I’m Not a Farmer But… Utah TV Anchor Credits Home Cooking for Love of Food Now
Utah Farm & Fork recently caught up with Nicea DeGering. Many Utahns may recognize her name and face as they’ve invited her into their homes – at least via television. Nicea is an Emmy Award-Winning anchor, reporter, and host working at ABC4 TV in Salt Lake City, where she also serves as the co-host of Good Things Utah and anchors the Midday and CW30 newscast. She joined the ABC4 team in 1995 as a crime reporter after graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in broadcast journalism. In addition to covering topics related to home, family, and food on ABC’s lifestyle program, she has also covered stories ranging from the Salt Lake City tornado, Elizabeth Smart's disappearance, and the 2002 Winter Olympics.
During her free time, Nicea enjoys skiing, running, hiking, reading, and her Goldendoodle.
Where were you born? Tell us about your childhood growing up.
Born and raised in Orem, Utah. Youngest of six kids – four older brothers and a sister – and I am the baby. Mother grew up on a farm in Lehi, and her family were some of the first that settled in Lehi. I loved visiting my grandparents and their farm. I would sneak into the barn where my grandfather would milk cows and was fascinated by that. If he saw me, he would just say “git”, and that was his way of telling me to get out of the way and leave. I would sneak in to watch him milk the cows. We would always have fresh milk and cream at their house. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it and thought it was odd. I wanted the milk in the carton like everyone else. I would love it now, but at the time, I remember thinking it was gross. I would also help my mother harvest produce from their farm.
My grandfather farmed until he passed away at 105. But from that growing up, my mother carried some of the same traits. We had a massive garden and my chores were all garden-related. I either killed grasshoppers in the corn, or weeded for an hour before I could play with friends, or I picked blackberries or raspberries and sold them door-to-door. That’s how I made money. We also had a cherry tree, which was my favorite place to hide, until my brother started shooting birds with his BB gun and shot me in the knee.
Because we had that experience growing up, my relationship with food was different. We didn’t buy bread, instead, we ground our own wheat and made bread. It’s funny because I used to go to friend’s houses and if they had Wonder bread, I would ask them for a slice because that wasn’t allowed at my house! We made our own jam and grape juice. We pretty much lived out of our garden. It was idyllic. I didn’t appreciate it then like I do now. Back then, I just wanted Wonder bread, fruit snacks, and MTV.
Did you have favorite things to do as a child? Or things you hated doing?
I hated weeding and that was my main job. But we all had jobs and had to make money to go to the SCERA pool to buy candy and stuff like that. I also had to pick apricots and sell them. My first real job was at Wendy’s off State Street in Orem. My mom was against it because she didn’t like fast food. But my first responsibilities were to fill the salad bar that they had back then. I had a massive perm with my visor, and I loved being able to work there for a year and got all the French fries I wanted. We never ate that stuff in my family, so I loved it.
Many of us have watched you on television for some time. Is that what you wanted to do when you were a child/teen? Or what other interests do you have?
My maiden name is Muse, and when I was little, I used to stand in front of the mirror and say “My name is Nicea Muse, and here’s the news.” It was an interesting career choice because my family were doctors and teachers. My father was a professor at BYU and my mom was a kindergarten teacher. My other five siblings all went into those career choices, and then here I came and went into broadcasting. I sat them down and told them this when I was 15. My mother forbade it because she thought it was too competitive and didn’t want me to get my heart broken, but that made me want to do it even more!
But she was right about how competitive it is. I went into the industry because I wanted to tell other people’s stories. My family is notorious for telling stories and wanting to embellish them and make them bigger and better. I loved English and public speaking, but I didn’t really know how competitive this industry would be.
I attended BYU and studied broadcast journalism. I finished school and got a job at ABC 4. I had interned there and was making tapes of my work to send to stations in Reno, Flagstaff, Idaho Falls, and markets that size because that’s what you had to do. But while I was doing that, they had a position come open in Salt Lake City. They saw me in the newsroom and they asked me to sit in front of the camera and read the script. I sat in front of the teleprompter, and it felt like a movie because the general manager tapped me on the shoulder and said “Congrats, you’re our new crime reporter.”
I was only 23 and scared out of my mind! Most other reporters there were grizzled veterans and they looked at me and thought ‘how are you going to make it?’, and that fueled my fire even more. People ask me now how competitive is it and if they could get into TV, and I just ask them how badly they want it. Because anything that you want badly enough, you’re going to make it happen.
Now I’m in lifestyle television, but I went kicking and screaming into it. I wanted to be Diane Sawyer. We started this show in 2002 and no one did lifestyle TV back then. I thought my credibility as a journalist would be shot in the newsroom. Some of the news credibility changed, but I learned more to be able to relate to people and connect on a personal level. The hard thing with this new show was that I now had to communicate how I felt about things, instead of just reporting what someone else thinks about something. Some people didn’t like my thoughts or opinions on things, and I had to be okay with that. It did take some time though. But we like to celebrate the ‘good things’ happening in Utah now. I have two daughters (21 and 18) and a dog (5) who’s the love of my life.
