Olympic Champ Brian Boitano Saves the World, One Meal at a Time

Categories: Food on TV, Palmer
Food Network
Boitano freestyles in the kitchen.
"When Brian Boitano traveled through time to the year 3010/He fought the evil robot king and saved the human race again."

-- "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" from South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut

Olympic and World figure skating champion Brian Boitano can perform physically incredible and gravity-defying feats, from flying rescues of maidens in distress to building the pyramids of Kubla Khan. At least, he can according to South Park creators, who immortalized him in song in their 1999 feature film.

While Boitano might not have been one of the founders of Egyptian architecture, he can still rotate three times in the air with one arm sticking straight up. He's also apparently pretty nimble and versatile in the kitchen, as he plans to demonstrate on his new Food Network show, What Would Brian Boitano Make?

A Bay Area native and longtime San Francisco resident, Boitano's home and surroundings figure prominently into the program. He describes the series of on-the-fly cooking challenges based around a social event or group (whether randy bachelors or rowdy roller derby chicks) as a "reality docu-soap."

"I think the City is going to really like it because it truly is my house and where I live," Boitano told SFoodie. "It's all real. Food Network really wanted to have it be kept realistic, even though it is sort of a 'reality show.' They wanted it to be my real friends, where I really go shop and eat, that kind of thing."

Boitano is a hyper-local shopper who finds most of what he needs right near his house. He frequents Cheese Plus (2001 Polk at Pacific) for gourmet items, Real Foods for his everyday groceries (2140 Polk at Broadway), and rice pudding joint Loving Cup (2356 Polk at Pacific) for his usual treat of frozen yogurt mixed with berries. Beyond that, he tends to venture over to Marina Meats (2395 Chestnut at Divisadero) and stops for seafood at Bryan's Grocery (3445 California at Laurel) when he finds himself in Laurel Village.

Athough he hadn't thought about it much before, Boitano said that he does see many parallels between the ice and the kitchen.

"I think it's in the composition of things, how things all fit in together -- the choreography of making a recipe," he explained. "Even some people play music in the kitchen, and that keeps them company. That zone you get into when you're cooking, it's like when you're doing compulsory figures -- when you go over the tracings over and over again and you get in that zone." However, pressed as to whether he considers himself a figures or freestyle person while cooking, he chose the latter.

"I think that, on the ice, I am so precise and so focused on being exact that I don't really want to do that in the kitchen," he mused. "I just want to have a little bit more fun with it."

Boitano shopped an idea for a television program that combined ice skating and cooking to a producer who does another show for Food Network, and was surprised to find interest in the idea -- minus the ice time.

"I was, like, 'Wow, nobody ever wants to drop the skating!'"

The Food Network eventually commissioned the four episodes that make up this season, a relatively easy shooting schedule that didn't interfere too much with Boitano's skating practice or performing season. With one's main hook gone -- the gimmick, if you will -- the pressure could easily make a new television chef crumble. But those chefs never withstood a withering comment from Dick Button, famously fierce competition from the other Brian, or shade from a Russian judge. Something tells us Boitano will probably kick an ass or two in his newest venture.

What Would Brian Boitano Make? premieres Sunday, August 23 at 1 p.m. on the Food Network. 

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