Entertainment, Features

Meet Soula-Marie, your OTT new favourite TV chef

A sassy Euro drag queen’s cheeky cooking show could be your favourite new entertainment at home.

Eating with Soula features delicious recipes presented by outrageous home chef and host Soula-Marie, the alter ego of flight attendant and former actor Gary Daniels.

“Our concept is simple: easy recipes that are simple to cook,” says Daniels.

“Add to that a busty, over-the-top ethnic woman who is constantly on heat – and not from the oven – and what you get is someone who eats everything in sight and loves jewellery, makeup, and voluminous hair.”

‘The actor in me fuelled by the show pony’

The comedy cooking show has won a swag of awards, but when it started, Daniels had never even done drag before.

“I was approached a few years back by another flight attendant, Kym Vaitiekus, who was a filmmaker,” says Daniels.

“He came up with the idea of a recipe cooking show with a difference.

“I thought it would make use of my love of food, and combine my other skills.”

Daniels says he was thrilled to be asked, and the decision to do the show as Soula was driven by “the actor in me fuelled by the show pony”.

“And I do love rhinestones and sequins,” he adds.

“I’m Italian and my life partner is Greek, so I’ve always been surrounded by loud, opinionated, overly made-up older women… and that’s how I came up with Soula!

“Being Italian and Greek, I’ve cooked my whole life, and started in the kitchen at a really young age, but the love of drag has surprised us all.”

Photo: supplied.

‘Silly but classy’

Vaitiekus, the flight attendant behind the idea for the show, has been its director and producer from the beginning.

Eating with Soula has been a smash hit online, winning a stack of awards, including Best Variety at the recent Sydney Webfest Awards, Best Unscripted/Reality at the New York City Webfest, and Best in Australia at the Los Angeles Taste Awards.

Vaitiekus has previously been honoured with awards for his work directing short films, and has worked on various Australian dramas and sitcoms.

Daniels says the duo’s dream is to develop Eating with Soula for television.

As an actor in the 80s, he was known for his work on shows including the iconic Prisoner, and his background in musical theatre lends itself to Soula’s big character.

“I think that although Soula is cheeky – and sometimes harsh – I want her to be loveable and likeable,” says Daniels.

“She’s silly but classy.

“When I look back at episodes, I see myself unconsciously doing mannerisms of my late mother, and it so makes me smile.

“She would have loved Soula.”

Soula and director Kym at the Sydney Webfest Awards. Photo: supplied.

‘Inspiration and a laugh’

As well as over-the-top fun, the show promises “easy, quick, and tasty recipes” – some of Daniels’ favourite episodes include Chilli Mussels, Crab Curry, and Potato Pancakes.

“I’ve watched so many cooking shows [with recipes] that you would never even attempt to make, as they were either too hard or complicated and included way too many ingredients,” says Daniels.

Soula has recently collaborated with Sydney’s Imperial Hotel to promote its restaurant, Priscillas.

Daniels says the ‘Eating out Soula’ social media promotions are “a hoot”.

Soula also made an appearance at the Stonewall Hotel last year as part of Pride celebrations.

“Special moments have really been all the wonderful encouragement from people that have viewed the episodes, tried the recipes, and told their friends to follow Soula as they enjoy the fun along the way and also the humour attached to my posts,” says Daniels.

A fun show like Eating with Soula is perhaps needed now more than ever.

“With everything going on around us at the moment, we need some light relief,” says Daniels.

“I’m currently in i-Soula-tion – people need some inspiration and a laugh whilst they are stuck at home.

“This is a great way to be entertained and to cook up something easy.”

As Soula says, “Cooking should never be a drag!”

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