Most promotional materials for Dean Sheremet’s new cookbook, Eat Your Heart Out, begin with a reference to his ex-wife, LeAnn Rimes (who famously left him for Eddie Cibrian while he was still married to Brandi Glanville). “You may not know Dean’s name,” they seem to say, “but you definitely know LeAnn’s!” Then, once they get you, his new career as a chef is introduced.
That sleight of hand is, whether Sheremet likes it or not, the easiest introduction to him at this point in his professional career. And it worked—for me, at least. After reading the intro I found myself becoming wide-eyed at the thought of an entirely new post-relationship move for a celebrity spouse. Revenge babies? No one has those anymore. Revenge bodies? How old hat. But could this be something different? Something truly unique? Could this be a...revenge cookbook? Between recipes for granola and green tea waffles, would I get all the delicious dirt about their relationship that I had been craving (along with the granola and green tea waffles)?
In my attempt to find out, I chatted with Sheremet (who’s now married to a woman he met in culinary school) over the phone last week, and later, attempted a recipe from his cookbook and conquered my fear of cooking duck.
Jezebel: What intrigued me about this book initially was that you directly mention your marriage to LeAnn and how this transition into cooking was a result of your personal life. There’s something impersonal about a lot of celebrity cookbooks, so yours surprised me.
Sheremet: Oh, I completely agree. Well, for me, I don’t consider myself a celebrity chef. When the demise of my relationship with LeAnn happened, I moved to New York and needed something that was inherently mine—that just belonged to me, it had nothing to do with the entertainment world. So I went to school at the French Culinary Institute, graduated top of my class, and then started working in restaurants making shit money just because I wanted to be a chef. I didn’t want to release a cookbook and have it be unwarranted, or have someone look at it and go, Oh, it’s LeAnn Rimes’s ex-husband releasing a cookbook. I always wanted it to be legitimized. And for me to do that, I kind of had to disappear and go to school. I worked for Nobu. I worked for Jean Georges. I had to do it at the highest level I could possibly do it so that, for me, I could say I could stand on my own two legs and say, This is mine. So I had no problem being completely honest. I think a lot of people sugarcoat a lot of things, and for me, I went through a really shitty divorce! It was part of my story. It’s not the whole story, but it’s a stepping stone that led me to be that honest and do this book. So I wasn’t afraid of doing that at all.
In all the publicity for the book—as well as the intro—it says “looking good and feeling good is the best revenge,” but it doesn’t feel like an angry book.
It’s not an angry book at all, and I’m glad you picked that up. People are playing it up a little. It’s being presented as a revenge cookbook, but it’s not a revenge cookbook. I have no animosity towards her. We were together for eight years, and it was really incredible for a lot of the time. There’s no me versus her in this book at all. I even say in the intro what I was to blame for, and how I could have been better, and what I learned. I was lucky enough to, when I left the three of them—that triangle of blame and anger—I just went, you know what? This is what happened. I was at fault in some places too. It takes two people to get married, and it takes two people to get divorced.
How long was the timeframe between the divorce and your move?
I moved before I was officially divorced. Papers hadn’t been completely drawn up, but I had to make the move. I enrolled the summer before, moved, and thought, This is it. I’m gonna start my life. I didn’t really know what was going to happen at the time with my relationship, it was all up in the air. And I just had to make a decision of what was best for me, and that’s another thing I touch on in the book. It’s all about self-love and self-care. If you can’t take care of yourself, it’s really hard to take care of someone else.
How long had you wanted to go to culinary school? Was that a direct result or had you always kind of wanted to do it at some point?
I had always cooked—my grandmother had me in the kitchen since I was a young kid. Food had always been a thru-line in my life. I threatened one, when LeAnn was gonna possibly do Broadway, I thought, ‘Oh, that would be cool, I’d love to come up and do culinary school.’ It was always just bidding it around what her schedule was going to be? It had always been in my brain, but when it happened I was like, “This is the perfect time to make a huge crazy jump.” So I left LA, moved to New York, and started my whole life in New York.
