Harry Hamlin And Renee Guilbault Talk With Chip Carter About Their New AMC TV Show “In The Kitchen”

by | Jun 18, 2024


Where The Food Comes From followers first met Renee Guilbault through her brilliant books about leadership and the food industry and recipes we’ve featured here. So when she touched base about her new TV project with her Uncle Harry, of course we were intrigued – and that was before we even knew she meant superstar Harry Hamlin. Together they host AMC’s new cooking show In The Kitchen with Harry Hamlin.

Hamlin is known the world over for his charm and grace – and of course, also for being a TV and film star of the first magnitude since the 1980s, since he popped up riding Pegasus in Clash of The Titans and then as a hotshot attorney on the smash L.A. Law. He won an Emmy for his work on Madmen and now stars in another AMC hit Mayfair Witches.

In The Kitchen is a charming (there’s that word again, get used to it) slice of life as Guilbault and Hamlin cook for some fantastic Hollywood guests, like Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Ed Begley, Jr., Jen Richards and, of course, Harry’s better half Lisa Rinna of Real Housewives fame. Even better, a lot of what they’re cooking comes from Hamlin’s garden. Checkout Harry Hamlin’s famous Bolognese recipe: Not Harry Hamlin’s Incredible Bolognese, BUT A Very Close Second. 

We scheduled this chat with Renee not knowing if Harry would be available. He was working on another project in Ireland and the time difference was problematic. So we didn’t know when we started if he’d be there as well. Would he make it? (Spoiler alert: Yes indeed, a few minutes in.) Before we get there, Renee talks about growing up with Uncle Harry (including how he let her think Pegasus, who he rode in Clash, was real!) and Aunt Lisa in her life, how the show came together… and how much fun it was to make. This transcript has been edited for length; you can watch the video for the full conversation:

Chip Carter/Where The Food Comes From Where The Food Comes From fans first met Renee Guilbault as an author and cooking expert – more of an executive chef. You’ve seen her book reviews on our site, you’ve seen her wonderful recipes on our site. But now Renee is with us in a new capacity as a TV star. Renee, thanks for being here.

RENEE GUILBAULT – Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. And we’re going to have to work out that whole TV star thing. I don’t know about that. I’m just doing my job.

CHIP – Yeah, you’ll get used to it. So when we first met you, we were talking about your book A Taste of Opportunity, which is a wonderful guide for people who want to get ahead in the food world, especially in leadership and especially to break through to the higher levels where maybe you’re not just always stuck in the kitchen. Renee, your whole career has really been focused on not being stuck in the kitchen, not having to be in the kitchen, being able to appreciate the joy of being in the kitchen and still being able to make a life that’s not dependent on what can be a very hectic and hairy way to make a living.

RENEE – Yeah, I mean, let’s be real. I worked very hard to become an executive chef and I had a lot of twists and turns in my career, and I talked a lot about it in the book because as you know, I used my examples of real-life career building, the tools to amplify the skills needed and also to normalize the fact that careers are more like Chutes and Ladders. They’re not necessarily these perfect linear experiences, right? They have all sorts of unexpected things that happen.

CHIP – And some amazing off ramps that you weren’t expecting in the first place.

RENEE – Yes, absolutely true. It’s so true. And I was one of those people who worked really hard to become an executive chef. And then, I was so shocked, I just realized I really did not like that job. I was still very green in my experience, as we all are in our 20s and I didn’t really take into account: “Wow, there’s not going to be a lot of balance in my life if I continue this.” So it’s, “Oh, shoot. Now what do I do? Because here I’ve just chased this dream for years and I’ve achieved it. And it’s a disaster. And I actually can’t stand it. So now what?” I think it’s so important to acknowledge those moments so that young people recognize that they’re not alone and that they happen to all of us. And also there’s still a way forward.

CHIP – Right?

RENEE – Right. The sun’s gonna come out tomorrow. You’re gonna find your way. And all of those learnings are really important. So I was very fortunate to then move into food and beverage management through franchise businesses where I started to marry all those skills, the business side of food and then the culinary and creative side of food. And so becoming an executive chef was a really important experience for me. Because without it, I never would have moved into the business side of food.

