Jeannie Mai Jenkins had daughter Monaco cheering her on from the dressing room as she kept things hot in the kitchen on Amazon Freevee's new series, America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation. Ahead of the Dec. 9 premiere of the 10-episode series, Jenkins opened up to PopCulture.com about how inspiring it was having her daughter, now 11 months old, by her side the whole time.
"[Filming is] even better with Monaco, I felt like I had someone cheering me on the sidelines," Jenkins told PopCulture of bringing her daughter with husband Jeezy to film in Boston with her. "That was the best feeling was watching Monaco see that Mommy can do it all."
Monaco also got to expand her developing palate while traveling with her mom. While the little girl is only just about to celebrate her first birthday, The Real alum's firstborn got to try her first bite of lobster in Boston, adding to the long list of food she's already a fan of – from Indian and Korean cuisine to Creole and Italian foods. "I don't hold back with Monaco," Jenkins shared. "I want her to try everything."
It's this love for food that makes the America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation host a perfect fit for the competition show, which challenges home cooks from all over to show exactly what they've got in the kitchen in front of a judges' panel composed of America's Test Kitchen icons Dan Souza, Elle Simone Scott, Jack Bishop, and Julia Collin Davison for the job of a lifetime — becoming the newest face of America's Test Kitchen, the opportunity to write their own cookbook, and a $100,000 prize to fund the culinary business of their dreams.
"I tasted some of the best dishes that I've ever tried," Jenkins told PopCulture, admitting that she's "stalking" one of the finalists in their DMs to get the recipe for the scalloped potatoes they made. Jenkins has been cooking since she was 16 years old, but she was still stunned at the level of skill and creativity the home cooks competing brought to the kitchen.
"I am very interested to see how people react to home cooks ... because that's my type of people," she said, noting she was "so proud" to see such a diverse crowd of cooks competing this season. "The only thing that brings food to life is culture – straight up," the Owl's Brew chief brand officer continued. "The dishes tasted [like] so much love because of the intention behind it."
Even though the home cooks were there to "celebrate one another," the competition was still on in the kitchen, and Jenkins admitted it was tough to watch people pour their heart into a dish and find "maybe it wasn't regarded so well by the judges." She teased, "It comes together in a clash of heat, definitely some spice and someone getting burned." America's Test Kitchen: The Next Generation premieres Dec. 9 on Amazon Freevee, with new episodes airing weekly until February 10.