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Year in Review: Oxford’s Elizabeth Heiskell Is a Regular on NBC’s TODAY Show

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Elizabeth Heiskell
Elizabeth Heiskell

Elizabeth Heiskell dreamed of being on the TODAY Show before Matt Lauer retired. Last summer, her dream became a reality.

“I go to New York, I do those segments and then I fly home right after, and I’m still in the same shirt at the Sonic getting a hamburger with my kids,” said Heiskell.

Meet Elizabeth Heiskell

Heiskell is partner and chef at Woodson Ridge Farms in Oxford, Mississippi. The farm is known for its local produce sold to restaurants and families around the area. Woodson Ridge also rents out its barn for dinners and events.

Last summer she was in charge of a cooking for a small dinner party at Rowan Oak. NBC chairman, Andrew Lack, attended the dinner, eating at William Faulkner’s dining room table.

Heiskell recalls Lack telling her that she is “wildly talented!” He said to her, “I have been a lot of places, and I have eaten a lot of food (but) this was incredibly memorable.”

Throughout the course of the meal, the dinner guests told Lack about Heiskell’s dreams of being featured on the TODAY Show. The NBC Chairman promised he would call Heiskell about a cooking segment.

Next Stop: TODAY Show

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A month went by without Heiskell hearing anything from TODAY. She decided to take action and make Lack a gift basket filled with cheese straws, pimento and cheese spread, “Debutante Farmer Bloody Mary Mix” and a note.

She said, “I sent him this little to-do list. It said, number one: Call Matt Lauer and get Elizabeth Heiskell on the Today Show. Number two was write Elizabeth Heiskell’s name on the back of your hand, so you don’t forget. Number three was take this pad with you and stick it in your pocket and don’t lose it.”

Soon after sending the gift basket, Heiskell received a call from TODAY’s senior producer telling her Erica Hill was flying down to Oxford to shoot. Heiskell was excited, but “the dream was for [her] to be on the Today Show before Matt Lauer retires doing a cooking segment.”

The senior producer promised her she’d be flown out for the show. That promise came true last Thanksgiving. Heiskell cooked her grandmother’s pillowcase turkey recipe with Matt Lauer.

Elizabeth Heiskell with TODAY show cast. Photo courtesy William Gillis.
Elizabeth Heiskell with TODAY show cast. Photo courtesy William Gillis.

“Thanks Mattie!”

Lauer had just finished interviewing, comedian, Chelsea Handler. Handler came over to Heiskell asking her opinions on tv food star chefs. Heiskell couldn’t respond.

“I literally just went blank. I couldn’t speak…It all just kind of hit me right there and then. And [Handler] said ‘well you better get it together, because he is coming and you’re about to be on.’”

As soon as the cameras started rolling, Heiskell was at ease. “They’re just as nice as they can be,” said Heiskell.

After the segment Heiskell turned to Lauer and said “Thanks Mattie!” She remembers Lauer turning around and asking, “What did you just call me?” She had responded, “Um…Mattie?” and then he said “No, that’s fine, I actually kind of like it.”

Tomato Season Is Here

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Now Heiskell films segments with “Mattie” every six weeks. His favorite dish is her “Fancy Pants Macaroni and Cheese”. Heiskell’s next on-air appearance is July 27 where she’ll be making her famous tomato pie with produce from the farm.

Heiskell is hosting a tomato dinner at Woodson Ridge Farms on July 15. The menu will include “Debutante Farmer Bloody Marys,” fried green tomatoes with pimento and cheese, double cut pork chop with tomato jam and many other tasty tomato treats.

Tickets for the event are fifty dollars.


Jac Bedrossian is an intern at HottyToddy.com. She is a student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at jacbtv@aol.com.

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