By Claire Harlin
Working for M&M’s in New York for eight years, Amanda Curry focused on one marketing strategy: making the colorful chocolate candies “fun, fun, fun.”
But after some time, she got to thinking: Why not market healthy food in the same way you would market candy?
That idea grew into “The Good Food Factory,” a children’s cooking show that’s filmed at the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle in Solana Beach and aired daily on Channel 4 San Diego (also known as 4SD or Cox 4).
“Healthy food has this stigma; everyone thinks it’s boring,” said Curry, who brought her TV show idea, in the form of four pilot episodes, from New York to San Diego four years ago.
“I had decided I’d had it with New York City,” she said. “New York is a drinking town, it’s cold, I had a dog, I wanted more exercise and I wanted to get outside. Being unhealthy myself, I decided I was going to Encinitas to learn how to surf.”
Surfing was her calling, so to speak, and Curry surfed a lot when she first arrived on the West Coast. She eventually shared her pilot episodes with Cox and “they loved it,” she said.
Getting on the network prompted Curry to film a series of 15 episodes, each with different themes and different local children. For example, she featured surfer kids in one episode and taught them how to cook a filling breakfast, as well as a healthy mid-day snack. Curry always features three recipes per episode, and she teaches how to make snacks along with doing an activity in order to teach the importance of eating well while staying active.
In one of her favorite episodes, Curry featured local, 7-year-old skateboarding star Annika Vrklan and her siblings, Kieren, Klara and Elek. Curry showed the kids how to make “Skater Snacks” — frozen yogurt pops with fruit.
When it comes to choosing child stars for her show, Curry doesn’t seek out actors. She features local children and encourages them to be themselves.
“We are like Rachel Ray meets ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things,’” said Curry. “We want it to be realistic. We don’t coach the kids or rehearse. We have shy kids and cranky kids and boisterous kids. Whoever they are as a child, that’s what we want.”
Curry said the unscripted nature of the show has brought out some funny moments. She said one time a little girl put her foot up on the counter to show off her pedicure, and another child once volunteered the information: “My dad toots a lot.”
When it comes to production, Curry has a five-person crew, but does much of the work herself. Her hats range from video editor to producer to food shopper to writer.
Besides putting on “The Good Food Factory,” Curry is the director of The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle, which is housed under the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito. Curry hosts cooking classes for kids, brings in local students from neighboring elementary schools and also holds cooking camps at the center, which is also home to an organic gardening program for kids. She will soon be bringing in kids from La Colonia de Eden Gardens to teach a free “Healthy Mexican” cooking class.
Curry said her job is “a dream come true,” but there is still a need for the community to know how important the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle is.
“We hope people who believe in the show will advertise,” she said, adding that the production of new episodes is entirely dependent on whether the show can get funding. Many of the previous shows have been funded by
Curry herself or made possible through the help of volunteers.
Curry said she would like to see the show go national, and it has already gotten exposure on Food Network star Jamie Oliver’s website, which reaches an international audience.
“I’d love to see the show be successful and inspire kids nationwide, but I want to keep the production here in this spot and make it with local friends and people I consider family,” she said. “The future success of this country and the next generation is based on folks keeping things local, keeping things honest and keeping things positive.”
For more information, visit www.thegoodfoodfactory.com