Glitz, Glam, and Dinner for the Fam
Q. Tell us about how you got involved in cooking? Have you always had a love of cooking?
A. I remember being very young, maybe 4 or 5 and helping my grandmother scoop cookie dough onto a baking sheet while standing on a chair in her kitchen. I also remember my mom showing me how to make different dishes while growing up and laughing together. Those times were filled with such love, joy, and quality time.
Everyone always gathers in the kitchen, so the way cooking was introduced to me is that it was an enjoyable activity that brought the family together. It was not a chore, yet fun to make the dishes and always a delight to EAT them together!
Q. Do you have any professional training or are you self-taught?
A. Actually, I’m self-taught with the wonderful influences of my mother and grandmother. I actually come from a TV and sports background. When I was working in those industries, at the end of BUSY days, I would go in my kitchen, put my head down and chop and it was a stress relief. The issues and my “to-do” list were not on my mind anymore. I was living PURELY in the moment and enjoying the process. Cooking has always been a creative outlet and a passion of mine personally, so a few years ago, I made it a big part of my professional life.
Q. What was the inspiration to get involved in food media/tv?
A. Mostly, I wanted to share my love of food, cooking and to encourage others to look at it as “more fun” and a creative process. My first cooking TV show that I sold was called “Cooking Delight”. It was a high energy, “party in the kitchen” with celebrity guests, live music and a live studio audience. The day I sold that TV show, my cookbook, “Cooking Delight” got signed with a publisher. They were both created with the hopes of inspiring others to “Be an Artist in Your Kitchen”. That was the book and the show motto and theme. My cookbook (now out of print) has 100 of my original recipes, 40 pieces of original artwork from different artists and a CD in the back to combine food, music, and art. When I wrapped that show, I hosted a travel and food show and have since hosted over 3,000 TV shows and cooking segments. I just followed my heart to bring me on this journey!
Q. What is your favorite thing about your work or about working with food?
A. I love sharing my passion of cooking and recipes with others! I probably write and create 4-6 recipes per week because I genuinely enjoy it. I can’t draw a stickman to save my life, so cooking is to me, what going into a studio and painting on a blank canvas is to an artist. Funny enough, I encourage others to NOT follow recipes, yet make them your own. If you know how to pair proteins, vegetables and different ingredients with citruses, herbs, spices, seasonings, and oils, you can look in your refrigerator and pantry and create your very own masterpiece! Let my recipes give you good ideas, but add, take out, change the ingredients that work best for your taste buds and those you cook for.
Q. What is your least favorite thing about your business?
A. I do not know that there is really a least favorite thing about my business because I get to deal with food and good people. What is not to love?! I will say that my least favorite form of cooking is baking. I really admire all the great bakers out there, but you really have to follow recipes to a tee, and I have more fun creating new dishes and not necessarily following recipes. Doubtful I have ever made the exact same dish twice!
Q. What inspires your recipes?
A. I get so much inspiration from others and that includes chefs when I dine at restaurants to cooking shows and social media/Instagram with all my foodie friends and followers. I’m mostly inspired and excited by fresh ingredients and cooking with produce in season! This August and September, I will definitely be cooking with corn, berries, zucchini, beans, onions, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, peaches, and plums for sure. One of my favorite places on earth is a farmer’s market. I have such admiration for farmers, ranchers and local growers, so I want to support their hard work, efforts and enjoy the fruits of their labor (no pun intended). I am very appreciative to get my hands on fresh and local goods, especially understanding the intense work and labor that it took to create those. When I get home and unpack my market finds, it is exhilarating and makes my imagination run wild!
Q. Are you seeing trends or more requests for certain kinds of recipes?
A. There are always trends in the food industry that seem to come and go in phases. Everything from popular dishes that tend to hit most restaurant menus when they are “hot” (avocado toast, spicy fried chicken sandwich, certain cuts of steaks, etc.) to popular diets at the time (keto, etc.). A lot of food trends are adopted by what is going on in the local community and the world. Everything from shortages, supply chain issue to being a great year for a particular crop – therefore lowering costs, making it readily available and everyone wanting to buy and use it. The type of recipes requests that that I receive the most are easy recipes using fresh ingredients. I think simple is best, but I am all about a lot of flavor!
