Throughout her media career (first in radio, now in television), Wendy Williams’ stock in trade has been a blunt, straight-to-the-point interviewing style. So it’s of little surprise that New York’s one-time queen of urban radio keeps it just as real when it comes to food. Take condiments, for instance. They’re more than mere accouterments; for her, they’re an irreplaceable part of the culinary experience. “To me, there’s no pastrami sandwich without Thousand Island dressing, there’s no roast beef or tuna without Miracle Whip.”
A Finger on Pop and Food Culture
The daytime talk-show host employs a similar, take-no-prisoners approach to eating: be it tapping into her inner culinary adventurer when dining out—”I’ll order two entrees, not because I can eat everything, but because I want to try (things liked) oiled squid”— to chowing down in her New Jersey home. “I love eating with my family, but I also love eating alone. When nobody’s around, I can get into the food. I like to eat with my fingers. I can clean a plate.”
Williams has the best of both worlds. Through her show, she can keep her finger on the nation’s pop-cultural pulse (her favorite guests include Hulk Hogan, Joan Rivers, Vanessa Williams, Lionel Richie and actress Lisa Edelstein of House fame) and simultaneously indulge her foodie side, cooking alongside the likes of Jamie Oliver and Guy Fieri. One day she hopes to get Emeril Lagasse in her kitchen. “I love a chef whose mouth waters at his own food. He’s gained a few pounds, which means that he’s digging his own food.”
A natural performer, Williams figured on a career as a newscaster. Those plans took a u-turn at Northeastern in Boston where she covered news for the college station, WRBB. When a deejay failed to show up one day, she was called to pinch in. “I wanted to pass out,” Williams said. “To be a deejay, you have to be cool, walk cool, speak cool, know cool people and know a lot about music. I was never cool. I did the shift and fell in love with the idea of being a disc jockey.”
“I’d wanted to be a newscaster, then a field reporter,” she said. “In the 70s, there weren’t televisions in every room. I was always told that I speak well, but I didn’t think about radio. Growing up under the New York media influence, you had so many greats on the radio. I hustled an internship to learn the lifestyle and I learned that newscasters have been very cautious, especially off the clock. Radio personalities were given wiggle room. I liked that wiggle room.”
Planning the Perfect Exit
In the ensuing 22 years in radio, Williams earned national recognition and notoriety as a brash interviewer and source for juicy celebrity gossip. Meantime, she upped her cultural bona fides with books and segments on show programs like “Entertainment Tonight” that convinced her to give television a try. “Pop radio has an expiration date. I knew that I couldn’t do pop radio as I got older. I had to have a plan to exit radio. I’d been planning my exit since 1993.”
All the while, Williams nurtured her love of food. Faith Evans, ex-girlfriend of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G., introduced her to the wonders of wine (she was a champagne girl). She ate at top restaurants and in 2007 formed a short-lived promotional partnership with Georges Veselle Champagne. She also started spending more time in the kitchen. “I’m not the best cook, but I’ll take pork tenderloin, stuff garlic clove around it, cover it in all types of seasoning, place it in a plastic bag and squeeze the air out of it. I’ll serve it with yellow rice, salad with mushrooms and bleu cheese and fresh string beans and little piece of hamhock for my son.”
A fan of escargot, crepes, French food, two-hour lunches at Dos Caminos (Mexican food is her favorite), Williams also delights in decidedly downscale fare. She loves jalapenos. “I can eat them in everything.” Liver is another favorite. Almost any preparation is fine. Fried. Baked. Chopped. On crackers. “What’s not to like. It’s economically priced. Put on a few dollops of liquid smoke. Chop up some onions. Braise it with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce on both sides. Let the bottom sit in gravy or barbecue sauce. Good eating.” But she draws the line at okra and chitterlings. The former is slimy and the latter, she said, “smells like behind.”
That’s Wendy Williams for you, forever keeping it real.
To check for dates and times of “The Wendy Williams Show” in your area, visit http://www.wendyshow.com.