Just like the name of her 1970s vintage travel trailer, 1976 Zebulon High graduate Wendy Perry is finally seeing her career “blossom.”
Q: You’re involved in a current enterprise that has quite the interesting name – tell us a little about cooking “nekkid.”
“Cooking ‘nekkid’ focuses on healthy foods – good, ‘undressed’ foods that are local. I make a trip at least once a week to the state Farmer’s Market, and local farmer’s markets, and get good North Carolina based products. I also teach nekkid cooking classes. If spouses or friends show up, I usually split them up and put them with someone else just so they can work with someone different. It is all about cooking without a recipe – I call it ‘throw cooking,’ where you just throw items together and see what you get. It is funny how that can intimidate some people – they feel like they have to have a recipe. But I tell them, ‘what is the worst thing that can happen? You just mess up a dish – that’s all.’ But unless you burn something, you can always add something extra to it and salvage it. I think people amaze themselves on what they can come up with – and how good it tastes. To understand it better, I tell people to visit cooknekkid.com. Our little logo is a butternut squash with an apron because, well, a butternut squash could look like someone naked (laughing).”
Q: You are also an expert at “throw cooking” and that reputation had carried you all the way to the cover of the prestigious Our State magazine.
I am the food prep and recipe developer at the magazine. Last year, they called me and wanted me to come up with cakes that represented a little bit of the products that are well known in North Carolina. We had a nabs cake, a Pepsi and peanuts cake, stuff like that, and it was my country ham cake that made it to the cover. Of course, I had help in putting these cakes together because most of the time, I knew the products I wanted to use, but I needed help in figuring out a way to put all of these products together because to tell you the truth, I hate baking and making cakes has never really been one of my favorite things to do so I thought it was funny I was put in charge of the special desserts issue.”
Q: And you are also becoming the face of Duke’s Mayonnaise. How did that come about?
“Well, I was on the Duke’s website and saw where they were having a contest to be in their commercials so I entered it. I told all of my friends to call in and vote for me. I was even able to get my nephew, Wyatt, in the commercial with me because we hang out together and he is quite the cook himself – has even won a ribbon in the state fair. They put us up in a nice hotel in Richmond, sent a limo for us in the morning – we just had a lot of fun. It is not just me in the commercials but a group of us.”
Q: With your expertise in culinary creations, did you ever have a desire to start your own restaurant?
“I never wanted my own restaurant. That is a headache and a 24/7 commitment. I catered for a few years and there were a couple of restaurants that would let me use their kitchens because you need a certain size kitchen to cater to large crowds. But even catering, like having your own restaurant, is a huge financial commitment. My black tie days are gone for me – I have always preferred the casual crowd. That is why I am focusing on the ‘cooking nekkid’ classes. And I am going to incorporate Squash Blossom into my shows.”
Q: Squash Blossom?
“My 1973 vintage travel camper. I am having it renovated. I just love all the retro stuff from the ‘70s. I am going to take it with me when I put on my demonstrations.”
Q: It sounds like you never make it out of the kitchen, but when you do, what occupies your time?
“I like spending time with my nephew Wyatt. We going junking together (perusing yard sales and flea markets). We even had T-shirts made and wear them when we go looking for deals. I look for things I can incorporate into my demonstrations too.”
Q: With so many irons in the fire, it sounds like the confines of an office cubicle have never really been of interest to you.
“I would truly go insane with a 9-5 job but I have to admit, it has been tough trying to start your own businesses. I feel like the seeds I have been planting for decades are finally beginning to blossom. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I finally have a lot going on, but why couldn’t it have happened years ago when I had more energy and not when I am 55 (laughing). But that is OK – I am ready to go. Full-steam ahead!”
Correspondent Dena Coward