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This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.

Jobs Across Food with Karista Bennett

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Working in food is a shared passion for most food bloggers, but this can take many forms outside of just blogging including writing cookbooks, being a chef, working with brands and teaching classes. Today's guest is going to talk about some of the jobs she's done and how you might be able to get involved in them as well.

Today we are going to explore several unusual jobs in food, different approaches to cookbooks, and why sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and call someone.

Listen to or Watch the Interview

This episode from the Makin' Bacon Podcast podcast is available on all your favorite podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.

The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.

About Karista Bennett

I am absolutely most proud of my new cookbook, The Oregon Farm Table Cookbook, 101 Homegrown Recipes from the Pacific Wonderland. It'll be released on September 1st.

I've worked in the culinary industry in many capacities since 2002, prep chef, cheese specialist, private chef, culinary instructor, sous chef and now food writer. It's been a long journey! I built a successful private chef business in Seattle, Washington and at the same time worked as a culinary instructor with the IACP Award-winning culinary school, PCC Cooks in Seattle, Washington.

Because I'm never one to run out of anything to say, or specifically, anything to say about food, I started my food blog in 2009. It was a way to catalog and share all the recipes I created for clients and culinary students. What I discovered was a true love for the written word. Especially when it relates to food, or the dinner table, health, nutrition and our beloved farming community.

When we moved to Oregon from Washington state, I decided to transition full-time into food writing and food photography, which is what I do now. Food writing was challenging but I think photography was the most challenging. So I did a ton of research. Along with a lot of practice which resulted in a cold dinner meal most dinner nights.

Key Takeaways

  • How do you narrow down what to cover in a cookbook
  • How to move cookbooks beyond just recipes
  • How diving into local artisans and farmers can open up new doors
  • How to tweak your pitch to leave the door open for other projects
  • Why you get so attached to a book
  • How do you decide on the recipes for a book
  • Why creating a recipe backlog can jump start cookbooks
  • Where do cookbook photographs come from
  • Why learning photography can help increase your overall jobs
  • How to collaborate to increase your reach and create better content
  • How partners can provide emotional support
  • What does a cheese specialist actually do
  • What is a "Chef Ambassador"
  • How do you become a Chef Ambassador
  • How free work can lead to paid work
  • Why word of mouth is so important
  • How quality blogging can lead to more offline opportunities
  • How practicing for free can lead to success when you ARE paid
  • Why kindness leads to opportunities
  • How authenticity leads to great connections with Fans
  • Why focusing on the Fans currently following you, not the ones you "want" to follow you, can lead to success
  • How people get into being a private chef
  • How does private chef pricing work
  • Why picking up the phone can lead to so many jobs
  • How teaching at culinary academies work
  • Why hands on classes can be so rewarding
  • Remembering how much we don't know that we don't know
  • Why cooking and blogging about food is such a critical service

Links and Mentions

If you want to read some more about this, here are a few helpful links.

Transcription of Karista Bennett Podcast

Today, we're going to talk about several types of jobs in food, different approaches to cookbooks and why sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and call someone.

Working in food is a shared passion for most food bloggers, but this can take many forms outside of just blogging, including writing cookbooks, being a chef, working with brands and teaching classes. Today's guest is going to talk about some of the jobs she's done and how you might be able to get involved in them as well.

She has worked in the culinary industry since 2002 as a prep chef, a cheese specialist, a private chef, culinary instructor, sous chef, and now a food writer. She built a successful private chef business in Seattle and at the same time worked as a culinary instructor with the IACP award-winning culinary school PCC Cooks. Because she's never one to run out of anything to say about food, she started her food blog in 2009, as a way to catalog and share all the recipes she created for clients and culinary students.

What she discovered was a true love for the written word, especially when it relates to food, the dinner table, health nutrition, and our beloved farming community. She also has a cookbook coming out in September called the Oregon Farm Table Cookbook, 101 Homegrown Recipes from the Pacific Wonderland.

She's coming on today to explore all the ways you can work in food. And I can't wait to learn from today's guest, Karista Bennett.

Here is What Karista and I had to Say

Jason Logsdon: Karista, welcome to Makin' Bacon.

Karista Bennett: Thank you. Thank you.

Jason: I really appreciate you taking the time to come on. You've just worked in so many different jobs and done so many different things, all revolving around food. I think you have just a wealth of information to share with the audience.

