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Jo Jo Baker charges up appetites
every Sunday on his radio show
Kelly - Staff writer
His voice is like a cup of French roast with cream --
rich, smooth and just what you need to help wake up on a
When Jo Jo Baker -- host of an early morning radio show
on Sandpoint's KPND -- starts talking about cooking
cornmeal waffles or whipping up a Mexican scramble, mouths
start to water all around Kootenai and Bonner counties.
"Oh, the kids are going to love these Breakfast
Blossoms," he purrs, in a delivery that's a little
bit Barry White blended with a smidge of the Food
Networks' bubbly Emeril Lagasse.
In between spinning a wildly eclectic mix of music --
Django Reinhardt might segue into country rocker Chris
Rea, followed by Sarah Vaughan -- Baker walks his
listeners through some mouthwatering morning recipes.
"It all got started because I got hungry," said
Baker, whose real name is Joe Tajan.
Now, he makes his legions of loyal listeners hungry
every week between 5 and 10 a.m.
None of his dishes are particularly complicated. Those
Breakfast Blossoms are simply Pillsbury-type biscuits
baked in a muffin tin with jam and cream cheese.
But it's the way he describes them -- in that soft,
silky bedroom voice -- that inspires his audience to rise
and shine and preheat their ovens.
"Oh, it's cold out there today. You should make
yourself a big pot of coffee and a batch of these Blossoms
and stay off the roads," Baker suggests so
he sounds like he was born to be on the radio, Baker
came to his turn behind the microphone later in his
life. (He's in his mid-50s, "I'm 53 or 54, I
guess," he said.)
A native of Houston, Texas, Baker has been interested
in food since he was a kid.
"I grew up in a house with three sisters, and my
Mom enrolled all of us in cooking classes one summer. I
remember making a cherry-pineapple upside cake," he
said. "Meals were always a big deal at our house.
We all sat down together, especially Sundays after church
when my Dad would barbecue."
After high school, this self-described hippie took off
to see the world, hitch-hiking to Aspen, Colo., where he
landed his first cooking job.
"I ended up following this one chef to
Hawaii," Baker said. "I learned a lot from him
-- prep, prep, prepping. And working the saute line."
He went back to Texas to take care of his ailing
father, but soon hit the highways again, this time with
the woman who he would later marry."We wanted to go
to Canada and live off the land," he said. "We
got as far as the Yaak River area in Montana." That
was 1973. The couple later bought 20 acres off the Pack
River Road, and built a log cabin.
"At the time, I was working
at a place called the Chateau Supper
Club (outside Sandpoint, it's now
Outlaw Bar), but when my oldest son was born, I decided
to quit staying up late and get
a day job," Baker said.
He did some logging, some construction. He
enrolled in baking courses, and learned to bake
bread and make pastries. He
was also got involved in Toastmasters, which "gave
me a lot of confidence."
gravitated back to
the kitchen, cooking with former Sandpoint
chef Greg Grass, who worked
at various eateries before
starting a place
of his own."I experimented with all kinds of breads," he
said. "People loved them."
approached the owner of KPND and asked about the
possibility of learning the control board, taking over
dreaded early Sunday shift."I was making $5 an hour
running church programming in the beginning, but it was
so tempting to
get on the air," he said.
So, the career of Jo Jo Baker was launched.
seven years later, he's still urging listeners to fire
up their cast iron skillets on Sunday. "Hold on,
after this song, we're going to do some Dutch babies," he
says. "Oh, they're so
When he's not tempting folks to get creative in the
kitchen over the airwaves, Baker also sells radio
advertising in the Bonners Ferry area and, occasionally,
does food product demonstrations at area supermarkets.
used to work at Alpine Lumber, where his voice could
be heard reciting recipes when customers were put on hold." People
from all across the country were calling up, just asking
to be put on hold," he said.
He can also be spotted on the road in his racy red Bug,
a VW Beetle that's plastered with decals from businesses
that pay to be displayed on his car.
Baker's consuming passions remain his family -- he
openly brags about his two grown sons -- and food."My wife loves to cook, too," he said.
"We have fun in the kitchen together. It's a great
way to relieve stress."
days, he's doing his best to follow the advice he gives
when signing off each week, bits of wisdom he's
picked up from author Tom Robbins: "It's never too
late to have a happy childhood. Forgive your parents and
keep things light."
From the goodcooking.com Web site
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cornmeal, sprinkled over and stirred into 1 cup
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
Sift dry ingredients together. Beat the egg whites to
soft peaks. Beat egg yolks (separately), add milk, butter,
cornmeal and combine with dry ingredients. Mix well.
Gently fold in the beaten egg white, mixing thoroughly.
Bake in a hot waffle iron that has been sprayed with a
pan coating such as Pam. Serve with warm maple syrup.
Yield: 12 servings
Nutrition per serving: 216 calories, 10 grams
fat (42 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 26 grams
carbohyrdrate, 85 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary
fiber, 540 milligrams sodium.
Mexican Scrambled Eggs
Aida Gabilondo's "Mexican Family
6 tablespoons salad oil
4 corn tortillas, cut in thin strips
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
4 eggs, beaten with salt until frothy
Heat half the oil and saute the tortilla strips. Drain.
Heat remaining oil in skill and saute the chopped
tomato, onion and pepper for 30 seconds over medium heat.
Put tortillas back in the skillet.
Pour beaten eggs into the skillet over the ingredients
and cook, stirring often. Serve on warm plates with
refried beans and garlic toast.
Yield: 2 servings
Nutrition per serving: 647 calories, 54 grams
fat (75 percent fat calories), 16 grams protein, 30 grams
carbohydrate, 425 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary
fiber, 214 milligrams sodium.