Host of popular TV show releases Welcome to My Kitchen cookbook

Kirk Starratt
Published on October 19, 2016

WINDSOR, N.S. - A new cookbook is proving to be as popular as the TV show and host that inspired it.

Now in her 34th season hosting Eastlink TV’s highest rated show, Welcome to My Kitchen, Joan McElman has released a new cookbook. Published by Nimbus, the Welcome to My Kitchen: A Maritime Tradition cookbook is now available in stores –although many have already sold out – and online.

McElman said she’s had the project in mind for a while but a cookbook can be expensive to produce. The publisher called and asked her if she’d be interested. McElman agreed and is now busy attending signings across Nova Scotia.

The book is being well received and she has found the experience very rewarding. She said Eastlink would be distributing the book to affiliates across Canada.

“I’m very pleased and I’m very happy with the way the book was presented,” McElman said. “I guess every author goes through it but I was scared to death no one was going to buy it.”

The Kingston resident was told to limit the book to about 200 pages, an exercise that took her about a year. She said compiling the recipes was a bit of a trip down memory lane. McElman said she’s heard from many people that they don’t like having to visit the website to write down her recipes. It was suggested several times that she publish a cookbook so that everything would be available in one spot. McElman thought that would be ideal.

She hopes that people are able to put the cookbook to good use and follow the recipes. McElman has included many personal notes.

People are already suggesting that, in her next book, she should suggest food pairings for the featured dishes. McElman said she hadn’t even thought of that, since pairing has become second nature to her. She recognizes that this would be helpful to the amateur cook.

When doing a recent signing for the new cookbook in Dartmouth, a 20-something woman came up to her in tears. The woman told McElman that she’s wanted to meet her for a long time because McElman taught her how to cook.

“That’s been my aim of the game, cook food that people like, that people here are going to eat and that is available in our part of the country,” McElman said. “Pretty much everything that we do on the show is local.”

Her husband was a pilot in the air force and McElman credits this for a lot of her cooking success. Living in different areas, she was introduced to many new dishes. She collected many recipes along the way, experimenting with them and tweaking them, making them her own.

Becoming a TV host

When it comes to how she became the show’s host, McElman said, “I kind of got thrown into it totally unannounced.”

McElman was a guest on the cable kitchen show of the day, which was being produced in Aylesford. All they had was a hot plate, no fridge or sink. A couple weeks later, the host called her again and invited her for another guest spot, excited that they would have appliances to work with this time.

“At the end of the show, the program director came out and he turned to the host and he said, ‘she’s the one’,” McElman said.

The host agreed. McElman asked “the one what?” They told McElman she was the new host if she wanted to do it, with one drawback: there was no pay. However, all the groceries would be provided.

“If I can cook with somebody else’s money, why not,” McElman said.

She said the show has evolved. They’ve gone from having next to nothing to work with to having the beautiful, fully functioning kitchen set at the Eastlink studios in Windsor, where the show is now taped.

She said she’s surprised over the enduring popularity of the show. McElman thought it would be fun to do but didn’t figure anyone would watch it.

Cherry Almond Coffee Cake

-       2 ½ cups of flour

-       1 cup sugar, divided

-       ¾ cup cold butter

-       ½ tsp baking powder

-       ½ tsp baking soda

-       ¼ tsp salt

-       1 cup sour cream

-       2 eggs, divided

-       1 tsp almond extract

-       1 – 250g package of cream cheese

-       1 cup cherry preserves or jam

-       ½ cup sliced almonds

*Recipe courtesy Joan McElman, Welcome to My Kitchen. Viewers will learn how to make it on an upcoming episode.