In his new book, The Bold and the Beautiful's Sean Kanan offers advice on how to entertain like a perfect gentleman
THE CRAB CAKES are falling apart, the praline frosting for the freshly baked German chocolate cake is in danger of scorching and the toilet in the guest bathroom is overflowing. Meanwhile, the first of a dozen dinner guests are arriving at Sean Kanan's midcentury North Hollywood house.
Amid this chaos, the 45-year- old star of The Bold and the Beautiful never loses his cool, his dazzling smile or his grip on various utensils as he seasons the puttanesca sauce gurgling over a low flame and monitors the stuffed pork loin roasting in the oven. Instead, he offers introductions, pours red wine and dips his girlfriend of two years, producer Michele Vega, into theatrical backbends that show why he was such a fierce competitor on Ballando con le Stelle, the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars.
Before the night is out, it will take an unexpected and dramatic turn that will leave his guests gasping. Even Kanan himself isn't quite aware of just what he's setting the scene for.
The guy could write a book about how to be a gracious host under pressure. He has: It's called The Modern Gentleman: Cooking and Entertaining with Sean Kanan (Dunham, $19.99).
MANNERS THAT MATTER
While The Modern Gentleman includes dozen of recipes and covers basics such as how to stock a pantry or mix a proper cocktail, its scope goes far beyond party planning.
"This is a book about being the best guy you can be," Kanan says. "Cooking is a metaphor for connecting. There are a lot of guys who lack certain skills that women wish they had. They need someone to teach them this kind of stuff."
The "stuff" includes etiquette tips (once you've picked up a piece of silverware, it shouldn't ever again touch the tablecloth), guy-to-guy advice (when you're hosting a party, remove the cologne you're wearing from the bathroom so some other guy doesn't borrow it and end up smelling just like you) and suggestions on everything from sexting ("the object is to arouse, not offend. Be clever, not vulgar") to flower arrangements (use lemons or small oranges to hide stems).
Kanan began teaching himself how to cook at college at Boston University and, later, UCLA. "I didn't have a lot of money to go out for fancy dinners," he says, "but I felt if I could make a home-cooked meal I could give girls something they probably missed." He honed his skills in 2006, when he spent nearly a year living in Italy while he competed on Ballando and made the independent movie Sons of Italy.
PROPOSING SOMETHING NEW
His competitive dance experience and a household that's frenzied on even the calmest days has taught Kanan some fancy footwork. So he dumps the failed crab cakes in the trash; starts a new batch, using potato starch to keep them together; salvages the praline frosting with whipping cream; and discreetly deals with the malfunctioning toilet.
A couple of hours later, between that scrumptious roast and dessert, Kanan stands up and announces he wants to make a toast. Then he gets down on one knee, produces a small box from behind his back and, revealing a brilliant round diamond ring, asks Vega, "Will you marry me?"
It's an act of stunning spontaneity. Kanan had planned to propose to Vega on her birthday in a couple of weeks, when he might have prepared Angel Hair Frutti di Mare (pasta with shrimp, mussels, crabmeat and lobster), the dish he recommends in his book as the perfect accompaniment for a marriage proposal. But, he says, "Michele and I had such a crazy week with all the kids and work. We got rear- ended in the car on the way to a charity event and our guest bathroom flooded, so I thought what the heck! We needed something positive."
And, as Kanan sums up in the closing pages of his book: "Remember, the modern gentleman lives his life with boldness and audacity. He speaks from the heart and always puts it on the line."
Vega said yes.