- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2017

As a mom, former “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent and “Dancing With the Stars” hostess Samantha Harris is conscientious about what she serves to her two young daughters at her Los Angeles home.

More than that, cooking, for her, provides relaxation from her busy life as a respected TV entertainment correspondent.

“I wish I honestly had more time to cook and spend more time in the kitchen. There is a sense of zen and enjoyment I get out of it,” Miss Harris told The Washington Times. “But I try, especially with my kids, as sort of a family activity, something to do where we get to spend some quality time together.”

The amateur foodie will step into the realm of professionals as the hostess of “Culinary Genius,” which premieres Monday on Fox. Part competition and part cuisine showoff, the episodes begin with Chef Edward Lee — who recently relocated to the District — demonstrating his skills for five amateur home chefs, who then go on to compete in a 25-minute competition.

Gordon Ramsay, who serves as executive producer, also appears via taped segments.

“When you’re working with Gordon Ramsay, that’s really exciting, because he is the man of not just the moment but the decade,” Miss Harris said of the host of “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Master Chef.”

Despite Mr. Ramsay’s fearsome reputation, honed over years of screaming at failing restauranteurs on television, Miss Harris describes the Scottish-born chef as “a gentle teddy bear.”

“On our show, you get to really see a different side of Gordon,” she said, adding Mr. Ramsay will appear via pre-taped segments filmed in his own home. “I love to be voyeuristic and see what his kitchen looks like,” she said. “He’s just a delight.”

Miss Harris, 43, said hosting a game show allows her to experience a different energy from hanging out on a red carpet and chatting with celebs — or even anchoring straight-up news programs.

“There’s an incredible energy that is organic. You don’t have to manufacture it,” she said of “Culinary Genius.” “I’m innately a cheerleader — I did win best school spirit in 9th grade.”

Furthermore, chatting up contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” as soon as they came off stage, she believes, made her ideal for the current gig.

“I had the opportunity to encourage and cheer them on and [say], ‘You can do it!’” Miss Harris said, adding that she becomes even more excited for the contestants during the timed challenged.

Miss Harris‘ distinguished broadcasting career has included stints on “Extra,” “The Insider” and “E! News,” where she strode the red carpets at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys. She also co-hosted “Stars Earn Stripes,” wherein celebrities attempted to undergo the same type of grueling training experienced by America’s military. Gen. Wesley Clark co-hosted the 2012 program.

As a correspondent, the Emmy-winning Miss Harris was in the District for former President Barack Obama’s Jan. 2009 inauguration, for which tremendous crowds descended upon the National Mall.

“It makes you realize — and I love the entertainment industry — when you’re in D.C., the power of the city,” she said of the nation’s capital. “This is where things happen that matter to our lives every day.

“There are plenty of Hollywood types who would say we are changing the world, and I would hope through certain films and TV shows we are able to do that, but it’s not the same as what our politicians can do for our lives.”

Miss Harris‘ other professional stints on the eastern seaboard included a run as Roxie Hart in the 2009 Broadway revival of “Chicago” — pulling double duty with “The Insider” on TV at the same time.

“It was one of the most demanding, challenging times in my career … juggling a full-time TV job and my then-2-year-old, so it was really taxing,” Miss Harris said of her debut on the Great White Way. “Being on Broadway is something I would love to be able to go back to doing.”

Miss Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and underwent a double mastectomy. (She tweeted of the surgery: “Made it thru grueling double mastectomy #surgery. Thanks to all of my amazing surgical team. Like my “art” b4 heading in?!”) She underwent reconstruction surgery, and has been cancer-free since her treatments.

“I’ve learned through my journey post-cancer, [but] I wish [the knowledge] was out there for me when I was going through a rebirth of sorts,” Miss Harris said of her recovery, adding she will continue to share her story and inspire others afflicted with the most common form of cancer in women.

She continues her work on breast cancer awareness and stressing the importance of regular mammograms. Miss Harris also strives now to “live in a better way,” which includes the food she enjoys at home with her husband and her daughters, ages 6 and 8.

“My husband and I are always trying to model for them that we as grownups are constantly learning and expanding what we know, what we are able to experience, and so that permeates not only my personal life but also my career,” Miss Harris said.

“My kids just started liking cooking shows, so it’s perfect timing,” she said of the debut of “Culinary Genius.” “They’ve really been awakening [to the fact] that Mom is on TV, that’s what she does for a living. So I’m excited to be able to watch with them.”

“People will see another side of what I am able to do.”

“Culinary Genius” debuts Monday on Fox. Check local listings.

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