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Tiffani Thiessen gets cookin’ with pals on new show

Thanks to such popular TV shows as “Saved By The Bell” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” Tiffani Thiessen has long been in the public eye. Now the actress is taking her career in a new direction with “Dinner at Tiffani’s” premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on the Cooking Channel.

While our recent chat focused on her hopes and plans for her new food-oriented series, we had to ask about her recent “reunion” with her “Saved By the Bell” castmates, including Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley, in that much-publicized spoof skit on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

In it, Thiessen’s Kelly Kapowski character shows up as pregnant — somewhat appropriate, given that the actress herself is expecting her second child with husband Brady Smith. According to Thiessen, doing the “Tonight Show” skit “was so fun. I have remained friends with them so it almost felt like it was normal. Except for the ’80s garb of course. Ha!”

Thiessen said doing “Dinner at Tiffani’s” was a natural, given her love of cooking dates back to childhood.

“I come from a household of talented women in the kitchen,” she said. “In my personal life, people know me  as someone who loves to be in the kitchen and entertaining and planning parties and things like that. So one day I was talking about how much I love to cook, and the idea just hit me — cooking with a lot of people the public knows ,and sharing recipes and good conversation on TV. So, I went to the Cooking Channel and pitched the idea. That’s how it started.”

Since she’s been in show business since she was a kid, she knows a lot of people — who may just pop in during the show.

“It’s a funny span of being in this crazy show business world for more than 32 years. So I’ve worked with a lot of people — and I know a wide range of people.

“Some people you may not have seen in a while, but also people you do still see a lot, like Nathan Fillion from ‘Castle.’ The show is a really fun experience and one that I think connects people together.”

Asked about her favorite dishes, Thiessen said, “Of course, there are staples like my roasted chicken or my tri-tip roast. I’m married to a Texan [actor and artist Smith], so meat and potatoes are always a staple around our house! I also have a 4 1/2 year old daughter, so I have a little kid who I have to cook for as well. We love to do flatbread pizzas because I love watching my kid decorate and make her own pizza.”

Much of Thiessen’s kitchen inspiration comes from using her mother’s and her aunt’s recipes — and putting her own spin on them. “I also have a lot of lovely, talented chef friends who taught me lots of tricks over the years, which I can bring to my own kitchen. I have lots of inspirations in my life, and I’m going to share them with the Cooking Channel audience now.”

One of Thiessen’s upcoming celebrity guests is former “Saturday Night Live” star and ex-Second City ensemble member Tim Meadows. “Here’s a guy I worked with like 15 years ago and haven’t really seen since we made ‘The Ladies Man’ movie.”

Another longtime pal is Jillian Barberie, “who lights up a room, just when she walks in,” said Thiessen. However, unlike other guests on “Dinner at Tiffani’s,” Barberie “doesn’t have a clue about cooking or being in a kitchen. But that was fun. It’s great to mix up people who love to cook with those who don’t. The dynamics are fun to watch.”

One star who reportedly is a great cook is Thiessen’s former “90210” co-star Jason Priestley (and his wife, Naomi). “Jason was the first person who taught me all about wine and how to appreciate fine wines,” Thiessen said. “He owns a vineyard up in Canada and is so knowledgeable about that subject.”

Thiessen loves to make dinner parties built around themes. “We love having ‘game night’ at our house,” she said. “So the theme of the first episode of the show is Game Night. To go along with tha,t everything we cook is much more like appetizers and small-bite recipes. That way we can play games and have our hands free.”

The new series is “a very new and different chapter for me, but I’m loving it,” she said. “I do hope that the audience takeaway from it the same feeling I had when I was shooting the different episodes. I just loved it. Food, good friends, and fun conversation — plus I hope some useful tips to use in the kitchen. I think it’s an unbeatable combination.”