You know Tiffani Thiessen from "Saved by the Bell," "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "White Collar." These days, she is hanging out in a new locale: the set for her Cooking Channel show. Now in its second season, "Dinner at Tiffani's" finds Thiessen, 42, wearing an apron and preparing food with family, friends and former cast mates. Her husband of nearly 11 years, actor Brady Smith, and their kids, 5-year-old daughter Harper and infant son Holt, often pop in. The family lives in suburban Los Angeles, where they sometimes are spotted at farmers markets and along hiking trails.
What life lessons have you learned in the kitchen?
The lessons were from my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. Those were the women I would be next to in the kitchen as a little girl, learning tricks and tools and how to cook. And I learned to have fun. Having fun is always the No. 1 thing. ... Food to me is connecting. The people who I enjoy cooking for the most are my family. I love being in the kitchen with my daughter right next to me on her step stool. It's sweet; we're connecting. And I love that's what food does.
What advice do you have to help busy parents avoid the drive-thru?
Sundays are my day that I always try to prep meals for the week. If I need ingredients that I'm not growing in our yard, I go to the farmers market. I really try to plan out my dinners in advance. That helps me a ton, so that I'm prepared. And if I can't do the whole entire week on Sunday, I try to do it in the morning. But mornings are definitely a lot harder than it is to do it on Sunday.
You're a busy, working mom — how do you achieve balance in your life?
Well, I don't know if I can actually say I've achieved it but I'm trying! I would not be able to do it without my husband. We've never had a nanny, but we have a lot of family help. My mom traveled with us and lived with us in New York when I was shooting "White Collar." She helped us with Harper and would go to set with me every day because I was nursing. The same when I had Holt; my mom or mother-in-law helped me with the baby and came to set every day. It was all family. … As of right now, we're making it work.
How have you gotten back in shape after having a baby last year?
I'm trying. It's hard with no sleep! I like variety. I'm not a person who does the same thing every day. It's kind of how I feel about food — I can't eat the same thing every day. I do circuit training twice a week. I spin twice a week. I do Pilates once a week. And we love to do a lot of hiking on the weekends with the kids.
You started out as a child doing beauty pageants. It's no secret that Hollywood puts enormous pressure on actresses to look a certain way. How do you deal with that?
When I feel good, my daughter sees that. I would never want her to hear me say something that is putting myself down. I give so much credit to my husband because he's so sweet and supportive. There's not a day that goes by that he doesn't tell me I'm beautiful. … If I have a positive attitude about myself, I'm going to teach my daughter the same thing. I want to teach her that eating right and exercising and being healthy is what's important, not what size jeans you wear.