Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interview with 'Hunger Games' Actress Tara Macken

Tara Macken, a woman of many talents, stars in the new blockbuster hit film, The Hunger Games. Naturally athletic, Tara grew up harnessing her outdoor skills into gymnastics, rock climbing, dance, and parkour in which she had progressed into doing stunt work and then acting. Her previous stunt work and acting credits include: Sons of Anarchy, Hawaii Five-0, Nikita, The Lincoln Lawyer, Glee, and Nine Lives of Chloe King. Tara spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com about her experience in The Hunger Games and her transition from stunt performer to actress.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Tell me a little about The Hunger Games and what role you play in the film.

Tara Macken: Well, The Hunger Games was originally a novel written by Suzanne Collins. The story is about a young female heroine, Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence, who is put in a situation where she has to participate in the Hunger Games in order to save her family and to oppose the current regime. It’s basically a post-apocalyptic world where they take two people (or Tributes) from all 12 districts to battle against each other ‘til the death. There can only be one victor left who wins the game. I play one of the Tributes from District 4 that competes in the Hunger Games.

TCC: How did it feel working in this film with such a diverse cast of both newbies to the film industry and legendary stars?

Tara Macken: Originally, I was kind of intimidated because the movie does have a star-studded cast and also a lot of newcomers. But I knew a few cast members prior to working in this film. So I was pretty comfortable knowing that at least I had some comrades to be able to do this movie with. There wasn’t any sense of hierarchy of who was more or less famous. It was a very welcoming environment. We were all there to make a movie and that’s exactly what we did. It was a lot of fun.

TCC: How did you prepare for your role in the film?

Tara Macken: Since I do stunt work, I already have my own regimen of training every single day. [Prior to filming,] cast members had to undergo extensive training to be physically fit. We did unconventional types of workouts like rope swing exercises, pushing a big tractor wheel across a warehouse—a lot of jumping over things, rolling, punching, kicking, and fighting. It was really cool.

TCC: Now I know The Hunger Games mostly appeals to a younger audience, but do you think adults will like this movie as well?

Tara Macken: I think so. That was the same thing I wondered about as well. I thought, ‘Is the movie only going to be something that a certain age group will appreciate? Or is it something everyone can enjoy?’ Upon watching the film, I realized that not only kids, but everyone can relate to it because of the honesty in the story line and the talented cast.

TCC: In your career, you started off as a stunt woman. What inspired you to want to do that?
Tara Macken: Growing up I was basically doing stunts even before I knew there was such a thing called stunts. I did a lot of dance, gymnastics, martial arts, and rock climbing just for fun. So when I came out to L.A. I wanted to do acting. Then I realized there is this whole community that’s a part of the film industry and involves doing stunt work. It was a way for me to get into the industry and a great stepping stone to be able to pursue stunts and acting. It’s really cool to be able to transition between the two. But I still love doing stunts. I think it is something that I will never get out of my system.
TCC: As you know working in the stunt industry can be a dangerous job that gets a person little recognition, do you think stunt performers deserve to have their own category at such award shows as the Oscars or the People’s Choice Awards?
Tara Macken: Absolutely! The stunt community has a huge presence in films. In movies some want to believe that all actors do their own stunts, but in actuality they have stunt doubles that help with making such amazing action scenes come to life. It’s a pity that stunt work has yet to be recognized at such events like the Oscars. Though the Emmy Awards do have a stunt category, which is amazing. I think it’s only a matter of time before stunts performers are acknowledged by other award shows.
TCC: Do you think there should be more leading roles for young women to play action heroes, like Jennifer Lawrence’s character in The Hunger Games?
Tara Macken: There should be. That was the one thing that really attracted me to this project. There are not as many action films with a strong female presence and if there are some it’s only a like a handful, whereas every other film has a strong male presence. So I think it would be really good to change up the pace and introduce strong female action heroes that take the lead in films. It could even inspire people.
Growing up, I was an extreme tomboy and didn’t have that many female role models to look up to in terms of action. The only action stars I looked up to were Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise, and Keanu Reeves from The Matrix. Though being male figures, I was inspired by them. But female action heroes can be inspirational too. Young girls would look up to such strong women and say things like, ‘Wow! That chick is freakin’ dope. I wanna be like her one day.’ Girls don’t always have to play just beautiful creatures in films. They can be kick-ass, look nasty, and be with the guys while still being respected and recognized.
TCC: Going back to the subject on The Hunger Games appealing to kids and adults, do you think the audience might view this film as being too violent? Because the basic premise of the film is kids killing kids in order to survive the games.
Tara Macken: In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s violent at all. It’s a PG-13 movie. So the violence is curbed more dramatically than one would expect, which is good because it allows more people to focus on the story rather than on the violence, because the violence is only an aspect and not the main part of the story.
TCC: Aside from this film, are there any other projects you are currently working on?
Tara Macken: Yeah, I’ve been working in a couple of new films this year. But I do have some projects coming out pretty soon. I did some stunt work on the movie, Battleship, and in, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which will be out this summer. And I also did an acting spot on Children's Hospital.
'The Hunger Games' is in theaters now and also stars Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci.
Written by: Bridget Campos

Friday, March 23, 2012

Interview with Cooking Channel's Eden Grinshpan of 'Eden Eats'

Host of 'Eden Eats,' Eden Grinshpan, explores international cuisines right in America’s backyard.

