People Staff
March 13, 2006 12:00 PM

A year and a half after saying “I do” to Billy Joel, the host of Bravo’s Top Chef is now focusing on her first love: food. As one of the judges on the cook-vs.-cook reality show (from the producers of Project Runway), Katie Lee Joel tastes each dish the competitors create. As for her own culinary skills, she earns high marks at home. “Billy likes almost everything I make,” she says. “I call him my guinea pig.”


Joel, 24, met the 56-year-old singer three years ago. He promptly asked her to dinner (she had the pasta) and “it was love at first bite,” she says. They married in October 2004 and live on Long Island with their two pugs, Finola and Sabrina. “We’re homebodies; we’re in bed by 10 o’clock,” she says. As for kids? “Alexa is a really special person to me,” she says of her stepdaughter, 20 (whose mom is Christie Brinkley). “I’d like to expand our family, but not just yet.”


The Miami University of Ohio grad, who studied cooking at the British Institute in Florence and runs a food lovers’ Web site (, inherited her culinary skills from her grandma and mom. “We’d go to someone’s house, and my mom would say, ‘Don’t eat that cake! It’s a mix!'” she says. Today she often cooks with homegrown foods from her garden. Typical dishes? “Billy loves my meatloaf and spaghetti pomodoro.”


Joel’s 16-hour days on the San Francisco Chef set were “a whirlwind” she says. As for how she’d fare as a competitor? “I would have been shaking in my boots,” she says. “But I think I could have made it pretty far.”

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