SOBEWFF 2016: Actress Tia Mowry on Pop Culture and the Culinary World

More than ever before, the lines between celebrity and chef are blurred. Chefs such as Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet) are the pioneers, hosting instructional TV shows that highlighted their culinary skills. When Food Network was founded in 1993, the genre took off, making stars of personable and camera-ready cooks such as Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, and Bobby Flay. Now, in a reversal of roles, many TV and music celebrities are hosting their own culinary shows or writing cookbooks.

Some of the talent at this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival were our childhood favorites. We grew up with Tiffani Thiessen (Saved by the Bell), Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser), and Tia Mowry, who starred with twin sister Tamera in the teen sitcom Sister, Sister.

Mowry now hosts Tia Mowry at Home, a cooking/reality-show hybrid, and the SOBEWFF newbie will host a culinary demonstration at the Grand Tasting Village at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, February 28. Mowry says she pitched her show idea to Cooking Channel after her son, Cree Taylor, was born. "As moms, we're really starting to be more aware of what food is and how we feed our families." She saw that mothers were feeling overworked, without enough time to put a meal on the table, and she wanted to help. "A lot of times, people are intimidated by the kitchen. I wanted to make a show that was easygoing. I wanted to bring back the dynamic of having fun in the kitchen."

The television veteran says she and her siblings rarely ate at restaurants when they were growing up. "My mom and dad cooked. We ate at the dinner table, and we created memories and had conversations. In a world that's so diluted with social media and everyone looking at their phones, we need to bring back quality time."

Though Mowry's family is part of the show, you won't see the usual reality TV fighting. "My number one rule is that I do not allow this business to define who I am. With that said, there are a lot of producers out there who believe, and it is true to some point, that confrontation and drama gets ratings. But it's not about trying to fit that mold. It's about me being who I am. I believe I bring authenticity. I never tried to shape and change myself to fit what's now and what's hot. I had creative control to say that this is not the route I want to go. I am here to inspire."

The former child star says her entire career has been based on those convictions. "What I'm personally going through is what inspires me. As a teen, I did Sister, Sister, and a lot of the themes were based on what teens were going through — dating, bullying, and peer pressure. Then I went to college, and I traveled around the world and experienced this transition into young adulthood and knew heartbreak, dating, and wondering what you wanted to do with your career, which was like my character in [the TV comedy] The Game."

Now, Mowry's message comes from real-life examples of traversing the route of a wife and mother. "I am a working mom, and I have to balance and juggle a family and a career. I'm not playing a character, so I want people to see that if Tia can do this, so can they."

Some of Mowry's tips for eating healthy in a fast-paced world are universal — college students, singles, and couples can all benefit from her advice. First and foremost, you have to be committed to eating better. "Know that this is going to take more time than grabbing a slice of pizza or opening a can of tuna, but know this will be a better choice." She also suggests stocking your fridge with staples. "What I like to do on Saturday or Sunday is go to the grocery and get fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, and chicken broth." A good time-saver is to purchase chopped carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. "The only thing you have to do is toss them into a pan with a protein."

Mowry thinks hosting a cooking show appeals to her and other TV stars because of the creativity it allows. "There's room for people, like myself, who are home cooks but not professional chefs.

"It doesn't always have to be by the books and about how many teaspoons are called for. You can figure that out by going online. It's all about falling in love with that person and their relatability. When you have that, there's a better reward. I think people are starting to pick that up."

Mowry uses music as an example. "When I look at an artist like Beyoncé, I am happy to say I'm not just looking at her because she's pretty or she dances well. I'm listening to her message and how she inspires other women to go out there and be a boss. It's not only about cutting the onions correctly. It's what happens before that."

Goya Foods Grand Tasting Village With Tyler Florence, Tia Mowry, Rev Run & Justine Simmons, Geoffrey Zakarian, and José Andrés. 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 28, at the Grand Tasting Village, 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $100. Visit sobefest.com.

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