056 – Elizabeth Stark, Brooklyn Supper
“Recipes for Real Life”-Work. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! In this episode we talk with Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper, a blog whose mission is creating simple, delicious meals with local, seasonal products. Even on a weeknight! You don’t need a fancy copper pot or a million gadgets. These are recipes you will actually make.
Recipes like Brown Butter Madeleines and Roasted Winter Squash Enchiladas. Some are her own while others are the work of fellow food writers promoting their cookbooks. Which is great because publishing houses increasingly rely on their authors to be their own marketing departments. Will she ever do one of her own? She’s a bit on the fence. It’s something Elizabeth would like to do but it’s a strange time for publishing. How do you find a new audience while at the same time make something rewarding and lasting for yourself and your readers? Without gimmicks? It’s a tall order when food trends run the show. I applaud her steadfastness in wanting to wait until “The Big Magic” happens.
Although Elizabeth is the face of Brooklyn Supper this is a team effort. Husband Brian Campbell acts as editor and sounding board. Together, they collaborate on the blog’s mission, direction, and recipes. What’s it like to work in food writing with your spouse? Any special challenges? Elizabeth and Brian started Brooklyn Supper back in 2008 when the farm to table movement was just finding its legs. Their hard work has paid off. Brooklyn Supper won Saveur magazine’s “Editors’ Choice for Most Delicious Food Blog” in 2015 and Elizabeth’s writing has been featured on the sites of some major players including Redbook, Food 52, Real Simple, Gourmet Live, and Tasting Table. How has the vision for Brooklyn Supper changed over the years? How has food writing changed in the past decade? We talk about this at length, the way it’s become more visual with less in-depth pieces and more listicles and bullet points. What then?
And what about those of us interested in blogging professionally? What are some pro tips and pitfalls to avoid? How about pitching editors your ideas? We go into great depth here. One key piece of advice is to ask for what you want. If you’re not happy with what they’re offering, ask for more. Know your worth and value it. All they can say is no. Companies always want to offer you “exposure” for your writing. In the beginning, that’s great. After some experience is earned, not so much.
Be willing to be flexible. This is a cyclical business so you have to adapt. Have a clear focus. A mission. Direct all of your posts to that mission. Their ability to adapt the blog was tested in 2012 when Elizabeth and Brian decided to move from New York to Charlottesville. Seasonal and local mean very different things here because our foodshed is completely different. Pro tip: if you move to a new area, sign up for your local CSA. You will learn what is seasonal and when in your own area.
Luckily, Brooklyn Supper adapted well while at the same time never doubting its value. Elizabeth and Brian have been able to channel that value into corporate partnerships with some major heavy hitters including French’s Mustard and Whole Foods, making it one of the most successful blogs around. How does she decide what is a good fit? How does she negotiate terms? And what are some of the more interesting press releases she gets from companies?
Elizabeth’s photography is also a huge reason for their ongoing success. She has a background in painting and the living room walls are covered with beautiful serene abstracts evoking nature. That artistic eye translates to her food photos which are gorgeously simple and direct. No fancy fake-rustic Mason jars here. It’s as if someone just placed the food down and walked back to the kitchen because they forgot something. Like movement just happened one millisecond before. I love them. The tips she offers are invaluable and ones I adopted the minute I left. What is her artistic process? It is fascinating to me how writing, photography, and cooking, have a lot of similar formulas to complete if you want to do them well. Studying the masters. Emulating the ones you identify with until eventually you have the courage to tweak things and make them your own.
We cover a lot and as a food writer I envision myself listening to it more than once when I need some inspiration for my own writing and photography. I hope you’ll enjoy this episode. Wishing you a peaceful holiday full of laughter and tasty bites. I’m grateful for your readership and your listenership. Thank you.
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- Big Appetities – The genius food photography of Christopher Boffoli.
- Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” – a bible in my kitchen and Elizabeth’s.
- Helen Rosner – Food writing goddess.
- Marian Bull – Food writing goddess.
- Emily Hilliard – Nothing in the House pie blog is one of my favorites.
- Honest Biscuits – Old friend of mine Art Stone and his husband create Southern biscuits in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
This episode is sponsored by MarieBette Café and Bakery.
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