Had the relationship lasted longer, would you have gone?
I don’t think I would have, no. We were so intertwined, and it would have continued going the way it was going. I needed to have my ass kicked and pushed into the deep end of the pool.
And when did the idea for a cookbook come in, or do you think having a cookbook is just the dream of every chef?
I don’t know if it’s the dream of every chef. For me, I like sharing things with people. I love breaking down techniques. I had a collection of recipes. I didn’t know I was going to be that honest—I wasn’t going, ‘Oh, I’m gonna write a memoir/cookbook.’ It wasn’t some grand thing like that. I was just trying to find a cool angle. And, like you were saying, there are so many soft cookbooks that don’t really touch on anything and it’s just a collection of recipes that were probably ghostwritten by someone else. This is 150 of my own recipes that I wrote by myself. I’m incredibly proud of the work I put into it. It’s definitely not the sexiest endeavor. Like being a chef, people say, “That must be so amazing,” but I’m like, “I’ve been making 11 dollars a fucking hour in a restaurant!”
How would you describe your cuisine, or the cuisine in this book?
I’d have to say it’s definitely a mishmosh. There’s a lot of Asian food, most of my professional career and the food I crave is Asian food—but I’d like to say my style is approachable. I like taking the concepts I’ve learned in fine dining and distill them down to something that would make you say, “Oh, I can do that.” Sometimes chefs come out with cookbooks and they’re so...chef-y? They’re so inside. It doesn’t feel very welcoming? The pictures are so beautiful and it would look good on your coffee table, but for me, I want people to beat the shit out of this book and get in the kitchen and dog-ear all the pages they like and fall in love with it.
Though Dean found himself unafraid of sharing his story in the cookbook, I found myself fearful while reading it—specifically once arriving at his recipe for duck fried rice. Though the recipe made me hungry, he recommended cooking duck to medium rare, which—depending on who you talk to—is either A-OK or risky as hell. First of all, I’ve never cooked duck. Secondly, I’ve gotten food poisoning from undercooked chicken several times. But it looked too good and I wanted to challenge myself, so I headed to the grocery store.
Once inside, I grabbed some scallions, shiitake mushrooms (they were suspiciously cheaper purchased pre-sliced), an onion, and skipped the fresh thyme Sheremet suggested on account of the fact that I didn’t feel like spending money on a shitload of some herb I wouldn’t use and because I had dried thyme back at home. After grabbing the chicken broth (I was in no mood to Garten this and make homemade stock), I snaked through the aisles to the rice. While scanning the shelves for long-grain brown rice, as the recipe recommends, I began wondering why I should care about the difference between long-grain and short-grain rice to begin with—a thought I quickly moved past once finding a package of long-grain brown rice. “Store in the refrigerator for maximum freshness” it said on the bag. “How strange,” I mumbled, suddenly realizing I had only bought short-grain brown rice in the past.
Once in the meat department (haha), I began searching for duck. As someone who has never bought raw duck, I was surprised (perhaps unfairly) by the lack of the precious red poultry from my grocery store’s butcher counter. “Do you have duck?” I asked a man in a white smock.
After buying the items in my cart, I visited every grocery store in my neighborhood looking for duck. No luck. One butcher said, “Not today,” after I asked, which sounds more bizarre now that I’ve typed it. Because there was no duck within walking distance, I resolved to buy it in Manhattan the next day. Somewhere like...Whole Foods, whose after-work lines are so long and so miserable that I shivered at the thought. Once home, I made ramen and added a perfect seven-minute egg along with over half of the scallions I had just purchased. It was wonderful.
The next day I left work and walked to Whole Foods in search of duck, which was a first for me. “We’re all out, NEXT,” the Whole Foods man told me. I grunted, then walked up the broken escalator and into Union Square. Across the street was an organic grocery store that I decided would be my last resort. “If there’s no duck there,” I told myself, “I’m just making this with chicken.” What a lame and depressing threat to make to yourself. Fortunately, the organic grocery store sold duck breasts. Unfortunately, they were like $12 a pound and I spent $14.96 on a single duck breast, which I’m still sort of pissed about.
