Talk and table, multi talented Debbie Travis

2013_03_04-Debbie Travis 0567--fin1 (1) picture: Debbie Travis,, she sent it to me!
When I was researching Frances Mayes for my blogseries ”talk and table” I stumbled upon a short youtube film starring Debbie Travis, roaming around the Tuscan land. She also visited the Mayes’ mansion Bramasole. My attention was caught. Wouldn’t it be nice to invite this multi talented woman to join my blogseries?  Debbie Travis is a British TV personality, a self taught interior designer, former fashion model.  Her ideas can be seen on Canadian television and of course on her website. Caleidoscopical as she is, she brings colour in your life.Whether design from the City or tips and tricks from her Tuscan get away. Bright and fun!  Let’s see if we can conceive a dish for Debbie from the answers she gives to my virtual questions. Needless to say that this willl be an dish  full of colour, nicely styled and with a Southern twist.
Who is Debbie Travis? Tell me some more
I am British but moved to Canada when I was around thirty.  I began my working life as a model in London and traveled around the world at a very young age.  I wasn’t the greatest fashion model but I did love doing television commercials.  I was intrigued by the process of making these programs.  I began to intern in London at different TV networks and finally in my twenties I launched my own television production company.  I was producing a show about self-made millionaires and took my idea to MIP the TV market in the the South of France, held in  Cannes every year.  On the first night there at a TV event I met a Canadian, fell in love and followed him back to Canada. I never actually sold my show but I did get myself a guy! He was European but living in  Montreal.  Here, reality set in.  I could not find a job in television because  the stations were French.  I began to practise the exciting craze that had just gripped the  UK.   It seemed everyone wanted to create paint finishes on their walls.  This led to many jobs around North America.  Four years later I made a ‘how-to’ video which was a massive success, teaching home owners how to create sponged, ragged, marbleized walls etc.  Through this video I was asked to appear on talk shows which again became successful. Timing is everything.  I had hit the new DIY market at the perfect time.  Through these appearances I was asked to create a TV show showing people how to do up their homes with a can of paint.  We produced thirteen episodes of Debbie Travis’ Painted House which became an instant success with a kind of cult following. Ironically the series was distributed back in Cannes at MIP and sold around the world.  I filmed this series, which I hosted and produced for seven years – two hundred episodes and sold in over eighty countries.  Then I created Debbie Travis’ Facelift which was the first reality based design show in North America where I surprised homeowners with a newly renovated home while they were away on a trip. Again this series hit a cord with homeowners became a hit.  I produced sixty five episodes over five years.  This was followed by two primetime network series From The Ground Up and All For One.  During these seventeen years the shows aired worldwide, I authored nine books published by Random House, I write a syndicated design column published by Kingfeatures/Hearst across North America which appears weekly in seventy newspapers.  I created a home product line with Canada’s largest retailer Canadian Tire producing Debbie Travis product from drapes, furniture, bathroom products, Christmas decorations, laundry etc.  I have become a speaker at mostly women’s events inspiring working mothers, women entreupeners etc. Now I have taken all these aspects of my career and I am holding women’s’ brainstorming retreats in Italy.  I fell  in love with a valley in Tuscany where I have bought an eighty acre olive and lavender farm.  Here I have restored an ancient property into a fourteen bedroom boutique hotel where I take these women for a girls getaway under the Tuscan sun.  They come from all over the world to discover where their next chapter may take them and to meet other like minded women and share their stories.
I have two incredible sons and have been married for a very long time to my business partner and the man I met all those years ago at that party in Cannes.  We live between Montreal, London and Tuscany


How did your attraction for interior design start? Well I have answered much of this in the above but while I was a teenager and most of my girlfriends shopped for the latest trends in fashion I was always rearranging my bedroom.

