Heads up, Brady Bunch fans — Carol Brady is taking to the kitchen without any help from Alice!
Beginning January 6, Florence Henderson joins forces with her pals magician Penn Jillette and actress Judy Gold, plus former Bachelor Jake Pavelka to represent Team Rachael Ray against Team Guy Fieri’s Chris Kattan, Tiffany, Vanilla Ice and Herschel Walker on Season 3 of Food Network’s charity cooking competition, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off.
“I did a show in Nashville for nine years called Country Kitchen and then I recently did a cooking show on RLTV called Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson, so I think they assumed that I’m a good cook. I thought, ‘Boy are they wrong!’” jokes Henderson, who is competing for the California-based cancer research hospital City of Hope. “I can cook, but to be honest with you, I’d rather be singing and dancing.”
Henderson says despite the show’s overriding spirit of fun and goodwill, everyone was serious about cooking their way to a $50,000 windfall for their charities.
“I was very surprised by the skill that some of these people had,” she says. “I may not always know what I am doing, but I will always give it my best shot. Being the youngest of 10 children, you either become a competitor or you get trampled!”
When we spoke, the still-lovely 79-year-old had just spent a month touring Canada and the Eastern U.S. with her autobiographical one-woman show All the Lives of Me … A Musical Journey — and basking in the love of generations of fans who wanted Carol Brady to be their mom, too. “I’m always asked — by young people, by old people, by middle-aged people, all ethnicities — ‘Can I have a hug?’” Henderson marvels. “It’s so interesting all the affection that I receive, and that I can give back, just from that little show!”
Henderson, whose own mother abandoned the family when Florence was just 12, says she’s proud to be forever known for embodying the kind of mother she wished she’d had — and the kind of modern woman she grew up to be.
“I always thought that Carol enjoyed life,” says Henderson, mother to two sons and two daughters, who cites The Middle’s Patricia Heaton and Modern Family’s Julie Bowen as her favorite modern TV moms. “She enjoyed her relationship. She enjoyed sex. And I always wanted them to give her a job — because I was always a working mother. They wouldn’t do it at the time, but for some of our reunions, I said, ‘If you don’t give me a job, I’m not going to do it.’ So they made me a real estate person.”
Asked what’s still on her bucket list, Henderson — whose candid autobiography Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond was published in 2011 —says, “I would just love to keep working and singing! I work out three times a week. I see my voice coach once a week. And I still believe that tomorrow the best offer in the world is going to come, so I say yes a lot. I love to make people laugh, so to be on a show that really makes people laugh, that would be fun!”
Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off airs Mondays beginning Jan. 6 on Food Network.
Images: Food Network