Whether you know her from her wildly successful YouTube recipe videos or she’s your favourite judge on Food Network Canada’s The Big Bake (heads-up: the latest season of The Big Bake: Holiday airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada), food personality and author Danni Rose is an unforgettable presence.
Growing up in the South and working in her father’s juke joint, Danni learned all about the heart of what really makes food delicious (hint: it’s all about the seasoning) — and it’s where her love for cooking, community and entrepreneurship were born.
Ahead of the festive season, we chatted with Danni about The Big Bake, her must-have holiday dishes and what drives her as she expands her brand.
‘The Big Bake: Holiday’ has a lot of sweetness in store
While she couldn’t spill the secrets of exactly what’s in store for this holiday season of The Big Bake — “you’ve got to watch,” she told us — Danni shared the one thing we can expect this season: to be amazed.
“You can expect bigger, better, bolder cakes that are just mind-blowing,” Danni said. “That’s one thing I can say. The cakes that we saw this season were just incredible. I mean, they were just spot on. Some of them were so hard to judge and so flawless that it was just unbelievable.”
Danni also shared that she — much like the show’s viewers — is consistently impressed with the artistry of the contestants.
“I don’t know how they are able to bake, they are able to sculpt… they are able to do amazing sugar work, they are able to think out a design on the fly, they are able to do all these incredible things in such a short time,” she said.
Bringing people back to the table
While Danni’s recipes are mouth-watering, she follows a no-fuss approach to cooking, and it was her desire to share good — and approachable — food that got her started with her recipe videos.
“I wanted to eliminate a lot of the fuss in the kitchen,” Danni explained. “Because a lot of things that you see online — and no shade, but I’m just going to call a thing a thing — there are overcomplicated recipes sometimes, and it gets people away from the kitchen instead of bringing them back to the kitchen.”
Her goal of using her recipes to help bring together people, food and family can be traced back to her childhood in Alabama.
I would tell anybody: if you learn how to season food properly, you can make anything taste good.
“For me growing up in the South, particularly, we always had food and fellowship, and we just looked forward to getting together and eating delicious food. But our recipes were never complicated,” she said. “And I feel like you don’t have to have a whole bunch of stuff to make delicious food.”
“So for me, it was about bringing people back to the table, one plate at a time. And how do you do that? You simplify a recipe, one, two, three, four – and anybody can do it with their eyes closed,” she told us.
With her simple, easy-to-follow and (most importantly) delicious recipes, Danni continues to strive for her goal. “So that is what I wanted to do for people. And I feel like my videos have really helped a lot of families get back together and get back to the kitchen together, and just unite.”
Season, season, season
But what’s the key to really good food? As Danni explains, it’s simple: season it.
“I would tell anybody: if you learn how to season food properly, you can make anything taste good. Whether it’s broccoli, whether it’s chicken breast… if you season that thing, then it’s going to be good.”
Using seasoning to bring flavour to food can elevate inexpensive foods into delicious meals, too — something that is top of mind for many Canadians at the moment.
“In the South, we just keep things simple. We don’t overcomplicate it. And when I was growing up in my father’s juke joint, the menu was very simple, because it was for people that didn’t have a lot of money.”
Although they didn’t have much, she said they “made something out of anything,” which is something she’s also learned how to do.
In addition to her videos and recipes, Danni is also working on more ways to make truly delicious food accessible to more people. She has multiple projects in the works, including some spice blends that will make it easier for everyone to learn how to season properly.
“[With] the spice blends that I’m doing, it’s going to be something that you don’t need anything else, that you’re not going to have to add… you know normally when you get your spices, you have to add so many different things to them. Not mine,” she told us. “You’re going to be able to just sprinkle that thing on there and just keep it going.”
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Danni’s holiday tradition: keep it delicious
While we may assume that she spends the holiday season cooking, Danni actually takes the holiday season as a time to recharge and spend time with family.
“I’m going to be honest with you… people think that I am just over here baking and frying and doing everything at the holidays. But during the holidays, I sit my tail down,” she said.
As for what her family enjoys for the holidays? Plenty of classics.
“My family always sticks to the traditional things, because we don’t eat them throughout the year, because we don’t get together as much,” she explained. “Of course, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, collared greens, green beans, sweet peas… every type of pea you can find is on the table. Fried turkey, baked turkey, ham… I mean, it’s just over-the-top, it’s overdone, but we look forward to it.”
As for non-negotiables on her family’s holiday tables? “[We’ve] got to have that sweet potato pie, every single year. And the potato salad is very important in the Black community. It’s very important,” she shared.
Danni’s keys to success as an entrepreneur
It’s clear that Danni Rose is booked, busy and ambitious. Aside from her work on The Big Bake and her recipe videos, she also has a number of upcoming projects to keep an eye out for, including a range of food products (think: mixes, stocks, sauces and the aforementioned spice blends), a book and even a size-inclusive shapewear collection “for all the curvy girls, for all the women of all shapes and sizes.”
…whatever it is that you want to build, you’ve got to build it brick by brick.
When it comes to building success as an entrepreneur, Danni offers some advice. First of all, it starts with dedication.
“You have to be dedicated to your craft and your creativity. Despite what anyone else says, sometimes it’s just going to be you in this space, creating and going after that dream,” she told us.
Beyond being dedicated, “consistency is very important,” Danni added. “I think that people get too relaxed, too soon. You have to consistently be consistent throughout [your] entire career. And whatever it is that you want to build, you’ve got to build it brick by brick.”
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For Danni, this meant doing the work and learning all aspects of her business so that she could create what she wanted to on her own — even before she had the support and team that she has now.
“You can’t expect any type of handouts, and you can’t expect somebody to always want to help you,” Danni explained. “I learned how to do everything in my business for a reason. So, if my makeup artist can’t make it, I can do a little makeup, I can do a little hair. I can cook. If my food stylist is out, I can do that. I can work a camera a little bit, if I need to. Those are the things that I was doing on my own for a very long time.”
“I know that everybody sees the ‘lights, camera, action’ now, but I learned, and I got down and dirty and I was really grinding when it came down to me building out the things that I wanted to do. And I’m still doing that now. I do have a team now, but before then, [I’d] been in this space 15 years, and for 12 years I was all alone.”
I learned how to do everything in my business for a reason.
Beyond dedication and consistency, the final ingredient in Danni’s recipe for entrepreneurial success is discipline — discipline is the secret sauce that keeps you going on the days when you don’t feel like putting in the work to pursue your dreams.
“Because even after the mood has changed… even if you’re in that funk, you have to be able to pull yourself out of it,” Danni told us. “And I think that’s where discipline comes in. Discipline comes in when you’re like ‘I don’t feel this, but I’m going to do it anyways, because I know it’s destined for me to get there, and this is what I have to do.’”
Our takeaway from Danni’s wisdom? It may not be easy, but with the right approach and a willingness to work hard and stay focused, success can be truly, well, sweet.
Watch The Big Bake: Holiday Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Food Network Canada. Also available on the Global TV App and STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, fuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV and Ignite SmartStream.