The Time Curtis Stone Made Me Dance in Front of 500 People


I’m just going to come right out with it – Curtis Stone made me stir fry while dancing in front of 500 people, then kissed my cheek. Twice. AHHHH!!


Ahem! Sorry, but, AHHHH!!!

Ok, let me back up for a sec! As I mentioned, this Friday my Mom and I drove to Davenport to attend a luncheon to benefit Gilda’s Club, a national cancer support organization, featuring a cooking demonstration and Q&A session with hunky Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone.


My friend John works for Panera, who partners with Gilda’s Club, and had tickets to the luncheon. Knowing that I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to see Curtis in person, he invited me and my Mom to join him. I owe him BIG time for this one!


The luncheon took place at the beautiful Rivercenter in Davenport, and the menu was just delicious. We started with a side salad,


then devoured Apricot Ginger Chicken (desperate for the recipe!) and roasted potatoes.


There was raspberry cheesecake and triple layer chocolate cake for dessert, that I wanted to plant my face into, but alas there are 14 more days of Lent!


During lunch there were people walking around selling $20 raffle tickets for a chance to cook with Curtis during one of three live demos he’d start after we finished eating. My Mom and I dug into our purses, but realized we had both left our checkbooks in the car when switching to smaller purses for the event. Huge. Bummer. At least we were seated pretty close to the stage, so we’d just have to settle for staring at him from slightly afar.

After dessert had been eaten, and the coffee was poured, the main event got underway. Come on down, Curtis! :)


The crowd, which was no less than 500, and 99% women, went completely bananas as he jogged in from a side door and climbed up onto a wide stage in front of the room, stocked with a portable oven, cookware, dishes and tons of food.


Now, I’m used to seeing Curtis’ life-sized cardboard cutout when I go grocery shopping at Hy-Vee every week, who he partners with, but holy buckets he is SO much more handsome in person, and absolutely oozing with charm and charisma. He had everyone giggling within seconds. ;)


Curtis started the first cooking demo by reaching his hand into a bucket containing the names of people who purchased raffle tickets, and calling out two of them to come and join him on stage.


As two women shrieked with joy and made their way up, I turned to John and whispered,

Good for Curtis Stone, you know? I can’t even imagine standing up there in front of 500 people and putting on a show like that. Getting up in front of a group is literally my biggest nightmare.”

“Really?” he answered back.

“Yes, really! I mean, maybe it’d be easier to go up in front of a large group instead of a small one because you wouldn’t have to make direct eye contact with anyo – no, wait, yeah it’s still my biggest nightmare. Never in a million years.”


The first cooking demo wrapped up, and the giggling women left the stage with hearts a’flutter – their year, no doubt, completely made.

Next it was time for the second cooking demo to start. Curtis reached his hand into the bucket and pulled out a ticket, announcing the name in his thick Australian accent.

Kierstin Smeeth, (pretend my last name is Smith,) come on up!


Kierstin Smeeth? Is there a Kierstin Smeeth out there?

Nobody got up and everyone looked around all, where the hell is this Kiersten Smeeth and why is she not sprinting up there to cook with this total babe?!

Just then I feel my Mom poking my back. I turn around and she’s practically jumping out of her seat “It’s you! It’s you! I bought a raffle ticket!!!”

omg I’m Kierstin Smeeth? I’M KIERSTIN SMEETH!!!!


I honest to God could not recognize my name through Curtis’ accent, and for all I knew neither my Mom nor I purchased a ticket, so why would it be me anyways?! But it was. IT WAS!!!

In complete shock I got up and slowly made my way to the stage, cheeks already burning. I could not believe that I had just gotten done telling John what a train wreck I am in front of a group, and here I was about to do exactly that.

But Curtis was there. At the top of the steps leading onto the stage. Hand outstretched. I reached up to take his hand, and he drew me in for a hug then kissed me on the cheek. The crowd gasped.

Curtis Stone just kissed me on the cheek.

“Kierstin, is it?” he asks, his hand covering his mic.

“Oh, um, it’s Kristin, actually!” I respond, trying not to barf.

He leads me to the center of the stage where the other woman who was called, Heidi, has already joined us, then begins to explain how the cooking demo will work.

I can barely move at this point. I’m thinking, OMG I’M STANDING NEXT TO CURTIS STONE AND HE JUST KISSED ME ON THE CHEEK AND HE SMELLS SO GOOD! (Yves St Laurent, someone asked!) but I’m shaking like a leaf from stage fright.

