This piece originally appeared in Issue 745 of HELLO! Canada magazine.
Stepping into Rodney Bowers and Meredith Shaw's Toronto home is like being welcomed into your cool and quirky friend's place. The classic three-storey red brick house is filled with an eclectic mix of spirited antiques, colourful art and an ambience that wraps you up in wonder and whimsy, much like the homeowners themselves.
"Our décor really reflects our personalities: it's very welcome, accessible and just kind of playful," says Meredith, 38, who moved in last year and seamlessly merged her esthetic with her beau's. "We want our home to be full of life, memories and history; we love reclaimed things."
"The front porch is my favourite place in the house. I like getting some fresh air and watching the world go by while sipping a hot drink on a cool morning," says Meredith, clad in her hybrid shirt-jacket from Roots, while Rodney gets comfy in his coziest Canadiana loungewear. Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
An award-winning singer/songwriter-turned-radio host (on Chum 104.5/iHeartRadio), model and TV style expert ( The Marilyn Denis Show, Your Morning and The Social), Meredith is the consummate multi-tasker.
"What drives me to take on so much truly stems from my passion to connect with people, which all started with music," she tells HELLO! Canada. "Discovering that connection is what I craved and is what's led me to transition to all the amazing roles I do today."
She found a kindred spirit in Rodney, 45, an overachiever in his own right. He's the founder of six Toronto restaurants, has been The Marilyn Denis Show's resident food expert since 2014, and his stints as a celebrity chef include catering to the likes of Mariah Carey and Ryan Gosling. Not too shabby for a kid from Grand Falls, Nfld.
Sipping on his own delicious eggnog concoction, Rodney says it's his favourite cocktail to enjoy with Meredith and family over the holidays. Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
A few hours in the couple's inviting home that they share with Rodney's children William, 8, and Abigail, 10, and rescue pup Lucy, it's plain to see the two aren't just a power couple: they're power hosts, too.
Throughout our photo shoot, the gravitational pull of the kitchen lures Rodney back to his happy place.
"The kitchen is my home within a home," he says by way of explanation, moments after serving the crew a spread of sliced apples, gingerbread cookies and a sweet-and-savoury bread.
The chemistry between him and Meredith is cooking, too. It's no wonder the couple, whose back-and-forth banter is hilarious, were given their own show, Double Your Dish, at the peak of the pandemic. Since they're both self-proclaimed "Christmas people," you'd better believe they released not just one but two holiday specials, which aired back-to-back on Dec. 14 on CTV's Life Channel.
Here, the charming pair welcome HELLO! to chat about their hit new show, what lockdown has been like and their dynamic relationship, onscreen and off.
"Our Christmas style is pretty traditional – but with a shot of quirkiness," says Meredith, wearing a cream sweater and sparkling shirt from Anthropologie. "I like a sense of humour in everything, from the way I dress to the way I decorate." Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
HELLO! Canada: Congrats on the success of Double Your Dish. Can you tell us a bit about how the show came to be?
Rodney: The idea for Double Your Dish really came about because of the quarantine. I was trying to avoid going to the grocery store because when I did it was like a Fort Knox around here! Meredith made me come in the back door, disinfect all the groceries and she stripped off all my clothes, strictly for safety reasons... not for anything else... right, sweetie? [Meredith rolls her eyes and chuckles] So we shifted our strategy to buying food in bulk. And that's what the show is about: transforming one base ingredient into two totally different dishes.
Meredith: People are in their kitchen more than ever before. But there are lots of people, like me, who don't cook and suddenly have to cook three meals a day for their entire family! It's so stressful. What's cool about Rod as a chef, even though he's one of Canada's best, is he can make recipes accessible, delicious and really easy.
At the top of their three-storey home is a loft-style bathroom oasis, complete with exposed beams and an open-concept bathroom. "A good soak with a glass of wine and an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race is how I recharge," shares Meredith. Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
What's been the biggest challenge you've faced as a couple living, working and filming a TV show from home?
Meredith: We've worked alongside each other before, but never like this, creating our own show in our home, all alone. So sure, we've had tough moments where we disagree, but it's been so cool to see how talented Rod is close up. It's actually brought us closer and strengthened our relationship.
Rodney: I think that's a good point. We come from two very different worlds and although we both always respected each other's talent and work ethic, we didn't really grasp it to the full extent, until now. Creating a show, especially in the time of COVID, really gets you under the other person's skin, so you discover what makes them tick – sometimes good and sometimes bad.
Meredith: Then you throw in kids, a dog, home-schooling and renovations. It's a lot! But I can definitely say I wouldn't want to be doing it with anyone else.
Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best. "What we're looking forward to most over the holidays is doing nothing," laughs Meredith. "It's been a wild year." Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
Did your favourite holiday foods inspired your recipes for the Double Your Dish holiday specials?
Rodney: We just did all of Meredith's favourite holiday meals. People might think I'm the chef, but really, it's driven by Meredith's cravings. [Smiles]
Meredith: [Laughs] True. Basically, Double Your Dish is me requesting food. Since this won't be a traditional Christmas, we wanted to put a twist on the meals. So we did a roast and an amazing mushrooms side – I'm all about the sides. For the sweets episode, it's called "Ginger All The Way," so we did different gingerbread-based recipes – plus cocktails.
Can you share some of your holiday traditions?
Meredith: We love Christmas, both of us; we like to do it early and long. After Remembrance Day, this place starts looking merry and bright?
Rodney: I think we're still making our traditions and figuring out what works. Since we're a blended family, our schedules and traditions need to change to adapt to the kids' plans. Last year, we left cookies and milk for Santa and wrote notes. We love doing this kind of stuff.
Rodney, tell us about your most memorable celebrity clients.
Rodney: I've cooked for a lot of people, everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien, which was a very intimate meal with his wife when he was prime minister. I did Natalie Portman's 25th birthday, a private dinner organized by her mom. I also cooked for Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, in their heyday, at my restaurant a few times. I remember when I first met Ryan, he tried to out-funny me - in my own restaurant! I gave it to him straight and said, "You can't show up at my house and be funnier than me. I'm the funniest person in this place!" It was pretty hilarious.
Sparkle, shine, repeat is Meredith's motto when it comes to dressing – even more so during the holidays. "Sparkle is my favourite colour!" she jokes while wearing her glittering "MEREband," which she co-designed with Canadian brand Femme Faire. Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke
Meredith, can you tell us a little bit about how you're spreading the message of body positivity?
Meredith: I think there's a lot of trepidation with having people enjoy food publicly, especially if you're curvy. We're not approaching [Double Your Dish] from a body-positivity lens, but because we are in the bodies that we are in, it becomes the proof that it's possible. And I think that's what I love the most about participating in that body-positivity movement. I'm showing up in these spaces. I'm not necessarily talking about it, but the work is talking about it.
You two have been an item for three years. What's your favourite trait about one another?
Meredith: His huge heart – it really has no bounds. I am seriously the luckiest to be the target of that affection. With his heart and humour, know we can get through whatever life throws our way.
Rodney: She's funny as hell and we never run out of things to say to one another – and laugh at – which is "couple goals." Plus, she's the most passionate person I've ever met, with everything, from her job to friendships to loving me.