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The Globe and Mail

'Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag' earns a berth on Oprah's network

Anna Wallner (left) and Kristina Matisic recently sold their TV show "Grocery Bag" to Oprah Winfrey's OWN television network.

The Globe and Mail

Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic had their aha moment 12 years ago when they left TV journalism to create their own television show The Shopping Bags. Their current series, Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag, where they test-drive cookbooks and kitchen products, has been picked up by Oprah Winfrey's OWN, which launches in Canada on Tuesday.

It's a big enough career milestone that Wallner keeps a photo on her BlackBerry of the two Vancouverites signing the contract with OWN - a network run by that other former TV anchor who went from journalist to TV host.

Tell me about getting the Oprah news.

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KM: The actual getting of the news? We were negotiating with them for quite a long time, but when the deal finally came through, we were very excited. There was some high-fiving going on.

Have you talked to Oprah directly?

AW: We have not met her or talked to her. Our people - not that we have a lot of people, but we have a couple of people - our couple of people dealt with her people. We're told that she's very active in choosing shows and producing shows. The way it works is her team will recommend shows and she gets the final say. But she does see everything and apparently she is a fan of the show. She did give it her stamp. So I'll take that for now.

Do you think it'll feel different seeing the show on the Oprah Winfrey Network?

AW: We're doing an interview in New York in March and I have to admit I will look for it in the hotel room. I will do that.

When you started this venture together did you ever see yourselves in this position?

AW: We had always planned on making this whole thing bigger than one TV series. The first series was The Shopping Bags and we had always planned to spin off into specific shows, specific areas like food and beauty and fashion and whatever else we could come up with.

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KM: In television you're always working toward your next contract. So once the season's done, you're always holding your breath and hoping you get another season. So I think we've been very fortunate that we've lasted as long as we have.

We're sitting in a grocery store now and you've just bought something you're planning to try out. What is it, exactly?

AW: We're just about to test Gwyneth Paltrow's upcoming book, My Father's Daughter. She has a section in the book where she talks about how to stock your pantry and one item that she recommends and that many of her recipes call for is called Vegenaise. It's a mayonnaise alternative, in case you didn't guess. So we're going to try it out. I'm going to go home tonight and eat a ham sandwich with Vegenaise.

KM: I have a feeling you're not going to like the Vegenaise.

AW: I have an open mind.

Is it a fun show to do?

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KM: It's gotten more fun for me because I didn't like to cook in the beginning. I think because it scared me. It was too difficult, I didn't want to do it, all the chopping. But as with many things, the better you become at it, the more you like doing it. So I do enjoy it more. And I think we have more of a rhythm too. The longer we work together, the longer we cook together, it's become more enjoyable somehow.

AW: I find it to be a humbling experience, personally. Because at the beginning of this I thought I could cook and I realize again and again all that I don't know.

Is there any product or recipe that you've tried out that you continue to use in your real life?

AW: The mandoline is something I cannot live without now. It's a slicer. For onions or radishes or whatever. It will slice very, very thinly and perfect every time. It makes the job easier, faster and looks way more impressive. So if you ever wonder how those onion slices get so perfect? The mandoline.

What's next for you guys?

AW: Hopefully a cookbook. We're working on it as we speak.

KM: Things we've learned in the kitchen.

Can you give me an example of how your lives have changed since you were TV reporters?

KM: I don't have to knock on victims' families' doors any more. I don't miss that.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag will air on OWN in Canada three times daily Monday-Friday, beginning March 1.

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