Brandi Milloy is a host on the Food Network’s Let’s Eat on Sundays and a regular contributor and guest host on TODAY Show. She was also part of Oprah’s Big Give and I am thrilled, just THRILLED for you to read this interview with her. Brandi and I met over 15 years ago through pageants (I tell you it’s a network!) and stayed in touch, she too is a UofA Alum. She’s been a great encourager and supportive friend over the years and I’ve been elated to see her success on television!
She has a 1 year old daughter who has flown over 20 flights in her first year so Brandi can still contribute on TODAY Show in New York. She shares how she has networked in the business, how to get started in whatever field you’re interested in, and how marrying her Mr. Amazing has shaped not only her life, but her career.
Photo: Jenny Quicksall
You’ve been so wonderfully productive these past 5 years! Give me a 5 year background of what’s been going on in your life career wise and personally.
The past few years has felt like an absolute whirlwind, career wise and personally. For six years I was a Host and Producer for POPSUGAR.com where I covered all food and lifestyle content. While there, I helped develop two series and grow our online food video presence to over a million subscribers. I also became a TODAY Tastemaker on TODAY Show and a regular contributor for Food Network, Cooking Channel, Access Live and others.
During that time, I met my husband, got engaged a year later, married a year after that, bought our first home, renovated it, got pregnant and we had our daughter, Milly last year.
Currently I’m a Host on Let’s Eat! on Food Network airing Sundays at 9am/8c.
You left POPSUGAR after so much success with the food channel on there, what made you decide it was time to leave?
My dream has always been to be a host on television and it was time for me to grow and expand and really focus on some of those big picture goals I had set for myself.
Photo: Jenny Quicksall
Have you always been interested in food?
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been interested in food. I remember being as young as 3 years old and wanting to learn how to cook and bake. I’d ask to stand on a chair beside my Mom as she made dinner or baked cookies. My babysitter would make these ginormous cinnamon rolls and we’d make the dough before we headed to the beach and when we came back I thought it was so cool how it had doubled in size and then we would roll it, fill it, cut it and bake. I was so captivated by the process and how amazing the entire thing was. I have so many early memories like these. Looking back I see now how connected I was to learning about all of it. When I was a teen I loved making dinner for my family and going grocery shopping and discovering new ingredients. I’ve always loved trying to recreate favorite dishes I’ve had at restaurants. Growing up as a military dependent (my Dad served in the US Army for almost 40 years), we moved around a lot and even lived overseas in Europe. Travel and immersing myself in these places allowed me to experience different foods and cultures and I credit that to really shaping my interest in food.
You and I have talked about the power of saying no to certain opportunities to wait for the next job – can you give an example of when saying no worked out in your favor?
There’s so much power in saying no. Just because an opportunity comes your way doesn’t mean it’s meant for you. Knowing yourself, your brand, your purpose and short and long terms goals are key in determining if something is right for you. It can especially be tempting to take an opportunity when the pay is great or if the work is “easy” but for me, it really has to add value and fulfillment for me to be excited about it. I have a list of criteria and non-negotiables I consider before I commit to something plus I’m grateful to have an amazing team including my manager, Liz and my husband, Chris who help me make decisions when it comes to my career.
A few years ago, a company approached me to be their spokesperson. While it was tempting, I knew it wasn’t the best fit for me, could ultimately dilute my brand and prevent me from working with brands I really love. I’m so glad I passed on saying yes to an OK thing so I could say yes for AMAZING things.
How many hours do you work and do you receive help? What kind?
I mean do you ever stop working when you work for yourself? I love what I do and I kind of feel like I’m never not working. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work and care for my daughter full time but this usually means I wake up early and go to bed late so I can work while baby is sleeping. My husband and I tag team a lot. I couldn’t do any of it without him. For example, when I filmed in NYC for two weeks we all decided to go together. A lot of times I will shoot in the morning or during times it’s convenient for our family so all of us can be together or so my husband can be with our daughter. We haven’t had to hire childcare yet but we will when we need to. My priorities have definitely shifted since being a mama. Work has got to be especially fulfilling for me to be away from her.
Currently I create all of the content for BrandiMilloy.com and run my social channels. I wrote close to 30 original recipes for my Food Network show, Let’s Eat and I continue to be a regular contributor for various news sources. I’m working on a few campaigns coming up so that includes development, writing and shooting. However, my main focus is Let’s Eat and promoting the show. You can tune in every Sunday at 9am/8c on Food Network!
You take Milly with you often to NYC when you are on The Today Show, what made you decide you could take her with you on business trips and does someone help you while you are filming live?
Milly is only one year old and has been on 20 flights! She is our little traveling babe and always up for adventure. We decided early on we wouldn’t spend a night away from her before she was one so that has meant a lot of family trips or mama-daughter trips. I’ve got the single parent traveling thing down!