Just when I started to slightly calm down, Curtis declares, “Ladies! Today you are going to help me make a fresh and easy stir fry.” showing us a wide variety of ingredients laid out on the table in front of us. “Also, ladies, I just came out with a new mortar & pestle product. Do you know what a mortar & pestle is?”

We nod. Mimicking grinding motions in the air, grinning like idiots.

“Well, my mortar & pestle has a special name. It’s called the Bump & Grind, and you’re going to use it to make a special stir fry sauce!

I spin to face Heidi, horrified. I think I know where this is going.

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Keep cool! I tell myself, fanning my face with my hand all, ooo Curtis Stone just said bump & grind! getting a slight laugh from the crowd. On the inside I’m all please don’t say it, please don’t say it, please don’t say it…

Then he said it.

“And you’re going to bump & grind while ya’ do it!”

It gets worse.

“To music!”

Much worse.

“It’ll be a competition, and the audience will vote on who has the best bump & grind which will determine our winner!”


I pretty much panic at this point. Me, the ultimate introvert, dancing, nay – bumping & grinding – on stage to some Black Eyed Peas song, while sloshing soy sauce all over myself trying not to hurl on Curtis Stone.


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I briefly forget how unbelievably awkward I’m dancing when Curtis picks up my phone, which I had brought up to document the moment.


This is my favorite picture ever.


Approximately 47 terrifying minutes later (you try grinding in front of 500 people standing next to Curtis Stone and see how long it feels to you!) the song mercifully shut off.


Tasting is next, and while Curtis and sous chef Steve deem my stir fry the best, the audience – wait for it – chooses Heidi as the bump & grind winner through cheers and applause. I contemplate making a run for it, leaving a Kristin-shaped hole in the wall of the Rivercenter.


Instead I stay, get my picture taken with Curtis, then get another pity kiss on the cheek as I practically sprint down the stairs and away from the stage. Every mortifying minute worth it. BAHAHAHAHAHA – Curtis, freaking, Stone!

Emotionally scarring moments aside, Curtis is the nicest person, and such a gentleman. After the luncheon he stayed to sign autographs and take pictures with anyone who wanted one, with an unwavering smile on his face the entire time. He didn’t falter once. Each picture he took looked like the first picture – what a great guy! (And seriously, HUNK!)

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But my Mom – oh my Mom! She had excused herself during lunch for what I assumed was a bathroom break, but what she actually did was go and pay for a raffle ticket with her credit card. “I just wanted you to have a chance to cook with Curtis!” Angel. I nearly cried.


Still all riled up two days later, I decided to make a Curtis Stone recipe for dinner tonight.

Homemade Pizza!


With a yeast crust!


I figure if I can awkwardly stumble around dance in front of 500 people I can make a homemade pizza crust. ;)


And you can too – it’s honestly very simple!


Start by adding 1 Tablepoon honey and a packet of active dry yeast to 1 1/4 cups warm water.

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Stir everything together, and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minute, giving the yeast time to “activate”.


After 5 minutes, there should be a foam on top of the liquid. Yeast = ready!


Next, pulse together 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups all purpose flour in a large food processor.

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Add in the activated yeast, and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, then let ‘er rip for 10 seconds, or until the dough comes together.

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Pretty much just like this!


Turn the dough out onto a flat, well-floured surface, then knead for 3 minutes, adding extra flour when necessary.

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So far so good, yes?


Pinch the dough in to the middle to form 2 balls.


Place the balls onto a well floured baking sheet and dust the tops with more flour.


Cover with plastic wrap, then place the baking sheet in a warm, dry area for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough balls have doubled in size. I placed my baking sheet on top of the stove, with the oven set to 450 degrees.




Form one dough ball into a circle, then place it onto a well-greased pizza pan. My dough spread super quick – too quick to snap a picture!  Brush the top with olive oil and minced garlic.


Next, consult your toppings. We’ve got: asparagus (the thinner, then better!) fresh mozzarella cheese, kalamata olives, baby heirloom tomatoes and red onion.


Spread out the toppings, then drizzle more olive oil on top, and give the whole thing a generous sprinkle of salt & pepper.


Into the oven for 10 minutes at 500 degrees! Pipin’ hot, yo!


And devour!!!!


Ok, I don’t know what has taken me so long to make homemade pizza dough. This was so easy!


The crust was light and chewy.


The toppings, hot and fresh. I am obsessed with the combo of sweet tomatoes and salty olives!


This was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. ;)


Click here for the pizza dough recipe! >

Well I think I’ve had just about enough fun for one weekend. I hope you did too!