You have an own show on TV, needless to say that we can’t see it in the Netherlands. Although internet opens some possibilties. Can you tell something about it and when you started?  Yes my shows have all been sold to the Netherlands I have had 4 series which are seen worldwide and of course you can see them all online – my design books are published in English, French and Flemish

You worked as a model, what did you experience over there? Did it give you an eye for styling? No – my modelling years gave me the confidence to ‘just go for it’.   If you can stand in a bikini with twenty male executives after a boozy lunch for a casting for some job believe me you can do anything

What is your favorite type of design? Are you a city dweller or a girl from the country? I have four homes all different styles. I love modern and old together and am now a huge fan of ‘rustic chic’

Which type of interior do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that   I am not a big fan of over the top American homes – I like simple European designs

You traveled a lot,  what was your most striking moment? Touring South Africa with the TV station there that airs my show – I took my son on safari which was awesome.  I lived in Tokyo when I was a model for six months and that was a life changing trip for a young woman.  I also walked across Vietnam to raise money for colon cancer which killed both my parents at a young age and I loved that trip.  I have hiked up to Machu Pichu to raise money for children with arthritis, leading two hundred Canadians through the Andes was pretty special.  I travel all the time mostly now back and forth to Italy.  My most striking moment was the minute I discovered my valley in Tuscany and realized this was my future

What was de biggest difference for you to overcome when you started  with your Tuscan getaway?  It is  different world from my television world but in some ways similar – instead of inspiring millions through a TV screen I get to give fifteen women a life changing experience and one of the happiest weeks of their lives – it is an amazing week

What is your attitude to Britain and British design nowadays? Gosh my attitude to Britain.  I love England and feel there is an enormous amount of talent there.  I love the way Brits socialize – I love the pub.    I am not a big fan of the typical country British design but I love the new modern British look

On food, which food do you like and which you would never eat? I am afraid I love all food – I love the freshnes of Italian food and I love wine far too much.  The only food I really really hate is mashed potatoes.  They make me retch.  I was educated by nuns who forced me to eat grey cold mashed potato and would even rub our faces in it – oops I am retching now!!

Which wines do you like? I love all wine – can’t say I am a great connoisseur  but I should support our local wine which is the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – the vineyards surround our property.  I have planted my own vineyard so we will see if it is drinkable soon!

Can you tell me something about your “footprint”  We waste a lot of food in the Western world? Yes we do.  One of things that inspires me about Tuscany is how we shop daily for just what we need.  I have a garden which I live off in the summer.  I shop at the market and adore explaining to my guests how we can only buy what is in season.  If its not asparagus season it is impossible to find.  They find this strange coming from North America but they soon  get used to it.

What else do you want to tell? My passion is inspiring women whether through design or to live to their potential and demand a happy life.  I am a business woman who left school at the age of sixteen and built a small empire.   My motto is Dream it…Do it…Live it

I also lived in Amsterdam, when I was a model and loved the city. One of my regrets is that I was once sculptured by a famous Dutch artist- no clue who he was, but he wrote to me years later and said the statue he had carved of me was in an exhibition in New York and if I would like to go. I was too young at the time to be interested. Of course now I would love to see it!

The recipe

What a wonderful and inspiring answers Debbie Travis gave to my questions. She is really a multi talented woman. For her I will make a simple, slightly classic, but nice dish full of flavour. It is a dish of fish and vegetables. Easy and  light. It is mid Simmer now. And this savoury fish will pair with a nice glass of white Vernaccia di San Gimigniano. A crisp organic Tuscan wine from Fattoria la Vialla.

Ingredients 4 persons:

4 trouts
1 courgette
1 leek
6 tomatoes
2 spring onions
1 red bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 lemon
almond flakes
chopped parsley


Rinse the trouts and pat the fish dry with some kitchen paper. Give the fishes a dash of salt and pepper. Cut the courgette, red bell pepper in pieces. Chop the spring onion and leek in nice rings. Peel the tomatoes by putting them in hot water water first and cold after. Get the seeds out. Chop the peeled tomatoes in pieces. In a pan heat some oil and start stir frying the vegetables until light brown. Add the garlic, thyme and tomatoes and leave to simmer for just three minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C or 392 degrees F. Pour the vegetables and tomato moist in an oven dish. put the trouts on top. Place some parts of lemon aside. Put the dish in the oven for about 15 minutes. In the meantime you can chop some parsley and roast the almond flakes. When the fish is done, get it out of the oven and cover it. Leave the dish to rest for about 10  minutes.
Put some vegetables on a plate, put the trout aside together with a warm lemon part. Garnish with some roasted  almond flakes and parsley. Bon appétit.

When, after reading this, you would want to now more about Debbie Travis or the Tuscan Getaway? Go to or  Or just simply follow her on Twitter or Facebook

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