What’s the difference between a “Simpson’s” quote from 1990, the break room at the Appalshop in Whitesburg, and brunch? Here’s a hint: only one of them comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.
“What’s Cookin’ Now!” is a live radio cooking show on WMMT in Whitesburg hosted by Jenny Williams and Jonathan Piercy. The show airs the first Wednesday of every month in the “opulent kitchens of the Appalshop (that is, their break room)” and is touted as “the world’s only live cooking show (that we know of),” according to its website.
“It’s the most fun thing I do every month. I feel that there’s not a lot of pressure on us. It’s just really fun for us, we really enjoy it, and we really love each other,” Williams said, while sampling a dish from this month’s episode of “What’s Cookin’ Now!” about brunch, a savory French toast topped with roasted asparagus and a made-on-set beurre blanc, a sauce made with white wine and butter.
Amid the cacophony of aluminum pans being filled with asparagus waiting to be roasted and the mad dash to find a suitable enough Halloween-themed bowl for the fruit salad, while someone else is quickly checking the baked eggs, it is clear to the many guests, both expected and not, filing in and out of the all of 10x10 break room that this show is done with nothing but love.
“We love to eat and we love to cook,” Williams said.
Piercy, a practicing physician with offices in Hazard, said the show has had many incarnations over the years previous to he and Williams taking over, although no one is really sure about the exact history of the live cooking show.
“It’s been on long before we started, and I mean you (Jenny) did it for a while and I did it for a while,” he said. “We just hadn’t done it together until we started a few years ago.”
The show was started back up and renamed “What’s Cookin’ Now!” in 2009 by Piercy, Williams, and Tricia Watts, who left the show in 2011.
“Tricia ended up moving away to northern Kentucky, and we really, really, really sorely miss her,” Williams said.
The whole point of the show, Piercy and Williams agree, is to have fun, eat, and share that with listeners.
“We just love it so much, and we want everybody to love it like we do. We want everybody to cook, to enjoy cooking, and to enjoy feeding their loved ones,” Williams added.
Williams said it would be a dream to be able to somehow turn the show into a career without adding pressure and killing the fun.
“It’s a real creative outlet for all of us,” she said. “We all have other jobs, other careers. This is really, for all three of us and especially for me and Jonathan since we’re the ones that are left here, this is where our heart lies,” she said.
Williams and Piercy also have a blog on their website, WhatsCookinNow.org, which chronicles their experiences and experiments with food wherever they may go, even if it’s just down the street.
In a post on August 24, “The Treehouse Café and Bakery: In Which Jenny Pretends to be a Restaurant Critic,” Williams gives readers an insight to exactly how her first experience with the café in Hazard was, while adding in her own splash of humor.
“Usually, when I go out to eat, I have an obnoxious, irritating, and undoubtedly wrong-headed and conceited tendency to order a dish and then spend a long time talking about how if I made it, I’d do such-and-such and it would be so much better,” Williams said. “This annoying habit is one I share with my sister, Annie. We can’t understand why someone at the Food Network hasn’t rushed right out to offer us huge sums of money to fly around the country, eat at fancy restaurants, and then get all critical … We’d watch us. But I digress.”
“What’s Cookin’ Now!” is not just a random cooking show broadcast from a small town in Southeastern Kentucky, it has become like a family for those involved who also wish to adopt anyone who wants to listen as a part of that family, Williams said.
“I would really miss it if we didn’t do it once a month. It’s always, it’s like the perfect little party every first Wednesday of the month for me, so I really love it,” she said.