Karista: Thank you. Yeah. I have had quite a few jobs, to say the least.

Jason: We'll be diving into a lot of the ones that you've, that you've had in the past, but I like to start every podcast off with one question and that's, what's it like around your dinner table on a typical day?

Karista: Oh, wow. Well that it could be anything, actually. I just had my college aged daughter leaves, so she was here for 2 months. And so with having college students around the table, every night, conversation is lively to say the least. It's funny, we talk a lot about food at the dinner table. I find that interesting, but we do, we talk a lot about food.

We talk a lot about the meal, what it is that I prepared. Typically, where'd you get this recipe Mom. Or, you know, did we have this when we were little and that sort of thing. And then we'll talk about health and nutrition, you know, how good the healthy the meal is or how not healthy the meal is, or that we're indulging today that sort of thing. So, yeah, that's usually, usually our conversation revolves around food and, and, and maybe, maybe politics sometimes.

Jason: I do think you'd find it really interesting how often the conversation at the dinner table does revolve around food and other meals and where food came from. It's just such a deep topic that everyone loves to discuss.

Karista: It is. It's funny, you wouldn't think that we would talk more about food while we're sitting there eating, but we do.

Jason: So I want to start with your cookbook, cause I know you're really excited for it. And anytime you finish up a labor of love, that takes a long time and so much effort that goes into it. I know it's such a great feeling to be done with it, or at least to have it written.

Can you tell us a little bit about your cookbook and the type of cuisine and the niche that it covers?

Karista: Yes. I would love to talk about it. This is my first cookbook and I have wanted to write this for years. It revolves around food and farms, our farming community seasonal produce, seasonal food, things that are grown in the Pacific Northwest are raised in the Pacific Northwest.

We have 40 in the book. It's not just 101 homegrown recipes from the Pacific Northwest. It's, we've got 40 profiles of farmers and chefs and food artisans and wineries. People who are really making a difference in our food community here in Oregon. So we, we took, I could have put 200 or 300 more in the book honestly. We, this is such a huge, you know, environment for growing food and for local for growing local food and feeding local communities with locally grown food that I could have added more. But we have, we have 40 that I just adore. Their stories are all really beautiful. A lot of these people have committed their lives to feeding their community.

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They're passionate about it. They love it. And that joy really spills out when you're talking to them and I really wanted to capture that excitement in the stories. So I hope we captured that. I hope we did. That would be nice. And then we have 101 recipes that I created using farm fresh seasonal ingredients.

And I would say the book is more about, I guess farm fresh food, seasonal food. I wouldn't say there's any one particular type of cuisine represented. I think it's a really good American representation. You know, America is this melting pot of, you know, all different kinds of cuisine and people.

And so I went to a French culinary school and so I tend to cook a little more in the French style, but I think there's a really nice representation of a lot of different cuisines in the book. We've got some curry in the book and I grew up in the South. So we've got some Southern food in the book and there's some French food in the book, or I should say French inspired, maybe not French food, but French inspired.

So things like, you know, what got a grilled plank steak where satiate, blueberries, shallots and Gorgonzola. Something simple, but you know, different. Yeah. So we have a lot of fun takes on traditional recipes as well.

Jason: I think it's really impressive that you are focusing on something that has a story behind it. A lot of food bloggers, food bloggers, especially will think of a cookbook and it's like, well, I need 50 or 100 recipes and that's what the bulk of the book is going to be, just recipes.

And I like that you took kind of a community and a shared experience from all these different people and organizations and that's the backbone it sounds like of your book. That it's what these people do every day and their stories. And then the recipes you know, organically come out of that. But it's not a, here's a chicken parm recipe. It's a, here's what this local source person does and here's what their food contributes to.

Karista: Absolutely. And isn't that really you know what food is all about? It's about community. It's about connection. It's about, you know, preparing fresh, seasonal ingredients. And I didn't want to write just a cookbook. I mean, I, I wanted it to, I wanted it to highlight the people who actually grow the food. And I, I wanted it to represent, you know, everything that is so beautiful and wonderful about coming together and dining together and on locally sourced food.

I was excited about highlighting the different farmers and food artisans. I have spent most of my career when I was even teaching or working as a private chef, I spent most of my career really trying to support our local food community. I think it's really important, especially now to keep those small family farms going by sourcing our ingredients from them.

