She’s teamed up with her twin sister for Sister, Sister and Tia & Tamara, but Tia Mowry is going at it alone this time with her new cooking show. Ahead of the debut of Tia Mowry at Home (Wednesdays on the Cooking Channel at 9 p.m.), EW spoke to the Instant Mom star about giving family favorites a modern makeover, her favorite kitchen shortcuts, and her pantry essentials.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What has shaped and influenced your appreciation and approach to food?
TIA MOWRY: My love for cooking began when I was young. Because my parents were in the army, they were both really busy. A lot of times I’d have to cook for the family; I’d rotate with my siblings. It started out as a chore, but as I got older, my mom started to see that I was really good at it. I became her sous chef. Both she and my dad are fantastic cooks. You actually get to see my dad cook this season on my show, which I’m excited about because he’s been really private throughout my entire career. And then, as an adult, my respect for good food came by traveling the world. I lived in Italy for two months when I was in college. And I traveled to Paris, I traveled to Egypt, I traveled to Spain. I just would travel a lot. I remember going to Paris and saying, speaking French, “I would like some chicken and some fries.” And just the chicken and fries was, oh my gosh, just so amazing. I became intrigued and inspired.
What kind of food can we expect to see prepared on the show?
You’re going to see a little bit of everything, because that’s who I am. I come from a mixed background—my mom’s black, my dad’s white—and I traveled around the world. I mean, you’ll see a Korean influence because I grew up in Hawaii. You’ll see an Italian influence because I lived in Italy for two months. But I think also what you’ll see, I think what I really love to do is I like to make hearty dishes healthier for your family. Like I make a milk-less milkshake. It’s so incredibly delicious and you would never really miss the milk. But, I mean, it’s like “Oh my God, I’m having a milkshake” but it’s without milk. I wanna make sure that I’m feeding my family healthy choices. But we’ll definitely throw down with some rice crispy treats with Nutella and marshmallows. I guess I could say it’s food for everyone. I don’t want people to be like, “Oh my God! I would have really loved to have that but I can’t have dairy.” It’s food for everyone.
How do you describe your approach to the process of cooking?
Cook with fresh ingredients. When I was pregnant, I had endometriosis and my doctor told me “Look, you’re gonna have to start changing your diet.” So I saw a nutritionist and they emphasized the importance of organic, healthy food and its benefits to your health. And I did see those benefits. So now, I like to go to the farmer’s market on Sundays and pick up fresh produce. Then, I cut up the vegetables and store them in my refrigerator. That way, whether I’m going to make a soup or a side dish, everything is cut and prepared. It’s all about preparation for me—it cuts your cooking time in half. And that’s important since I’m a working mom!
How has cooking on a TV show emerged as the next step for you?
What I started to see was, when you’re a mom, there is a community of other moms. And you’re talking at the park, you’re talking with one another at school and I started to see that a lot of moms feel guilty about running to fast food to feed their kids. A lot of moms and families don’t think they have the time to prepare a healthy meal. You know, we’re starting to get more educated about food and how it’s related to cancer, how it’s related to autism, just all sorts of things. I want to help encourage and inspire other busy moms and busy people in general to cook fresh food. If I can do it, you can do it too. You can live a hectic mom and be a mom, a business woman, or even a student and still prepare a great meal for your family. The other thing that I like about this show is that it’s not all about cooking. It shows who I am as a person.
Does that mean have some secret cooking habits that will be revealed on the show?
Yes! It’s actually singing.
Who’s your favorite artist to sing to in the kitchen?
Beyoncé and Celine Dion. I love singing in the kitchen, but only the powerhouses!
What’s a specialty of yours that we’ll see you prepare on the show?
My spaghetti and meatballs. It’s a favorite in the house so whenever guests come over, it’s something that my husband just recommends. I cook it all the time. It’s spaghetti and meatballs but I use turkey instead of beef. And I use oatmeal instead of bread as a binding agent. I also like to throw in spinach, just to get some vegetables in there. My son absolutely loves spaghetti and meatballs, so I like knowing he’s getting his vegetables.
What are three items you consider cooking essentials; items you think every home cook should have on hand?
Number one is olive oil—It’s a must have. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything without olive oil. Then it’s celery, onions and carrots. If you always have those in your refrigerator, you almost can throw down anything. Like if you want to make chicken noodle soup, you have everything that you need right there. You just need the chicken and the noodles. I also like to chop those up ahead of time so that I can throw them in the pan whenever I need them. Garlic is an essential, and so is this thing called Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. It’s like a soy sauce, but it’s gluten-free and healthier. It’s a great condiment, and something I always keep in my pantry.
In an ideal world, what comes next in your empire? I know you’re working on a cookbook. [Ed. note: In April, Mowry signed with Random House imprint Ballantine, who will release her upcoming cookbook titled Whole New You]
I’m continuing to grow. And everything that I do comes from a passion that I have. Something I’ve realized by being in this business since I was like 12 years old, is that when you not passionate about something, it no longer works. I’m passionate about cooking, and I’m passionate about encouraging and helping other people make healthier choices for their family and their kids. Who knows what’s next for me—But I’ll guarantee you that whatever comes out of it, it will be something that I’m passionate about.