Please describe a typical workday for me.
It’s interesting with Good Things Utah because the thing that people gravitated to from the very beginning was cooking. When our first show first started, there weren’t all the cooking shows we see now, and you couldn’t just pull up your phone and find 100 different BBQ recipes immediately. Our show was where you got it. So, we’d position those in different spots in the show the keep you interested and engaged. I think these segments are just as watched, even if not quite the same as before.
We also focus a lot on human interest stories that connect with people, and we hope to leave people inspired. We do a lot of health stories and fun creative stories like using knives to play the drums! We try to balance out stories to have exciting topics, and fun topics, and topics that are a little softer, etc., and hopefully there is something for everyone. I try to pull out the information and help the guests connect to someone in our audience. I’ve been lucky to be on this show for 21 years.
Maybe in another life, I could be in the FBI. It’s fascinating.
I imagine you’ve traveled to many other cities on assignment, are there things you liked to eat that reminded you of home? Or what food do you miss the most from home?
I’m such a foodie, which is funny because I wasn’t growing up. We just had lots of vegetables and I don’t know if my family cooked them in some creative way, but I’ve been able to learn that from Good Things Utah. We’ve had some of the best chefs in the state on our show, and they’ve made me a better chef. They’ve helped me explore flavors and ways of cooking I wouldn’t have thought of. Starting out, I would cook meat well done. The chefs would look at me and ask if I was out of my mind. They would say I couldn’t be in the same kitchen with them, and so now I’m a medium-rare cooker.
When I travel, I like to find whatever the specialty is of that city, rather than looking for things that remind me of home. So, when I’m in New York, I want to have pizza. We went to Italy recently with some girlfriends of mine, and I ate all the pasta I could and had the best time. Good Things Utah has helped me not be picky about food, because I couldn’t be with all these chefs here. So now I’m open to trying almost anything.
Do you have a favorite food?
It’s like choosing a favorite child because I love food so much. I love nachos, burgers, pizza, etc. But also all the veggies. Some days I like to focus on Greek food and a Mediterranean-style diet with all the Kalamata olives and salads, and then other times it’s Italian. I LOVE pasta and recently visited Italy, so I like to eat that. I also love Mexican food, and we have so many great places in Utah to eat at.
Is there a restaurant in Utah you like to go to or is your favorite?
I love Pizzeria Limone. I remember when Jeff Whiting came on our show back when they only had one location. Now they have eight locations. I also really like High West Distillery in Park City. I feel like they have the best garlic burger ever. I also love sushi, so I love Takashi and Tsunami. I love Porcupine Grill for their nachos. I love Gourmandise for its Mediterranean salad. I love Oak Wood Fire Kitchen for its goat cheese bread dip, and Franklin Ave. because of its amazing cod. You tell me a city, and I’ll name a restaurant that has been on the show and amazed us.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? And why?
Probably what I had most recently! I was at Franklin Ave. and had some Brussels sprouts that I love, and they paired it with an amazing aioli. They also have snap peas in coconut cream. I’m definitely my mother’s daughter, in that I love all the vegetables, even though I rolled my eyes at her when I was younger.
Have you visited a farm/ranch or farmers market in Utah before?
I love to visit the farmers market at Wheeler Farm in Murray, and also go to Park City’s and the Downtown Market.
Do you like to cook? If yes, what is your go-to meal/dish/recipe?
I really like to cook vegetables and cook them six ways from Sunday.
If you don’t want to cook anything fancy or elaborate, what is your basic comfort food you like to eat (no shame!)?
Cereal is my guilty pleasure for sure! I wasn’t allowed to have sugared cereal growing up, so now, I love to have some sugared cereal. I also love some salsa, chips, and guac, as well as some queso. I have come to love Salsa Queen, as a small Utah business that came on our show, and now she’s all over the country. She has the best queso on the planet!
You talk about families and food on Good Things Utah. Why do you think food has a power of bringing family together?
Food is just a universal language we all speak. Especially in 2023 when the world is so divisive, but when you bring out a dish of food everyone perks up and wants to see what it is. Food brings people together. Our most watched segments on the show are when people come on and talk about how to bring family together with food. This idea of food bleeds into our parenting topics, it bleeds into segments talking about raising money for a good cause, etc. Food is this fabric of our society that brings everyone together.
I remember how incredible my childhood was growing up on that farm in Lehi, and how much I appreciate our farmers do day-in and day-out. I didn’t appreciate that as much when I was a kid.
What would you have for your last meal on earth?
We’ve actually talked about this on the show! Mine would be fresh guacamole, fresh salsa, chips from Chili’s – because those are the most amazing chips on earth! – and queso.
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