A (Food Network) Star is Born: Ellie Krieger

Jul 16, 2012

template-bannerimage-article Ellie Krieger FINAL font 24 pt

Photo credit: Lisa Houlgrave

Prologue:
I met Ellie at the Kids Eat Right Summit in Napa this past March and was thrilled when she agreed to let me interview her for my new blog.  As we talked and I learned more about her background, I could really relate to her stories about growing up in a ‘theater’ environment and how acting has helped her in media and communications.  My father is a director and an actor, so I spent many school nights doing homework in the audience during his rehearsals (mostly Shakespeare), and even did some acting myself from time to time.  I do believe that the skills I learned on stage have helped me in my communications – even if it’s just to feel more comfortable while doing it.  I hope you enjoy Ellie’s story as much as I enjoyed interviewing her!


MELISSA:  Ellie, why did you decide to become a registered dietitian?
ELLIE: I always loved food – was always attracted to food.  I was an overweight child, and when I was about 13 years old I followed a healthy eating plan with my mom’s support and lost weight by being more active, snacking less and eating more vegetables.  I blossomed in so many ways after that!
I was also always interested in science.  I went to pre-med and majored in nutrition but the more I studied and learned, I decided to pursue a degree in nutrition instead of medical school.
I always felt that I should follow my heart and what gives me energy and spark.  In college, that turned out to be presenting and writing.  I have a background in theatre and modeling – in fact, I paid for school with modeling and commercials.  I loved (and still love) ‘improv.’
My mom had read an article about RDs in the media.  I decided to major in nutrition with an emphasis in journalism, and had internships at CNN (with Carolyn O’Neill) and CBS.  These were very purposeful steps.  You have to be bold!  I got my advisor at Columbia to help secure the internship at CNN.  Columbia helped me create my own experience, and I actively sought guidance from leaders and teachers.

MELISSA:  What great foresight you had!  Tell me about when you started actually doing media interviews.
ELLIE:  I remember my first time on TV – it was public access.  A friend of a friend had a show.  I was horrible!  I was so young.  The host was ‘pro-supplements’ and I always had a ‘whole foods’ focus.  The other guest had views similar to the host and I remember the interview becoming heated, and I was trying to be professional, serious, grown up.  When I played the clip back I saw that my face looked scowling and judgmental.  From then on I learned how to have an ‘even smile.’ That’s a skill that really needs to be honed.  How you look like on camera may be very different than how you feel!
But the key is to start small so you can make mistakes and learn from them.

MELISSA:  So true!  Ellie, I’d love to hear a little about your Food Network experience.
ELLIE: I was first on as a guest.  It was a LIVE TV show then.  When the lights came on I felt like a deer in the headlights – I was literally “stunned” and remember thinking “Ellie you should listen to the question!”  Now when the TV camera lights come on MY lights come on and I’m full of energy.

MELISSA:  Does that energy come naturally for you then, from your passion for food and the media?
ELLIE:  I love being on TV!  It is so much fun – especially LIVE TV.  I love the energy of it.  But I’m an impatient person.  The process of taping a segment is tedious.  You must do it over and over again.  I struggle to keep my energy up.  After 12-14 hours you just want to stop (even if you’re doing something you really enjoy, after 14 hours you don’t want to do it anymore!)  What keeps me going is that I get to show people the food I love.

MELISSA:  That must require a lot of stamina!  I know for myself, I’d much rather do ‘live’ than taped segments because if I make a mistake when I’m live, I just keep going, but if I’m being taped it seems like one mistake just leads to dozens more and it gets really frustrating!  So, I’m interested in how and why you decided to write your first book (Small Changes Big Results)

ELLIE: I was doing a lot of TV work, such as the “Living Better” TV show, but didn’t have a defining platform.  I knew strategically the next step was writing a book – to provide that platform and also credibility.
Writing my first book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and am the most proud of.
Getting my first book published certainly had its challenges.  First, I don’t like writing – but I do like having written!  You may have heard the quote: “writing is ‘easy’ – just sit down at typewriter and open up a vein.”  Well, that’s how I feel about it.
Second, it took about one year to write the proposal, and my own agent rejected the proposal three times!  And you have to make your own deadlines.   However, subsequent books have been much easier because of the less extensive proposal and more informal process.
My first book really defines my food and nutrition foundation and philosophy.  I’m in the process now of revising it – updating information such as referencing iPods (instead of Walkmans) and incorporating ‘new’ foods such as Greek yogurt.

MELISSA:   Ellie, what insight or advice do you have for RDs who want to follow in your footsteps?
ELLIE:  I think as professionals, we can get bogged down with details and perfection – and our assets start to become our liabilities.  The audience just wants to see that you’re having a good time and connecting with them.  I read the book “Blink” and agree with this concept:  You do your ‘homework’ to prepare, but once you’re on the field you must ‘react.’  You can never fully predict what will happen.  For a 4-minute TV segment, you prepare and plan as much as you can, but once you’re actually doing the interview, it’s best to let go and have fun because then, no matter what, it’s a success.  Of course, you will have your 1-3 key messages and a ‘takeaway’.  But if you’re having fun – everyone else will, too.

MELISSA:  Ellie, that is truly great advice.  Do you have any final words of wisdom for us?
ELLIE:  Never fit into a box.  Find what gives you energy and spark – then follow it!


Epilogue:
Ellie’s ‘energy and spark’ is truly positive and contagious.  Her Food Network show “Healthy Appetite” is now airing on the Cooking Channel.   And, be sure to look for Ellie’s revision of Small Changes Big Results due out in January, and check out her other books: Comfort Food Fix, So Easy, and The Food You Crave.  Ellie also has tips, ideas and recipes in her regular columns in Food Network Magazine and Fine Cooking Magazine.

Did you enjoy this interview?  Click here to read more!

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