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On Air, Online: Spike Mendelsohn's New Show

Food2 hosts Kelsey Nixon and Spike Mendelsohn. (Kelsey Nixon)

Top Chef contestant. Burger entrepreneur. Now add Web TV host to Spike Mendelsohn’s resume. This week, the first episodes of his new Web series, “Kelsey and Spike Cook,” launch on Food2, a new Food Network site that targets hip 20- and 30-somethings.

The five-minute episodes feature Mendelsohn and Kelsey Nixon, a runner-up for another reality show, "The Next Food Network Star," simultaneously doing their twists on dishes including steak, pancakes, roast chicken, even sushi. Nixon, a sunny blonde, demos traditional techniques, while Mendelsohn applies cheffy tricks to make the dishes more inventive.

So far, the pair have filmed 12 episodes. More are set to be taped later this year. I spoke with Mendelsohn this week about the launch. Edited excerpts follow:

Q: Why did you sign on for Web videos?

A: Our generation has no patience. Food shows that are half an hour on the Food Network might not apply to our generation. So we try to show people our age a recipe in two to three minutes. You log on and get your dinner recipe for the night without watching a whole cooking show.

I also liked that it’s not so competitive in nature. I came off "Top Chef," which was all competition. I want to break into the TV world but do something more relaxed. I want to show people who I am, not some character on a reality show.

Q: On the show, Kelsey Nixon goes "by the book,” while your recipes are billed as “off the hook.” Do you mind being cast as the crazy chef?

A: I’m used to it by now. And it fits into what I want to do. I love the idea of taking a simple recipe like a roast chicken: She does a traditional recipe. And I do it differently. I won’t truss my chicken because it’s a waste of time. Instead of roasting it on a rack, I roast it over potatoes so the chicken fat drips on the potatoes. It lets me bring a cheffier perspective -- without going too far.

Q: Yes, you always seem to have a trick: Brown butter for pancakes or adding champagne grapes instead of blueberries.

A: I do whatever inspires me. The champagne grapes were in the fridge from the day before. And I was going to make blueberry pancakes but then I decided to do something different. I’m not trying to say, hey, take this recipe and follow it exactly. I’m saying, think of something on your own. Have a little more fun with it.

Q: And now the most important question. In one episode, you are not wearing your trademark fedora. What gives?

A: It’s not the end of the fedora. It’s always going to follow me and always be there. I don’t wear a hat everywhere I go all the time. I’m a normal guy. I don’t have to rock a hat all the time. It doesn’t make me who I am. I’d rather have people say, "Oh, there’s Spike." Not, "There’s the guy in the hat."

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  April 29, 2009; 12:27 PM ET
 | Tags: Food Network, Jane Black, Top Chef, Web sites  
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