CHIP – Sure. And that, especially for forward-looking and inventive and creative people, almost any move you make is not a mistake, even if it doesn’t work out. “Alright, what can I build on from here? What does appeal to me? What does sound good to me? How can I take this knowledge and this experience and turn it into whatever’s next in my life?”

RENEE – Yeah, exactly right. And you never know, you can then find yourself leading really large teams executing high volume operations across you know, many, many dozens of restaurants and upwards of 60,000 meals a day and then suddenly get a door knock from your uncle to become a nepo baby at the age of 47 and him ask can I help him with his cooking show?

CHIP – (laughing) Thank you for owning that – Nepo Baby, that’s great! An extraordinary opportunity and I want to get into how that all that came to happen. But we’ve stayed in contact since we first met through your books and through your work.

RENEE – I’m a super fan too.

CHIP – Well, thank you, it’s mutual. So I saw a post from you on LinkedIn and then I got a message from you about Uncle Harry. And you’re doing something with Uncle Harry and something about a cooking show with Uncle Harry. And the first thing that I can think of is, um, Who’s Uncle Harry? Because a lot of people have an Uncle Harry. Your Uncle Harry turned out to be an Uncle Harry that you really want to get that kind of phone call from. I’ve always thought of Harry Hamlin as The Man, that guy, L.A. Law, you know, dashing and charming and all those things. And he certainly still is on y’all’s new show In The Kitchen with Harry Hamlin, which should say “and Renee Guilbault” but, you know…

'In The Kitchen with Harry Hamlin' series poster.

RENEE – I’m a wing person there. I’m a security blanket there.

CHIP – There you go. So it looks from the show like you’ve got a really close relationship and probably this has been a lifelong thing since you were a little girl with who was probably your favorite uncle, and the relationship between the two of you just shines right through. Have y’all always cooked together? Did you sometimes cook together? Was this totally random out of the blue? How did this lovely little show happen? What was the flashpoint for it?

RENEE – Yeah, those are a great bunch of questions. I think Uncle Harry is, I say this on the show, just a really special adult male in my life. He even in his most famous days, he was always just Uncle Harry kind of protecting the Legend of Pegasus, who I was obsessed with as a child because I loved horses and I just could not believe that Uncle Harry got to ride this winged, beautiful beast. And he never let me think that she was not at home resting in the stable.

CHIP – Oh, how fun. Huge.

Harry Hamlin as Perseus lassoing Pegusus in 'Clash of the Titans' (1981). Credit: IMDb.

Harry Hamlin as Perseus lassoing Pegasus in 'Clash of the Titans' (1981). Credit: IMDb.

RENEE – Yeah, I just knew how to keep the dreams alive. It was a real testament to him and to Lisa, they always had their door open for me over all the years along the way as I left home as a high school dropout. And I went through a few tumultuous years and really found my path in food. I just really treasure the relationship and especially as an adult, somebody who’s kind of on the back nine now, realizing how precious and special it is to have these kinds of relationships with family. So the cooking show was a real gift for us because we got to hang out and cook. And, you know, I was barefoot in that kitchen. And that house has been the same ever since my mom married Uncle Harry’s brother when. I was 3-years-old. He loves his family, and everything that you see and hear about him is really kind of like not only accurate, but not even enough to show how big his heart is.

CHIP – Right. So that kitchen was actually part of your childhood and you actually grew up in that kitchen?

RENEE – It was always the same, you know? And that’s the thing about their beautiful home is that it is a home, right? It’s not like a museum and it’s not something that isn’t, you know, telling stories out of every corner and every crack and every family photo and every, treasure-hunted antique that was found foraging through second-hand shops or on movie sets. It’s their life, it’s their home. It’s their hearts. And they’ve always had an open door and every time that we’ve had family dinners at Christmas time, Thanksgiving time over all the years, it was exactly what everybody has at home. People gathering around that kitchen island and telling jokes and stories and, you know, screwing up some food somewhere and making other deliciousness somewhere else, and then having a wonderful meal and leaving the experience going, “I can’t wait until next year. This is what life’s all about right. Gathering and connecting with family and loved ones and friends and colleagues over food.” That’s the joy of life. So, yeah, the thing with Uncle Harry over the years has been really fun.