Jason: You talked to 40 different people, artisans and farmers, which 1 story really stood out to you above all the others?

Karista: Oh my goodness.

Jason: And then tell us which one of your children is the favorite, right?

Karista: Oh my goodness. They all stand out, but I, you know there's I, I love, I love them all. Isn't that, that's just interesting.

It would be hard for me to choose, but the Nehalem River Ranch over on the coast, it's a cattle ranch who also raises pigs. They're pasture raised talking to him, he is so passionate. He learned the art of farming, you know, by going down to Argentina. And farming down there and learning how they raise their cattle and then what they do with their meat and how they barbecue it and how they cook it and all the different flavors.

And so once a year, when they harvest their product, that he has a big community feast. And so they, they invite the community out to the farm and have this big, I guess they call it an Assata from Argentina. I probably might have that wrong. And so they all come together and they feast on, you know, some of the harvest and it's a way to share his food with his neighbors. And his passion and his delight in sharing his, what he's raised for his neighbors it just comes right through when you talk to him. And that really impressed me.

And he's young. He is got a young family, they work hard, but they're so happy. I love how, how happy it makes him to raise these animals in a sustainable way and to feed his community.

I really love that there's a few female powered farms, that I really, really love. These women are awesome. They grow some beautiful, beautiful produce. But we've got some wineries that have sprouted up in the last few years. And one in particular, actually, it's been kind of in my backyard. Coria Estates. And they had started, I think they've been growing grapes for probably 20, 30 years, but they didn't start actually making wine until about 6 years ago. And so she's one of our few female winemakers and the wine is, is delicious and it's award-winning and. She's doing a great job. So that's really impressive. You can really hear her passion when she speaks about the wine, which, you know, we, we have a lot of wine here, so yeah. Which is a nice, that's nice.

Jason: I love hearing stories of these small producers and farmers, because we, as food bloggers, we talk about how much the quality of food matters. And, you know, you can't make good, great food with putting bad ingredients into your meals. But a lot of times we still don't think about just everything that does go into putting a great wine on the table or a great piece of meat on the table.

And there are people that are just as passionate about food as we are, handling every aspect of the process. And I think it's just fascinating hearing about that.

Karista: Absolutely. It is, there is so when you realize how much work goes into each harvest, it truly brings this deep appreciation for every meal. I, you know, I don't look at carrots the same way, you know, after, you know, walking around farms for 6 to 9 months you know, talking to the farmers and listening to the trials and the tribulations of farming, especially small farms. It really gives you this deep appreciation for where your food comes from. And it makes you think twice about where your food comes from. I know it sounds a little cliche, but it really does it really matter.

Jason: You want to make sure you do justice to the character that you know everything about where it came from.

Karista: Yeah. In fact, in one of the recipes, that's a chicken recipe and I actually start the head notes. Okay. Now this sounds a bit Portlandia, but happy chickens really do make tasty meals. So.

Jason: It's very true yeah, so much goes into. It just amazes me and how hard they work, it blows me away.

Did you have this fully formed in your head when you pitched it to end? Did you pitch it to a publisher or an agent? Or how did it go from, how did it go from just an idea to being out in bookstores in September?

Karista: Well, actually, it wasn't my idea solely, but what happened was I actually pitched a book similar it was all about farming and using locally sourced ingredients. And I pitched that book to some publishers and then my current publisher came back and said, Hey, we've got, we've got other books that we have published about farming communities and other States. And we would love to, to publish one about Oregon and would you be willing to write it?

And I thought, you know what, this just is such a great platform. It takes what I really love and what I wanted to do and meshes it with what they want and so it just felt like a win-win for both of us. And so that's really how the book came about was they really were looking for a farm and food centered book with stories in addition to the recipes.

Jason: It's great to be able to work with a publisher that sees the value that you bring and then pitch, you know, changed to your idea, but something that really fits in with what you want to do.

Karista: Yes, absolutely. And they've been great to work with. It's Countryman Press. I've truly enjoyed working with them. They've just been so supportive throughout the entire process, and it's been a very long process.

Jason: How long have you been working on the book? Since last year?

Karista: I started officially working on the book probably April of 2019 turned in the manuscript October 1st.

I did some research prior to April but turned in the manuscript October 1st. And then now, you know, between October 1st and now it's gone through lots of edits and copywriting and then to the creative department. So yeah, it's been a huge project, but I've loved every second of it.

