Spencer Watts of SPENCER'S BIG 30 to Young Adults: Cooking Isn’t Scary!

— March 14, 2019

By BILL HARRIS Special to The Lede Cooking is not terrifying! That’s the main message that Spencer Watts, host of SPENCER’S BIG 30 on Gusto, wants you to hear, especially if you’re a young adult who relies heavily - if not exclusively - on order-in food. In SPENCER’S BIG 30, which airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Gusto, Watts focuses on healthy, hearty meals for four, that can be made by anyone in around 30 minutes, for around $30. But with the public’s average cooking skills on the decline, we had a chat with Watts about how his mission is more important than ever. Q: Recent stats indicate that only about 25% of people cook regularly at home these days. What’s your reaction to that? Spencer Watts: “Wow, that’s really disappointing to hear, especially because cooking is one of the great joys of my life. The accessibility to cuisine has changed a lot. Before, it was just the Yellow Pages, and you called the local pizza joint. Now it’s these massive campaigns with Skip The Dishes and Uber Eats and stuff like that, you don’t even have to put the phone to your ear, you just make a few clicks and it shows up. Those businesses are great, they’re amazing. They’ve just made it really easy to not cook.” Q: It seems there has been something of a societal change. Do you see any other factors at play? Spencer Watts: “There are a lot of TV shows out there as well, the competition-based food shows that make it look like making a meal is terrifying, and if you don’t get it right, somebody is going to come around the corner and yell at you. Or if you don’t do it in 60 minutes, you’re in trouble. Food in media looks pretty intense.” Q: But that’s not the reality of cooking for yourself, correct? Spencer Watts: “I love the competition shows and the reality shows, they’re fun to watch, there are gripping moments, and there’s a risk factor involved, which is great. But when you’re cooking in real life, if you mess up, you’re not kicked off! Failure is the greatest teacher in the kitchen.” Q: Why is it so important for young adults to learn basic cooking? Spencer Watts: “Being able to cook for yourself is 100% an essential life skill. That is a fundamental thing as a human being. You need to be able to feed yourself. You don’t have to come out of the gate trying to make a five-star meal. My advice is, try to get one recipe under your belt. Maybe it’s something that reminds you of your childhood. If that’s Shake ‘n Bake chicken, a Caesar salad and a baked potato, just get it under your belt. Stay in your wheelhouse, go with something simple. I guarantee you, it’s way more satisfying than eating out of a Styrofoam box. Then eventually, I think every young person should have five recipes in their repertoire than they can make by themselves.” Q: Many people say they just don’t have time to cook. Spencer Watts: “I don’t expect the younger generation to cook five times a week. But on the weekends? You certainly could try, especially with how easy it is to access information now. You can say to yourself, ‘I’m going to learn how to make cinnamon buns,’ and you can hit a couple of keys on your computer, and go step by step.” Q: I guess it all comes down to having a balance. Spencer Watts: “You even can get popcorn from the movie theatre delivered to your house. You don’t even have to make popcorn any more. It’s kind of funny (laughs). Hey, we’re all human, I love a good take-out meal, too. But for me personally, it should be a once-in-a-while thing. I would just get so bored eating out of a Styrofoam box. Cooking comes from the heart, it comes from the soul, it comes from a place of nurturing. When I want to show somebody I care about them, I cook them a meal. I love when people come into my home, and they immediately notice the smell of food coming from the kitchen, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, what is that?’ That’s the best thing in the world, there is nothing more comforting. There can be things going wrong in your life, but when you smell those great smells in the kitchen, it all melts away.”   billharristv@gmail.com @billharris_tv