Jamie shares her life tales as she shows off cooking

FORMER award-winning CNN producer Jamie Geller is a kosher celebrity cook, well-known in America and Israel.

This week, she gave her first talk and cookery demonstration in England.

Jamie, who has revelled in absolutely everything she has done from covering the Oscars and Emmys for news channel CNN to making aliya to Ramat Beth Shemesh with husband Nachum and five children, told me she loved going to Stamford Hill on Monday to give recipe tasters to 300 women supporting Chaverim youth groups.

"I was so nervous coming to England because I thought it would be dark and rainy and I wouldn't know the people," she said.

"But I had two beautiful sunny days and the people were so warm and welcoming, just like the wonderful people in New York. I would love to do more talks and demonstrations in England."

Jamie wasn't always as religious as she is now. Her first visit to London 11 years ago was to interview actress Emma Thompson for CNN's Showbiz Today programme - a totally different scene to Stamford Hill!

She was raised in a typical Jewish American family.

She said: "I grew up with a Jewish identity. I went to a Jewish day school, but we didn't keep anything. We would go to synagogue for the High Holidays, but we would drive.

"We didn't eat on Yom Kippur. We were more culturally Jewish."

Jamie's career took off after reading broadcast journalism at New York University.

An internship with CNN led to a full-time job as a producer and writer for Showbiz Today.

She said: "I loved being a TV producer. I was interviewing celebrities. I was going to parties, movies and award shows. It was incredible. It was a really fun life."

So great was Jamie's professional life that she had no time for a social one.

She said: "I was a very career-driven woman, so I didn't have a lot of time to socialise. I didn't give it much attention."

But Jamie's Jewish, yet unobservant, mother was worried that her daughter would marry out of the faith. So she sent her to Jewish singles events.

Jamie said: "My mother was so nervous that I should meet the wrong guy at the wrong place. She wanted me to marry a nice Jewish guy."

The New York singles events, run by religious organisations like Aish and Chabad, really turned her on.

Jamie said: "The socials were followed by shiurim. I loved what I was learning. I became more interested in the spiritual and religious aspects. I started my journey to live a more religiously observant lifestyle."

Jamie first decided to start observing Shabbat one December when sundown was at 4pm and she was working for a daily live TV show . . . at 4.30pm.

She said: "At CNN, they had all known me as a non-religious person. It was very hard to come in one day and start dressing and eating differently and having to leave early for Shabbat."

So Jamie moved to HBO cable station, which produced programmes like The Sopranos and Sex and the City.

She said: "I came in as a religious woman asking for the holidays I had to take off and to leave early on Fridays. They hired me on that understanding because of my professional background."

A few years on and Jamie was introduced to Nachum.

She said: "It was a shidduch. We dated for two weeks and married two months later."

And it was Nachum, whose family had worked in the catering business, who inspired Jamie in her second career as a celebrity cook.

She said: "He taught me how to cook. He was very comfortable in the kitchen. He loved it. Nachum said that I should write a cookbook. From not knowing how to cook, within a year I was turning out wonderful meals.

"I figured that if there were other new brides who didn't know how to cook or grandmothers who didn't have the time, they would appreciate all the easy, quick recipes I had come up with.

"I shared a lot of my stories about becoming frum and the mistakes I made on the way. People really connected. They asked me to not just give recipes, but to share the story of my life."

Jamie's first book was called Quick and Kosher Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing.

This was followed by her website, a magazine and two more books.

Her aim is to get women out of the kitchen as quickly as possible after producing delicious meals fit for simchot from traditions as varied as Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Asian and Italian.

Beginning on the American Jewish circuit, Jamie's fame soon spread further afield to The Today Show on Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Forward and Cosmopolitan.

Two years ago, Nachum persuaded Jamie to make aliya with their five children.

Their move to Israel was chronicled by Nefesh B'Nefesh in The Joy of Aliya video series.

"Even though I have a smaller kitchen and house than we had in Monsey, New York, I am so happy to be living in Israel," she said.

"My five children have been so adaptable, learning the language and loving the new lifestyle."

Nachum, who was a New York financial adviser, learns in a kollel in the mornings and helps with the kids and Jamie's cooking in the afternoons.

Jamie's latest book, The Joy of Kosher is published by William Morrow.

© 2014 Jewish Telegraph