Local chef sets sights on Oprah network
June 8, 2010
Susan Odell never intended to be a TV personality, but if the opportunity arises, she’ll pack her bags and head to Hollywood.
Odell is a local chef and founder of Foodell.com, an interactive online cooking community. She is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and has been teaching people to cook and eat well for more than 10 years.
Odell’s message is simple: "It’s all about cooking more, eating healthier, using real ingredients and staying away from the processed stuff. To me, that’s where our health crisis is based in the foods that we eat. If we get back to basics and start doing these things, we’ll all feel better, look better and be better off," she explains.
Her latest venture involves winning over the global foodie community and perhaps impressing Oprah Winfrey.
Odell has submitted a video to win her own show on the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The network, which will launch in early 2011, is looking for the next big TV stars and is accepting auditions through open casting calls online and in various locations.
In January, Odell attended a panel at the Sundance Film Festival that featured Robert Tercek, the president of digital media for OWN. "Everything he was talking about in terms of the network was right up my alley as far as what we’re trying to do with Foodell.com. It’s all about building community around a common interest," she says.
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When she found out about the call for auditions, she jumped at the chance to get involved with the network. She filmed and submitted a three-minute video pitching her idea for a cooking show called "The Hungry Generation."
The Hungry Generation, she says, includes anyone who is hungry for information about food and who wants to eat better but isn’t sure where to start. It’s not age- or generation-specific.
She describes the concept of the show as Food, Inc. meets a year in Provence. "It’s about keeping one wary eye on big food and using real ingredients but really enjoying the pleasures of the table and bringing that back into your house," she says.
The show would embody the same motto as Foodell.com, which encourages healthy eating by encouraging people to get back in the kitchen. "It’s all about inspiring people to cook," she says.
It would also feature interactive and participatory components to keep viewers involved. "I think it’s old-fashioned to have a show just about cooking," she says. She would like to design the show as a modern-day Julia Child knockoff with recipes, technique videos and discussion boards available online.
Odell says her concept for a cooking show has been brewing for quite some time. She had been thinking about doing a pilot but put it on the back burner because the website was gaining momentum.
Voting for the "Your OWN Show" contest ends July 3. The finalists will fly to Los Angeles for a week in July to participate in the final selection process, and then 10 candidates will be selected to participate in a reality show-style competition.
Although people can vote as many times as the want, the OWN website states that it has installed software monitors to prevent robot voting or unexplained spikes in vote activity.
Odell notes that OWN producers will also review all of the submissions, so getting the most votes is not necessarily the determining factor.
Her ultimate goal is get the word out about the correlation between cooking at home and healthy eating. "It’s really about spreading the message," she says. "If this is what it takes to get the word out to a big audience, then I’m all for it."
To view Odell’s video submission and vote for "The Hungry Generation," visit http://myown.oprah.com/audition and search for Susan Odell.