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Cooking With Coolio

Most people know Coolio as the “Gangsta’s Paradise,” rapper who helped Michelle Pfeiffer understand the plight of disadvantaged youths in the early nineties. You might not be as aware of Coolio the celebrity chef.

Most people know Coolio as the “Gangsta’s Paradise,” rapper who helped Michelle Pfeiffer understand the plight of disadvantaged youths in the early nineties. You might not be as aware of Coolio the celebrity chef. Over the past four years he’s rebranded himself as “The Ghetto Martha Stewart,” put out a book called Cookin’ With Coolio: 5 Star Meals At A 1 Star Price, and starred in a hypnotising YouTube channel of the same name.

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His YouTube appearances have been the breakout success of his budding cooking empire, it’s the best hip-hop infused cooking experience you’ll find on the Internet. Two “sauce girls” join him in the kitchen to act as comic fodder and food tasters alongside his ACP— Assistant Chef Pimp. As well as prepping his ingredients, the ACP also stands in as Coolio’s hype man and divvies out ingredient in dime bags.

Cool recently announced he was auctioning off his musical catalogue to bankroll his culinary ambitions. As he prepares to fully commit himself to the culinary world I thought it would be a good to talk to him about his cooking past, industry goals, and what to make for dinner.

Noisey: When did your love of cooking begin?
Coolio: Man it actually started when I think I was about eight-years-old. My mother made me some tuna and I put it in the pan and stuff, I actually got my ass whooped for that. I was only eight-years-old. I wasn't supposed to be touchin’ the stove. From that day until I was about 17-years-old I would do all the prep-work around my house. I would chop the onions, chop the garlic, celery, wash dishes, mop the floor, clean the oven, clean under the cabinet, put the food away when she went grocery shopping and everything.

My mother passed away when I was in my early twenties and I went through this period where I didn't enjoy meals. I didn't really enjoy food. I was pretty much just eating to live. I used to wolf my food down. Nothing tasted right, I liked my mother’s cooking a lot, and she had a very unique way of cooking. My mother cooked the best food.

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Is it that relationship with food that’s led to you selling the rights to your songs—
Actually we decided not to do that.

Why not?
One thing, I just got so many emails and comments from fans who were upset about it. Then from a business standpoint, after we sat down and looked at the numbers, it just wasn’t the right thing to do. It’s not the lack of money; to be honest with you, I don’t like using my own money for projects. I’m willing to share a profit, but I don't want to spend a lot of my own money or a lot of the money that I have put away.

What do you hope to achieve with your cooking career?
I wanna get on prime time —I won’t say prime time, but I do want to get on television. Prime time or daytime television. Obviously if I do it in prime time or daytime I’ll have to keep it clean and I won’t get to have as much fun.

I wanna do frozen food. I wanna take frozen food to another level. I wanna do a take-out restaurant where you just walk up, get the food, and go. I wanna create a service where you call, you order whatever food you want, and somebody comes to your house and actually serves you. They become your cleaner, your waiter, and if you want something extra—not anything illegally—they come serve you at your house. And I also want to do a traditional restaurant, but I want to do some more television stuff.

Did you always want to want to combine elements of hip hop culture with cooking culture?
I was watching the Food Network for many, many years and I just thought that most of the shows were boring. They just bored me to death. I said, “Okay, if I did a cooking show, how would I take the entertainment level to the peak?” And that’s what I came up with. Plus it’s comedy—we didn't write a script. I ad-libbed most of the stuff.

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When you came out with the cookbook, what was the reception like from your fans?
People were very receptive, man. I’ve done a few food festivals, people come up to me and they tell me they’ve tried this recipe or that recipe, they bring their book with them and I sign their book. We’ve done some book signings. People approach me when I go to the grocery store, everywhere. I haven’t got any negative feedback from it yet.

Were your buddies in the hip hop community as embracing?
My peers in the hip-hop community—I don't actually talk to that many cats in hip hop. The ones I do talk to, they’ve been at my house to eat before. They’ve been on the road and we get a mini apartment, or hotel, and we cook and they come to my room and eat so they lovin’ it!

After our interview I asked Coolio for some help planning the menu for a dinner party I was putting on. Here's what he suggested.

APPETISER: Cool-A-Cado

I would suggest do a Cool-A-Cado. You could do something basic with your appetiser where you can just put out some cheese or some chips. But I don’t think you wanna do that. If you wanna do it the Cool way: get some mozzarella, avocado, some tomato’s.

You’re gonna do it as if you’re doing a Caprese Salad. You’re gonna slice your mozzarella, put a slice of tomato on top, take a whole avocado and cut in in fourths—no, fact cut it in eighths. You’re gonna take half an avocado, take half of that avocado, and cut it in half again. Put that slice on top of the tomato and then you’re gonna mince some onions. The white or yellow onion I would suggest, if you like red onion that’s fine too. You’re gonna mince it really tiny and then put a little onion on top serve that as an appetiser.

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I would say put the balsamic on your server; put a little bit of oil—half a teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of balsamic—and serve it just like that. What you wanna do is, you want everything separate. You wanna make everything up and put it in the refrigerator. For some reason the flavours combine in a refrigerator. Have everything separate but ready, and when people come over just make it right there.

FIRST COURSE: Chicken Vegetable Soup or Chicken Chowder

You can do a chicken vegetable soup, it’s gonna be a lot easier. For your vegetables use a little broccoli, a little cauliflower, a little corn. You gotta make sure everything is cut up really small. Or if you don't wanna go that route, get a can of cream of chicken soup—I know you got that there (in Australia)—and cut some strips of chicken, put some corn in it, and a little bit of spinach. It can be like spinach chicken corn chowder, you know what I’m saying? Get some salt and pepper and you’re there. When you cookin’ food you don't want people to have to put salt and pepper on your food.

Start off with that soup, for your main course go with a—are you on a budget, or are you a baller?

Budget, but open to suggestions.

MAIN COURSE: Fork Steak or Tricked Out Westside Tilapia

If you’re not on a budget, if you wanna go all out—go get some rib eyes and follow my Fork Steak recipe. It’s gonna be well done, man. Let me tell you, the best way to eat steak is in the oven slow-cooked. It’s so tender and juicy, it’s lovely bro’.

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If you wanna go with fish, because a lot of people don’t eat beef these days, I’d say go with the Westside Tilapia. A matter of fact I would say go with that, you can start cooking that when people first come in. What you wanna do with this tilapia though, earlier that day do the prep on everything and put it in your pan and wrap it up. That way it gets a good marinade and has even more flavour.

DESSERT: “Breadfruit”

For dessert, something really simple you can do—I got this thing I do with bread. You take a thicker piece of bread, not too thick, put some butter in the pan with sugar and cinnamon on top of the bread. So you gonna put that on the bread, have butter in the pan, and fry the bread.

At the same time in another pan, take some strawberries, a little banana, some blueberries, and raspberries. Put those in the pan with a little bit of olive oil, just a little bit. Get the food nice and warm. You wanna get it right before it starts to break down and turn into juice; you don't want it to turn into juice, do not microwave it. It’ll destroy it. Have some vanilla ice cream on the side, have that ready.

You wanna get a bit of crispiness to your bread, you don’t want your bread soggy. So you take your bread out, put it on a plate, put the fruit on top, put a scoop of ice cream on top—I call that Breadfruit. Matter of fact, you could take the bread and cut it in circles so that people don't even know it's bread.

And remember your presentation: If it looks good, it tastes good, it smells good, what is it?

Good?
It is good! Shakazulu right!

Follow John on Twitter: @johnd145