Q. What part of cooking is your favorite? Main dishes? Grilling? Desserts? etc.
A. I absolutely love appetizers! When we have family or friends over, it is my favorite thing to put out a variety of small bites, then everyone gets to taste and experience SO many different flavors and textures! I also like sharing a variety of recipes between main dishes and side dishes that are prepared a variety of ways because everyone has different taste buds and preferred methods of cooking. It’s about creating, eating and offering the recipes to a variety of dishes to strike a good balance. Now, I will tell you that I love my Traeger Grill and am exploring more ways to grill and smoke on it! I am a BIG outdoors person and LOVE to be outside, so outdoor grilling is a natural happy place for me.
Q. What is your favorite thing that you make?
A. I go in phases on that one. I will get into routines, like everyone else at times, and crave the same dish in different versions for a while. I am on an omelette (with a variety of sautéed veggies and proteins) served with fresh pico de gallo and microgreens on top, kick right now. My husband can also make a mean omelette and different breakfast meals! I love to cook, but who does not love to be cooked for at times?! Honestly, I crave different foods, so anything from a hearty meatball and spaghetti comfort meal to beef or chicken veggie rice or noodle bowls to soups to lightening up with fresh salads to tacos. All of a sudden I am hungry!
Q. What is the most challenging thing you make?
A. I do like to challenge myself with different, maybe “fancier”, dishes at times. Last Christmas I made Beef Wellington for the first time and it really came out GREAT! That is always a fabulous feeling of accomplishment when you try making something new and it works out well. Then, you get to reap the rewards of enjoying it! Over the past few years, I have cooked with my mother-in-law quite a few times and she is a VERY good cook and baker. The dishes she has introduced me to were challenging. First off, because I had never made them before and secondly, they were more labor intense dishes, such as pasta made from scratch and homemade sushi rolls. Once we went through the process, then poof, the intimidation was gone. It was fun because I learned something new! I believe in putting ourselves around those that we can learn from and be challenged by to grow and get better at any task.
Q. Do you have any tips for others who are wanting to become better cooks or more adventurous cooks?
A. Absolutely! To become a “better” cook, it simply takes practice and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. We get in the ruts of taco Tuesday, meatloaf every Wednesday, etc. Branch out and try new recipes, but ALSO, it is fun to switch up your current recipes with new flavors. For instance, I love taking a regular dish, such as burgers and making “Italian style” or “Mexican flavored” burgers. Add and adjust the necessary spices, herbs and ingredients to the same recipe that you usually make and you have a whole new dish, but with a twist! Mostly, have fun experimenting, practicing and trying new things.
Q. Do you like to connect with farmers and ranchers/those who grow our food? If so, describe that.
A. I absolutely do! My grandparents had a farm in Wisconsin that my mom was raised on with her siblings. As mentioned, I have such an overwhelming admiration for farmers and ranchers with the HARD work, time and efforts that they put in each and every day. Utah Beef Council has been one of my sponsors for 8 years. I host weekly TV cooking segments for them creating recipes using beef products and I use some of their recipes (www.utahbeef.org) on the show. Those segments air every Monday on ABC4 on the 12:30pm-1:00pm show. I have learned and continue to learn a lot from them and their support of farmers and ranchers. They even took me on a farm tour outside the state a few years ago with other TV personalities and influencers to provide education and experience.
I also worked with Utah’s Own in the past hosting weekly TV cooking segments creating and showcasing different recipes each week using local Utah grown/manufactured products. It was such a joy to meet so many different passionate, local food producers and create recipes with their products, which I still do in my kitchen today!
Q. How important is it for you to know where your ingredients come from and why?
A. It is incredibly important to me to know where my food comes from for a multitude of reasons! If I have a choice to buy a product from a local producer opposed to a non-local producer, I am going to go with the first option, even if I have to spend more dollars. By buying local, it not only helps the farmers, ranchers and local businesses, but it keeps the dollars in our state, which strengths our Utah economy and improves our communities. I also want to choose high-quality, well produced, fresh foods. What we put in our bodies is a direct correlation to feeling good and being healthy. That is an important factor to everyone.
