Whether demonstrating how to make an omelet in one minute flat or shooting the breeze with Barry Manilow, Valley TV fixture Jan D’Atri embodies the Martha Stewart ideal – that is, if Martha Stewart happened to raise chickens in suburban Phoenix. D’Atri – who started her on-air career as a reporter at now-defunct Phoenix TV station KTVN Channel 2 in 1978 – is a regular Dr. Doolittle at home, where she and her husband care for 25 animals on their property in North Scottsdale. The other remarkable thing about D’Atri: She’s now the second-longest serving TV personality in Phoenix, trailing only 41-year vet Dave Munsey (Fox 10). We caught her in a rare moment of downtime between hosting Arizona Midday on 12 News and Phoenix Cooks with Jan D’Atri on 550 KFYI.
Of all your accomplishments, of what are you most proud?
I think having the longevity on the air has been amazing to me. Forty years is a long time to feel at home, and I feel like people have let me do that. They’ve let me grow old gracefully, which I’ve decided to do. I have such a passion for everything I do, whether it’s scooping horse poop or whether it’s cooking or whether it’s doing an event. I’ve been blessed to just be happy, no matter what I’m doing. But I’m really proud of being a part of the media in Arizona for so long. Never expected it.
You love fly fishing, but you’ve never cooked a fish you’ve caught. Why?
When I fish, I don’t fish for food. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but fly fishing is a sport, and it’s a really challenging one. My desire is not to grab them, kill them and eat them. I want to beat that fish, because he’s floating right below the surface, he’s teasing me. And the thing about fly fishing is, you have to be so good the first time, because if you cast that fly and the fish doesn’t take it, the second time you cast, the fish goes “Ah, I know what she’s trying to do!”
What would you choose as your last meal?
The first thing that comes to mind is the most amazing PB&J. I make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the planet. Isn’t that funny? That would be a last meal, a great ol’ PB&J – triple-decker. It has to have a certain bread, it has to be extra crunchy Jif, there has to be a certain amount of red raspberry jam, and then I have to sprinkle peanuts on it.
What have been some of your favorite TV segments?
For me, a memorable shoot [at 3TV] was [when] we approached Glen Campbell, and I said, “I’d like to do a Christmas special and I’d love for you to do the music.” So we hauled my piano out onto the lawn, and he sang my favorite song, called “Harvest Time.” And he was out in the middle of our lawn, singing, and I look at his documentary now and I look at his life, and I think, “That was special.”
Who are some of your more colorful animals?
Sonny’s our burro, and he has no idea he’s a burro. He thinks he’s one of us. So he’s completely stressed when he can’t come in the house. Cassie the Crazy Cowgirl is a mixture of beagle and Australian shepherd – enough said. You can tell that she’s completely whacked out. Buddy is our dog… he’s part coyote. And he’s… this wise soul that looks at you, and I almost feel guilty talking down to him or putting him on a leash. I think he should be putting me on a leash. He’s so much more advanced than I am. The chickens are goofy and fun… the birdies bring me joy in the morning, listening to them. We have cats, but you’d never know it. And they were all abandoned, and we rescued every one of them. But my family’s not done yet. I’ve been trying to talk my husband into one more. I want a baby cow. They have these little mini heifers now, and I think if I get the cow, life would be complete.
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