Jess Hall on the impact reality television had on her work
WORDS Alice Armitage IMAGES Harriet Turnnidge
Jess Hall is a name & face that is most likely familiar to you. Jess tackled MasterChef this year and she went in guns blazing. I’m incredibly proud to call Jess my friend & even prouder of all that she has achieved this year.
We spent some time together, talking about Jess’ journey so far and where she is headed from here.
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Jess, tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a Sydney based butter enthusiast who recently tried her luck on MasterChef Australia Season 11.
Owner & Founder of The Well Fed Co & What Jess Cooked.
How is it that food and cooking has become such a big part of your life?
The act of cooking is a wonderful thing.There is nothing more giving than cooking something from scratch for someone.
Food to me is what brings people together. It breaks down language, culture and socio economic barriers and that really interested me as a child. Especially growing up in a 2 person family (Mum & I), dinner parties and backyard BBQ’s were my opportunity to be surrounded by friends and family and food was always at the centre of that.
Taking on a reality television show is quite a controversial move for most, especially in the traditional high end hospitality industry, what made you take it on?
I never saw myself going on reality TV. At. All. But the opportunity to apply fell in my lap and although I never thought I would get as far as I did, I thought to myself “forget what others might think, whatever happens, this is going to be one hell of a ride and a story to tell the grandkids”.
It also enabled me to challenge my skills and have experiences that I never would have taking the more traditional route of going to culinary school. It might be a more controversial move but the exposure to experiences was worth it 10x over.
Experiences are what I crave in life and reality TV was just another incredible one to have.
Was the experience different from what you’d expected?
Yes and no. Which doesn’t really answer the question.
Some parts exceeded my expectations and others fell short but I don’t regret anything. It’s given me a fantastic platform, provided me with a new dysfunctional family of friends, shown me opportunities I wouldn’t have known I had before and encouraged me to do what I love as a career and not a hobby.
What are some of your top take aways from your experience that you could share with us about your MC experience? Anything you learnt along the way that you feel we can all be putting into practice without going through the rig-ma-roll?
Absolutely. I’ve learnt that you need to create your own opportunities instead of waiting for them to find you.
If you want to change your life then you need to be the one to go out and ask for it. Which can be hard for a lot of people but you need to swallow your pride and back yourself.
It’s when you make yourself vulnerable and ask for opportunities, guidance or even help, that’s when the fun stuff happens.
You don’t need a TV show for that.
Turns out instant fame and fortune once you’ve been on reality TV is a totally myth, how have you been juggling that expectation?
Well, I thought I’d be on my yacht in the South of France sipping martinis and filming my own cooking show by now. Instead I’m in rainy Sydney, drinking a frankly, lacklustre cup of tea and answering emails.
But you know, I’m still so much happier than I was this time last year because I know I’m on the right track and working towards that martini.
I know you’ve got a few irons in the fire at the moment but could you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?
Right now I am juggling lots of balls which is fun but also….what if I drop a ball?
I’m working really hard to get The Well Fed Co up and running with my first line of cultured compound butters.
I’m also working on some exciting projects and partnerships with outstanding companies I really admire.
I’m hoping to do my first pop-up dinner in November this year with a few more in early 2020. There’s still a lot I have to say when it comes to my style of food and cooking so I’m thrilled to be able to share that with everyone.
There is so much value in a brand working with you, where do you even start when it comes to building out the scope of how you work and collaborate?
There are lots of different ways to go about collaborating but I think for a sustainable and authentic approach you want to highlight what is important to you and your brand and your business and really focus on that when choosing who to partner up with.
For me personally, I love working with other small businesses, especially female focused or female owned companies.
There is no point in us working together if there isn’t a strong connection and shared values.
How are you finding the balance between your consultancy work and building out your butter business?
I actually find they intertwine quite a lot. When I talk about one, the other undoubtedly comes up and often there is crossover in the work which is fantastic.
It’s important for me to step back at least twice a week and make sure I am prioritising.
I ask everyone this question so its compulsory, what does the next five years look like from Jess Hall?
I’d love to see The Well Fed Co in stores with a few more products in the range. I’ll be on that yacht in the South of France, sipping that martini, filming the 3rd season of my cooking show.
With some butter of course….
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If you’re looking to get in touch with Jess, you will find her at @whatjesscooked