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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
April 6, 2010

In the new Food Network "docu-soap" Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, a sextet of skilled culinary artists serve the whims and appetites of high end--and often high maintenance--clientele in America's most famous zip code. From catering a Botox party to pampering furry, four-legged friends at a doggy spa, the six chefs juggle deadlines and expectations to satisfy a laundry list of outrageous requests, all while cooking up first class, customized dishes.

One of the six participants up for this challenge is self-taught chef Sasha Perl-Raver. A spirited colleague of ours who can regularly be found in the press trenches of entertainment journalism, Sasha currently reports, blogs, interviews, and reviews for outlets including, Fox News, Campus Circle, and AOL. This time around, we turn the tables on our fellow writer and put her in the spotlight with a baker's dozen of questions. In this exclusive interview, she talks about the debut of Private Chefs of Beverly Hills and her own personal kitchen proclivities. If you were describing this show to a viewer who has been put off by the trend of "reality television," how would you convince them to tune in?

SASHA: I'd ask, "Are you hungry?" This isn't The Hills or Jersey Shore. We're not about drama and bickering. The show is really about great food made by and for some incredibly crazy and fun people. We're more like old school Vegas--it's dinner and a show. And I defy you to watch and not walk away ravenous!

Based on the previews, it looks like you and the other chefs are having a lot of fun. Are scheming, backstabbing, and contestant elimination not part of the show's agenda?

True, there aren't eliminations on Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, and the majority of the scheming is usually done between the chefs, behind the client's back, but of course there's inter-personal drama. Put more than one person in a room with cameras and there always will be. The show is closer to a Real Housewives than anything, but imagine if you were following the lives of the Housewives' chefs who get to see the underbelly. We invite you into the world of LA's elite, but we take you through the back door. And isn't that always where the most interesting things happen anyway? I think the ultimate goal is to peel back the curtain on the ritzy life in the Oz of Beverly Hills with us as your wacky tour guides. But that's speculative. I haven't seen any of the show yet, so I'm just spitballing.

What were some of the more memorable challenges?

"Glamping" was insane. We had to go glamping--which is glamorous camping--for the premiere episode and cook a gourmet meal for these millionaires. Let me just say, I hate camping. A lot! When I was a kid, my hippie parents used to make me camp all the time, and it wasn't until later in life that I realized what I experienced on those trips were a little thing called panic attacks. Needless to say, I haven't gone camping in years. But there we were, at this beautiful camp site, just off a lake, so picturesque, but all we had was a spigot and a fire pit. No fire, no burners, no oven, no warm water, no prep area--just logs and really high expectations. It was madness. We also catered for a client--a very young client--on the show (I think it's the sixth and final episode of the season) who was a totalitarian in the kitchen and nothing we did was good enough. At one point, I sent out one of the best pieces of miso-glazed seabass I've ever cooked and he deemed it "all right." I can't lie, I ended up crying.

One of the challenges involves cooking for dogs and their owners at a spa. Which species of mammal was the more difficult client?

Sadly, even though I requested to do that challenge (you know how much I love animals), I didn't work that event.

If this ensemble of chefs was a pop band, which "one" would you be?

I think I'd be the smart, sassy one, like Velma or Sporty Spice. But I fear Food Network is making me out to be the crazy, outspoken, fiery redhead. The "Wild Card," if you will.

If you were given a few basic ingredients, could you MacGyver something tasty on the fly, like Jack Tripper did in the first episode of Three's Company?

Hells to the yeah! I got your delicious right here! My middle name is MacGyver. As a matter of fact, I've been forced to do that several times and you'll see it again on the second episode of the show when I bust out some beef tongue tacos and a pear crisp. You'll see. Just give me a pan, a knife, and some basics, and I'll bring the yummy.

What specialty recipes are your claim to fame?

My chocolate cupcakes are unspeakably divine. Shhh...Don't invoke them. It's like Beetlejuice.

How have cultures from around the world influenced your own culinary style?

When I was a 9, my parents and I traveled around the world for a year, and that had a huge impact on the way I see food. All of my memories from that trip are based on what we ate. It really expanded my mind and evolved my palate. I draw heavily from Japan and India for flavors, ingredients, and techniques, but I'm also very into the rustic Italian school and southern French styles. But, the truth is, I'm all about what Alice Waters preaches: easy, fresh, local.

How do you create new recipes? Is it a taxing process of trial and error, or simply a matter of getting an epiphany?

When inspiration strikes, it's an amorphous thing. I just know what my mouth likes and hope other people feel the same way. But it's usually a stumbled upon kind of discovery.

What is your personal comfort food?

My favorite food is also my favorite comfort food: cotton candy! And anything with sour salt, like Sour Straws or Sour Patch Kids--the sourer the better. At the end of a bag of Sour Patch Kids, I dump that leftover citric acid stuff into my hands and eat it up. And a chicken burrito from either Chipotle or Benito's.

If you were throwing a party for friends and had a pinata there, what would the pinata be shaped as, and what would you put in it?

This week, Jesse James because I'm so mad at what he did to Sandra Bullock. (I love how personally everyone is taking that whole thing. That guy's a douche!) I'd fill it with full-size Snickers, bags of Peanut M&M's, packages of Red Vines, and some Mentos because they're The Freshmaker.

Cake or pie?

Both. But I love me some sh*tty sheet cake, like the kind you buy at Costco with the sickeningly sweet icing. That's my favorite. Although the olallieberry pie from Fat Apple's in Berkeley is a close second.

What advice can you give to someone who would like to learn to cook, but finds themselves completely inept in the kitchen?

Try everything and fail over and over because that's the only way you'll learn. Eventually you'll start to notice what works both flavor and technique-wise. When I was a kid, I started cooking at 7, making homemade pizza from scratch from dough to sauce. Usually they rivaled Wolfgang Puck, but one time my dad cracked a tooth on the crust. You live and learn.

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