'My Eureka Moment': From Graphic Designer to Webcast Star
By Adam Kaufman
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- When Jyl Ferris was suddenly laid off from her job as a graphic designer at Stonehenge Management, a New York City based real estate firm in 2008, she was ready for a change. "Y'know I'd done the same work for many decades, so I really wanted something new, but I didn't want it to just be taken from me, I wanted it to be my choice", she explained in a recent interview at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.
With high unemployment rates across the country and limited job prospects in her field of graphic design, Ferris, like many Americans, was forced to make a major career transition. After raising four children and weathering two marriages, all while running her own business, designing direct-mail marketing leaflets, she knew how to be resourceful when times got tough. But still, looking back on the past few years, "it's been a real emotional roller coaster for me," she told AOL/Huffington Post.
Jyl had always spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but after she lost her job she found herself seeking solace over the stove more than ever before. "Cooking is my zone, no matter where I am, I'm coming to help in the kitchen -- it's nothing for me to stand for five hours and cook," she said.
A single woman back on the dating scene after many years, she found inspiration for her new career path in a very unlikely place. "I was dating guys and they had nothing in their refrigerators. You look in their fridges and what do you find? Stick of butter, can of beer!"
That was the "eureka!" moment for Ferris who describes her style of cooking as the "anti-takeout," and says she is an expert at making "15-minute meals with whatever you have in your cupboards." She knew that she was the woman who could show these beer-bellied bachelors how to cook simple, nutritious meals.
"A woman appreciates so much a man who can cook. I mean, if you go on a date with a guy and he's cooking dinner for you -- first of all, gentlemen, she's already in your house!"
At first she thought cooking lessons would be the right direction, getting the word out through family and friends, she started to arrange at-home lessons for singles, calling her business "Cooking for Bachelors." But she quickly realized that she'd never turn a profit with that model and the clients just weren't rolling in. Determined to keep the momentum of the concept, she decided to start a website, and quickly secured the domain www.cookingforbachelors.tv. "I just used the venue that was fighting my career -- I mean the internet basically took my job away," she explained.
Using her graphic design skills, she branded the website herself, creating a "Cooking for Bachelors TV" logo. The next step was hiring a small production company, which she found through an ex-boyfriend after they'd reconnected on Facebook.
"Our shoots had a huge staff, which included two producers, two or three cameramen, a sound man and a lighting director," Ferris said. "I also had a food stylist, a still photographer and a makeup artist on site."
The crew used her Brooklyn apartment to produce short how-to cooking segments in which she appeared as an on-camera host. "When I came up with the concept, the one thing I had not thought of was 'Oh, I'm an actress.' When I started seeing myself on video, it was really interesting to watch," Ferris said. "You know how people don't even want to hear their own recordings on their cell phone?"
She struck a deal with a media exchange company in 2010 and they have been adding 15-to-30-second advertisements (known as pre-rolls) to the front of each video, before distributing the videos across multiple sites, like Howcast, Daily Motion and OVguide. Since its inception, according to Ferris, the videos have gotten approximately 24 million views.
Ferris has gotten quite comfortable on-camera, in the manner of the major network food show hosts. In one segment she removes a large steak from a sizzling skillet, proclaiming in a manner reminiscent of Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee, "Oh yeah. We are smoking. Look at that."
Revisiting some of the older videos on her laptop on a recent afternoon, she came across one of her favorites, "Meatballs in Pomodoro." As she watched the video stream she got sentimental about how things have unfolded.
"The fact that I was given this opportunity through crisis to change, I'm really grateful for." And, like any good food host, she added, "Those are some meatballs, I tell you!"
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