Author Interview: Gigi Centaro

Let’s Cook Tonight by Gigi Centaro

1. How did you come to write a cookbook?
I’m very familiar with cookbooks because I have over 400 in my personal library. I got the idea to write a cookbook because I realized cookbooks are written for the person who enjoys cooking. Cookbook authors typically use technical language and terminology and they often use complicated cooking techniques. There’s nothing wrong with this, but for the person who doesn’t like to cook it’s like reading a foreign language. Recipes and instructions are very frustrating and intimidating to the non-cook. My cookbook is for a very specific market. I wrote for the person who doesn’t like to cook, doesn’t know how to cook and who has no time to cook. Every word I wrote, every ingredient I used, every instruction I gave, I chose based on my audience. I filtered every decision through the non-cook’s mind to be sure she or he would understand it and could do it.

2. How is your cookbook different?

Let’s Cook Tonight is not a collection of recipes it’s menus that have a protein, starch and vegetable dish already decided. The dishes were chosen based on taste, nutrition and time. You no longer have to decide what to put with what.

There is a master shopping list for the menus. You don’t have to create the list. Just take it out of the three ring binder and take the list to the store with you. To save you time I’ve even organized the list as to where you’ll find the ingredients in the grocery store.

There is a prep and cooking sequence to tell you what to do the minute you enter the kitchen so that all three dishes come out on time—no more cooked meat and raw vegetables

I didn’t use any cooking jargon. Instead of writing mince the parsley, I say cut it into very small pieces. Instead of sauté the onion, I instruct my reader to cook the onion until it is soft.

The directions are not in paragraph form they are written as one instruction per line and there’s a square box beside each line so the cook can check off each instruction as she completes it. You’ll no longer lose your place, have to read a paragraph repeatedly, or add an ingredient twice. The book comes with page protectors and a dry erase maker so you don’t actually mark up the pages.

I created Freezer Takeout™. These recipes have been tested to go from frozen solid to microwave to piping hot in 15 minutes without any loss in taste or texture. You can double these recipes and put half in the freezer to use on days when you have no time to cook. Using your Freezer Takeout™ will save you time, money and you’ll eat much better. I’ve even done the double quantities so you don’t have to figure out the kitchen math.

The cookbook was written so you can get a delicious, nutritious dinner on the table using the least amount of thought work and time.

3. How has the response been so far?

Reba owns an accounting firm and has no time to cook. She solved her problem by hiring someone to cook for her. So she gave Let’s Cook Tonight to her cook. Reba has noticed that her cook is more efficient and quicker in the kitchen; she spends less time in the grocery store, and she loves the taste of the food.
Mary Jane hates to cook and quite honestly doesn’t know how. She loves the check off boxes because it eliminates the stress of losing her place. She also loves how easy to read and understand the directions are.
Pauline is a very intelligent, educated, successful business owner who finds cooking very scary. She describes herself as very talented in the office but not in the kitchen. When she tried a Let’s Cook Tonight menu, she called it amazing. She found the directions very easy and she loved that she didn’t have to think. She called it idiot proof. She said she has messed up so many recipes in the past but that she couldn’t ruin this.
Denise told me that she was anxious when she got her copy. She wasn’t sure if it was really going to be different. Then she made her first menu and she said it was “me proof. There’s no way I could mess this up.” She loved that she didn’t have to read it and read it and read it. All you do is read one line and check it off. She’s cooking more and she has more confidence in the kitchen.

4. Your cookbook also encourages families to cook and eat together to create family time. Why is that important?

I believe American’s have forgotten the pleasure of coming together to share dinner as a family. We’ve forgotten that dinnertime can be used as a time to reconnect with each other. We’re so busy. We need dinner to be done and done quickly so we can quickly go somewhere else. However, with a homemade dinner you sit, talk, and share. You feel loved, warm, wonderful and cared for. Everyone coming together to share a home cooked meal will recharge your batteries and remind you what is important and why you work so hard in the first place.

In my book I encourage the entire family to help with dinner from deciding what menu to make to the prep, cooking and clean up. See it as family event. You start the quality time and the conversation in the kitchen and you continue it at the table as you share the fruit of everyone’s labor

5. People are so busy. How can they find time to cook?

It’s not a matter of finding the time, but instead planning the time. People plan many things from when they’re going to visit their in-laws to a birthday lunch with a friend. Without planning, nothing happens. If you see cooking and eating dinner as an important family event you’ll schedule a few evenings a week to come together to cook and eat as a family. Make it an appointment with your family and treat it as sacred. Make it just as important as going to ball practice. If they plan for it, and get their family involved, it can be a family event.

6. Children are used to fast food, will they eat and enjoy the food?
That will depend on the attitude of the parents and the atmosphere that they create. If mom and dad create a spirit of adventure to try new tastes and an atmosphere of love and fun to talk and spend time together, the kids will catch on. The cookbook is filled with foods that kids love–all American food. I didn’t use any unfamiliar ingredients or strange tastes; there is nothing foreign, scary, or very complex.

Also, the best way to get your kids to sit and eat with you is to have them participate. Brenda could never set her son to eat a soup she likes to make. She had him stir the soup and now he eats it as if he made it himself. Kids will eat anything if they help make it. The recipes are written on a third grade level. They are that easy. Let the kids select the menu for the night. Take the shopping list with you to work. Pick up the ingredients on the way home. Then give the menu and ingredients to the kids and let them make dinner. I promise you they’ll eat what they make.

7. I understand you also have a menu club. What is that?
The Let’s Cook Tonight Menu Club came about after the cookbook was written. People wanted more menus. Creating a menu club enables me to give them menus every month to add to their cookbook.

8. In your cookbook, you talk about wanting to create a movement. What is the Let’s Cook Tonight Movement and why is it important?
The Let’s Cook Tonight Movement is a movement of families that are coming together to cook, eat and create family time at the dinner table. Essentially, it’s families who have made the decision to take back control of their health, family time, and finances by cooking and eating dinner at home.

It’s important because in the past 30 years, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children. After smoking, obesity is the leading life-style related cause of disease and death in the U.S. and it puts children at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and bone and joint problems. Something has to change and I want to instigate the change with a movement of families cooking and eating together. When people cook at home, they’ll improve their health, create quality family time, and save money.

9. Why now? What is significant about the timing?

People are starting to see the impact of eating fast foods and processed foods on their health and pocketbook. The downturn in the economy has made eating out a luxury. They know something has to change, but I don’t believe they know where to start.

10. Do you have anything free for our listeners?
If they would like to try out Let’s Cook Tonight menus, I offer nine of them free on my website. They can go to and enter their name and email address on the upper right hand side. Once they do, they’ll get a confirmation email asking them to confirm their address. After they reply to that email, they’ll get the menus right away.

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