Bi-Lo pitchman talks Thanksgiving

Curtis Stone, left, demonstrates his cooking skills at a party being held at the Paris Club after the International Home & Housewares 2012 Show in Chicago on Sunday Mar. 11, 2012. (Charles Cherney/AP Images for Curtis Stone Kitchen Solutions)

As anyone who’s shopped at Bi-Lo lately knows, the supermarket chain has brought on television personality Curtis Stone as a celebrity pitchman. And plans call for even more Stone promotion during the holiday season: Stores this month will offer recipe cards with the chef’s Thanksgiving meal suggestions.

But Stone isn’t a lifelong expert on turkey and stuffing. He was born in Melbourne, and pursued a professional cooking career in London. His first U.S. television show, Take Home Chef, debuted in 2006.(He’s since appeared on Iron Chef America, The Celebrity Apprentice and Top Chef Masters, but he’s probably best known in his home country for serving as a supermarket spokesman: “If you mention his name to a foodie in Melbourne, she will not have tasted his food, but she may break out into a bit of the jingle from Coles Supermarkets, an Australian chain with which he is associated as a pitchman as firmly as Martha Stewart used to be with Kmart,” the Los Angeles Times’ Jonathan Gold wrote in his recent review of Stone’s Beverly Hills restaurant, Maude.)

“We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, obviously, in Australia, but it’s close to a Christmas feast, I guess,” Stone says in a phone interview. “And when I came to the States, I fell in love with the holiday.”

Stone’s first exposure to Thanksgiving came courtesy of his girlfriend’s family, who invited him to participate in their annual ritual of dropping kidney beans into an empty bottle to signify the things they were grateful for. As the bottle was passed around the table, Stone decided “it was a really beautiful experience.” But at the time, he had no way of knowing that bottles and kidney beans weren’t a standard part of Thanksgiving celebrations.

“I’ve come to realize it’s not how everybody does it,” he says. “You can go to a hundred different homes and they do Thanksgiving a hundred different ways. It’s what makes America America. It’s a beautiful place.”

Here’s betting Bi-Lo keeps Stone around for July Fourth.

(UPDATE: Although Stone didn’t mention it when we talked, his patriotic version of Thanksgiving unfolded on the USS Yorktown when Bi-Lo invited veterans to a hosted holiday feast. A commercial filmed at the event debuted on Veterans Day morning. You can see it here.)