A Chat with Pauley Perrette of NCIS
Pauley Perrette is a southern girl at heart. If you are used to seeing her in her role of Abby Sciuto in NCIS or have caught her in a Metallica video you might not know that she has opened a bakery in Manhattan as a tribute to her mother, Donna Bell. She co-owns Donna Bell’s Bake Shop with her two best friends Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky and they have just released a book of the same name, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop, based on the desserts presented in the bakery and inspired by her Mom and her childhood. The three chatted with me in a spirited discussion with everyone chiming in.
Dédé Wilson: Thank you for taking the time. I have been reading your new book, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop, from cover to cover and was as taken by the recipes as I am with the stories of you, your Mom and business partners and friends, Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky. You did a great job of presenting the Bake Shop with a homespun approach.
Let’s get right into it…how does it feel to be a very recognizable TV star and the proprietor of a bakery specializing in your childhood southern favorites? Does it provide you with some kind of balance?
Pauley Perrette: Well, you know they are two very different things…there is my NCIS life and then there is the bakeshop and that is me, Darren and Matt doing this together as an homage to my Mom.
The recipes use easy to find ingredients and easy to follow instructions…do you ever bake at home?
Pauley Perrette: Me? I don’t bake…I don’t even have an oven or stove (laughs)…Mathew is the master…
When you do come into the city and go to the bakery what are you most likely to do? Get behind the counter?
Pauley: I do! Darren and Matthew can tell you more…
Darren: She gets behind the counter but she can’t do that for very long. People see her and you can just imagine…after 10 minutes we tell her she has to go outside and have fans follow her out there. Our shop is small! People come in and ask, “Is Pauley here?” I tell people she is out back doing dishes with Matthew! (Laughs).
We are featuring the Chocolate Chip Cookies…do these have a direct connection with your childhood?
Pauley: We do have recipes from my childhood but the recipes in the shop and book are really mostly inspired by my childhood and my Mom. Matthew gets inspired by things he tastes or sees or reads about. We try very hard to keep that feeling…that southern part of it.
Matthew: We have beautiful pictures of Donna Bell on our wall and anytime I, or any of the bakers, start experimenting I always tell them to go look to Donna Bell and imagine her in her kitchen. Would she make this? Is it the kind of dessert or baked good she would serve?
That’s a great way to handle that…the story in the book that got to me was your description of all of your families gathering at the shop for Thanksgiving…it was such a great way to show how this is a family centric endeavor…that the vibe is geared towards family and heritage.
Matthew: Well, we really are like one big family. It all began with honoring Donna Bell but it extends to all of our parents. My parents helped paint and wallpaper and Darren’s daughter helps make cupcakes…it began with one little thing but it has flourished and become larger…
And do you have any specific tips for home bakers who might want to make your recipes?
Pauley: I say just follow the directions. You hear that all the time but we really chose recipes that aren’t complicated and all the information is there.
Darren: The philosophy for food at the shop was to make humble, homemade food. This was somewhat because at the time there we were staring there were $1200 hamburgers here in NYC. We want to be accessible…make the kind of food Donna Bell was making in the 1970s with very easy to finds ingredients, simple directions. Simple as that!
My fiancé Damon is from Memphis and he loved reading the book. Now I have to tell you, you have to imagine how many cookbooks I have coming through the Test Kitchen, and I don’t know what it was…I think the recipes and tone were evocative of his southern childhood and his sense of family. He keeps mentioning your book!
Pauley: Oh, thank you so much for your kind words! It really is our personal histories coming together.
Thank you for your time and good luck with the book.
Pauley: Have an awesome day!