CHIP – It’s funny, I found out very early in my career that celebrities really are just like everybody else. We certainly have a tendency to put them on a pedestal and to idealize who they are and what they are. But when you’re actually working with them and know them, and I can only assume if you’re related to them and they are your uncle, you understand full well, this is just another human being. Some wonderful characteristics and some wonderful qualities, but he’s not Harry Hamlin The Star to you first, he’s Uncle Harry to you first.

RENEE – Exactly right. Exactly right.

CHIP – When did you get this call? When did he get this call? Who had the idea: “Let’s put Harry Hamlin and Renee on TV cooking.”

Harry Hamlin and Renee Guilbault in a kitchen pointing to each other.

RENEE – Well, so his wife Lisa, who they’ve been married for, like, 30 years and she is just the iconic matriarch glue of the family on the Hamlin side. And she was on this crazy show called The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for eight seasons. I used to watch that show, way before she was on it as this kind of like, you know, car crash moment. It would be on TV. And I’d be like, Wait, people do stuff like this? Do they know cameras are there? But it was so riveting, you had to watch. So when I heard she was gonna be on the show I was really worried for her. Because I thought maybe she hadn’t seen the show! I was protective: “Has she not seen this? Maybe she needs to.”

But I was so naive. And this is not my world, right? It was a wonderful experience for her by and large and for the whole family and Uncle Harry too. They cooked on the show a lot and he cooked like we cook at home, hamburgers and hot dogs and his famous beautiful Bolognese sauce. And he became really well known for his relaxed, casual, real cooking. Did you ever see that show? And did you get to see him cooking on that show from time to time at their home?

CHIP – I’m certainly familiar with the show, but I gotta fess up and say not ever been a Real Housewives- of-anything watcher.

RENEE – Look at the end of the day, she’s a pro. She’s a professional. She knew the gig. She knew the job, and she’s so talented. She did it. She did an amazing job on that show. And what happened outside of that show, now Uncle Harry gets the door knock from AMC, where one of the executive’s wives told her husband, “You need to have Harry Hamlin do a cooking show.” So when he called to tell me that AMC had asked him to do this cooking show and he said, “I won’t do it if you won’t do it with me,” I paused. I was really kind of like, Wow. Wait a minute… we would really need to talk about this and what this could look like.

You know, how could a show be produced and developed and evolved into a really meaningful invitation to cooking? Living on the on the business side of food, I really I have to say I’m largely not impressed with the food programming that I see because I think it stops people from cooking, thinking it’s too perfect or it’s too competitive or it’s too complicated and nobody’s gonna make this stuff at home, but it’s really entertaining. But we had such an opportunity to reengage and reconnect with real food back at home, in kitchens that we’re cooking in and preparing together and finding value and meaning in that process for our health, for nutrition, for skills and for joy. So that’s really what we worked with. Trying to do something meaningful that’s going to be impactful, that’s going to help people rediscover cooking at home with simple recipes for dinner parties where nobody’s running around freaking out, stressing out.

CHIP – It’s also fascinating that so much of it is coming out of Harry’s garden. You’ve got the whole 360 connection of growing your own food, preparing your own food, not turning this TV show into a Food Network competition. But you’re right, a lot of the food shows, they’re competition shows more than food shows. They are cooking things that you’re never going to make. You know, “Let’s make a cake that looks like the Eiffel Tower!” You’re probably not going to try that at home in your kitchen. Or “Let’s take, ohh, three beans, a bar of soap, a bag of flour and some carrots and a hot dog and make a recipe.” You’re probably not going to do that.

RENEE – The invitation and the joy and the conversation and how that flows, and the energy you bring to it and the hospitality, that’s like the golden thread woven through everything, caring for people, making them feel comfortable and special and celebrating those moments. Nobody’s probably even gonna remember what you had for dinner, but they are gonna remember exactly how you made them feel, and that’s what they’re gonna come back for.