Off to daydream… ;)


Have you ever met anyone famous? Did they live up to your expectations?

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  1. How exciting! There aren’t too many famous people who come to ND, where I’m from…although I did hear plenty of stories about Trace Adkins sightings at Target when he was here for a concert (which I totally went to)! That was our big talk for a week haha ;)

  2. Congrats! That looks like so much fun! I don’t think I would have been able to dance at all, I would have been mortified! You have the sweetest mom to do that for you.

  3. Cathie Rochau 03.26.2012

    Great article, I was the first one up whisking the salad dressing WITHOUT the Bleu Cheese and Grey Poupon.
    I just happened to have gone to school with RiverCenter Chef Chris Carton, and I did hear him mentioning a few of the ingredients of his sauce- I can get the rest for you if you want. He did mention that he started with a simple syrup, and did a Mango reduction, and also contained pineapples. Message me if you want me to dig for the rest of it from him. Feet still slightly off the ground, Cathie (the one doing the fist pump- ha!)

    • Ann Nicknish 04.12.2012

      You all did a great job up there! The audience went ga-ga over Curtis but I thought the participants kept their cool under sweeeeeet duress! I really wanted the recipe for the Salad with balsalmic but can’t find it online. Did you remember it? Chopped shallots (in the dressing or just on the salad…and sauteed or not? Dressing had olive oil, honey, dijon, balsamic…greens with blue cheese–anything else? Thanks! Ann

  4. Lisa 03.26.2012

    I loved your version of what happened. I got to meet Giada DeLaurentiis this summer, and I know EXACTLY what you felt like. I didn’t get to cook on stage with her, but did have a conversation and sounded like a bumbling idiot! I’m sure you were great, and it makes for such a great story!

  5. claudia robinson 03.26.2012

    You were wonderful, and I honestly didn’t know you were nervous. I hope you left with a great memory, and enjoyed Mr. “smokin hot” Curtis Stone as much as I did.

  6. Life's a Bowl 03.26.2012

    OH EM GEE, OH EM GEE! So much excitement :D Looks like a fabulous experience- thanks for sharing it with us!

    P.S. You’ve got way more guts than I do- a kiss from C. Stone wouldn’t have been enough to get me to bump and grind on stage :P

  7. […] is cooking, get out a large wok or skillet. This here wok is the consolation prize I received after losing the bump and grind stir fry competition with Curtis Stone. I’m not just saying this because of how I acquired it, but this wok is LEGIT. It’s […]

  8. Whit 03.26.2012

    So neat!
    Fun fact: My senior prom was at the RiverCenter! Classy affair, that one.

  9. Alyssa 03.26.2012

    I think this was one of my favorite posts in a while. How cool of your mom to have sneakily put your name in (despite your stage fright) and to have had the chance to meet Curtis Stone! Sounds like it was an awesome day :-)

  10. Em 03.26.2012

    I read & love ur blog every day…i love cooking & workung out (cooking more tho) and always enjoy ur blog! I absolutely had to comment on this b/c its so awesome & so funny! I literally burst out laughing..but seriously…good for you! I totally would have died! Xoxo

  11. Katie 03.26.2012

    OMG that is so exciting you got meet Curtis stone! What an amazing experience! I loved reading the post i was giggling the whole time lol…recipe looks great! xx

  12. Yay Kristin..what a fun experience! I would have been too nervous cookie next to someone famous, I might burn something.

    I like that cell phone picture too…in all it’s glory blurriness, lol!

  13. Rachel 03.27.2012

    How fun! My friend’s husband works for Hy-Vee, and when they first launched that partnership with Curtis Stone, some of the department managers got to go to Des Moines for a meet & greet with him…We tried to get him to let us go in his place, but it didn’t work.

  14. Robin 03.27.2012

    Great post!

  15. Lynette 03.27.2012

    Hilarious, great reading! I laughed all the way through, AND I’m jealous. The pizza crust looks so easy!

  16. Lol! What an awesome experience! I would have voted for you in the bump and grind contest. Clearly he didn’t know he had an all-star blogger on stage with him or he would have declared you the instant winner ;)

  17. Lori 03.27.2012

    Words cannot express the joy I receive from reading your daily posts. This one was especially fun for me. I am what I call a “back row person”, so I could really relate to your fear of going onstage. Looks like you did great, and it was fun reading of your experience. Keep up the great job you are doing, giving us new dishes to try every day. :)

  18. Kara 03.27.2012

    This is such a cute post!!! I would have been so nervous too. But how perfect is it that you got picked!?! So awesome.

