Johnny Iuzzini is living a delicious life. The Top Chef: Just Desserts judge is cooking
up great projects in his life, including a meaningful partnership with Glad and
kids’ cancer. We spoke to him about his plans to travel the U.S.A., doing what
you love and what he and Willy Wonka have in common.
Let’s talk about your
partnership with Glad and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
This is a very meaningful partnership for me. A lot of us don’t
know that the leading cause of childhood deaths is from cancer. Since 2009, Glad
has teamed up with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer to throw book sales and cookie
exchanges. If you register your bake sale with the charity, $1 for every cookie
sold goes to charity, up to $100,000.
And there’s also a
virtual component to the fundraiser.
You can design a virtual cookie online, with the same dollar
value. I love the virtual aspect of it, because it seems like every kid has an
iPad and is more proficient at a computer than I am! [laughs]
I totally agree.
It’s a way for kids to get involved, to decorate a cookie, personalize
it and do something great for charity. I lost my mom at a young age to cancer
so it’s something very personal to me. It was right after high school. She had
beat breast cancer twice but it came back. I think by Glad doing this it’s a
wonderful way to get awareness out. I would love to see more bake sales. They
disappeared, between allergies and people being afraid, they’re just not done
as much as they were before.
Or simply not having
enough time. When parents are working, it can be too much to have to bake a few
dozen cookies, too.
That’s true, too.
Now we have to give a
wink and a nod to Glad.
Well, if you’re doing a bake sale, how do you get things to
and from the sale? Glad has been one of the premiere storage and plastic
companies for a long time. It’s a necessity in my kitchen, both at work and at
And work is also Top Chef: Just Desserts on Bravo. I
would say that you’ve been somewhat labeled as the bad boy.
That has been some of the perception. They brought me on
because of what I’ve done in the industry at such a young age; the awards I’ve
won, the pedigrees I have, and all the accolades. The thing is that I’m not
going to sit there and zing you for the sake of zinging you. If I can back it
up with technique, then I will give my opinion. It’s always constructive. I was
excited for the show because it was the first time that pastry chefs got their
due on TV. I was a co-producer on the show so I got to design what the
challenges would be. We can show the range of what pastry chefs can do, so that
And you’re planning
to do your own version of Willy Wonka, right?
[laughs] My goal is to make my own chocolate factory. I want
to go totally Wonka and make my chocolate from scratch. I also want to build a
coffee roastery, and take the raw product of coffee and chocolate and make my
own distillery of whiskeys, ryes and rums based on chocolate and coffee. I
would do it in Brooklyn or Long Island City to start. It’s a new learning
curve; I could have stayed at a 4-star restaurant forever. I felt like I was
getting too comfortable, so the evolution is exciting.
Of all the things you
like to make, what’s your favorite?
Chocolate. At Jean-Georges, I had a chocolate room where I
would make 14,000 pieces of chocolate, like I Love Lucy style. I love working
with it, but growing up in the Catskills, I love Concord grapes. I wait for
them to be in season, and then I hoard them. I make cocktails and sorbets out
of them. Those are my two favorite flavors, I would say.
While we were
shooting, you were telling me about some of your really cool plans for this
I left Jean-Georges at the end of December. I had been in 4
star restaurants for the past 22 years. I wanted to change gears a bit. I’m
always going to be a pastry chef, but I decided to travel a lot more. I was in
Cabo this past week, diving and I went to Denmark for a big food symposium.
Next week, I’m flying to San Francisco (my bike has already been shipped) and I
have all these cameras attached to my bike. I’m giving myself three weeks to a
month and zigzag across the country. I feel like I’ve traveled the world but I
haven’t really explored my own country. I want to see Mount Rushmore and the
Grand Canyon, but at the same time I want to find all these hole-in-the-wall
places using social media. I’m going to say, “Hey, I’m on this road in this
town. Where should I stop and eat?” I want to connect with the public and see
the ins and outs of the country.
That is so awesome.
Do you have any places in particular that you want to see?
I have a couple of points of interest; I want to hit some of
the national parks. But part of this is because I’m an avid motorcyclist and I
got into that as a hobby.