CHIP – So it’s a limited run series. It’s five episodes. Who picked the recipes that are featured in every show?

RENEE – Uncle Harry and I did together. I kind of more put them together because that’s my skill set. But he has a lot of integrity with everything that he does. And you know he’s an entrepreneur, he founded this incredible energy company. His father was literally a rocket scientist. He graduated from Yale. He has really diverse interests that all really complement all of the things that he kind of does all day long, whether it be acting or…

CHIP – Ohh… Speaking of Renee, looks like he’s in the house…

RENEE – Ohh, is he showing up here? Are we getting a pop in from Uncle Harry while we’re talking about him? I love that!

CHIP – It sounds like. He’s coming in now. And…

HARRY HAMLIN – I’m here.

CHIP – Viola, there he is. Were your ears burning?

HARRY – Say again?

CHIP – Were your ears burning? Because we were literally just talking about you.

HARRY – Well, perhaps.

CHIP – Thank you so much for dropping in. You’re in production elsewhere. We were just talking about the amazing show that you and Renee have put together. The flow, the charm, the grace. And we were getting to the point about who selected the recipes. She was just explaining that was kind of a combination of some of your favorites and your input and some of her culinary expertise and putting it all together in a very lovely, homey fashion that makes everyone who tunes into the show just feel so instantly comfortable. I just described the show as, you know, a flow of peace and tranquility, which is really lovely.

HARRY – We can use that right now in the world, right? I have to agree with Renee that it was a group effort, but I depended upon her expertise more than not.

CHIP – We already talked to Renee about growing up with Uncle Harry and it’s clear on the show what a special relationship you have and just how much you truly care for each other and what a wonderful repartee you have. How fantastic to get an opportunity like this for yourself and be able to call, what I’m going to guess is your favorite niece, and be able to tap her on the shoulder and say, Come on, let’s do this.

HARRY – Well, I remember the day I called you Renee, and I said that I’ve been offered this show, and I was very dubious about doing it unless you were by my side and you very graciously agreed to do it with me. Thank God, because I would have been completely over my head if you had not been there.

RENEE – I’m glad that we ended up kind of doing and creating everything that we did and it’s really fun to see it take shape out in the world — the sweetness of it, the realness of it and the way that this will swing the door open like we hoped to get people back in the kitchen. Enjoying those moments we all have around our kitchen tables every week, right? That was the goal and I’m really proud of the product and the show and the way that AMC and 9:14 Pictures put everything together so it is that beautiful invitation.

Harry Hamlin poking his head out from behind a door.

HARRY – There you go. Well said. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

CHIP – Harry, given what we do on our show Where The Food Comes From, I’m as fascinated by your interest in gardening as in your interest in cooking. It really makes a nice 360.

HARRY – Well that was a COVID thing. When COVID first happened, I remember trying to go to the supermarket and buy some food and there was nothing there and there was nobody in the market. There was no food in the market. And so I said, Well, you know, this could get bad — I better learn how to grow my own food. And so I did.

CHIP – It makes a wonderful connection. When you’re growing the food to sustain yourself and feed your family and friends, it’s a real 360. It’s one of the most gratifying things in life to be able to provide the food, cook the food, feed the food to the people and enjoy their company and the opportunity to sit down and break bread together.

HARRY – Well, that’s true. What I did understand after I started growing this stuff was I was growing more food than my family could possibly eat, so I did distribute it on to my friends as much as I could.

CHIP – Do you have a favorite episode?

HARRY – You know, I like all of the episodes. The fact that Ted and Mary were so gracious to wash the dishes at the end of the meal, that kind of is one of my favorite moments, when they rolled up their sleeves and decided to get in there and really wash them up.

CHIP – And of course, you’re talking about Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, just part of the whole cast of classy people that we associate you with and that’s kind of your cohort. It must have been great to reach out to friends like that and people you’ve known a long time and say come have some fun with me and Renee.

HARRY – Well, Ted and Mary were actually at our wedding at the house there. So they’ve been there before, actually a few times, and it was great to have them back. And it was certainly great to have them working.

