Dishing with Bethenny Frankel of ‘Real Housewives’

“There are rules!” warns Bethenny Frankel, as a waitress approaches our booth at the downstairs bar of Bandit’s, just across the street from her Park City home-away-from-home, Harry O’s, where her ChefDance dinner parties have been the top event in town for four years running. In case I forgot, we’re in Mormon country. “You have to order something to eat if you get a cocktail in a restaurant,” she explains.

We avoid the extra calories and settle on tea and a club soda with lime for her — fitting selections as we’re sitting down to talk about her new book, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting, her ChefDance rivals, and the oil-and-water drama on the upcoming season of Bravo’s addictive guilty pleasure, The Real Housewives of New York City.

How does this year’s ChefDance compare to years past? Has the profile risen after your stint on Real Housewives? It usually is 10 nights, but this year because I have a book coming out and my TV show, it’s only 5 nights. The concept is the same. Each night is a different celebrity chef. It’s a 4-course meal with 250 guests, and everyone is a VIP. Well, not everyone. You’ll have Paul Allen or Paris Hilton sitting next to a ski lift operator. This is the hottest ticket in Sundance by far. We had to turn away Slash. Last night, Andy McDowell and Cuba Gooding Jr. stopped by. And Woody Harrelson just stopped by. We’ve had Robert Redford, which is unusual because he’s not into Sundance for what it’s become. Eddie Murphy celebrated his Oscar nomination. Sharon Stone had a party with Tom Arnold on the same night that Mischa Barton celebrated her birthday. Kerry Simon was there from Rock n’ Roll Chef.

Give us the skinny on your book. It’s a no-nonsense, no-BS book that talks to every person. If Oprah and Britney can’t keep their weight down, how is a person at a Wal-Mart checkout supposed to do it? It’s ten rules, such as: Your diet’s a bank account so eat like the way you invest. If you decide to invest in a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast — it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just that at lunch you account for that. In every situation, there’s a tool to use. If you’re at a Superbowl party, the tool to use is the “taste everything, eat nothing” rule. And it’s not that you shouldn’t drink, but it’s about what you should drink.

What should you drink? The Skinny Girl Margarita. It’s clear tequila, four limes, and a tiny splash of citrus. It’s going to be in stores in May. I did a deal with the people who built Skyy Vodka. Why should we take your advice? Well, I’m a natural food chef, I went to school for it. I was always the girl who would eat the steamed vegetables and would deprive myself and then eat everything in sight. So the more intelligent that we become, the stupider we become with dieting. The book is so stupid that it’s smart.

Real Housewives is back on the air on February 17. What can we expect this year? It’s a lot of drama. It’s not like Orange County and Atlanta drama, because we’re all seemingly a little more intelligent. We’re just really different from them. I don’t see myself going to someone’s house and slapping them, or having some bitch fight. It’s still five women, so you’re still going to have a lot of cattiness, but it’s just in a different package. You can’t write this stuff — it happens.

What’s the deal with the couple from Brooklyn? Alex and Simon? They’re like aliens — amazing to watch. But to their credit, they’re the only ones on the show who never said a bad thing about anyone else.

What’s the juiciest drama this season? I have a definite person that rubs me the wrong way. I have a moment with oil and water. I also have an argument with Jill, which is really unusual, because Jill and I are like family. I have it out with her. And I’m single this season. So that’s news. I’m sure a lot of people will have things to say about the fact that I’m 38, and I don’t have a child yet, and all I’m doing is working, and I’m probably too tough to have a relationship, and all that stuff. Which might be true.

Is that all stuff that you’re afraid people are going to say? Or people are already saying? I’m not really afraid. I don’t really give a crap about any of those things, ever. I am like, “Go big or go home.” This season, everyone knows who we are, so you don’t have to catch them up. It’s just like — GO. And it’s also double the episodes. So it was 6 last time and now it’s 12. You get a lot more bang for your buck this time.

How did the show change your life in New York? I was very nervous to do the show, and I kept turning it down for two months, and they kept coming after me. I mean, I could understand why because I understood what they saw in me as a person who is battling career and love. And you need that one, sort of, extra Sarah Jessica Parker character to identify with. Doing it, everything just exploded for me. It was the best thing that happened to me in my entire life. Do you see a spinoff show? I’ve been approached by a couple people about a couple of different shows. I can’t really talk about it. There is something in the works.

What’s the best part of being on the show? Being able to be totally yourself and honest and realizing that really is the best way to be. People that don’t come off well are people who try to manufacture who they are on TV. Or they get upset because they are not self-aware. They think it’s in the editing or they think, “That’s not me.” The viewer is really intelligent, so don’t underestimate that.

It’s real and it’s you. It’s like being on a blind date. You sit down on a blind date, and in five minutes, you pretty much have a good idea about who the other person is. People want to say, ‘Well that’s not my life, I do other things.” Of course that’s not everything. I drank 19 margaritas when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, on someone’s boat. And I don’t normally do that, but I did it that time, and that’s true.

What’s the worst part about being on the show? That’s it’s totally toxic. Resting and doing yoga is not interesting to anyone. Things that sell are things that are dramatic. It’s literally like having a flashlight right on you when you’re crying or down, but you sign up for this.