As an amateur chef (emphasis on ‘amateur’), I have a bit of a cooking show addiction. Whether it’s straightforward recipe presentations, cooking competitions or travel shows, I devour the way one might wolf down a perfectly cooked medium rare steak. So when I had the opportunity to meet a celebrity chef, how could I pass it up?
South African chef Jenny Morris, host of cooking travelogues like Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco and Jenny Morris Cooks the Riviera, was part of a live cooking program hosted in Dubai two months ago. I had watched both of Chef Jenny’s shows, and absolutely loved her bubbly personality, to say nothing of her mouth-watering recipes. My family and I headed out to the shopping mall where the program would be held, in spite of a sand storm brewing that day.
Before the show began, I had the opportunity to meet Chef Jenny, who was just hanging out and chatting with some people. The first thing I noticed on meeting her was that she looked exactly the same in person as on TV, complete with short-cropped chestnut hair, dark twinkling eyes and a smile whose warmth could be felt from miles away. It was as if she’d just stepped off the screen.
Now, even hosts of ‘reality’ shows have to do some acting to project a certain personality type, but Chef Jenny was as cheerful and bubbly as seen on her show, always ready with a snappy joke or a playful wink. She’d come to be known as the Giggling Gourmet, and it was hard to interact with her for too long without smiling broadly.
Once the show began, Chef Jenny held us in her thrall. Her breezy banter, interrupted by the occasional hearty giggle, made her a joy to watch. Every detail was intertwined with a personal anecdote relating to her Dubai trip or previous culinary adventures, and she appeared to have a genuine interest in entertaining and educating the audience. The three hour demo seemed to fly by as we smiled along with her, the miserable weather outside overshadowed by the sunny smile of our celebrity host.
Afterward, Chef Jenny personally thanked us for attending and praised my family’s passion for food. I’d pretty much taken it for granted that meeting a celebrity in real life would carry with it a certain level of disappointment, as they wouldn’t quite live up to their on-screen personas. Chef Jenny was her on-screen persona. She wasn’t just playing a chirpy world traveler who enjoyed a good laugh as much as a good Moroccan stew, she was just being her cheerful self.
Only a few weeks prior to that, I’d been offered a food blogger position that I’d been quite interested in. My experience at the food demo ended up being my very first published piece on the blog and pretty much set me on my new career path. Jenny Morris, the Giggling Gourmet, had spread a little more sunshine in the world. And now I know that the next time I see her on TV, it’ll be no different than catching up with an old friend.