Television presenter, Jessica Rowe on why she’s finally learnt to cook at 50

Jessica Rowe talks to Body+Soul about learning to cook at 50, embracing her birthdays and being honest on social media.

Jessica Rowe has made no secret of the fact she’s a terrible cook.

The self-proclaimed “crap housewife” and former television host couldn’t even cook rissoles, serving them up to her family charred on the outside yet raw in the middle.

Always willing to learn, however, Rowe has been taking cooking lessons from a butcher and now has a repertoire of healthy meat-based meals.

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“I can now do roasts that I never could have contemplated before, we no longer have raw burgers or rissoles – they’re cooked properly, and I can do mince three to four different ways,” says the mother-of-two who has partnered with Meat and Livestock Australia.

Rowe says she’s learned about the health benefits of eating red meat and how a local butcher can be a great source of knowledge, suggesting different cuts of meat and how to cook them.

“I’m actually enjoying cooking so much more as I cook more efficiently and have more variety in my meals,” she says. “In fact, my youngest daughter recently told me, ‘Mum, you’re not such a bad cook. You should be on MasterChef’.”

While she laughs that she is not up to that standard, Rowe says she’s now more confident and there’s an added benefit to popping into her local shops.

Ever since she stopped hosting a daily television show, the former Studio 10 host says she’s felt the loss of a key part of her life.

“I miss having an audience and so I now do a bit of a routine whether I’m in the post office or the butcher or the supermarket,” she tells Body + Soul. “I try to have interactions with people. I make a point of smiling and saying hello and telling someone I love the hat they’re wearing or the colour of their lipstick.”

Rowe, who turned 50 last year and has been married to her newsreader husband Peter Overton for 17 years, says the pandemic has taught her the importance of kindness. “We all want to feel seen and while the pandemic narrowed our lives we realised it’s those interactions which hold meaning and magic and keep us going throughout the day.”

While her daughters, Allegra, 14, and Giselle, 12, have little interest in cooking other than baking cakes, Rowe says she’s relishing parenthood more now than when her children were babies.

“I enjoy my kids more now that they’re older,” she says. “I enjoy seeing the young women they are developing into. Often, especially with young women, we don’t give them enough credit yet they’re sensational. My daughters speak up far more than I ever did at their age.”

As for turning 50, Rowe says she loves getting older. “I’m less tough on myself, I like the person I’m growing into and I feel far more able to live the life I want to live,” she says. “When I was younger I worried far too much about things but the older I get I don’t care what people think. But I do think we have a responsibility to be honest about our lives.”

Whether it’s her struggles with mental health, her cooking stuff ups or her transparency around having Botox, Rowe says she makes a point of showing her 154K Instagram followers the truth. “Especially when my kids were younger, I felt like everyone had it together but I didn’t. So when I started on social media I was determined to post my life as it is – the crappy meals, the brown food, the messy benchtop. I like to not take myself so seriously and have a laugh.”

To that end, Rowe has turned to craft, fashioning food-themed hats that reflects the meals she’s cooked. “I bought a roast chook and a pizza hat from the party shop but I’ve made a nachos hat, a fried egg hat, sausages and I’m looking out for another idea.” She laughs: “Maybe I’ll do a roast beef hat!”