I always wanted to cross the border from California into
Mexico on a motorcycle, so I might dip into Tijuana for a second and then pop
back up into Texas. The whole point is to not have a game plan. It’s just to
look at the GPS and say, “Where do I want to go today?” I did this when I was
22 years old. I bought a one-way ticket around the world, essentially and flew
from New York to Hong Kong, to Australia to Thailand, to Russia, then to Czech
Republic and other countries. I took nine months by myself backpacking. I
knocked on the door of bakeries and asked to work, even for free, even if I
couldn’t speak the language. Sometimes I just washed dishes, but I could see
what they had done.
Wow, you have had
some kind of life.
I’m a single guy; I don’t have a family or kids. I’m a
little older now. These are the things that I sacrificed working in this
industry. Working 16-hour days six days a week is not really conducive to
positive relationships. I want to have kids, but not until I’ve achieved a lot
of the things that I’ve wanted to achieve in my life.
easier to get those things done before you have kids, but you can still
incorporate them. You have a little papoose on your back as you’re going down
[laughs] That wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’ll just make a
little sidecar for my kid!
How did your love of LEGOs begin? I've been building and playing with LEGO toys my whole life. I was a total "LEGO maniac" when I was a kid, and LEGO toys were usually the only toys I ever asked for when my birthday would come around each year. I kept building LEGO models all through childhood and even into my teenage and adult years. My models slowly became more involved and elaborate as I got older, and eventually I started building LEGO models professionally.
Were you artistic as a child? I've been an artist all my life. Before becoming a LEGO artist, I worked as a graphic designer, an illustrator, a web designer, and a cartoonist. Somewhere along the line, I decided to merge my artistic side with my hobby, and now I express my creative side with LEGO bricks instead of by drawing.
What is so fun about creating with LEGO bricks? Working with LEGO for a living is a lot of fun! I get to play with toys and make people smile—what better job could there be? :)
Traditional sculptures in clay, bronze, and stone are very serious looking. But a sculpture made with LEGO bricks is fun and bright and something everyone can relate to! When you look at a LEGO sculpture you understand how it was put together, and maybe even can imagine doing it yourself. It's great to watch kids get excited and start creating things themselves. You don't see that same thing happening when people view bronze sculptures or oil paintings.
And unlike when I was a cartoonist or graphic designer, now I am approached every day by adults and children who tell me how much they love looking at my LEGO sculptures. It makes me feel great to know I'm making so many people happy.
It's wonderful to see people enjoying the LEGO creations I've made -- it inspires me to build even more cool things. For example, I was fortunate to help create an interactive LEGO city for a big toy store in New York City. I visit the display often, and it makes me very happy to see kids at the display, smiling, jumping, pointing, and pushing buttons.
What other media have you worked with? I used to be a cartoonist; I drew all the time as a kid, and illustrated comic books and comic strips in high school and college. I've done a fair bit of graphic design in my adult life as well, doing web graphics, creating print documents, logo design etc.
How big a team do you have to assist you? People come in and go out as projects come along, but we're never less than 4 or more than 10. Everyone on my team is an artist in their own right -- painters, photographers, animators, architects, musicians, sculptors, illustrators.
What project required the most people working with you?
“Nature Connects” is a show currently touring botanical gardens around the United States, featuring 27 larger-than-life sculptures of plants, insects, and animals. It took my team and me 5,000 hours to assemble the nearly half-million LEGO pieces that went into the sculptures, over the course of half a year.
What project required the most pieces? How many? The single largest sculpture I built was a life-size Polar Bear, which used 95,000 pieces and took 1,100 hours to assemble. He's part of a larger show called "Creatures of Habitat," which has been touring zoos around the United States and features 30 models of animals that are losing their habitats.
How long did some of your most complex sculptures take to build?
Times Square (with working screens and Broadway marquee lights!): 22,000 pieces and 300 hours. Wrigley Field: 57,960 pieces and 649 hours Giant tricycle: (7 feet tall) 36,000 pieces and 250 hours
Have you ever had a sculpture crumble apart when you were almost finished with it? Do you have near-disaster stories?
No disasters. I've had the occasional damage-during-shipment, but nothing that a few minutes and some extra LEGO pieces couldn't solve.
