Kathy Wakile makes it all look easy. She stars in a TV series, amazes people at the table with her creative dishes, keeps a beautiful home, and is a fantastic mother and wife to a great family. Amidst the whirlwind, she always seems to keep her cool and in a recent chat, this Real Housewife of New Jersey shared with us how she manages a busy life while sharing tips on how to maintain a calm family dynamic, especially over the holidays.
What compelled you to want to be a part of Real Housewives of New Jersey?
You know, that’s a tough one. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something outside of the house. I had been a stay-at-home mom for 17 years, my kids don’t need me as much, and it was at a time where they needed to realize I have to start doing some things on my own. So I thought maybe I should get a hobby, but I’ve already got so many of those. I thought, should I go out and get a job? And this opportunity just really fell into my lap at the same time.
My husband and I talked about it and since he was able to be flexible with his hours and around the house a lot more when I couldn’t be, this would work and also it would be something that we could do together. It really all fell at the right time, especially for my kids who are older and can handle being in the spotlight. It’s been a fun adventure.
How was the experience overall for you with the first season?
Overall I have to say watching yourself on TV is weird, and listening to your voice even weirder. It's been great though. I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve done different things I wouldn’t normally be doing, interacting with new people and it’s just been a great experience so far.
How long have you been cooking?
Well, I used to bake quite a bit when I was a kid at home. My mom did most of the cooking, but I would always try to do creative things to go along with the meals because my mom was such a dynamo in the kitchen. When I got married, I realized I needed to do this really daily at least during the week, so I started to look at it not so much as a chore but as a source of enjoyment.
When I was younger and would go away on vacation with my girlfriends, I was always the designated cook so I always really felt like it was an easy rhythm for me. Plus I get bored eating the same thing all the time so I like to create new things. My husband is Lebanese, and the food from that culture is just delicious so I started to experiment with Middle Eastern cuisine as well, learning a lot from my mother-in-law. It just got to be so much fun that I would make it my daily ritual. I’d go to the store each day, buy fresh ingredients, and my kids would come home to a meal, rather than just a snack. So, I’d start preparing early in the day and we’d eat quite early, sometimes even 4 or 5 PM and we’d always try to do it together.
What inspires you to cook?
Cooking is really my creative outlet and above all it’s really a time where all of your family is together; sitting and enjoying a meal together is fantastic. It’s always easy to get everyone together when there is great food on the table, and when you feed people and touch them in that way, you’re really feeding their soul. You can bring so much joy to someone so simply with food, and you can get so much satisfaction and pleasure out of seeing them enjoy what you’ve created. It’s immediate gratification for me.
You started off as a mother/wife/friend/cousin and great chef, and wound up being an excellent source for conflict resolution.
Well, I’ve always been a good listener. I believe in order to be able to help people with conflict you really need to listen to what they’re saying. If you’re doing all the talking, you’re not getting all the facts. Being a good listener really is the number one component to being able to help. I was a hairdresser for so many years and with that, I had to do a lot of listening. I was one of five children; being in the middle of that mix I had to do a lot of listening that way too so it started at a young age. Seeing people around me, listening to them, looking at their issues and helping them get their feelings across — that’s who I am, and if I can help, I want to do that. I don’t like conflict so I like to create balance and try to understand everyone’s point of view. I always try never to hurt anyone’s feelings; we’re all imperfect so unfortunately that happens sometimes, but my intentions are always good.
What's your overall message for maintaining an oasis of calm in the middle of family issues, especially around the holidays?
The first thing everyone should always do is take a minute and realize the reason everyone is getting together, even if there is tension. If everyone is on that same page, whereas you’re all there to celebrate health, happiness, family, and the holiday, then staying focused on that always helps. I think it’s also important to realize that the host has gone through a tremendous amount of effort to make everyone happy. Leave your differences at the door and if things get too tough, simply say it was great seeing everyone and try to leave before an outburst occurs. If you’ve got issues to sort out, spare the host the tension and try to bring it up at another time and place. You always want to make a holiday pleasant for other people while also being respectful to the host.
What's the best part about what you do?
Meeting new people, for sure. I have always loved to hear peoples' stories and I also love that people can really see what I’m all about. They see my family, my everyday life, and for some reason they gravitate towards me. When they tell me something that we have in common, or that something I’ve done has touched them, there’s a connection and I love that. I love the human connection. People just always feel they can come up and talk to me and I like that, because I really do want to know their story, I really want to know what’s going on with them. You never know what you can give someone or what someone can give to you.
What's next for Kathy Wakile?
I’ve got a lot of things going on actually and I’m really excited! All great things, my love for cooking is really a gift so I’m working on getting my desserts perfect before I start serving them to the public on a retail basis. I was recently approached by a beverage company on the idea of a prepared cocktail. At first I was skeptical, as I really didn’t know how it fit with everything so we thought abut how we could rather come up with a beverage that tastes similar to some of my favorite desserts. So, we worked together and you’ll soon see the new Red Velvet Cosmo debuting in February.
I really do think every woman is a goddess, so I’ve come up with a jewelry line called Goddess Eye. I’ve partnered up with someone who handcrafts bracelets, necklaces, etc. — all of the designs specifically made for the collection — and we’ll be launching this in a few days so I’m excited. Plus, a portion of the sales forever will go to the National Brain Tumor Society, which is a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.
On that note, the NBTS has also asked me and my daughter to lead the fundraising walk on June 16 on Governor’s Island. Starting in January people can go to the site and start pledging support for our team. I believe together we can make a difference; my family went through this when my own daughter had a brain tumor and we are truly very blessed. By us raising awareness, another family can be helped. It’s my responsibility to help others fight this fight and be a resource to help those that are going through it, since I’ve been through it.
I was also recently really fortunate to collaborate with Design Spree (a unique high-end furniture warehouse) and that was great. They are really wonderful guys, so welcoming and the best thing about it, especially if you haven’t yet picked something up for Christmas, is that they’ve got so many creative pieces just out there in the showroom; there's no waiting for weeks to get these quality pieces you don’t find everywhere. That’s been really great.
And, of course, we just wrapped filming season four of Real Housewives of New Jersey and that was just so much fun. It’s going to be a great season, a lot of different things happening and I know the viewers will be happy.