It’s not every day you get to interview a top-notch microwave internet sensation but when you do you’re in for a treat. A vivacious character, Amelia de Frost happily chatted with me about her YouTube channel Amelia de Frost, which this year she took to the You Are Here festival. We also chatted about her participation in the Inaugural Canberra Mayoral Pageant, the future of her cooking show and the magnificent microwave.
Originally from Coventry, upstate New York, de Frost studied a Pro Chef Level One Certificate in the 1980s. She soon quit the course because she found the school and the culinary environment in general snobbish towards microwave cooking. In 1990, de Frost travelled to Canberra for the International Microwave Convention. It was here that she met her mentor, Sensei Ping, who also goes by the name Sensei Reheat. During her mentorship, de Frost was interviewed for a hobby video where she provided an educational and passionate discourse on the microwave. De Frost was then approached to start her own YouTube channel which she began filming in September 2015.
De Frost loves her cooking show, You Should Try…. Asked to describe the show in five words, de Frost replies: “Very informative, modern, sophisticated, very entertaining and zesty!” De Frost explains that “zest” refers to both lemon zest and her own “zestiness”.
You Should Try… is not your typical cooking show. De Frost hosts it in her own home and it includes cameos and interviews of de Frost’s friends and, even once, de Frost’s nemesis, Lorraine. On the show, de Frost is always immaculate and modern with her electric blue eye shadow, beehive hairstyles and shoulder-padded jumpers.
Each episode focuses on different aspects of de Frost’s life. One episode, for example, sees de Frost start an online dating profile. While the episodes are driven by her quirky personality, de Frost is adamant that the show is not about her:
My show is special because it lacks the ego of some of the other celebrity chefs. It’s educational, not about me. It’s not about showcasing who I am. It’s really about helping people understand how they use a microwave… My personality does not run the show – the cooking does.
De Frost explains that her show focuses on making cooking accessible to her viewers. Other celebrity chefs use their shows to parade their abilities rather than connect to viewers, she says. Watching these shows is like “going onto Facebook and looking at how great other people’s lives are and feeling terrible about [your] own.” In contrast, You Should Try… shows how easy and fast it is to cook healthy meals using a microwave; these are meals that audiences can easily replicate in their own homes.
For the You Are Here festival, You Should Try… was performed in front of a live audience. The main difference that de Frost found between performing a live show to her regular show is that “things can get messy”. With her videos, de Frost can manicure and reshoot until she’s happy with the result. A live show, on the other hand, does not have this comfort.
Instead, de Frost emphasises, you need to be “comfortable with things going wrong.” For Thursday’s show, de Frost juggled technical difficulties, contestants who couldn’t chop an onion and a judge who not only unwilling to banter with de Frost, didn’t talk at all (in the judge’s defence he was a beagle).
“With the production I work with a lot of amateurs, despite the fact that we get a big budget so a lot of things go wrong. Thursday evening: lots of things went wrong.” Yet de Frost stays positive about this experience: “The show is chaotic anyway. Amongst the chaos it all works. Be prepared for the chaos. Prepared for spontaneity”. She also adds: “People responded strongly towards the dog.”
De Frost is, however, surprised that the You Are Here festival approached her to perform. “It’s very strange that the arts community has taken me in in this way because what I do is not art. It’s a cooking show. It’s educational. It’s a serious cooking show. So I am very honoured that the arts community have shown an interest in my show and taking me on board. When the You Are Here festival approached my producer I was really blown away because I thought “Why would these hippies want me for their festival?”
De Frost enjoyed working at You Are Here with these hippies so much that she’s already keen for next year’s show. While You Are Here finished two days prior to our interview, de Frost already had several ideas that she wanted to work with for next year’s show. One idea was to combine her love of healthy microwave cooking with an aerobics class. De Frost is also thinking about doing some microwave installation art. No matter what, de Frost definitely wants to “push the show out of just a cooking show into other arenas – it’s very exciting!”
De Frost was also a contestant in You Are Here’s Inaugural Canberra Mayoral Pageant. De Frost was bitter about only coming second place to Venus Mantrap. She believes this loss is because she was “too revolutionary”. Venus Mantrap may have also sabotaged the competition. While de Frost believes that she and Venus get along, she also gets the vibe that Venus is not a “very credible as a person. I feel there was some match fixing”.
A day after our interview, it was announced that Mantrap had to step down from their duties as Mayor, and de Frost was the successor. I asked de Frost’s personal assistant, Claire Granata, for a quote. Not wanting others to talk for her, de Frost sent me the following response:
It is with heavy hearts that we learnt yesterday, Venus Mantrap has decided to step down as Mayor of Canberra only four days after victory due to personal reasons. As second in line to the position, I now accept the full responsibility of this hefty role whilst also showing full respect to my predecessor in knowing how disappointing the situation must be for him/her/them personally. I wish Venus Mantrap all the best in his/her/their political future and I extend my assurances that Canberra will be safe in my hands.
Unfortunately, de Frost’s cameraman, Larry, continued filming and caught de Frost’s off the record response: “Thank god we found a quick way to get rid of that trash. Now the future is ours Larry. …Will ya stop filming me for god’s sake!”
It’s nice to know the city is in very capable hands!
De Frost also talks about the future of her show and the future of microwave cooking. She hopes that in future videos, she’ll bring back well-loved characters guests, including her best friend Lorraine and her arch nemesis Doreen.
On microwave cooking, she believes that the microwave is underrated in society. “People have yet to embrace the microwave like they can and should. Hopefully shows like my own will educate people to embrace microwaves. People are living more busy lives and microwaves will pave the way for the cooking future.”
Express Media’s Buzzcuts program is presented in Canberra in partnership with Scissors Paper Pen and You Are Here. Visit buzzcuts.org.au for more.
Image: Sarah Walker
Rose Maurice has a happy life surrounded by words. Rose graduated from the ANU with a degree in Literature and History and has worked in a bookshop and now works at the National Library of Australia. An amateur in performance poetry and short stories, Rose has a tendency to write poems on the back of receipts and in the covers of novels she is reading. She is happy to be writing reviews again for the You Are Here festival.