What is the strangest thing you have been asked to build? Either the "four-foot gingerbread house for Sea Turtles to live in" or the nearly-life-size model of the US Capitol Building (which would have contained 15 million pieces and taken 153 years to build.) Needless to say, neither ended up happening.
What’s your process for creating or picking the focus of your books? I approach the books' designs just like you'd approach authoring any children's book—by storyboarding out ideas, planning what kinds of things I'd include in the book and how I could challenge kids to design their own things. Then I go and purchase lots of retail LEGO products, mix the pieces up, and start building!
Kids often look at my giant sculptures and think "Wow, that's amazing!" and are inspired to go home and create things themselves. But then people think I must have special-made pieces or other tricks up my sleeve, or that they need millions of pieces to make great things. So I wanted to reach out to kids and show them how they can make really cool things with the pieces they already have at home. The books are about saying to kids, "You can do this too."
Life’s a beach for Eric Roberts. The Academy Award-nominated
actor takes his turn at playing (gasp!) a good guy in the sure-to-be-summer hit
movie, The Perfect Summer. We spoke
exclusively to Eric about surfing, family, and why it was so important for him to
be good—for once.
Let’s talk about your
new movie, The Perfect Summer.
My character Lou is a good guy. In my middle years, I
figured I should play a good guy now and then! [laughs] When I realized that my
daughter was 16 before she could see any of my movies, I knew I had to start
playing nicer people!
But you’re so good at
[laughs] I love playing bad guys; they’re so much fun. But
this guy, I like him a lot. He’s an anti-hero. He’s not your typical show off
but he’s a cool cat. To be honest, as a middle-aged parent, I want my daughter
to see me be cool in movies. That was part of it. And I’ve never made a surfing
movie before. I’ve done almost every other type of film but not that one.
You work with a great cast in this film, including Sydney
Penny and Jason Castro.
It was really fun working with Jason Castro. My wife, Eliza,
is his acting coach. It was all a six degrees of separation thing. And my
stepson, Keaton Simons, plays music with Jason. They both have songs in this
movie. They’re going on tour together; they’re co-headlining. They’re real
pals; they write and hang out together. They’re really cool.
Did you learn how to
surf while making the movie?
A little. I’m terrible.
It is hard stuff. I recommend everybody try surfing as a child; it’s so hard as
an adult. It took a lot of hours.
I’m a bad swimmer to
start, so I imagine my foot tied to a board and trying to surf wouldn’t be a
You can’t be a bad swimmer and surf, baby. [laughs]
Okay, but did you do
any of the stunts or shots in the film?
I have one question, for you. Are you kidding? [laughs] Of course not. It’s hard, dangerous
stuff. I’m too old to work that hard, and I’m too smart to do something that
It looks like a feel
good movie, but hello, you’re playing a grandfather. You don’t look a day over
[laughs] Aww, thanks! I’ll take that home and keep it!
What are you
expecting the reaction to be to the film?
Honey, I’ll be honest with you. I stopped expecting
reactions to be in my favor many years
ago. It’s easier to live that way. I hope that it is embraced because it’s a
feel-good movie. It’s a hope movie; it’s a “wow, did he just do that?” movie.
It’s uplifting and I’d like to make one of these every year.
Now, what are your own
I’ve got a bunch of work lined up. I will spend a month with
my wife, then two weeks with my daughter, and then on the road the rest of the
time. I will have a month to myself in early fall. I’m going to jump in the car
and ask anyone else who wants to come, to come along. A good road trip.
Are you planning to
Definitely. I’ve done that three times. The only route I
recommend is the southern route. It’s so colorful and so much fun. Our country
is the most diverse country in the whole world, from tropics to peaks. We’ve
got it all.
The Perfect Summer
will premiere on the UP channel on Saturday, July 13th, at 7:00 PM,
9:00 PM and 11:00 PM EST.