Q. What is one thing you wish you knew more about when it comes to agriculture and those who grow our food?
A. I am always wanting to understand the growth process and the history of foods. Also, fascinated by farming ingenuity and innovation with new crop creations and the processes in which they are made. The more we know, the more educated we are, the more we can make the most sensible and smart decisions. I took a nutrition course and got certified SIMPLY because I find it fascinating and enjoy learning! It is important info for me to know and to share when and where I can with the TV show viewers and my followers.
Q. Why are there so many social media/blogs/websites/tv shows devoted to food? Why do we care so much about it?
A. That is a good question and the popularity is only continuing to grow. The pandemic definitely increased everyone’s desire to learn to cook; some out of interest and some out of necessity. My personal thought process is that we are overwhelmed with our busy day to day lives. Food and eating is a fun and a happy place for most people. We are all drawn to things that make us joyful and feel good. I love to sit down and watch a cooking show or read a cookbook. Maybe look online at different cooking websites or get on Instagram see what my foodie and chef friends are dishing up. I think there are millions of people that feel the same way and enjoy those activities! It is relaxing, interesting, while also motivating.
Q. Would you consider yourself a social media influencer? Why or why not?
A. You would have to ask my followers that question. Haha! I just got into being active and engaging on Instagram (@jbcookinghost) 4-5 months ago and I really enjoy it. I have met and connected with a lot of local fellow foodies, food producers and restaurant owners that bring a lot of inspiration to me. I will say that Instagram and brands have changed with how they work with influencers. It is not really about how many followers you have anymore, it is about the quality of content, which is represented by your engagement rate for your posts. 8% is considered a high engagement ratio (the amount of likes and comments on each post) and my page runs at around 20-25% for every one of my posts. That makes me feel really honored that my followers are so engaging and loyal. I definitely enjoy representing and working with a variety of companies via TV and social media, especially local food producing companies and restaurants. I try to keep my social media light with humor and hopefully, entertaining, while mostly sharing recipes and tips.
Q. What importance is there for sitting down and eating with family? Why do you think eating together is such a social activity as well?
A. I think it is one of the most important things to do with loved ones and friends. Some of my most cherished memories growing up were Sunday family dinners, which are now ever-lasting precious memories.
From a social activity standpoint, I absolutely love having dates with my husband, as well as going out with family and friends and supporting local restaurants. Sharing a meal is an activity that brings people together. It is a way to connect with new people and to stay connected with those we care about.
Q. What do you think influences a family’s food choices?
A. A family’s food choices are most often influenced by everyone’s individual preferences, tastes and the way they were raised. For instance, my mom’s beef and vegetable soup is now a staple at our home every winter because it was a regular delight in my house growing up. Our grandparents’ traditions and dishes become our parents’, which becomes ours and then passed onto kids.
Q. What have you found to be the biggest concerns related to food from your readers/viewers?
A. From the viewers and my followers, I probably get more questions about recipes that I share, especially from new cooks. Some people are very intimidated by the saying “a pinch” of an ingredient on a recipe and nervous about the cooking process. My objective has always been to share dishes that are simple and to show the process of making them, in hopes of encouraging more people to try cooking or to branch out and cook something new. When people DM (direct message) or come up to me when I am out and about and share that they have started cooking or tried one of my recipes because “I make it look so easy”, that is music to my ears and touches my heart! That means I am achieving my daily goal, which is to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, even in the smallest way.
Q. Do you feel it’s important for farmers to connect more with all of us eating their food? And vice versa, should consumers be more interested to learn more and connect with where their food comes from?
A. Sure, but I also know a farmer’s life is very busy and family time means a lot to them. That being said, we live in a digital age where connecting with others is a lot easier and readily available with the tools to do so. This can be through updating websites, writing/sharing blogs, email blasts, newsletters and of course, social media. I think even more education and facts on packaging can be useful. If those marketing platforms are available to the general public, I believe it is important for consumers to read and engage. Those tools also help educate us (consumers) on what and how local farms producing, distributing and how/where we can purchase them.
Q. What message do you try to share with your readers?
A. Cooking can be a creative and fun outlet and activity, not a chore. Food brings people together to create magical moments where memories are being made over sharing meals together. Also, to be educated where your food comes from and how important it is to support local farmers, ranchers and food producers. Let’s educate ourselves and make food purchasing choices and decisions that help locals and build stronger communities. Now, go be an “Artist in Your Kitchen!”
Those wanting to read more can connect with Jennifer at www.HostJenniferBurns.com.
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