    When you mentioned HyVee and Davenport it made me so excited to go home; I live in NY but I’m from Iowa City and am going home on Thursday!

  19. Melissa 03.28.2012

    Wow how lucky you are! He is a hottie and the accent is killer. I would have died bumping and grinding as well.

  20. Christine Ossowski 03.28.2012

    You are so adorable!! I stumbled upon you through Pinterest and saw a friend “liked” you on FB and thought IGE sounded familiar. I live in Davenport and have read many very positive posts about Mr. Stone’s visit. I loved reading this. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Laurie 03.28.2012

    This is flippin’ awesome! You’re the perfect choice to get up and cook with Curtis and represent Iowa. I’m from Davenport and still live near by. Really wanted to go to this event but it just didn’t happen. Bummer that I missed out. Thanks for sharing. Oh and … squeeeeee! haha

  22. Ruth 03.30.2012

    What fun getting to cook with Curtis. Not to mention a hug and a couple kisses. I would have been frozen the whole time and not able to do a thing.
    And the pizza looks wondeerful

  23. I am so jelaous you got to do that. And that is my worst nightmare as well. I could not dance like you did. I would have stood there frozen in fear!

  24. […] make nearly all my life. (Until I finally gave a few a try last year, and was pretty pleased with the results – well, not early […]

  25. […] We were led by accomplished chef, Edmondo Sarti, who got his start by cooking in his uncle’s pizza shop in the small Italian town of Portomaggiore, as a boy. This experience led him to culinary school, followed by cooking in high-end restaurants all over the world. He currently lives in LA, owns several restaurants, and is a total charmer. Watch out Curtis Stone! […]

  26. Maelee 07.10.2012

    I just found your site tonight while looking over the link to your Chick fil a nuggets. I’ve been playing through your site one hour later and still going! I just read over your Curtis Stone story and found I laughed alot and you are FUNNY! I would have died if I had gotten called on stage with him LOL!!!!! The pictures were awesome and the food looked great!

  27. […] homemade crust, which begins as dough. This is the same pizza dough recipe I used after Curtis Stone almost made me spontaneously combust from embarrassment, and seriously, I’m telling you, it couldn’t be […]

  28. Lizzie 08.03.2012

    You are such a hoot! ;). Loved that story- thanks for sharing!

  29. Mary Feltman 10.18.2012

    omg…that was SUCH a kewl story!! Curtis LOOKS like he’d be very nice. My sister and I met Fabio Viviani (from Top Chef) at the Southern Women’s Show last year…he, too, was just as nice and personable as he could be. He took the time to talk with us and take pictures before and after the demo. I’m so glad you had a good time, and shared it with your readers! I’m going to try this recipe…I just LOVE Asian food and am SO intimidated by it. I want to do some of the wonderful recipes, but (as I learned the hard way) all fish sauces are not created equal!! And, therefore, I can assume that the other ingredients used are as different as night and day…so then I have to wonder which brand(s) to use. Any advice?

    • Iowa Girl Eats 10.21.2012

      Great question, Mary! I really like both the “Taste of Thai” and “China Bowl” brands of Asian sauces, etc. I hope that helps!

  30. […] be giving away some gift cards this week, I emailed my friend Panera John, the blessed saint who took me to get smooched by Curtis Stone, last night to see what the latest and greatest was on their menu. He immediately responded with […]

  31. Pia 01.14.2013

    Hi, I would love to try this receipe however in the picture the dough looks raw :( is that color normal or should i leave it in the oven an additional 5 minutes to get it more crunchy and more color..Thank you!
    I love your site!


  32. Olivia 05.23.2013

    I’m not sure if you mentioned this, but what did you do with the other ball of dough? How long can it last?

  33. Shelly 02.21.2014

    This is our go-to pizza dough recipe for Pizza Fridays. FYI if anyone is feeding someone with T1D, the total carbs in this is about 19 g per slice with all-purpose flour. (This recipe makes 16 servings/slices for us and the flour I use is 88 g carb per cup…)

  34. Susan 05.11.2014

    Just found your site earlier this evening and just finished reading this piece. Definitely one of the most delightful things I’e ever read on a food blogger’s post. I LOVE Curtis Stone, mainly just listening to him talk I guess. Also,as a former Iowan who hasn’t lived there for 30+ years, this site will be a fun one to follow. Thanks for a great read!

  35. […] wok-less. And if that’s case, do yourself a favor and get this wok, which I had to publicly humiliate myself to receive (#worthit). I know some of you are rolling your eyes at the millionth mention of the […]

  36. […] Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats […]

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