The American President was already on television once I arrived home, which pleased me. I began cooking immediately after Sydney Ellen Wade and President Shepherd had their first dance, much to the surprise of the Beltway press!
The recipe came from Sheremet’s comfort food section, which begins:
The first few months after my divorce were pretty ugly. I was drinking too much, staying out too late, and definitely wasn’t putting quality food in my body. I was hung out and hung over and in need of something that was comforting and didn’t leave me feeling terrible. That’s when I developed my healthy approach to comfort food.
I was literally preparing a meal I wouldn’t have been preparing had LeAnn Rimes not divorced Dean Sheremet. “What an odd butterfly effect,” I thought while chopping the onions and all the scallions I didn’t eat the night before.
After wiping my tears, I dumped the onions into a large saucepan along with some olive oil and turned up the heat. While doing that, I measured out the chicken broth. The recipe called for 2.5 cups of broth and 1 cup of rice—a slightly odd ratio, but one I trusted because I had no reason not to.
After enough time had passed for the onions to become soft, I opened my package of pre-sliced shiitake mushrooms. Though the recipe asked for three ounces, the package contained five. So, sorry Dean, I dumped ‘em all in. Then, once they released some of their moisture, I dumped in the chicken broth and thyme. Again, he recommended fresh thyme, but again, I don’t have use for a shitload of fresh thyme. I sprinkled in an amount of the dried herb that I believed would be an adequate substitution for the fresh stuff, and based the length of my sprinkle on absolutely nothing.
Once boiling, I lowered the burner temperature set a timer for 45 minutes and took a deep breath. I had a few minutes to waste before dealing with the duck. Andrew and Sydney were in the china room. Andy called it the dish room! What a yutz.
Sheremet’s recipe for cooking a duck breast in a cast iron pan is similar to most. You score the fat, cook it fat side down for about 6 minutes (he suggests starting in a cool pan so that the fat renders more gracefully), flip it for a minute to sear the other side, flip it back, and either cook on the stovetop for 9ish more minutes or toss it in a 400-degree oven for the same amount of time. Easy! But, according to the GOVERNMENT, medium rare isn’t good enough. Yes, even though duck is red meat, and even though restaurants will rarely serve it cooked past medium, the recommended internal temperature is, like other poultry, 165 degrees.
Here’s when I panicked.
I stared at the duck as the fat began to melt, and, in the six minutes I had before flipping, made the tough decision to finish it in the oven, pop a meat thermometer in the center, and finish it in the oven until it reached 155. (Ina Garten assured me it would rise to 160 while resting.)
I had timed everything perfectly, as the rice was now nearing the end of its steam session post-simmer. But even though everything was, so far, going off without a hitch, I began having premonitions of myself screaming in the bathroom hours later. Would a single, very resilient, and dedicated Campylobacter bacterium survive the heat and ruin my GI tract for more hours than I cared to imagine? I returned to The American President in an attempt to regain composure.
By the time it was clear that Sydney and Andrew would definitely stay together—even with that whole mess with the Motown Three—I checked the temperature of the duck. 160. Or 159. 158ish. I took it out.
1. A cooked duck breast looks like a heart that has just been ripped out of a horse.
2. A sliced duck breast cooked to 160 degrees is still a nerve-racking shade of red.
3. It looked damn good in a low bowl, so I ate it.
Eat Your Heart Out is not quite a revenge cookbook, and not quite a celebrity cookbook. It exists somewhere on the periphery of each category in a safe space of contented semi-notoriety—one that should should provide Sheremet the chance for his life after divorcing LeAnn to overshadow the one before it. Though the road to its publication was once dominated tabloid covers and Bravo’s airwaves, people have since moved on to other celebrity love triangles to be fascinated by. That’s just how it goes.
And though the gossip-lover in me wishes there had been a little more intrigue between recipes, I’m looking forward to attempting plenty of its recipes in the future. Better a professional chef teaching you how to cook than Eddie Cibrian, right?
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images via the author, Countryman Press.