The one time I hired someone to help me with Milly while I was filming was the day Hoda Kotb of TODAY Show held Milly live during my segment so I ended up not even needing someone. So ironic!
What would you define was a turning point in your career that catapulted you to where you wanted to be? (Oprah’s Big Give, pageants, POPSUGAR?)
It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that catapulted my career because each of these milestones played a part in my story and I so deeply believe each thing led me to exactly where I’m supposed to be. So much of who I am started long before college, pageantry or doing Oprah’s Big Give.
Losing the opportunity to play college soccer because of three serious scoliosis surgeries shaped my perspective since sports had defined me for so long. That really changed everything for me. Because of that, I did pageants to help pay for college.
And then if it wasn’t for the skills I learned in pageantry I wouldn’t have been ready for Oprah’s Big Give. And it if it wasn’t for Oprah’s Big Give I wouldn’t have met my friend, Cameron who I moved with to LA. And absolutely all of the skills and tools I learned at POPSUGAR prepared me for television.
However, I’m going to share something that might upset some people but meeting my husband was just as much a turning point in my personal life as my professional life. I think there’s something to be said about how much those two go hand and hand. My husband, Chris or Mr. Amazing is a huge support system for me. He’s extremely encouraging and such a great teammate. There are so many things I wouldn’t have had the courage to do without his guidance and confidence in me. They say sometimes relationships hold you back from your full potential. Well when you’re in a healthy, positive and for us, God-led relationship, it gives you the strength to fly!
How do you network for what you do, how did you get started in the business?
Working at POPSUGAR certainly gave me an advantage to being in this field and on the pulse of what’s hot and on trend. As a reporter, I covered a ton of stories, featured restaurants and chefs, attended product launches, restaurant openings and networking events. Working with brands on campaigns and activations allowed me to cultivate and grow relationships with publicists, brands (whether it be at the executive level, sales, marketing, etc) or other reporters and lifestyle experts. It’s important to work in the field you want to have a career even if it’s not exactly where you want to start because all of those skills you learn strengthen the lens of how you view the big picture.
Too often people want to skip ahead but the best saying I ever heard when I started in my industry is “it takes ten years for an overnight success.” Success takes time and is filled with lots of hard lessons. I’m old fashioned but I believe working your way up is the best way to really excel at anything. You’re always going to be better at what you do when you’ve done all the hard, never glamorous, sometimes unpaid work.
One of my first jobs was washing dishes at Wendy’s. I worked as a cocktail waitress at Sullivan’s Steakhouse. I started and ran a dessert catering company. For years I’ve done my own pre and post-production, food prep, food styling, talent booking, script writing, equipment schlepping, etc!
Additionally, too often people think networking is trying to get something they want from someone else but it should actually be symbiotic and a mutually beneficial relationship-real connections with a two way street. We’re all in this together. You have to give to receive and it will always be returned to you ten fold!
How do you balance motherhood with work? Are there specific days you work and stay home? Any advice to mom’s who also want to pursue a career?
Balance! Is there such a thing? As a first time mom I’m still figuring it out. What I do know is I think every person should have something that is theirs outside of the home whether it is a hobby, career, passion project, service/volunteer work, etc.
I don’t have a set schedule since I’m freelance but each week I prioritize based on the project I’m working on. But my biggest advice to any parent that works from home and doesn’t have childcare help is to wake up before you children do. I get so much done before my daughter wakes up and it allows me to enjoy my coffee, spend time with my husband and also get a few valuable hours of uninterrupted work in! And when it comes to pursuing a career and being a mama – remember you’ve got this! We can do it all!
It’s up to you to set the example for your children and that includes following your dream and chasing what you want. A happy mama is a happy baby.
Photo: Food Network
What are your personal and professional goals for the next 10 years?
Personally my husband and I want to grow our family. I think our number is two children but I always joke that I want two or four kids (no middle children – no offense!) And after having such a great pregnancy, natural birth (you can read Milly’s birth story here) and first year of learning all about sleep training, baby led weaning, implementing Montessori teachings at home and my interest in parenting overall, I could definitely see myself layering that piece into my career.
Professionally, I’d like to continue creating feel good content that helps people. My hope is that Let’s Eat! goes to season 10 and audiences continue to learn and grow with us. I’ve been grateful to work with two amazing friends and Chefs, Jamika Pessoa and Stuart O’Keeffe and I think our journey together has just begun. I hope to continue working with my favorite brands and even doing my own product line eventually. I love working on camera and being a storyteller. I consider myself a journalist first, host second. I’ve always thrived on meeting people, learning their stories and sharing them with others and to be able to host a show where I get to do that would be incredible. I also think a family book/cookbook is in our destiny. The sky is the limit!