Tiffani Thiessen talks love for cooking, being seen as a sex symbol

Tiffani Thiessen may have broken plenty of hearts as cheerleader Kelly Kapowski in “Saved by the Bell” or bad girl Valerie Malone of “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame, but these days the actress is keeping busy in the kitchen.

Since finding fame in Hollywood, the teen star-turned-TV pinup has discovered newfound success in the culinary world. Not only has the 43-year-old mother of two launched a lifestyle blog for families, but she’s also the star of the Cooking Channel show “Dinner at Tiffani’s” where she shares her beloved recipes.

Fox News spoke with Thiessen on how “Saved by the Bell” helped spark her love for cooking and what’s next on her plate:

Fox News: Is it true you fell in love with cooking while traveling for ‘Saved by the Bell?'
Tiffani Thiessen: It was part of it. I grew up in a family where all the women cooked. I was that little girl who peered around the kitchen and wanted to be with my mom, aunt, and grandmother — and they were all in there. And they were looking like they were having a blast cooking together.

When I got old enough and was able to be a part of that, my love of cooking definitely started there. And it developed a little bit more as I got older… and yes, it was definitely traveling for ‘Saved by the Bell,’ going across the country… going to France, Belgium, and all these places and learning different cultures and different types of food, which totally expanded my horizons of my love of food.

Fox News: You seem to be very close with Mark-Paul Gosselaar [Zack Morris].
Thiessen: Look, we’ve known each other since we were 15. I probably almost consider him a brother. We had a lot of firsts together. You know, first big TV show together, first success that we had, we traveled to places we’ve never been before. There were a lot of firsts. And he was really like a brother to me. Still is. He and his family and kids, they don’t live too far from us and he has a great relationship with my husband... He has a very special place in my heart.

Fox News: What’s your relationship like with your other cast mates from ‘Saved by the Bell?’
Thiessen: I talk to Elizabeth [Berkley]. I don’t get to see her as often. I actually don’t get to see a lot of people as often as I like. But I definitely still have a close relationship with her via the phone or texting anytime she has a mom question just because I started a few years before she did. It’s a show that was a huge part of my childhood and holds a special place in me.

Fox News: What about your other hit series 'Beverly Hills, 90210.' Do you stay in touch with anyone from there?
Thiessen: I do. Not as much. Jason [Priestley] and his wife are probably the only ones I talk to more frequently. But this business is so small, it’s not like I don’t run into people here and there sometimes.

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Fox News: Kelly Kapowski has become a sex symbol. How do you feel about the character today?
Thiessen: I have very fond memories of the show, so I don’t have any weird or bad feelings about it. I do take it as a compliment. I find it silly because I look at it and go, ‘Oh gosh, that was so long ago.’ But like anything, I just think it’s one of those fads. I don’t think it’s going to live on forever. I know it won’t be forever.

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Fox News: Whatever happened to those famous jeans?
Thiessen: I think, but I could be wrong, but I kept a pair of Levi’s that were from that time and I had the whole cast of ‘Saved by the Bell,’ even some of the crew, draw and sign it. I still have those jeans. I don’t know if it was those exact jeans, though. But the signed jeans are in storage.

Fox News: As an actress and a foodie, what do you make of the pressures put on women in Hollywood to look a certain way?
Thiessen: That’s hard to say. You know, I have moments. I’m a woman and I think we all have those moments where we’re like, ‘Oh gosh, I wish this’ or ‘I wish that.’ But I’ve definitely given myself a little more forgiveness of knowing that as long as I’m healthy, as long as I go to the gym… especially for my daughter, who’s getting older and sees a lot and hears a lot, that if I’m living a healthy life, then that brings yourself to be beautiful on the inside and outside.

That to me is the most important thing. And I love food! My whole thing is I try to balance it as much as possible. I love to enjoy food. I’ve always said that if I eat healthy during the week, then I give myself more leeway to have some fun on the weekends. And I stick to the gym. I try to go five to six days a week.

Fox News: How do you balance being a hands-on mom all while launching this new chapter in your life?
Thiessen: It’s challenging at times… I’m lucky enough that my hours on my new TV show [are] not too, too crazy and I’m able to get home usually before dinner. I’m still able to keep my promises of having at least five dinners at home a week with my family… It’s hard. You just try to work with what’s being thrown at you... I’m just trying to take a deep breath and balance it all… I lean on people around me for extra help sometimes. We just make it work. You have to.

Fox News: You’ve been married for 12 years now. What’s the secret behind your lasting marriage?
Thiessen: I have to say, I definitely picked a great guy. I picked a guy whose sweet, kind, and is a hardworking person. He’s a great dad, he’s a great husband. We have been really good, especially after having my son, at having date night. I know it sounds kind of silly, but it really helps us reconnect because on a daily basis, with our schedules, sometimes our relationship gets put on the backburner a lot.

And it’s been great, I love it. I just had date night with him on Saturday at it was amazing. But I mean, it’s a lot of things. There’s communication, and we have great examples to look up to. Both of our parents are still married. My parents just celebrated the big 53. And I think his parents are at 49. And my grandparents were 63 before that. They definitely showed us how important it is to stick it out and be together and really make it a priority to be a family and work as a team. And we do.

Fox News: You’re part of the Ben’s Beginners program from Uncle Ben’s, which aims to inspire other families to cook together. What compelled you to raise awareness?
Thiessen: It speaks to me completely. Spending time in the kitchen together with my children, it’s huge. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, of course. I love to cook, but it’s been really wonderful to have those moments with my kids and really getting them involved with cooking. Now that my daughter is 7, she loves to cook. She has her own set of tools and loves to prep with me… and of course, my son loves to do everything his big sister does.

Fox News: What’s next for you?
Thiessen: Lots! I just delivered my cookbook to my publisher, so that will probably be out early next year. And right now I’m shooting my new Netflix show called ‘Alexa & Katie’ and that will also be out early next year.