Jenni Pulos flexes her rap skills--and her funny bone--with her first CD, Old School Kids Beats. The mom-to-be and star of Bravo's Flipping Out and Interior Therapy has created a cute hip hop album for the pre-school set that parents will like too. Each song represents a daily part of kids' lives, like "Take Your Vitamins," "Brush Your Teeth," and "No Fighting, No Biting." Jenni's husband, Dr. Jonathan Nassos, makes his musical debut on "The Doctor Says," which tells kids to wear sunscreen and not be afraid when going to the pediatrician. Standout songs on the CD are definitely "Cell Phone 411" which talks about cell phone etiquette. "Bullies Aren't Cool" has by far one of the best beats on the CD with an even better message. But our favorite was "Poo in the Potty" which helps frazzled parents get through one of the hardest parts of toddlerhood--potty training. It's a fun album for kids and will have parents waxing nostalgic about old school hip hop--while their kid is pooing on the potty ($12.99, cdbaby.com).
Avon is known for beautiful cosmetics used by beautiful women all over the world. But the makeup giant's name is also synonymous with success stories from their sales representatives. Celebrity Parents Magazine is celebrating these women in a series of exclusive interviews. We hope that you are inspired by their stories as much as we are.
What types of jobs had you held prior to working
I had always worked with law firms. In fact, I’ve
been the supervisor for three firms. There was no typical day; it was pretty
intense supervising legal assistants, working with attorneys on getting
complaints filed. It was not very fulfilling.
How did you get involved with Avon?
I was definitely an Avon fan since I was very
little. I remember my Grandma Walker selling it and she would give us lip balms
and little perfumes. Avon brings back nice memories for me. I personally became
involved at the end of 2010. I started looking at Avon after the Mary Kay
ladies were after me! [laughs] I was broke, and they wanted me to invest money
to start working with them. I researched it and looked at similar companies and
was hesitant to join. I reached out to someone working at Avon and asked how
much I would have to invest and she said, “Ten dollars.” It made much better sense
for me to work for Avon.
What was your experience like working with Avon
in the beginning?
I hit the ground running and went for it! My
family members all love it, and luckily they didn’t have their own Avon lady.
So they were my first customers, and everyone at my office. I honestly hit a
gold mine. It was easy starting out, and then one person approached me to sell
Avon. I started recruiting and then before I knew it I had four people under
Now a year and a half later, what is life like
working with Avon?
I love it, as busy as I am. I always make time
for Avon and make sure that I have everything organized properly so I won’t get
overwhelmed. I do most of the product drop-offs after work, then pick up my son
and make phone calls. I dedicate 3-4 hours daily to Avon. On the weekends, my three
year-old son and I work on the business together! He has a jeep that he drives,
so we put the catalogs in the Avon bag and he drives it around the neighborhood
with me and we play mailman together, putting the catalogs in the mailboxes. He
loves doing it with me.
How do you lead your team?
I love inspiring other people and at the end, I
want people who want to make money, not someone who is just buying the products
for themselves. I focus my energy and time on building people who are as
excited about Avon as I am. I check in with them often and always want them to
recruit as well. I concentrate on those who want to assume leadership roles and
help them to start their businesses, whether it’s advice on setting
appointments or showing them how to lead.
On a personal note, how have you seen your life
I’ve certainly changed as far as the people I
keep around me. Avon is also a self-improvement program. You learn a lot about
yourself, you learn more about the people around you and what you look for in
good friendships. You want to be around those who inspire you. And it’s true
what they say—you do realize quickly who your friends are and aren’t. And working
for Avon helped me to purchase my home.
How has working with the brand empowered you as
It’s definitely empowered me as a mother. My son
sees how hard I am working, and he works hard too. He likes working hard around
the house, and he wants to do more for me. It’s rewarding. When he sees the UPS
truck he calls the deliver guy the Avon Man. [laughs] I have an office in my
home and he likes to keep it clean. He’ll help me with the bags and label the
books. He’s learning the importance of good hard work and the benefits that
come with it.
Between your career and your child, how do you
find your own personal work/life balance?
You have to maintain your sanity. I have been
trying out meditation, and I take that time out, even if it’s in the car for 20
minutes. I have to do that daily because it helps me so much—it brings me back
to a solid place to think of what’s going on around me. I have to stay
organized, and I set weekly goals for myself. I found out quickly that when you
write something down you hold yourself accountable.
What are your plans for the future with Avon?