CHIP – Is there any talk of another season?

HARRY – I do believe that they are obligated to make a decision within the next couple of weeks on that. So we’re hoping of course that they do come up with season 2. Season one has been successful as far as the network is concerned, but you never know why, when and how they pick up a show for another season.

CHIP – Well, you’ve created something that’s utterly charming. It’s a very real breath of fresh air, and the feeling comes through: This is all achievable. This is all real. This is just a a comfortable weekend at our house. Not, Let’s see if we can build a cake that looks like the Eiffel Tower.

HARRY – That’s true. No, we we’re not trying to make any big, towering cakes. We’re just trying to cook some simple food. But listen, guys, I gotta bag off. I love you Renee! We gotta talk. Great to see you Chip. And you guys continue the convo.

RENEE – Yeah. Call me later.

HARRY – Alright, bye.

Harry Hamlin and Renee Guilbault working in the kitchen.

CHIP – Well, that was fun. That was an unexpected treat.

RENEE – Wasn’t it? He’s just the best. He’s the dearest.

CHIP – You could tell that that everything we see on the show is as genuine as it seems. It’s clear this is based on real family. I guess that’s why it feels so good to watch.

RENEE – It’s so fun to have that piece be a focus. We’re trying to swing this door open and to encourage people to come back and give it a try in the kitchen. Don’t make it so complicated. Don’t take it so seriously. It’s OK when things go wrong because what it really is is time spent with the people you really enjoy.

CHIP – The real power of publicity is to have opportunity. Your career has been brilliant and stellar, and I didn’t even know you had an Uncle Harry — we already felt that way about you. What an incredible opportunity to use this as a vault board for the rest of your work. This is going to propel everything else you’re doing.

RENEE – Yeah, absolutely. A lot of the messages in the book are about saying yes to opportunities even when you don’t know where those roads will lead. And I think it’s really important to recognize, at least for me and my work in this season of life, it’s very much about passing the baton and about creating things that are of value and that help other people.

CHIP – You’ve transcended the kitchen and gone into the other parts of the food world where you’re more effective, where you’re more impactful and where you more want to be. But you look very naturally comfortable in the kitchen at Uncle Harry’s house. It would be intimidating enough for most people to be in the kitchen with your Uncle Harry. But you also had a stream of very high-profile wonderful guests coming through the studio. Is there an extra level of pressure when you know you’re feeding people like Ted Danson?

RENEE – Absolutely. You know that little part of your brain that’s in the back going, Act normal, act normal?

CHIP – You mean like I was when Harry popped into the Zoom meeting? Yeah.

RENEE – The wonderful thing about actors and entertainers is that they are also people. They have families. We don’t often get to see those sides of them. You have Ted and Mary talking about the opportunities that swung open for them when they were just starting their careers. And Jack Nicholson stepping in to help Mary Steenburgen, who was a waitress by the way. I loved all of these food connections and the journeys of others. And it was the same with Ted Danson, having a crush on a girl and going on an audition because she worked in the cafe at their college or something. Food is all over the place and it adds so much to our lives and it creates all these casual moments that end up changing lives. Food’s always there. It’s really fun to see all of these different sides of people who are, for you and I, superstars but also living their best lives and exploring things and how much food is intertwined. So cool.

CHIP – We say it all the time around here: There’s no better way to get to know people and know who they really are than to sit down and break bread together. And that doesn’t matter if you’re some of the most famous faces on the planet or just the folks next door. The show is In The Kitchen with Harry Hamlin. I hope there’ll be more because we need more of this kind of programming. Food and agriculture touch every second of every minute of every hour of every life. We can’t get away from it, so when we’re able to harness it and put it in perspective and put it in the place that it deserves, it really enriches us all.

RENEE – So true. Thank you so much for having us. I can’t wait to see more of your incredible show — I’m a massive super fan and really appreciate your work.

CHIP – Thank you so much. It’s just all part of the big expanding picture of where the food comes from and how it gets to us. Thank you for sharing part of your journey with us. And say thanks again to Uncle Harry for us!

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