Lauren Gulyas, the host of A is for Apple, says she wants her food to “speak for itself.” Photo above courtesy of Gusto TV. Photographer: Ben Welland.
Ottawa-born Lauren Gulyas is one of the hosts on Gusto TV’s newest challenge cooking show, A is for Apple. The vivacious host, who got her start at the Wellington Gastropub, has worked in kitchens across the capital, in British Columbia, and in Costa Rica. With plans for her own radio show and cooking show in Prince Edward County, Gulyas’ life motto is “cook and be fabulous” — whether it’s drinking champagne and getting your nails done, or letting out your inner goof. Ottawa Magazine’s Karen Henderson sat down with her recently to talk about Ottawa, food, and Gusto’s latest show and what follows is an edited transcript of their conversation.
What kick-started your love of cooking?
My mom was always a really, really great cook, and she was always in the kitchen. She was always very inclusive with my sister and me — she had no problem with us making a huge mess and getting our hands dirty. She loved that kind of thing. Watching all the old school cooking shows, I was obsessed with it. We had a little video camera when we were kids, so my girlfriends and I would always make cooking shows.
How does it feel to achieve that childhood dream?
Pretty surreal. It was really crazy and exciting and emotional when we were filming and it was actually happening. When it was released, I had a lot of really great people over. It was a lot of different people that have had my back, and been with me along the way. It was a surreal, amazing moment in life and I just want to keep doing it forever.
What was most surprising about the show?
The amount of feedback I’m getting from people who say I’ve inspired them to cook again. I would say that has been the nicest part of doing the show. The first week of the show, my friend, who has two young daughters, decided to get them together and they made the vanilla crème brûlée from the first episode. They got out a blowtorch, and his daughters thought he was the coolest guy. Every time I see him he says, “Thank-you, you’ve inspired me to cook real food again.” And that was something that I never thought would happen. Being able to share my passion, and make it a little bit contagious.
What were your days at Algonquin College like?
Algonquin was really fun. I realized one day that the thing I always do is cook, whether I’m sad, or happy, or nervous, I just always cook. I fit right in, and I was up there with all the boys, giving them a hard time. I was very cocky. I left culinary school after a year, and I got a job at the Wellington Gastropub, which was arguably more intense than culinary school because the menu changes every single day and you’re a very small team. The expectations are high that everybody comes with their A-game.
What is your personal approach to cooking, now?
I definitely try to be more laid-back — I try to be more approachable. I want my food to speak for itself and I want each ingredient to be highlighted. I don’t really enjoy these weird dusts, and dots, all over the plate. I like something that is like a warm hug. You can’t imagine how people react when they get homemade cookies. It’s a personal reflection of myself, and it’s a personal gift from my soul to the people I love. Canadian soul-cooking, I don’t know if that’s a thing.
Do you have any favourite food spots in Ottawa?
My heart is always at the Gastropub in Wellington. The food is the best, and they know how to treat people. It’s a warm, amazing environment with delicious food. It’s hard, because since I’ve been gone, the restaurant scene in Ottawa has exploded. There are a lot of places that I really want to try. I went to Town the other day [on Elgin] and had a really great meal.
What’s in the future for you?
A lot of things. I’m working on a radio show in the county right now that focuses on old, antiquated recipes. Our first recipe is going to be about jelly salad. Everyone has a hilarious story or a weird recipe. My friend and I are trying to get together a pitch for a cooking show that happens in Prince Edward County, that’s more inclusive of farmers. I’m supposed to be planning a wedding at some point, but I think I’m just going to elope because it’s too much.
Is there anything that you’d say to people who’d like to be in your shoes?
I know this is super cheesy, but be yourself. There are a lot of people that think there’s a certain image, a certain way they have to carry themselves in order to get an opportunity like this. But I’ve always focused on being myself. I think that gave me an edge, my ability to be goofy sometimes and laugh about it, and have a good time. You have one chance at life. Be true to yourself and don’t let anybody tell you it’s not possible.
What’s your life motto?
Cook and be fabulous. I think being fabulous is a whole lot of things — it’s being true to yourself and treating yourself like you are worthy of being loved. I want to surround myself with amazing people and things and live my life well.
A is for Apple will re-air Sunday, December 20, at 6 and 6:30 p.m. on Gusto TV.