Chrissy Teigen‘s much-anticipated cookbook, Cravings, is officially out on Tuesday—and she is proud of what she put into it. “I spent the past three years trying to prove to people that I love food, I love cooking,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively in the new issue, on newsstands Friday. “And that I have a passion for it that’s beyond just wanting to be a model in the food world.”
For the star, that meant making sure chefs didn’t think she was trying to be one of them. “It was always important to me that the people that I love and respected knew that I wasn’t trying to step on their toes,” she says. “Because there is nothing that I would hate more than a real, proper chef—who was trained and owns a restaurant and is working their ass off—to ever have any kind of comparison to somebody [like me].”
So rather than jump right into the cookbook process after being approached by an editor (he reached out on Twitter, natch) she focused on her blog, SoDelushious.com, which she still keeps up today. “The blog was always so random,” she says of its humble beginnings almost four years ago. “It would be like, a recipe, and the next day it would be like ‘Oh my God, I got in trouble for something huge and I want to explain myself.’ And then I’d get emotional… My pictures sucked but people loved it because it looked like their food. It didn’t look over-styled.”
She also has cooked with some huge culinary stars, like Eric Ripert and Josh Capon, and taken cooking classes abroad to bolster her skills. “I went to Thailand for a few months and that was truly just to learn Thai flavors,” she says of a trip she took a few years ago with her mom, Vilailuck, who is from Thailand and such an amazing cook that Teigen devoted an entire chapter of her book to recipes she’s learned from her.
Teigen’s still picking up tips. “I don’t think you understand how many simple things I learn all the time that I’m almost embarrassed to share that I didn’t know,” she reveals. “Then I realize that if I didn’t know that, then there’s probably 1.7 million people on the internet who probably didn’t know that either.” Among those pro-tips? Making bacon in the oven. “I can’t believe I’ve just been putting bacon into a pan and it’s been curling up like a pig’s tail,” she says. “It’s the tiniest little things that I feel so dumb not knowing. Then I share it, and I’m in this whole world of people who are like, ‘That’s awesome!'”
So does she think she’s proven herself? Yes. “I think people know that I really do cook, I really do eat, and I love it,” she says. It turns out everyone else thinks she has, too: On its first day on stands, Cravings is already number 1 on Amazon’s “Quick and Easy Cooking” best seller list.
For more exclusive info from Teigen, including two recipes from Cravings, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.