Brunch With: Daphne Oz
We chat with the best-selling author about her new cookbook, The Happy Cook, and life on TV as a star of the daily roundtable show The Chew.
Location: Glasserie, 95 Commercial St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn
What we ate: A family-style mezze feast
Best-selling cookbook author Daphne Oz is used to regularly breaking bread with celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon on their daily roundtable TV show The Chew. That’s not to mention a host of other all-star guests that regularly cooks and eats with the cast and her famous dad, Dr. Oz, who has his own very strict ideas about diet and healthy foods.
So it’s no wonder I have a bit of anxiety thinking about what food I should order when I meet her for brunch. Fortunately, there was no need to worry. As soon as I sit down (albeit a few minutes late, thanks to a creeping subway train), she informs me that she has taken the liberty of ordering for us. Relieved, I’m happy to be in her capable hands.
I’m even happier when I find out what we’re eating. Glasserie, the Mediterranean restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that she chose for our meal, offers a family-style mezze feast. The table is soon filled with an array of small dishes filled with different delicacies like baba ganoush, hummus, labneh with fresh tomatoes, harissa-marinated kohlrabi salad, charred-corn salad, house olives and pickles, egg salad with salmon roe, carrot tahini, and fresh melon with mint—all perfect for a relaxed and friendly brunch. “I wish every restaurant would serve me 400 different little bites of everything on the menu,” she says.
I choose, on her recommendation, to add a spicy tomato and egg shakshuka-like breakfast stew. With a laugh, she confesses that she almost ordered the dish for us while she was waiting, “But I thought it might be presumptuous…a little bit.”
And then there is the bread. She ordered both the flat bread and a griddle bread, which “is like a fried croissant dough,” she says. “It’s so freaking delicious.” Both are the perfect vehicle for healthy spoonfuls of various spreads and salads. It’s truly a tasty start to the weekend, and the shared dishes give our conversation an intimacy that generally only comes with years of friendship.
I tell her how I imagine this is how she starts every morning with her fellow Chew members. While there are frittatas and oatmeal on the set, Oz, in fact, usually begins her day by whipping up a big goat-yogurt smoothie with frozen fruit, avocado and spinach for herself and her two young children. She doctors her portion with a bunch of nutritional supplements. “It’s one of those insurance-policy meals where it’s like just in case the rest of the day is nutritionally devoid, here’s my gold star for the morning,” she explains. But she admits she may overdo it a bit. “I’m like a marketer’s dream,” she jokes. “I’ve gotten really into all these different supplement powders that are for energy and immunity and collagen production.”
She has skipped the smoothie today for our meal. Given the location of Glasserie, right on the water in an old glass factory at the northwest tip of Brooklyn, I assume that Oz lives in the neighborhood in one of the new luxury buildings that have sprouted up across the borough. Surprisingly, she and her family live in Midtown, and she has traveled across the East River simply because she loves Glasserie that much.
Originally, her book agent had tipped her off to the establishment, since “My father’s family is from Turkey and I was saying I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine,” she says. After a dinner date at Glasserie with her husband, the couple was hooked. “We come back a lot.”
Speaking of her famous father, do people ever refer to him as Daphne’s dad? Not quite yet. “[But] I think people probably give him a lot of hell because they’re like, ‘Do you know what your daughter ate on The Chew today?’ Which I’m sure he’s fine with,” she says with a smile. “It’s definitely a fun ride to be on together.”
Glasserie’s communal nature certainly made sense for our meeting, since her brand-new book, The Happy Cook: 125 Recipes for Eating Every Day Like It’s the Weekend, grew out of her love of cooking with her extended family (she is the eldest of four). The book is dedicated to her mother and grandmother: “The original happy cooks, around whose dinner tables I will always be in paradise.”
“I grew up around my grandmother’s kitchen island and hanging out in there,” she recalls, referencing her childhood in suburban New Jersey (“the exotic cultural mecca of America”). “We have the exact same replicated experience in my parents’ house now. I’ve always loved being part of a big family. I kind of thrive in the chaos of that a little bit.”
Her family’s meals sound a bit like the atmosphere on her TV show, including lots of chatting and lots of cooking. However, there is one big difference: “On The Chew, I’m the kid sister,” she says. “I’ve never been in that role.”
By the end of the meal, we’ve settled into our own comfortable chat about our families and raising kids in New York. And amazingly, in this day and age, neither of us has been checking our phones. When she finally looks at the time, she realizes that she has stayed nearly 30 minutes later than she had originally planned.
She darts out of the restaurant and into a waiting car that whisks her to her next appointment. I’m left wondering if it’s too late to claim the doggie bag of leftovers.