Laughter from the kitchen: Annabelle White

For food journalist and mass media cooking personality Annabelle White, food has always been a way to express her regard for others. “To cook is to love, and to love is to cook”, Annabelle explains to Metropol writer Céline Gibson.

Annabelle began experimenting with recipes from an American cook book her mother gave her wh

en she was around eight-years-old. “I baked things like cinnamon rolls, which I would serve to my parents with hot chocolate.”

The young Annabelle baked for families suffering bereavement, she frequently posted her grandfather fruit cake because he liked it, and she used to send her fiancé tins of baking. “It was my way of letting people know I was thinking of them.” Making people happy is important to Annabelle. “I have always had an irrepressible desire to make people smile, it’s wired into my DNA, and I think food was an expression of that.”

Annabelle originally trained as a teacher and has an MA with first class honours in history and geography. She enjoyed teaching and thinks if she hadn’t taken up a career in cooking, she would have stayed with teaching. “Early on, I was offered a lecturing role at Waikato University, would you believe it? That could have been my next step.”

Annabelle has interviewed quite a few cook celebrities in her time, such as Jamie Oliver (twice), and Nigella Lawson, but one particular standout
interview was with French explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques Cousteau).

The first meeting between Annabelle and Jean-Michel took place at a luncheon event in Auckland. Annabelle introduced herself to the illustrious guest of honour with the following words: “Do you think there’s any correlation between hair growth and sea water? Because you’ve got the most incredible hair.”

Having caught his attention, Annabelle captivated Jean-Michel further by asking if he would snorkel with her. “Remember, this is the man whose father created the Aqualung. He must have been gobsmacked at my request, but he did go snorkelling with me.”

The snorkelling expedition was filmed at Jean-Michel’s Fiji resort, as was the cooking of fish on a barbecue set up in the lagoon. “We had the most wonderful time, and Jean-Michel loved the snorkelling. He actually said, “This is better than sex.”

Wherever Annabelle goes, laughter is sure to follow. “I have developed this genre of blending food with humour, which I call ‘Fumour’”. While people want to know how to cook garlic properly, they also want a little dose of humour. Laughter and food make a beautiful blend.”

Always keen to share cooking knowledge, Annabelle’s top tip for the most necessary ingredient in the kitchen is a culinary revelation. “First and foremost, lemon juice. Add a squeeze of lemon to something a bit bland; it’s transformative. The acidity adds the sparkle in food. I wish I knew this when I was 18.”

When asked what advice she might now give to the young Annabelle White starting out in her career, Annabelle jokes, “Use more lemon juice!” then considers the question more deeply. “I would advise her to be open to all new and exciting things and share that willingly with everyone, but be mindful that you need multiple skills and watch that you don’t exhaust yourself. Also, generosity is the most important thing in this business, be generous in terms of information, energy, and everything.”

Annabelle says her hope for the future is to continue sharing her wealth of food knowledge and imparting that in useful, simple and clear ways that actually helps people, such as her scone video, which is fast approaching one million views, and her cook book. “Above all else, it’s about making people feel better. At the end of my classes, I always ask for a show of hands if they’ve enjoyed themselves. Because it’s not what you say; it’s not what you do. It’s how you make people feel. It’s the simplest but also the hardest thing to do, and that is what gets me out of bed every day.”

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