Eden Grinshpan’s passion for cooking exotic dishes began right after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in London where she received a “Grande Diploma” in both Pastry and Cuisine. After graduating, Eden traveled around the globe to such places as India, Southeast Asia and Israel enjoying the diversity in taste, spices and flavor in ethnic foods, as well as getting to know the people through volunteer work.

After returning to the States, Eden wanted to share her experience with other foodies that love cultural food just as much as she does. She created a popular food blog, Eden Eats, showcasing various “immigrant eateries” across the U.S. and posting her delicious recipes as well. Last year, Eden’s new show, also called Eden Eats, debuted on the Cooking Channel. On the show, Eden proves that international food is closer to home than you might think.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: What inspired you to want to go to culinary school?

Eden: Well, I’ve always loved food. I’m a big eater. I love to experiment and try new foods. In high school, I decided I had more of a passion for it than I did for studies. So I decided to go to culinary school and pursue what I always wanted - feeding people and sharing things that I’ve learned with them.

TCC: Do you come from a family that enjoys international food as well?

Eden: Yes, I do actually. I grew up in Toronto, which is the most multicultural city in the world. Growing up my father would bring home food from all the different ethnic neighborhoods. I really kind of fell into this world of enjoying ethnic cuisines because of him; he really has a passion for it as well.

TCC: What is your show, Eden Eats, about?

Eden: Our show is based on immigrant communities in America and how they reclaim their culture and customs thru food. We travel to a different city in every episode. The show is actually shot within 24 hours as we cover about seven different cultures within each episode.

TCC: Oh, wow, that sounds interesting!

Eden: It is -- it’s fascinating and we get to see all the different kinds of people that come to each city and learn why they came. Also, learn about the community that surrounds them; learn about what they brought with them and what it was like living in their country back home.

TCC: Usually ethnic dishes require using lard or lots of butter, how can a person make such fattening meals healthier?

Eden: A lot of recipes do require pork lard or random kinds of, you know, ‘lots of butter’ but what I tend to do is substitute it with healthier fats. I usually try to cut back a little on the amount that the recipe calls for because I usually find it doesn’t need that much. You could use canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, or grape seed oil. There are so many kinds of delicious, healthier fats now. So it makes it easier for us.

TCC: What advice would you give to beginning cooks when it comes to using spices? How can they use them without being overwhelmed by the variety or taste?

Eden: I would recommend sticking to spices that they’re used to, but to explore them in dishes that they’re not used to. By taking something that you know of or use everyday like cinnamon, cumin, chili powder or paprika and trying them out in new dishes that require the same spices it might help them get more used to the common spices. Once they explore those familiar spices then they can start to use other more exotic spices.

TCC: When I think of cooking international dishes it makes me think that it’s really time consuming, how can a person with a busy schedule try to simplify an ethnic dish?

Eden: What I would do is research the dish before preparing it. [I would] probably marinate whatever protein I’ll be using the night before. It gets that out of the way. Then I would put together a salad with some interesting vinaigrette or spices. For vegetables, I would do a quick sauté the day of. The spices are a really sensitive part, so it’s easier to kind of whip up vegetables as a side dish, especially if you worry about the marinating process the night before.

TCC: What’s your personal favorite dish and dessert you love to make?

Eden: I cook very hearty, flavorful food-lots of different food. I personally love to make Moroccan tagines because everything gets thrown into one pot. When it’s done you can just put it on the table and serve. For desserts, I love making baklava and a lot of crunchy, kind of syrupy desserts. Also, I make mango sticky rice that I prepare very quickly. I explore lots of different cuisines that I’m always trying out in my kitchen.

TCC: In your travels around the world, what is the strangest food you ever tried?

Eden: It would have to be balut. I had it on the pilot, Eden Eats. It’s a fertilized duck embryo egg.

TCC: I’ve heard of balut.

Eden: Yeah, I ate one and it was interesting. It wasn’t that bad. I didn’t mind it at all. That is definitely one of the craziest things I’ve had. But I’m sure I’m going to eat a lot more strange food on the show now.

TCC: What are your fondest memories on Eden Eats?

Eden: Meeting the people that run the businesses and hearing their stories. They are so enthusiastic when they explain to you about their culture and about their cuisines. I find that it’s been a very interesting experience. I’m using food as a way to communicate with these people that I never would have known otherwise.

TCC: Are you currently shooting the first season of Eden Eats?

Eden: On March 13th we’ll be shooting the first episode in Hawaii. But we have other developing episodes that we are working on right now.

Check out the new season of Eden Eats premiering in July. For more information about Eden and her show, please go to the Cooking Channel's website: Source

Eden has also included her most favorite and simple recipe:

Glazed chicken drumsticks and wings with dried fruit

4 Chicken drum sticks
 4 chicken wings
 1 large red onion, quartered
 1/2 cup dried prunes
 1/2 cup dried apricots

Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
 1-tablespoon sesame oil
 1-tablespoon brown sugar
 2 tablespoons honey
 3 cloves garlic chopped
 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
 1/3-cup soy sauce
 1/4 teaspoon all spice
 Salt and pepper

Place the chicken, onion, and dried fruit in a large bowl. Pour the marinade over everything, cover and let marinate for 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the marinated chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes then broil for a couple minutes so it becomes golden on the top. Serve right away with rice, couscous or on its own.

Written by: Bridget Campos
Link: http://thecelebritycafe.com/feature/2012/03/interview-cooking-channels-eden-grinshpan-eden-eats

Originally posted on: March 13, 2012