I have to admit, when I sat down with Christine Cushing recently, I was pretty nervous. But as soon as we started talking she put me right at ease. Her vibrant persona and excitement for life had jumped right off the screen and was sitting in front of me…well, live!

If you don’t know who Christine Cushing is then all you need to do is tune in or log on to Food Network Canada to realize that she is one of Canada’s most popular chefs. Her shows Cook with Me and Christine Cushing Live have been a fixture on the Food Network for over 4 years.

But don’t think for a minute that just because Christine’s shows are in syndication that she’s taking it slow. With a new show in the works, a new book set to debut in the fall and a product line that rivals any, Christine is on the go!

Her newest venture brings food back to the basics. Fragrant, basil infused tomato sauces and great tasting olive oils, Pure by Christine Cushing embodies what food should be: simple and uncomplicated.

“The idea started 2 years ago,” explains Christine. “I wanted to bring to consumers and people who know me, something that really represents me. The quality that I like, the flavours I like and something that the consumer can trust.”

Chrstine Cushing preparing a dish on stage at Devonshire Mall in Windsor, Ontario.

You won’t find any unpronounceable additives or weird sounding preservatives here. Her philosophy for food is to keep it simple and use great quality ingredients to get the best results. With food being in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons and focus being re-directed towards healthy living, it was important to bring food back to its roots.

“I feel that we’re taking a turn in a very prepared food direction, with a lot of additives,” says Christine. “I felt like food was taking a backseat to all these other things so I wanted to give people something they could trust, that they know has top quality ingredients, that they know I spent a heck of a lot of time researching making sure that it tastes great and that can give people a little bit of a helping hand in the kitchen. Even though people have less time, I still feel that food is something to be savoured and enjoyed.”

Koroneiki olives from the isle of Crete in sun soaked Greece give the olive oil in her collection a bold taste.

“I use the olives from Crete because I love the flavour and it has won several awards in the European landscape of olive oil,” explains Christine.

With the all-natural tomato sauce it was similar. A homemade sauce she could give to all her Italian friends because “if an Italian won’t eat it that means it’s not a good enough sauce!”

“It really is a sauce that when you don’t have the time at home, you can just heat it up. It really is a phenomenal sauce. No additives, no preservatives no sugars, no starches. Just tomatoes, olive oil, onions and the flavour.”

Basil Scented Tomato, Spicy Garlic Tomato and Cognac and Fire Roasted Pepper, the possibilities for these sauces don’t just stop at pouring them over pasta. Use them for pizzas, lasagnas or even mix one up with sour cream for a dip.

Now I wouldn’t be much of a critic if I didn’t actually taste the products I was writing about. Remark Farms, located at 2727 Howard in Windsor, carries the line of Pure by Christine Cushing. The olive oil, which retails at $15.99 is definitely a step up compared to the oils normally found on grocery store shelves. The burst of flavour from the Koroneiki olives and the low acidity allows you to enjoy it in a salad or on it’s own by just tearing off a piece of ciabatta bread and dipping in.

Christine Cushing holds one of her sauces as she speaks to the crowd that showed up for her appearance at Devonshire Mall.

Buying tomato sauce in a grocery store is a definite faux-pas for any Italian. So when I picked up the Basil Scented Tomato Sauce, I had already conjured up in my mind what it was going to taste like. But let me tell you that just opening the jar and having the aroma of basil hit me, I knew that this wasn’t your regular tomato sauce from jar. It retails for $7.99 at Remark Farms and with just 7 listed pronounceable ingredients, it adds great flavour to your pasta dish.

“I’ve figured out that as much as I’m doing this as a part of me and how it reflects me, I want it to be something that you as a consumer can appreciate and want,” explains Christine. “I want it to be something that I would use in terms of quality.”

Christine has plans to expand the Pure line. She is currently in the process of finding out what the at home cook needs and wants in their own kitchens.

“I’m looking at stocks. Real stocks,” she explains. “Stocks that come from actual chicken bones as opposed to something artificial. Everything in stores says no additives, but all I want to know is was there ever any chicken in a bowl of water? That’s the only question I want to know the answer to and I think the answer is no.”

Her new cookbook, Pure, which is scheduled to make its debut this fall, echoes the same philosophy.

“I invite people to go to fishmongers, butchers and ask questions,” says Christine. “Eat more in season to appreciate that maybe we shouldn’t be making raspberry tarts in January.”

After 4 seasons of being in the studio hosting and answering caller’s culinary queries on Christine Cushing Live, Christine is ready for a change.

Christine Cushing's 'Pure' brand olive oil and sauce.

“I want to do a show that is outside the studio,” says Christine. “I want to impact people in a different way. I look at Jamie Oliver as a similar person to me in terms of his motivation and cooking styles. He has an Italian mentor. I love Italian and Greek and I was trained in France. I always wanted to have that kind of an impact on people. As a chef, you want to always stay motivated, always.”

You can still catch Christine Cushing Live on the Food Network, pick up one of her books, Dish it Out and Christine Cushing, or stop by Remark Farms at 2727 Howard Avenue in Windsor and pick up a bottle of her olive oil and tomato sauce.