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On a recent Wednesday morning at the CBS Studio Center lot, a sweet, unmistakable scent fills the air. It seems to be coming from the vicinity of Soundstage 10, where lifestyle guru Martha Stewart and rapper Snoop Dogg are shooting the second season of their VH1 cooking show, “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.” Given that the series includes “potluck” in the title just so it can shoehorn in a cannabis joke, it’d almost be disappointing if someone wasn’t firing up a blunt somewhere. Just as the fragrance dissipates, two young women pulling rolling suitcases approach a security guard and announce peppily, “We’re the Bollywood belly dancers! Can you tell us where to go?”
So it goes on “Potluck Dinner Party,” a surprise ratings bonanza for VH1 and, says Stewart, a global hit. “I travel a lot in Europe and Asia and I’ve learned that people are enjoying it tremendously.”
The series’ success — it opened to a 1.5 rating among the advertiser-coveted 18 to 49 demographic and 3 million total viewers — must have triggered a sigh of relief at the multibillion-dollar company that bears her name. “Some were a bit worried,” says Stewart of the executives who weren’t sure that their chief creative officer headlining a crazy cable cooking show with a weed aficionado for a co-host was great for the brand. “I have a lot of different retail partners – the Home Depot is a very pro-Trump organization. But we don’t talk politics on the show, really.”
Even the most casual Stewart follower, though, can see that she seems happier, more carefree, than she ever did on her Emmy-winning series “Martha Stewart Living,” where she almost vibrated with discipline and precision. Now 75, Stewart seems to delight in keeping up with Snoop and their young guests — mostly hip-hop stars — when it comes to eyebrow-raising double entendres, off-the-cuff asides and impromptu dance parties. But given her natural serious streak, she also has a mission: She wants to demystify the world of sous-vide, tandoor ovens and La Caja China boxes (for roasting whole pigs) for the uninitiated.
“What we’re doing is both entertaining and a learning experience for the viewer,” she says, adding that the on-site working kitchen, which serves up the same dishes she and Snoop prepare to the studio audience, is run by chef Thomas Joseph, culinary director at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “We publish good, tested recipes. That’s important to me.”
Next to Stewart, who is dressed in crisp, white capris and a chic khaki jacket, sits Snoop in baggy shorts and a royal blue Regulator hoodie, his dreads swathed in a blue bandanna. He nods his head in agreement. The way Stewart describes it, their friendship blossomed famous-people-style: Meeting first when Snoop guested on “Martha Stewart Living,” then by bumping into each other on the awards and fancy party circuit. “I’ve never visited Snoop at his house even though I’ve hinted at it,” she says. “And I’ve invited him to my place.” He sings his answer: “And I’ll be there.”
Key in their origin story is the time Snoop and Stewart spent four hours enjoying each other’s company while onstage at Comedy Central’s roast of Justin Bieber. Stewart crushed it with her bawdy humor and crack comic timing. “She sat next to me and got a contact high,” Snoop says with a laugh. “I was totally high,” says Stewart. “Yeah, baby,” says Snoop.
In real life, the 6-foot-4-inch rapper, who is 45 and grew up in Long Beach, actually knows his way around the kitchen. The way he tells it, his working mother gave his older brother a crash course in cooking. Snoop’s trial-and-error phase began in his early teens. “[My brother] only cooked for himself and I’m like, ‘I need to learn how to do this,’” he says, adding that after mastering breakfast basics, he moved on to fried chicken. (Snoop’s “Potluck Dinner Party” version calls for a crust seasoned with pulverized KC Masterpiece barbecue potato chips.) Then, like Stewart, but on a micro-scale, he began to share his knowledge. “Once I started a family and got married, I taught my wife to cook. I taught my maids to cook. I taught my kids to cook. It was just a natural progression.”
In order to wedge “Potluck Dinner,” a structured reality program Emmy contender, into their busy schedules, they shoot two episodes a day in two five-day weeks. (Season 2 will begin airing Oct. 16.) In an hour, the pair will change into flowing saris for their Indian-themed show, where they hosted rapper Lil Yachty and actress Laverne Cox.
So, what gastronomic delights have they impressed each other with? “Your steak was everything there,” Snoop gushes over Stewart’s steak au poivre. “His Cornish game hens!” exclaims Stewart about Snoop’s Christmas episode entree. “Do you know what he did? He stuffed them with dressing, his mother’s recipe. I’m not a big fan, but I ate it all!” Just thinking about the moment makes Snoop’s soft voice drop to almost a whisper. “You made me so proud, Martha,” he says. “I wanted to cry.”