Jason: What was the biggest surprise that's come up during the whole book making process?

Karista: Oh, the biggest - how attached I am to it. I am so I didn't know I was going to be, I am really, you know, when they say, when you birth a book, it's like birthing a baby. It's true. It's true. You feel like you're giving birth to this new child and it's, I'm just so protective and, and, you know, attached to it.

So when we're making changes, they kind of talk to me like, Okay so what do you think about this? I know you're really like something we had over here, but let's try this. So, because I'm really attached to what we've got here is. Yeah, that really surprised me.

Jason: I agree that there's a ton of emotional buy in to writing a book. It's it's very shocking. I wasn't expecting it either when I went through the process.

Karista: Yes it is.

Jason: How did you narrow down what recipes and what criteria did you use or how did you approach that?

Karista: I wanted to be sure and include a good blend of all four seasons. That book will publish in September, so we'll be launching right into the fall season. So I wanted to make sure we had a, a really good representation of fall recipes, but recipes that could carry everyone through winter, spring, and summer. And there's a lot of crossover recipes that could be used in 2 or 3 seasons.

I also wanted to make sure we used ingredients that we grow here or that we raise here in Oregon. There's some seafood, a lot of seafood in the book. But because we're on the coast and seafood is a huge industry for us here in Oregon, of course, wine and cheese. We've got Rogue Creamery, which won the World Cheese Award last year in 2019; they're in the book. My criteria was to make sure we included as many Oregon or Pacific Northwest raised ingredients as possible and seasonal.

Jason: I love your idea of taking into account when a book's going to publish because a lot of people, I don't think I would have thought of that. Last thing you want is a bunch of spring recipes and you get your new book you're like, Oh, well I can't use this for 6 months.

Karista: Exactly, exactly. So I wanted to make sure that we, you know, right off the bat, people could, you know, they would have a nice selection of recipes for the fall and be happy that they've got something new to create, which is, which is nice.

Jason: So did all the recipes come from you? Did you collaborate with some of these people that you talked to, that the recipes came out of there? How did that process work?

Karista: All but 3 recipes are mine. I've been cooking for since 2002, and I have this ginormous repertoire of recipes so in which to choose from, so I have plenty. We have 3 chefs in the book that are outstanding, but 2 actually submitted recipes for the book.

One is a roasted garlic and crab soup. And it's absolutely amazing. I made it a few weekends ago. It's from one of my favorite restaurants on the coast called Local Ocean Seafood. And chef Enrique Sanchez is the chef and he's brilliant. And he has an amazing story. So yeah, I'm really excited.

And then, Maylin Chavez is another really brilliant young chef. She had Olympia Oyster Bar and she's now doing popups. She has a beautiful oyster recipe that she submitted for the book. So other than those actually 3, they're all mine.

So you would go into a place and see their lamb, for example, and think, Oh, this would be great in this recipe that I remember, I wrote 12 years ago.

And that kind of leads into a funny story. The lamb, the one lamb recipe, I think I only have one lamp. No, I have 2 lamb recipes in the book. One of them is a slow cooked lamb, shank. It's a five-spice, slow cooked lamb shape, shank over. I think I have it over mashed potatoes that you can put it over a creamy polenta, which is really good.

But, the farmer Cody Wood, I've known him for a couple of years and he brought by some lamb for me to test for these recipes. And the shanks were outstanding. They were so good, but I've known Cody for a couple of years. And every time I go out to shoot photos of his farm, The first time I went and he goes, come on, we'll, we'll go to several different fields and I'll let you see all the baby lambs and all the, all the sheep.

So I thought we were going to walk. So I brought my muck boots, but no, we got on the four Wheeler and he just took off. I nearly fell off the 4-wheeler. I mean, I'm trying to take pictures and hang on for dear life, but it's always something interesting and fun when I go out to his farms.

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That's how he watches his sheep and that's how he farms his sheep is he gets on his 4-wheeler and he goes to each pasture and, and checks on his sheep. And they are beautiful, healthy sheep. And they are raised on this gorgeous pastor that he, he actually specifically grows specific plants just for his sheep. They're beautiful and happy and they get to watch me fall off the four-wheeler.

Jason: I'm glad you came back unscathed after risking life and limb. Who knew writing a cookbook was so dangerous?

Karista: Yeah, I know. Who knew?

