When Jenny Morris was in elementary school, she came up with a fundraising project that would become the most popular drive in the school: lunches for teachers. The gourmet sandwiches and special meals were ordered in advance, no one wanted to miss out. At just seven-years-old, both her entrepreneurial spirit and talents in the kitchen had already begun to bud.
Years later, she cooked dinners for well-known foreign dignitaries like Prince Charles, Former Vice President Al Gore and even actors like Charlize Theron. She created the brand Giggling Gourmet, and became the first South African to host her own show on Food Network. Nonetheless, despite a hectic schedule filled with classes in her own cooking school, cooking tours, recipe development, appearances, and radio and television shows Morris remains true to her name, with a constant smile on her face.
“I’m a very happy person, I’m a very positive person. I don’t think I’ve ever walked around with a long face, except when my mother died, and that wasn’t for very long because she was a happy person. I had to change my name and everyone said ‘you are such a happy person’, so I said ‘OK I’ll be the Giggling Gourmet’,” she told bazaar in an exclusive interview.
Morris’s positive attitude helped her rise in an industry dominated by men, to her father’s dismay. Though he always encouraged her to experiment in the kitchen and discover her talent, he did not want to her to join “a man’s world” and would not have her “sweat over pots with big burly men in the kitchen.” Determined to gain the resources needed to learn the culinary arts on her own, Morris secured a position as a telephone electrician, much to her father’s chagrin.
Though she loved laying down telephone lines and erecting telecom poles from the ground up, her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for food did not subside. With seven of her female coworkers, Morris started a Friday picnic that their male coworkers paid to be a part of.
Eventually Morris joined a hotel management-training program that forced her to experience all the different departments, including the kitchen. She was able to turn the hotel’s restaurant around and was given the opportunity to prepare a daily buffet from Monday to Friday with different cuisines.
“The place was jumping with people,” she said. “It had over taken the other restaurants. That’s how the bug hit me and the rest is history.”
With the incredible support of her husband, who in their 33 years of marriage has not spent a day away from her, they opened the Cook’s Playground in historic Cape Town. The surrounding original cobblestone streets and cottages take students back in history when many trade routes once stopped in the city. Today, its luscious gardens provide Morris with the secret to her delicious cooking: ingredients so fresh you had to pick them specifically for the recipe.
“We grew all the food we ate,” she said. “We plucked and picked our meal for the night. My father would say ‘let’s go and pick a sandwich.’ We would go into the garden, and get some lettuce and little baby cucumbers. Then he would say ‘now smell the tomatoes, which one do you want?’ It was an incredible experience growing up with food with my parents.”
It is that love for fresh, healthy ingredients that drew her to Moroccan cuisine. She had hosted numerous travel groups to the North African country through the years. When producers at the Food Network asked her what country she wanted to film in first, there was no question that the colorful, romantic and tasty country that is Morocco was her destination of choice. The adventure was painful at times, with more than 20 bee stings on her feet during one shoot, and a donkey kick in another. Yet, in most of the season Jenny was amazed by their incredible culinary talents, even without the most basic of kitchen gadgets, such as a stove.
She learned about traditional dishes in Morocco, and taught the locals a few new things like couscous bread and a sweet made from the popular wheat. She showed them how to temper spices (cook them in oil before adding them to the dish for more flavor and to release the nutrients). Her main concern was to not change traditional dishes that may have been enjoyed for centuries in the country, but to bring out the incredible tastes in new and delicious ways.
For us foodies in Kuwait, we can look forward to the beginning of March when Jenny Morris will regale us with her tips and tricks for delicious meals at the Q8 Food Festival. Though any attendee of the festival will be able to watch the show, VIP ticket holders will be seated up front and center during the shows. Afterwards, you can meet Morris and other world-renowned chefs in a private meet and greet, and book signing receptions.
In addition, VIP ticket holders will have special parking, and their own entrance. Throughout the day they can relax in the Symphony Style Hotel VIP Lounge and the ABK hospitality suites. The ticket includes five food and beverage vouchers to be used at any festival restaurant.