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California Questionnaire: Julie Chen

The Emmy-winning TV host is so SoCal—she loves dolphins, convertibles, Malibu, Beverly Hills, and road trips up the coast

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Given the fact that Julie Chen was formerly a host on a show called The Talk, it only follows that she has plenty to say about, well, everything. Does she have a favorite California food experience? Absolutely. And a favorite California song? Actually, she has four. And she doesn’t have one favorite attraction at Disneyland Resort—she has 10.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chen was born in New York City and attended college at the University of Southern California, where she studied broadcast journalism and English. After various high-profile stints as a TV producer, reporter, and anchor, Chen settled in as host and moderator of The Talk, CBS' Daytime Emmy Award–w­inning talk show, for eight years before departing in 2018. A busy mom and devoted yogi who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, Chen somehow finds time to host the long-running hit reality show Big Brother as well—and she also sat down to take the California Questionnaire.

Where do you live? Beverly Hills

Why there? Because I loved when Lucille Ball visited Beverly Hills on I Love Lucy and saw William Holden and was star struck. Beverly Hills seemed to me like a magical place where stars live. But also, it’s so central and an easy commute to work and school and is beautiful. (I also loved Beverly Hills 90210 and am still looking for the Peach Pit!)

Who or what is your greatest California love? The Hollywood Bowl. And Malibu—seeing dolphins never gets old!

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are all Spicoli (Sean Penn’s character) from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? That some of us are Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? A convertible car—with the California sunshine and this weather, I just couldn’t resist.  

Time for a road trip—where are you going? Up Highway One to Big Sur. I made the beautiful drive when I was a kid with my family in the 1970s. But I was a passenger. I want to do the drive myself now—preferably in my convertible, and not with my parents in the front and me and my two sisters squished in the back. (Guess who got the middle seat? Me!) This time, I’d like it to be more of a romantic getaway with my husband. We’d stay at the Post Ranch Inn. I hear it’s amazing, and I’ve never been.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Hands down, The French Laundry in Yountville. The food, the service, the setting—amazing. We went for my mom’s 80th-birthday celebration and are still talking about it five years later, for its California cuisine and healthy eating done in the most scrumptious way. Yum!

How do you define California style? Yoga pants, t-shirts, and hoodies with cool sneakers (think Yeezy, Kanye West’s line). Relaxed living. Open-air homes with an outside-inside feel. Lots of time being outside!

Best California song? “California Dreamin’,” by the Mamas and the Papas. It’s stood the test of time and is still good today. The harmony and the dreaminess of the sound lends itself to fantasizing about living free and easy and relaxed and happy. Also “Hotel California,” by the Eagles. Come on! You can just see the tall, skinny palm trees and the sun setting behind the Pacific Ocean as you hear it. It’s haunting—in a good way. Then there’s “California Love,” by 2Pac, with Dr. Dre. A modern-day feel, showing that California is not just all laid-back—we have an edge. Plus, I sang Dre’s portion on a dare on The Talk. I didn’t totally embarrass myself, and I even sent it to my friend Jimmy Iovine, who said he’d ask if Coachella had any openings. My phone hasn’t rung, by the way. Lastly, “California Girls.” Both the Beach Boys’ version and David Lee Roth’s. It’s a celebration of all kinds of beauty but with a special nod to California girls. Being a California girl myself now, I say “Yay!” whenever I hear it.

How would your California dream day unfold? I’d start with breakfast at the Malibu Farm Café. I’d order their fried-egg sandwich—it’s the best—and their surfrider coffee, which is basically their version of a Bulletproof coffee made with butter and coconut oil. This would be my fuel to start a day at Disneyland with my family, my sister and nephews, and my cousins and their kids. We’d start on the Radiator Springs Racers ride at California Adventure and end with the fireworks show and parade. But in between, we would have lots of churros, the yummy hot dogs on Main Street, and dinner at Steakhouse 55. And we’d go on all my favorite rides and attractions: the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Toy Story Midway Mania, Turtle Talk With Crush, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Indiana Jones Adventure. We’d stay the night at the Montage Laguna Beach.

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