By any standards, Curtis Stone is living the Hollywood dream.
"It's beautiful every single day," says the charismatic celebrity chef.
"We're 10 minutes from the beach – we live in a cosmopolitan city, but there are deer in our backyard and coyotes chasing them. You can be in the mountains at Mammoth skiing and back down at the beach surfing the same day."
Curtis, his actress wife, Lindsay Price, and their two sons, Hudson, six, and three-year-old Emerson, live in Brentwood, an exclusive Los Angeles neighbourhood.
At 42, Curtis is a best-selling cookbook author, Coles Fresh Advisor, a TV personality, both in Australia and in the States, and the owner of two of LA's leading, high-end restaurants, named after his grandmothers, Gwen and Maude.
The Weekly meets with Curtis and Lindsay at Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant, just before it opens for dinner.
With its elegant art deco theme, lush garden patio, bar, walk-in fire pit and mellow Mumford & Sons soundtrack, the atmosphere is seductive.
Gwen is a family affair in more ways than one. Curtis persuaded elder brother Luke, a former florist, to relocate to LA from Australia and run the venture with him. From the start, it won rave reviews.Curtis wasn't born to the high life.
"I didn't grow up wealthy," he says.
"We lived in a neighbourhood that was pretty humble, where I played a lot of football, and I feel more at home in that environment than I do anywhere. But it's true that in LA we live a fabulous life."
Born and raised in Melbourne Curtis's parents, Lorraine ("Lozza"), a florist, and Bryan, an accountant, split up when he was two.
"My mum didn't have time to prepare gourmet meals. She was a busy single mum, doing the ironing and getting the school uniforms ready for the following day, so dinner was kind of 'get them fed' rather than a gastronomic masterpiece."
However, Lorraine was an expert baker. "I loved watching mum bake Anzac biscuits," he says. "It made me happy."
"Maude [his paternal grandmother] taught me how to make Yorkshire fudge and how to play tennis," Curtis says with a grin.
"Gwen used to make great Scottish shortbread, and she taught me how to garden. She grew the most beautiful hydrangeas."
As a teenager, he notes, it wasn't "cool" to spend time in the kitchen. When he was training to be a chef, Curtis recalls "looking at myself in the mirror in my white jacket and long white apron and tallboy hat and thinking: 'I look like a clown. But his embarrassment rapidly disappeared as his passion for cooking intensified.
Curtis started out in his teens as a meat-cutter in the basement butcher shop at the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne.
After an apprenticeship, he worked in several Melbourne restaurants before packing a rucksack and, in the time-honoured Aussie tradition, leaving home.
"I moved to London when I was 21… I didn't have any money. I arrived, got a job and stayed on someone's sofa for months. It was like: 'Do I catch the bus to work or save the money and walk? It's going to take me another half hour, but then I'll have beer money at the weekend.'"
Before long, he was working for the esteemed chef Marco Pierre White.
Eventually, Curtis became head chef at White's Michelin-starred restaurant Quo Vadis.
"He was a crazy chef, absolutely incredible, a creative force," he says of his early mentor. Moving to LA in 2014, after 11 years in the UK, Curtis opened his first restaurant, Maude. Gwen followed two years later.
Both Curtis and Lindsay are concerned (but not obsessed) with healthy eating and are raising their sons accordingly.
The boys have been happily chopping vegetables and cracking eggs with Dad since they were toddlers. "They love to be in the kitchen and we have a big veggie garden at home, so they love gardening," says Curtis.
"They've been sitting on the kitchen bench with Curtis ever since they were old enough," says Lindsay. "I came downstairs one day and Hudson was chopping an onion. All I saw was 'knife' and 'baby' and I was like, 'WHAT are you doing?' But Curtis is so used to having five or six different things going on in the kitchen, he could certainly handle one baby and one onion."
She says both boys have a genuine investment in cooking.
"Because they prepare the food themselves, they want to eat it. They're growing vegetables and learning how to measure ingredients, which helps them learn everything from motor skills to maths, science and culture."
They are also developing sophisticated palettes. "Emerson likes his Korean grandma's food," says Curtis (Lindsay is half Korean). "Bulgogi and rice is his favourite. Hudson's tried more things than most adults – from foie gras to frog's legs!"
You can read more about Curtis Stone, his wife and family in the September issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, out now.
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