“Building a second career is difficult to do in America. People pigeonhole you,” Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic figure skating champion told “Off The Cuff”. “It is really hard. So it really has to come from a genuine place.”
Boitano, who continues to perform in ice shows, has built a second career as the host of a cooking show on Food Network, and Cooking Channel, and he’s the author of a new cookbook,“What Would Brian Boitano Make?”.
Aside from the whole knife-edge analogy, Boitano sees a correlation between his two passions: skating and food.
“There are layers and layers of things that go into skating,” he said, “you have to decide what music you're going skate to. You have to work on your jumping. You have to work on your artistic ability. There's the lighting, the costumes.”
“When it comes down to food, you have to decide which what menu you're going to make, then break it down to recipes,” he continued. “It’s how it looks on the plate, and how it tastes, and the crunch, the texture, all these different layers that go on. When you're doing a TV show, you're actually performing with food.”
Boitano wrote his first recipe at 12 years old. For years he followed the typically restrictive diet of an athlete, and began cooking in earnest at twenty-five. “I said, ‘after I retire from the Olympics, I'm going to make this. I'm going to go to restaurants. I'm going to have cocktails,’” he recalled.
The name of his cookbook is riff on the song “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” from the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”. The animated version of Boitano had appeared in early TV episodes of “South Park”. He’s a spangled superhero, who gorges on spicy chicken wings.
Boitano hadn’t seen the cartoon version of himself, and sneaked into a theater. “I'm sitting, you know, in the back of the movie theater with my hat on, going, hmm, this is pretty funny.’ And then watching the whole audience when my song came on. They're laughing. And I'm like, 'this is so surreal that I'm sitting here and it's me and they're laughing at a caricature of me.'"
The movie grossed more than $83 million worldwide.“I couldn't get away from it,” Boitano said.“It became part of my makeup. It became part of my personality. So then I embraced it.”
Still, there are no humble chicken wings in the cookbook. The closest the real Boitano comes is “Spice-rubbed Brick Cornish Game Hens”.
Boitano attributes his success to discipline. “I think that discipline is a combination of passion and really wanting a certain outcome for your life. I always used to compete against some very, very talented people. They were so much more talented than me. If they ever had a good work ethic, I wouldn't have had a chance. But they didn't,” he said.
He may be disciplined, but he can’t balance a checkbook. “I was never good with numbers, never, ever good. I got terrible grades in math,” he said.
“My dad was a banker. So my dad always took care of my finances for years and years and years and years. Recently, I lost my dad and I have had to go out and make my way.”
He likes to spend his money on entertaining friends. “I came from this family that was very humble, very humble. I never wanted to buy the cars or spend money on clothes or all that kind of thing.”
Boitano’s private life has been the source of constant media speculation. “I don't discuss my private side. It's the one element of my life that I can keep for my family and friends and people who get to know me,” he said.
Asked about Jason Collins, the NBA player who, in April, disclosed he is gay, Boitano said,“it seems like it's been a freeing thing for him. You know what, everybody's got their own path, and everybody has to do what they have to do.”
Boitano turns fifty this year, he looks much younger. “I’ve spent a lot of my life in refrigeration,” he laughed.
Watch the “Off The Cuff” interview with Brian Boitano for more on winning the gold, fame, and his second career.