Brandeis administrators cook on Food New England
Web-based show for foodies draws on everyday chefs for instruction and advice
Kathryn Howell has worn many hats over the last six years — as the administrator for the East Asian Studies Program; Religions Studies Program; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; and the Health: Science, Society and Policy Program. Now she can add a chef’s hat to to her collection.
Howell baked her first cake at the age of five as a thank-you gift for her neighbor. Now, five decades later, she can be found on Food New England, teaching the cyber world the secrets to sensational shortbread cookies. Howell was recruited by Roberto Mighty, a multi-media artist who originally directed and produced Food New England when it ran on Channel 5 and featured emerging food scenes and celebrity chefs like Todd English, Ming Tsai and Gordon Hamersley. Mighty retained the rights to the show and is now working to make Food New England the web-based go-to place for everything food, from recipes to farmer’s markets and restaurant reviews — with ordinary people, not culinary pros.
“Knowing that I am comfortable on-camera as well as in the kitchen, Roberto asked me to sign on,” says Howell, who has also worked as an equity actor performing in theaters such as the Wilbur, The Charles and the Gloucester Stage Company. Howell admits to other obsessive phases of cookery, which include soufflés, quiches, soups, salads and cheesecakes, Now with two food-finicky teenaged sons, one a strict vegetarian, Howell says she keeps mostly to stir fries, soups, salads, and eggless baking, but “always looks forward to an opportunity to prepare something glorious.”
Howell says one of her favorite episodes features award-winning poet Charles Coe, who cooks red pepper chicken hash, recites a poem about learning to cook, and shares stories of Tang, Spam and other slices of Americana. Another one of her favorites features Shannon Hunt, program administrator for the Brandeis Women's and Gender Studies program, who Howell says “is one of the funniest women I’ve ever known.”
Hunt says she hadn’t done much acting, but has always been a bit of a ham and figured it would be a good time.
“Too many cooking shows now aren't for everyday use,” says Hunt. “They often feature complicated recipes that only cooks with extensive culinary vocabulary and expensive culinary equipment can access. I personally find them interesting, but more intimidating than inspirational.”
Hunt says that she was never much of a cook until she came to Brandeis and befriended her graduate students, both from the English department, where she worked from 2001 to 2010, and now the Women's and Gender studies department.
“They do amazing things with limited funds, and I wanted to be able to host the kind of dinner parties they were,” says Hunt. “ I made the video because I want people to see that if I can cook anyone can.”