Jason: Did you take all the photographs in the book yourself, or did you work with a photographer?

Karista: There are some that some of the farmers wanted to submit their own family photographs or photographs of there of their farms. But for the most part, I would say 90% of the photographs are mine. I have been, I've been shooting photos since well, since 200. Although I was terrible in 2009, I it's definitely been a learning curve.

Around 2013 I had to get super serious about becoming a better photographer because my food writing started kind of snowballing. And the publisher would say, well, can you, I want to photograph, I want 2 or 3 photographs like this, this and this. And I think, Oh yeah, I'd say, yeah, sure. I can do that. And then I'd have to go learn how to do it. So, so it's been a learning curve, but yeah, about 90% of the photos are mine.

Jason: Nice. I think it's really good reminder for food bloggers out there that like you were the driving force, this is your cookbook. You, you know, worked with the publisher to flesh out this idea. You've interviewed all these people, but it wasn't this solo endeavor of you sitting in a cabin for 9 months, writing recipes and getting them out there.

Like you had to work with other people. You can have collaborators on it. You can share people's stories. A lot that you can do outside of just doing something by yourself, which I think adds to a lot more of the passion and marketing and everything and go into the book.

Karista: Absolutely. I think collaboration is, is key. I think if you collaborate with the right person and they get you and they get what you love and they. I think they'll bring out, they bring out your excitement about the project and I think that translates well. I mean, if you, if you are collaborative for the book, with the book, writing about all of these different farmers and food producers, I really felt their excitement and their passion. And I think that translated into what I wrote about them and hopefully the reader can feel that excitement and passion as well.

And the same with recipes, food bloggers can collaborate with recipes or even other projects. I think collaboration is, is wonderful. I think it makes us better at what we do.

It makes us better creators. I think we could chance to bounce ideas off of each other and I get ideas from other people and I hope they get ideas for me. I think it's a good thing.

Jason: Yeah, I think, especially on something that's, you know, 6 to 12-month process of writing a cookbook. Having just the emotional support of having someone else that's kind of doing this journey with you, even if it's a different part of that journey, is just invaluable.

Karista: Yes, it does. The support is nice. There were a few moments writing the book that surprised me how long it took for me to actually write a 300-word article on a farmer. I had so much to say I kept having to condense it down and Yeah, that surprised me.

But it was nice to have the editor and my agent and other people to talk to about it. Other authors, it was Lorie Rice. She's has been my go-to cause she's written two books and I would often email her, Okay. I don't know what to do about this. I need your advice. So it's, it's, it's really nice to have those people in your life to help you when you're, when you're stuck.

Jason: Yeah. It's just that someone to be able to tell you it's going to be okay, what you're feeling is normal. Don't worry about it. You'll get through it.

So your book comes out September 1st, is that correct? And it's available for preorder on Amazon, right?

Karista: Yep. Indie bound, indie bound, I think as well, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Jason: Awesome. So everyone out there, if you want to hear good stories about amazing people doing things that they're passionate about, make sure you pick up that book for pre-sale.

On Becoming a Cheese Specialist

Jason: I wanted to now dive into some of the other things you've done. You know, I mentioned this during the intro of food bloggers generally have a passion for food that's why we're writing our blog and doing this. But sometimes we can get kind of narrow minded about what that means. And we think, well, it's putting recipes on our blog and that's what working in food is.

You've done a wide range of jobs. Pretty much. I don't know, it just amazes me how much you've done in food. So I wanted to talk a little bit about like, what are these other options and how can people get into it? And I just wanted to start with, I'm fascinated that you had a job that you referred to as being a cheese specialist. What is that?

Karista: I have always been of the mind that given the opportunity I think I can do, I can try to do just about anything. And so in my lifetime, there have been times when working as a private chef or working as a culinary instructor wasn't meeting my needs financially. So I had to do something else. So that's when I was a cheese specialist. I took that project on as a side job.

A cheese specialist is somebody who, who knows a lot about cheese. And when I did this I worked for, I worked in the kitchen of this deli market. And a few days a week I would prep and then a few days a week, I would mind the cheese counter. But we had probably three or 400 different types of cheese. And I had to learn all of the cheese and I have to tell you, I've never eaten so much cheese in my entire life. In fact, I ate so much cheese. I became allergic. Now I have to really be careful how much cheese I eat.

