You Gotta Eat Here is now in its fifth season. What has been the secret to its success?
JC: I think people get a kick out of seeing me mess up in the kitchen and eat spicy foods.
CAA: We saw one episode where you ate an eight-inch-tall hamburger filled with six patties. Is that the worst thing for your heart that you’ve ever eaten on the show?
JC: Comfort food is not the healthiest food.
CAA: That was very diplomatic.
JC: Isn’t it? How Canadian is that. I eat a lot of things that on normal occasions, I shouldn’t. But I take small bites.
CAA: We read that you hired a personal trainer. True?
JC: Oh, I had to because I’m lazy. I needed someone to kick my [behind]. No one needs to yell at me to eat, but someone needs to yell at me to do more squats.
CAA: Is there anything you won’t eat?
JC: I like spicy, I just can’t do crazy spice. I was at a barbeque place in Windsor, Ontario, Smoke and Spice, and we were making sauce. We used ghost peppers. I dipped my spoon in. It was just a dip, but I tasted it and it was like … a punch in my face. My ears were ringing. We had to stop shooting for a half-hour. I had to chug a keg of milk.
CAA: That sounds terrible.
JC: Well, the next day we were interviewing customers and I’m talking to this lady and I’m like “Careful with that! That’s really spicy!” Then she just pours it on her chicken wing and she eats it like it’s nothing.
CAA: So you’re a baby.
JC: I’m a baby.
CAA: This season, you travelled to Rome and Florence—along with London and Dublin—for the show. How does comfort food in Italy compare to comfort food here?
JC: Simplicity and freshness are things we sometimes forget about in Italian food here. Everything is made in house. You’re eating locally and you’re eating in season. The flavours of the ingredients come through. You don’t need to cover it in sauce.
CAA: What is it about comfort food that strikes a chord with viewers?
JC: I think there is a time and place for fine dining. But comfort food is nostalgic. It reminds you of when you were a kid.
CAA: What’s the key to great comfort food?
JC: It’s not trying too hard. It’s letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Sometimes, it’s just a lot of butter.