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Christine Cushing and her 2009 BMW 328i. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Christine Cushing and her 2009 BMW 328i. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

My Car: Christine Cushing

"I love the drive - it's killer" Add to ...

She was a staple on the Food Network, hosting Christine Cushing Live and Christine Cushing: Cook with Me. Nowadays, the celebrity chef is dishing out a new TV series. It's called Fearless in the Kitchen and it premiers on Viva this Saturday.

That's not the only thing new in her life - Cushing just bought a 2009 BMW 328i xDrive sedan.

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"There's just something about the Bimmer that called me. I love the look of it. I love the ride of it.

"I love the drive - it's killer. The 328xi has a really beautiful German drive - it feels like you're hugging the road and you have the safety of having an AWD vehicle. The drive and steering is very tight - it doesn't feel like it's moving around. I love that.

"The sound of the engine is great, too. When I drive other cars, I just go - oh my God. This is not a driving machine," says Cushing, who trained as a chef at George Brown College in Toronto and École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. She later crafted her skills at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel, the King Ranch Health Spa and at Scaramouche restaurant.

On the downside, she says, is the dashboard design and layout. "If you're wearing polarized glasses, you can't see all the displays, and whatever you're listening to on the radio is not on the front panel where all the information is - you have to look down at the radio. That's where I think BMW needs some help."

Deep down, Cushing is a gearhead at heart - she knows her Bimmer has a 3.0-litre V-6 under the hood that delivers 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. All that power has already landed her in trouble. Even though she has had her car only a few months, she has already been nabbed for speeding.

"This car has great acceleration. I was with my mom and I was trying to pass someone. I made the pass and, of course, the minute I pass, there's a cop.

"At that moment I get a call from my executive producer, Mark Johnson. I said 'Hi, I'm getting pulled over. Can I call you back in a little while?'" she laughs in retrospect.

At least her new ride isn't as thirsty as her last vehicle - a 2002 Jeep Liberty Limited Edition 4x4. "I dumped the Jeep. The fuel consumption was killing me - it was crazy in the city and psychologically it wasn't good.

"From the fuel consumption point of view, the BMW uses 25-per-cent less gas - it's a lot less than the Jeep."

Still, it was hard to part with the Jeep. "The Jeep I enjoyed. I liked it, but it's inefficient as a vehicle. It suited me when I was carrying things around.

"I think, if you're in the outback, the true Jeep is an amazing vehicle. It's more hauling and pulling and less performance," says Cushing, who landed her first big TV break when she was discovered by a producer while flogging small appliances at a food show more than a decade ago.

Cushing's first car was a VW Golf she bought with her brother. Later, she went solo and purchased a GMC Jimmy, which she hated.

"Everything in that car was wrong. It had all kinds of electrical issues. They would do a diagnostic and couldn't figure out what was wrong, but I'd still have to pay $300. It was always problematic and the gas consumption was bad."

In her catering days, her ride was a Dodge Caravan minivan. "It had no seats in the back - I could have been a plumber," laughs Cushing, clad in a bright pink jacket.

Cushing loves the open road. "The feeling I love is when you're driving and it's a sunny day, the sunroof is open, you're listening to music and you're one with the outdoors.

"I love to drive - I'm a good passenger, but I prefer to be driving," says Cushing, who has written several best-selling cookbooks. She also has her own gourmet product line called Pure Food, which includes extra-virgin olive oil and an assortment of tomato sauces.

Driving is also time for brainstorming. "The car is the place, especially when I'm driving long distance, I come up with inspiration.

"I often think of stuff. If I come to lights - I'll stop and write things down. It's a time definitely when your head is clear and you're listening to music - it's the time I love. The traffic is the thing I don't love," says Cushing, who was born in Athens and came to Canada with her family as a baby.

On the road, her iPod includes a few tracks from Green Day, Cold Play and Gwen Stefani as well as a mix of Greek and Latin music.

For now, Christine is hooked on her 328i xDrive sedan - if it were a dish, she says, it would be a hearty Lasagna bolognese.

"Lasagna bolognese has the greatest ingredients. It's made with lots of love. It's a classic.

"It's definitely above your average buy-it-out-of-the-box with dried noodles. It's more highbrow and, once you have it, you'll never go back to other lasagna," says the charismatic, five-foot-four brunette.

She would, however, give up the Bimmer for her dream ride - a Maserati.

"I don't know the model. But I know in the show Entourage they all get Maseratis and they take off from their little house and do a little convoy in their Maseratis - that is sweet. It's a spectacular car."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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