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Photo by Steve Roberts

JJ Keras: On-air Lifestyle/Entertaining Correspondent

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

JJ Keras grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. After attending college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she met her husband, Jay, she went to law school at the University of Denver. “We were college sweethearts and I like to say I became a Memphian by marriage,” said JJ. “We returned to Jay’s hometown for him to finish his last year of law school at the University of Memphis. He wanted to have a career in his family’s automobile business.” 

Once they moved to Memphis, JJ found work as a contract attorney for AutoZone. To get better acquainted with her adopted hometown, she volunteered her time and efforts to help organize and chair a number of community events, including Cirque du CMOM in 2013, Junior League of Memphis Merry Marketplace and the 2017 Krewes for Kids event at Crosstown Concourse. For the past 10 years she has been the director of the 100 Club of Memphis, an organization that supports and raises funds for the firefighters and police of Memphis and Shelby County. All of these volunteer endeavors created a new career path for JJ. When she was chairing Cirque du CMOM, she was asked to do a spot about the event on WREG Channel 3.

“I had never aspired to be on TV, but I hit it off with Mary Beth Conley, and was asked back to do a Valentine’s segment and then an Easter segment, to show how to host special holiday events,” explained JJ. That exposure led to an opportunity to work with NBC local affiliate, New York Live, which is like a feeder station for the Today Show. “I was asked to do a series of Lifestyle segments and there I met Amy Rosenblum, founder of the fourth hour of the Today Show (She put Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb together),” said JJ. “Amy media trained me, teaching me how to address the show hosts and how to work with timing and transitions for an on-air, 5-minute lifestyle segment. She also taught me how to recognize what’s exciting and what’s boring, in terms of presentation and content. Most of all she taught me what it takes to work in a national market.” 

JJ’s first segment on the Today Show was on New Year’s Eve 2015. “It was with Natalie Morales and the idea was to give a quick visual presentation for party-planning,” recalled JJ. “It started with a specialty drink, then food, then decor. There were ‘clocktails’ (a specialty champagne drink) and a clock-designed cake to help carry out the midnight count-down theme. The other foods played to a breakfast-after-midnight with French toast skewer bites, cookie dough shots, and tuxedo crackers and cheese. There were even dried black-eyed peas for party favors. And the decor included a Kissing Ball made with burgundy carnations.”

JJ said that spot led to building a relationship with the producers of the Today Show. Her next assignment was a segment for the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. Now almost three years later, she goes to New York City about 10 times each year to do the Entertaining segment for the show. To get these gigs, JJ has to compete with other stylists, like the style director of Good Housekeeping and the editor of Good Housekeeping. About once a month, she flies to NYC the day before the segment for a 1 to 2 night stay.

“It is super competitive, but I love it,” said JJ. “It’s a chance to work with some of the best people in the business. And I’m thrilled to be a part of the New York work scene, but so happy that I’m still able to raise my family here in Memphis.” 


STREETSEEN  |  Sharon Moore

Photo by Steve Roberts

Sharon Moore: Changing Lives Through Food

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Sharon Moore has seen Church Health transformed over the last 14 years that she has served as Manager of Nutrition and Wellness Education.

“We relocated from Peabody Avenue and clinics across the city to a consolidated location in Crosstown Concourse,” said Moore. “But our growth is so much more than our physical space. There has been a vast increase in scope for our focus on nutrition. And now everything we offer comes from evidence-based research.”

“We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary in our new facility,” continued Moore. ”Our message is that food IS medicine. We think it is as important as seeing the doctor or taking your medicine as prescribed. And we want our local community to realize that eating healthy is affordable.”

When Church Health opened its Nutrition Kitchen, they began offering a number of classes and programs devoted to helping people achieve and maintain better health through a new way of looking at food — Culinary Medicine. Moore and other staff members are now licensed to teach the culinary medicine curriculum developed at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane. Moore explained, “We are here to teach students in all healthcare disciplines to talk to their patients about nutrition in real ways that will help change eating patterns. Also, we offer continuing medical education (CME) programs to teach healthcare practitioners to talk with patients about using food as medicine. And, we provide free classes in a six-week format, two hours once a week, to teach anyone in the community how to cook and eat a healthier diet.”

Using social media to promote the community classes, participants are coming from across the Greater Memphis area, and the majority are not Church Health patients. “In our teaching kitchen, participants cook together just like they are cooking at home,” said Moore. “Then they eat what they’ve cooked as a family style meal. Also, they discuss the nine principles of the Mediterranean Diet, which has over 30 years of evidenced-based research showing this diet can prevent or help manage diseases like diabetes, hypertension, chronic arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, and obesity — all major health issues in our community.”

The last component is the research piece. Moore and her staff conduct a pre-and post-survey for every participant to capture information about significant behavioral changes. These statistics help them understand how well they are doing, in terms of teaching. Since the community classes began last June, findings show that the large majority of program participants are now reading food labels and using a simple technique to modify their eating patterns.

“The My Plate approach asks participants to re-allocate their food choices,” explained Moore. “Thinking of their dinner plates like divided plates, we ask them to place fruits and vegetables in the largest compartment, and use the two smaller compartments for meat and starch.” Other simple, practical instructions advise to use food choices to create a colorful plate, thereby maximizing different nutrients, and to do most of your grocery shopping from the perimeter of the store. 

“That’s where everything is located that is likely to be in its unaltered form (i.e., fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, fish, etc.),” said Moore. “The food items in the middle of the store have been modified, so buy as little as possible from center aisles. However, there is something to be said for frozen fruits and veggies. They can be better for you than fresh because they have been flash frozen at the peak of flavor and have the most nutrients. But in any case, if you can’t read and pronounce the food label, then you probably don’t need to buy that product.”

“We believe that we are changing lives and not only in terms of health,” concluded Moore. “When you break bread together there is a commonality that is so real, so authentic. Something magical happens and we see that we are also building a sense of community from strangers.” 

For more information or to sign up for classes, visit churchhealth.org and click on the Nutrition page.