Creating Food Content for Television with Jessie-Sierra Ross
In Episode 72 of the Kitchen Confidante Podcast, Liren talks to Jessie-Sierra Ross about her transition from ballet to food blogging, her rich family culture of home cooking, her approach to television cooking, and more.
On the podcast, I recently spoke with Jessie-Sierra Ross. Jessie-Sierra is the voice of the cooking and home entertaining blog, Straight to the Hips, Baby, where she shares approachable food for every home cook. A native Bostonian and former professional ballerina and ballet coach, Jessie-Sierra now embraces the farm-to-table life in the Berkshires, sharing this creative adventure with her husband, Jonathan, which has expanded beyond the blog to television appearances, lectures, big-brand collaborations, and more.
In this episode, we chat about her transition from ballet to food blogging, her rich family culture of home cooking, her approach to television cooking, and more. Listen to the full episode here, or keep reading for some of my favorite moments with Jessie-Sierra.
How did you transition from Ballerina to Food Blog Writer?
I grew up with a strong familial connection to my Jewish and Ukrainian background. When I was young, my mother dove deep into cooking different cultural cuisines at home. When I was about six, I remember an experience making Slavic blintzes at home with my mother. Experiences like that made me realize that cooking and eating cultural foods with family is an act of love. I became interested in famous chefs of the time, like Julia Child, and there was always this lifelong passion for cooking inside me.
After retiring as a ballerina, I moved back to Boston and, eventually, the Berkshire mountains. I went from this stark city life to a place where everyone was friendly and chatty. Farm-to-table landscaping and organic farms were everywhere, and I was really taken by the ability to know your farmers and see your food grown and harvested.
I was at home with my kids and was hungry for a new challenge and project. I adored performing and longed for more adults to talk to, so I started hosting large dinner parties where I would make as much from scratch as possible. After the dinner parties, people would want me to share the recipes. Instead of emailing everyone, I started a food blog, and it took off from there.
Tell us more about your blog, Straight to the Hips, Baby
Coming from a ballet background, I had a unique relationship with food. Luckily, I never had an eating disorder, but I was conscious of looking at food as fuel rather than something to enjoy.
When I retired from dance and started cooking for friends and family, I found so much pleasure, inspiration, and aspiration in hosting. I realized that the moments and experiences around food are greater than the actual act of eating. So, I wanted to find ways to capture the joy behind food and its creation.
Therefore, I cook with butter, sugar, and full-fat everything. I don’t cook with processed ingredients and make as much from scratch as possible. I advise people to seek out the highest quality ingredients they can afford and to understand and appreciate all the flavors and elements of food. I believe you eat with your eyes, so I always try to elevate dishes with fresh ingredients that add height, color, texture, and respect. My cooking is an ode to fresh, quality ingredients and my love of butter, sugar, and a great cocktail. I say, if it doesn’t go straight to the hips, it probably isn’t for me!
Let’s talk about your leap from the ballet stage to food on television. How did you land those first spots on local TV?
It was an evolution, and a little serendipitous. I was at a charity fundraiser here in the Berkshires, and my friend introduced me to an anchor of a local television show, who I found out had a passion for food, and who like me, was also a former dancer. After chatting, she told me, “You need to get on TV.”
I dampened any fears and tried it! I started on a local NBC affiliate chat show, and realized quickly that television is an art form on its own. It’s very different from taking pictures, or writing a recipe, or even doing a lectured demonstration. On TV, you’re in a studio and not in your own environment, you’re talking, you’re cooking, making banter, and you have to show a finished product at the end of three minutes. I got addicted to it! It’s an adrenaline rush!