Kristina Kuzmič is in perpetual motion. It’s not even lunchtime, but the hilarious and heartwarming vlogging sensation, crowned the winner of “Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star” in 2011 and author of last year’s best-selling inspirational memoir “Hold On, But Don’t Hold Still” already filmed several videos for her 2.8 million Facebook followers.
The LA-based influencer mixes sidesplitting humor with refreshing pragmatism in her clips, which have racked up more than 1 billion views. Video titles range from “If you had a drunk college roommate, you’re ready to parent a toddler” to “Not loving every minute of motherhood.” She’s the mom we all want to call our friend, because she can be counted on for real talk, gives great advice and possesses a down-to-earth relatability about being far from perfect. “I still have my struggles; I still have my bad days; I still burn things,” she says.
Despite everything that’s going on, Kristina’s looking forward to lunch with her husband and her three children, Luka, Matea and Ari. “Lunch feels like an interruption to our day,” she says, “But unless we’re well-nourished, we’re not going to be our best, our brain cells aren’t going to work as well and we’re going to be moody.”
Lunch became a bright spot for the family during the pandemic. Every day, mother, father and children gathered for a leisurely midday meal punctuated with games and winding conversations. With nowhere to go, they took as long as they wanted. “Motherhood and life are so exhausting,” she says. “It’s always go, go, go. Before this, we couldn’t enjoy meals the way they were meant to be enjoyed. Now we can.”
The Lunch Whisperer
Her passion for creating meaningful time with her family, while feeding them nourishing, unforgettably flavorful food is why Kristina is the inaugural Lunch Whisperer for the Hormel® Natural Choice® brand. The new initiative aims to enable moments of connection with loved ones that counteract the chaos of everyday life. Kristina will share some of the tricks, recipes and aspirational advice that make her family lunches a success and bring balance to her kitchen routine. She has countless inspired uses for lunchmeat, for example. “I hope we will be able to give people creative ideas and be there for them,” she says. “Mealtime is one of the top stressors I hear [about] from my followers.”
Hormel® Natural Choice® products are perfect for parents like Kristina, who don’t have much time but want to ensure they’re feeding their families nothing but the best. The line is 100 percent natural, which means it’s minimally processed – there are no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and no added nitrates (except those naturally occurring in celery juice powder and sea salt). There’s something for everyone, every taste, every recipe. Quality lunchmeats come in a delectable variety of flavors, such as pecanwood smoked ham with sweet black pepper, uncured hard salami, and applewood smoked turkey with garlic and herb. When there’s no time to cook, Hormel® Natural Choice® wraps – including pepperoni pizza, ham and cheddar, and bacon club – are the perfect meal on the run. And for a satiating snack, Hormel® Natural Choice® Stacks are a go-to, in lovable combos like uncured pepperoni and cheddar, and honey ham and cheddar. Even the outside packaging has benefits. It features recycled cardboard, it’s resealable to help ensure freshness, and it offers easy storage.
Becoming the Lunch Whisperer for the Hormel® Natural Choice® brand is the natural next chapter for Kristina, though her story is far from conventional. Born and raised in Croatia, she felt incomplete before she discovered cooking. “My whole childhood – and even into adulthood – I was told I was too loud, too hyper, too talkative, too curious, too sensitive,” she says. “And when you’re told you’re too, too, too much, it leaves you feeling like you’re not enough.”
Thankfully, her grandmother Mira helped her cope with those feelings of inadequacy by embracing Kristina’s true self and redirecting her negative energy. “She was the one person who never tried to squash me,” she says. “When I’d show up in the kitchen as a hyper little kid – and now that I’m an adult, I understand how annoying that can be when you’re trying to make dinner – she would hand me a spatula.”
The two tackled serious culinary projects. It was hands-on work. Kristina would knead dough to forge loaves of bread and scamper up the apricot tree in the backyard to gather fruit for jam. “It was fun,” she says. “I’d wake up thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to cook today?’ She made it feel like a game, like we were playing, not a chore.”
Cooking became Kristina’s superpower, one that would save her many times in the years to come. Ultimately, she moved to the States and enrolled in college. She discovered which friends lived close to campus and suggested they go to their houses, so she could cook them Croatian food. “I was so proud of my heritage, and cooking was my strength,” she says. “Despite my insecurities, that was the one thing I knew I could do to impress people.”
She got married young and had two children but divorced soon after the second was born. Completely broke, she ended up sleeping on the floor with her kids while surviving on food stamps and waitressing tips. “I was barely making it and super depressed,” she says. “I got to a really low point.”
Looking for a way out, Kristina once again turned to her passion. She began hosting weekly dinner parties for anyone who wanted to attend. Though she had almost no money, she picked up cheap ingredients at the dollar store to make big batches of pasta and homemade bread. Thirty people showed up for her first dinner. “It gave me back my worth and made my connection to cooking more emotional and deeper,” she says.
The way I think of making a meal – or life in general – is that I’m not writing any of my plans in ink. It’s all in pencil. Something is always going to happen.Kristina Kuzmič
However, when she became a parent, cooking transformed from a leisurely creative outlet into a time-consuming obligation, initially robbing her of the joy she experienced in the kitchen. “Suddenly, you’re on a tight schedule, it’s stressful, and you have this child you love telling you they don’t like what you’ve made,” she says. “And you’re telling them, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the best thing ever. You should be on your hands and knees thanking me.’”
She quickly realized getting her kids involved in cooking was a key to getting them excited about food. So, she devised simple techniques to create engagement. When she roasts potatoes, the children choose the seasoning and name the finished dish. This participation fosters a sense of ownership, bolsters self-confidence, helps familiarize them with the kitchen, and increases the likelihood they’ll eat dinner that night.
Empowering children is vital. Kristina always gives her children a choice when she serves something healthy, such as a side vegetable. Even if they don’t like either option, they feel empowered by the opportunity to choose.
When Kristina is creating a recipe she hopes will appeal to everyone in her family, she always tries to include a combination of textures, flavors and colors. Expect all those things to be at play when she shares recipes with Lunch Whisperer followers, such as her whimsical sandwich kebabs, mustard-glazed ham-and-cheese rolls, and eye-catching sandwich sushi, all made with Hormel® Natural Choice® products.
No matter what, you have to know your child and tailor your approach accordingly. “If you have adventurous kids, give them everything,” says Kristina. “But if you have kids who are picky or more reserved about trying new things, bombarding them with weird, extravagant flavors might turn them off to food.”
Most of all, parents need to remember to remain flexible. “I assume things will not go the way I planned,” says Kristina. “The way I think of making a meal – or life in general – is that I’m not writing any of my plans in ink. It’s all in pencil. Something is always going to happen. My guests aren’t going to miss out if something is different than I planned, but they are going to miss out if my attitude is negative.”
It’s lunchtime now. Before she leaves to whip up a winning meal with Hormel® Natural Choice® quality lunchmeats and spend some high-value time with her loved ones, Kristina has one last thought to share. “Consider the Lunch Whisperer initiative a personal support system,” she says. “The more we share, the more we all feel less alone. It helps us realize what we’re going through is normal.”
And with that, the Lunch Whisperer is on the move again, because her duty to connect, share and laugh with others never stops.