Actress Tiffani Thiessen first made a big name for herself as cheerleader and all-around good girl Kelly Kapowski on the hit ’90s teen sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” Now 41, Thiessen is a mother of two who balances family life with her own Cooking Channel series, the aptly-titled “Dinner at Tiffani’s.” Examiner spoke exclusively with the talented and affable actress on Jan. 14 to get the scoop on her partnership with Quaker, the identity of the “Saved by the Bell” alum who will make an appearance on her show in the coming months, and what it was like to become bad girl Valerie Malone on “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Sherry Wight: When I think of Tiffani Thiessen, of course I think of Kelly Kapowski and then Valerie Malone, but you’re also really handy in the kitchen. Why did you decide to do “Dinner at Tiffani’s”?
Tiffani Thiessen: You know, it kind of came up very organically. A lot of my friends would come over and have dinner and I love throwing dinner parties, so they started saying ‘let’s go have dinner at Tiffani’s’ and the idea really sprung from that. I walked into Food Network and Cooking Channel and pitched an idea, and here we are with season two premiering on Feb. 3 on Cooking Channel.
SW: What do you have in store for viewers this season?
TT: I can promise you a lot of great new recipes, a lot of fun. We have returning guests, and we also have a lot of new guests this season.
SW: Oh fun! Any teasers?
TT: I can give you one. One in particular that everyone has been wanting, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, my old co-star from “Saved by the Bell,” will be joining us with his beautiful wife.
SW: That sounds like fun! We’ll have to look for that.
SW: What kinds of dishes do you enjoy whipping up these days?
TT: Oh gosh, you know, I always love being creative in the kitchen, so it’s kind of exciting that I got to team up with Quaker on this really great contest called Bring Your Best Bowl. They are looking for new inspiration for… their new flavor of oatmeal. I don’t know about you, but there’s many different ways you can eat oatmeal, and [I have three of my own recipes on the contest website]…. We want people to think outside the box a little bit; don’t think just brown sugar and bananas.
SW: I was thinking of something like lemon meringue pie oatmeal.
TT: See, you could win $250,000! Think about that! All you need is two to five ingredients and go over to the website [to enter].
SW: Sounds super! I’m going to change gears for a minute. I’m a ’90s kid so of course I saw a lot of you during that time. It was very odd to see you go from goo girl Kelly to bad girl Valerie….
TT: [Laughs] A lot of people used to say that, yeah.
SW: How did you tackle that transition?
TT: You know, I was excited to take on the transition. I had done what we call a squeaky clean show for many, many seasons so I was really up to change it up a little bit and do something really different. The similarity was that it was a very popular show already that I was kind of entering onto. But everybody was really great and I enjoyed playing a very, very different role for a few seasons. I had a lot of fun.
SW: Cool. You recently finished up “White Collar.” [I don’t think anyone would expect you to take on a new starring role any time soon, but] are there any current shows you’d like to guest on?
TT: Oh gosh, that’s hard… [we watch] quite a few shows. My husband and I watch “The Walking Dead” of course [laughs] and… we’re big on Netflix. There’s a lot of stuff on Netflix. It’s hard! There’s a lot of shows that I’d love to be on. But right now, it’s all about “Dinner at Tiffani’s” and I’m having a little mom-time right now, which is nice. I have a six month old baby.
SW: I know! Congratulations!
TT: Thank you.
SW: And the last thing I was going to ask you is this: aside from your entertainment career, you are a mom to two little ones. I have four myself so I know how that changes how you view life.
TT: Yes it does.
SW: So what surprised you most about having that second child?
TT: How hard it was to go from one baby to two babies. [Laughs] I don’t want to say the mom guilt is there all the time, but you definitely feel [it] a little more. [There’s] the challenge of being balanced and making sure both kids are well taken care of and get your attention and get your love and then your poor husband, I mean, he’s down on the list now. I feel bad for him half the time. Then you’ve got work on top of it. It’s hard. Balance is very hard, you know?
SW: I’ll tell ya, I’ve got a preschooler and a middle schooler and then some in the middle…
TT: That’s amazing. I’ve got a kindergartner and a brand new baby. Real spread out.
SW: Gets easier! Don’t worry about it. Okay. Last thing before I run. One-word answer. Favorite board game?