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Food rocks, according to grandson of TV icons

Food rocks, according to grandson of TV icons


Out of everybody in the world, you would think that Gunnar Nelson would have grown up in a household straight out of an episode of the "Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

After all, the 44-year-old grandson of television icons Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and son of teen idol Rick Nelson.

Yet, Gunnar Nelson -- of the multi-platinum selling group Nelson, with his identical twin brother Matthew -- reveals a deep, dark family secret.

You see, Harriet Nelson -- perhaps the most famous 1950s-era TV housewife ahead of "Leave It To Beaver's" June Cleaver and "The Donna Reed Show's" Donna Stone -- was, in real life, never much of a cook.

"Grandma was a career woman, first and foremost," Nelson explained. "When it came to dinner, she was awesome at making reservations."

According to Nelson, he learned how to cook from his mom's side of the family.

Mom, in Nelson's case, is actress/artist Kristin Harmon, the daughter of football legend and broadcaster Tom Harmon and former actress Elyse Knox as well as a sister to "NCIS" star Mark Harmon.

But, mostly, Nelson received a culinary crash course from his great-grandmother Elizabeth Kornbrath, whom he described as being "an amazing, freakin' cook."

Nelson will be showing off his kitchen skills at a live cooking show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at WinnaVegas Casino Resort.

Growing up in a show business family didn't mean much to a young Nelson, who preferred to spend time with his great-grandmother, a former pastry chef in her native Austria.

"She'd chase everybody else out of the kitchen with a broom," he remembered, "but she'd let me stay."

Perhaps, she saw a kindred spirit in her then 4-year-old great-grandson or, maybe, she saw a budding gourmet-in-the-making.

Over the next few decades, Nelson concentrated on a musical career which yielded such 1990s hits as "After the Rain" and "(I Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection."

"For a long time, I was entirely focused on the goal (of becoming a musician) that I didn't take time to reflect upon the journey," he admitted.

The journey, Nelson said in retrospect, revolved around the things that made him happy, like friendships, family and food.

It was after meeting with celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme (New Orleans' K-Paul Louisiana Kitchen) that Nelson decided to head back into the kitchen.

"Chef Paul inscribed my copy of his cookbook with the saying 'good eating, good loving and good living,'" Nelson said. "That has become my personal motto."

Since then, Nelson has developed a style of cooking which concentrates on fresh ingredients.

"It's OK to be a food snob," he said. "It may be more expensive to use freshly caught Alaskan salmon or organic, grass-fed beef but you will absolutely taste the difference."

Plus Nelson's been picking up hints from such favorite chefs as "Hell's Kitchen"'s Gordon Ramsay ("he's classically trained, complicated and knowledgeable") and "Naked Chef"'s Jamie Oliver ("he's not classically trained but he's fearless and accessible").

Confident in his cooking abilities, Nelson is now taking his culinary POV on the road.

"Cable networks like the Food Network have really opened people's eyes to the concept of cooking as a vehicle for entertainment," he said of the live cooking presentation, which will present his recipes for a "rockin'" sweet and sour salmon as well as steaks, done with both a smoky peanut sauce and a spicy chimichurri.

Although he still performs and writes music, Nelson said he thinks his grandfather would approve of this tasty detour in a show business career.

"Ozzie always said doing what you love to do is like having a license to steal money," Nelson recalled. "That's exactly what I'm doing today."

Reflecting upon his family's life in the public spotlight, Nelson can't help but smile.

"Ozzie was always quick to point out that the Nelsons weren't in the entertaining field," he said. "Instead, we were in the business of making connections with audiences."

As he prepares for his live cooking show, Nelson asked, "What better to connect with your audience is there than cooking a meal for them?"




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