My plan is to eventually do Avon full time. I’d also
like to do something that will empower women. Avon really got me on the right
path where I wanted to go with my life. I am not with my son’s father, and that
has been difficult. But I made a plan, saved money, paid off debt, bought my
house and that was all because of planning and believing in myself. I owe a
great deal to Avon. I feel like I owe them so much for so much that they have
given me. So instead, I have no choice but to do my absolute best and get to
the top level with Avon.
What advice would you give to other women who
are considering a career in Avon?
You have to work hard for it; success won’t come
overnight. But eventually it will. You can still work a full time job and do
your business. I guess it depends what you want out of life. I wanted a better
life for myself and now more than ever I want to show my son that there are
great rewards when you work hard. And Avon has given me that opportunity and I’m
As one third of the legendary group RUN-DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels helped define hip hop as we know it. With hits like “It’s Tricky” and their then unheard of collaboration with rock ‘n roll artists Aerosmith on “Walk This Way”, RUN-DMC broke down barriers of all kinds in creating music that was at once relatable and inspiring. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with DMC on the beauty of hip hop, his self-described “metaphysical, suicidal, alcoholic spiritual wreck” phase, and how success without significance is meaningless.
Fitness guru Jillian Michaels shared with viewers in her own words further details and insights into her adoption news via her show Daily Dose on YouTube.com/EveryDayHealth.
Jillian spoke of the excitement of her simultaneous adoption process and partner's pregnancy and birth of her daughter and son respectively. She discussed candidly the difficulty of keeping the story a secret as well as when she got the news she was paired with a child for adoption and found out that her partner was pregnant on the same day. Click below to see the exclusive interview with the new mom of two!
Daily Dose is produced by The Biggest Loser co-creator Mark Koops, owner of Trium.
Today marks the 4 year wedding anniversary of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. Nick shared his feelings about the woman he loves the most, his twin babies, and being the inspiration behind Mariah's new fragrance, Forever.
Nick on how he felt the first time he met Mariah…
I presented her with an award at the Kid’s Choice Awards. I was so nervous but decided to take my chances and give her a kiss on the cheek! I had to have that kiss.
How Nick knew Mariah would be his forever love…
Mariah is a beautiful and talented person, and I’ve had a crush on her for as long as I can remember. Every day, my respect for Mariah continues to grow higher. She’s a caring, warm and funny person. People have no idea how funny she is! I feel like I’ve always known she was my forever love.
Nick on what it takes to be forever…
Nobody can predict the future. You just have to give your all to the relationship you’re in and do your best to take care of your partner, communicate and give them every last drop of love you have. I think one of the most important things in a relationship is caring for your significant other through good times and bad. To celebrate our lasting love, Mariah and I get married each year on our anniversary.
Nick on forever love…
To me a forever love is a bond that can’t be broken. It’s like my love for “dembabies” and Mariah. You go through difficult times, but as long as you hang on to the beautiful things, it’s great – even when it’s rough, it’s real.
Nick on being the inspiration behind Mariah’s fragrance, Forever…
It’s incredible. Who could really imagine somebody dedicating a fragrance for your love? I was pretty much in awe. I’ve learned a lot watching Mariah create such successful fragrances. Every time Mariah wears “Forever”, it takes me back to the passion and excitement of when we first fell in love.
Planning a vacation with your family can be a daunting experience. After all, for many moms, just going to the supermarket with your kids can be a trip fraught with meltdowns and Goldfish bribes to shush. But ask Carol Cain, the creator of the popular blog NYC Mama, and she’ll tell you that traveling with your children is doable—and fun. We spoke to Carol about finding a new career as a blogger, traveling with kids, and fighting against cultural expectations to be a successful working mom.
Frank DeCaro loves cooking. He also loves celebrities—dead or alive. So he combined his two passions and whipped up Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes From More Than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen, a cool compendium of dead celebrity recipes seasoned with Frank’s acerbically witty commentary. The result: A delicious masterpiece that will have you wanting seconds. We spoke exclusively with the author and Sirius XM host of OutQ about cooking, his favorite dead celebs and why ¼ cup of salt instead of sugar can yield tragic recipe results.