I’ve booked a whopping 15,000 guests over the course of my television career, and unique, high-energy characters have always been my thing. I just have that radar! Interesting, over-the-top people always make for great TV, and they’ve been my bread and butter.
I recently met Chef Nancy Manlove who is one of those big personalities, but what makes her even more interesting is that she breaks through the reality TV stereotype. Yes… she kicks ass in the kitchen, has crazy confidence, has guts like a warrior, and has an unstoppable burning desire to be a TV star, even if she’s—are you ready for this?—a 64-year-old, gray-haired granny.
A recent Facebook post of hers caught my attention and best explains why Nancy stands out in a sea of TV celebrity chef wannabes. Listen up, TV people: the television world doesn’t belong only to millennials! And THANK YOU, Food Network, for realizing this, because you booked Nancy Manlove as a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen Season 9.
Here’s what Nancy posted on social media that made me want to give her a standing ovation:
“5 years ago I was wrapping up my wonderful aerospace career, planning to retire and take life easy! Wrong! Went back to school, studied the culinary arts, pulled an externship, continued learning and working demanding hours in a high volume hotel and then their 4-diamond restaurant. I kept cooking and competing and then one day I got this telephone call…and…well you’ll have to see the rest of my story! Tune in!” That important life-changing call was from the Food Network informing Nancy she had been chosen to appear on the ninth season of one of her favorite shows, Cutthroat Kitchen.
So I caught up with personal chef Nancy Manlove for some Q and A, because this sassy chef, who cooks like a dream, has something more than just cooking to teach all of us.
- Anthony Bourdain—celebrity chef, author, and TV personality (host of CNN’s Parts Unknown)— said in his book Medium Raw that if you’re thirty-two and considering a career as a chef, you’re TOO OLD. And, as far as working in a kitchen, being fat is a NO NO. Nancy, these comments have to make your blood boil. Your reaction?
Pure hogwash! His so-called advice is demoralizing. If 32 or older is too old to start, I can’t help but wonder what he thinks is the right age a cook or chef should retire? Everywhere in this world, old and fat chefs are cooking their hearts out for drooling diners. If we all fit Bourdain’s mold, what a boring industry this would be! And how about Julia Child? Her passion for cooking didn’t begin until she was 36. Now let me say something about size. We laugh at the cliché of “never trust a skinny chef.” I no more believe that than being heavy has anything to do with your ability to cook or work in a kitchen.
- Why reinvent yourself at 60 and go back to school?
I was always an excellent cook at home and wanted to become a home economics teacher. But I made different choices in life, career-wise, spending almost 40 years in corporate America. I worked 8 to 5 jobs, usually sitting at a computer or working directly with customers. Over the years, I learned how to sell, how to promote, how to communicate, how to deliver presentations and speeches, how to train, how to lead people, how to manage projects, how to follow process control and safety standards, and how to deal with customers. All of these traits are invaluable in the food industry.
But when I began entering recipe contests, I looked at my photos and realized they could look better. I needed proper training in the art and science of food. I needed to grasp the understanding of the whys. So off to school I went!
- Why food competitions? Do they help boost your ego or your potential TV career?
Food competitions help validate my decision to become certified in culinary arts and be a chef. Competitions could very well boost my career because I can claim I won or placed in them. Yes, they are good for my ego, but I try to be humble and say thank you to the discerning judges who notice and praise my food.
As far as TV, I know from experience casting directors are looking for people who can create a perfect dish. And presentation is everything. If your food looks sloppy, you won’t make the cut for a spot on a TV show.
- What are your 5 tips when auditioning for a Food Network show?
- Be upbeat and friendly to those who contact you, because they’re there to pitch you to the program’s decision makers.
- Have a sense of humor, but always be YOU!
- Be honest to a fault. Your background and credit will be checked. No one wants surprises or an embarrassing situation later. This is not the time to share political or religious statements.
- Understand that producers are looking for the best candidates for episodes that are already themed. They are not looking to build a show around you!
- Do your homework and research the TV show you are auditioning for. Like in a job interview, know the subject matter!
- Did appearing on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen make you a better TV performer?
I have to say yes because all of life is a stage and we are all actors. Cooking is performing, creating, adapting, seeing things in a different way, presenting food. And, yes, I am all the better for having had this opportunity.
- What’s your next dream career move?
- Oh, I have more than one. I hope I get another opportunity to return to Cutthroat, and I’d like to be on Food Network’s Chopped. I publically offer a throw down cooking challenge to 48-year-old Chef Gordon Ramsey, 50-year-old Chef Bobby Flay, and 59-year-old Anthony Bourdain for a battle of the ages! This is not just a young man’s sport, you know.
- I also want to own a café, restaurant, or food truck, and I want to complete and publish my cookbook.
- I definitely want to inspire others to follow their dreams and have no regrets! Chefs should not be hidden in a kitchen or thought of as servants. I am proud to be a personal chef.
- Your message for women who are trying to break through TV stereotypes?
My motto is live it, breathe it, be it! Don’t stop casting: work your contacts and be in that casting room every chance you get. Appearing on cooking TV shows is so much more than looking pretty on camera. Take time to know as much as you can about food, ingredient pairing, the classics, and those 30 minute meals.
So how did Nancy Manlove place in Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen?
That’s TOP SECRET! You’re going to have to tune in to watch when Nancy appears with 3 other Grandmas in the episode, “Grandma-tage,” premiering September 6th on Food Network. I’ll report on the winning candidate in a later Swoon Talent blog.
Oh, and did I mention Nancy signs her emails “Bon Vivant”? You just gotta love her!
Please visit https://www.swoontalent.com if you’re an on-camera lifestyle talent who would like to be part of our team of experts. Also,visit us if you’re a casting or TV producer looking for guests, hosts, correspondents or reality contestants.