I learned so much about cheese. I learned that my favorite cheese obviously is from, can I say it France?

Jason: Not the Pacific Northwest?

Karista: Well, I have to say that other than France, the Pacific Northwest truly puts out some, they make some amazing cheese. Obviously, because Rogue Creamery won the World Cheese Award last year. I think it's called Rogue River Cheese or Rogue River Blue. That oh, if you can get your hands on some, it is fantastic.

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But yeah, so I had to learn a lot about cheese and so we, everyone in, in the area knew that we had about 300 or 400 different kinds of cheese. So we were busy constantly. And I just, I had to be able to answer questions.

I was basically the person who someone would come in and say, Oh, I'm having a party. We're doing this, this and this? What kind of cheeses should I have? And how should I arrange them? So basically, that's what I did. I would say, okay, if you wanted to do all Pacific Northwest cheese, this is the cheese tray you would develop, or you would build. And if you want to do all French cheese, this is the one other one that you would build.

So that's basically what I did. So my chef background came in handy as well. So that's basically a cheese specialist. You just know a lot about cheese.

Jason: And you're saying your favorite cheese, it comes from France, which one is that?

Karista: I actually, I don't have any favorite French specifically. I just love, what I love about the French cheese. There is one in particular, I think it's made with sheep's milk, it might be. And the milk in the morning goes on the bottom and then there's a layer of ash in the center. And then the milk in the evening goes on the top. So there's this little blue layer of Ash in the actual finished product.

And it's the way they age it I guess what it is that the sheep or the cows are eating. It really tastes like their environment. It's very grassy. Sometimes it's very nutty, it's just beautiful, beautiful cheese.

And I, to be honest, it does compare to our Oregon cheese. Our Oregon cheese is fantastic. It really does. I have to say Rogue is one of my absolute favorite creameries, but there's a few others that are really good too, that I couldn't put in the book because we didn't have room.

Jason: It's also, I love how much variety of cheese is out there. It blows me away.

Karista: Yeah. Anything and everything. There are actually some cheeses. I don't like so there is that.

Jason: We don't have to mention them on air. We don't want them to feel bad.

On Being a Chef Ambassador

Jason: But this year you're the Chef Ambassador and On-air Talent for the Oregon Blueberry Commission.

Karista: Yes.

Jason: That sounds amazing. Cause I love blueberries. What goes into that?

Karista: We are going to be filming in some blueberry fields, talking about Oregon blueberries, the nutritional benefits, all the different types of recipes that you can create with blueberries. We're going to do a couple of commercials advertising our blueberries and that they're in season. And I have probably 6 different recipes that I will be creating on air to demo the different recipes or the different ways that you can use blueberries. So they're going to be really fun, really delicious, perfect for the summer season. So this is our summer season campaign.

Jason: For the food bloggers out there, how do you get a job like that? Is it from your chef background? Is it from your writing? Can you position yourself to be more likely to get a job like that?

Karista: Absolutely. You know, I, I think the first step is to get some on-camera experience. I was terrified to be on camera. It was, it was really terrifying the first time I did it. But I did some on-camera work in Seattle, even though it was terrifying, I realized, Oh, this is really fun. I kind of enjoy this.

And so when we moved to Oregon, I really, all I did was I emailed the producer of whatever morning shows and said, Hey, I'm a local food writer, blogger, and I have some recipes that I would love to share with our community.

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When you do something like this. This is something you do to further your career in the future. So you are not going to get paid when you offer to do something like this. They just don't have the budget. And I knew that going in. I was doing this to set myself up for, for work later on. I think par, I think much of my career, I, I have done things that were volunteer, non-paid, truly in anticipation. Okay, this is just adding to my resume. This is adding to my work experience, adding to my knowledge, and eventually it will pay. And if you can look at it that way, instead of always expecting payment, because if you're always expecting to be paid, you're going to miss out on some opportunities.

So that's actually how I launched into the on-air work, recipe on-air food and recipe demos. So once I started that I got to know the production team. I got to know the people in the studio and they passed along by name when the commission was looking for someone.

Word of mouth is everything, making connections is everything, communicating, meeting people, getting yourself out there. It's hard, I'm an introvert. Actually. I know it might not sound like it. People are always surprised, but I'm really happy in my office behind my desk. So it's hard to get out there, but I knew it was important. It was important for me so that I could further my career. So you just, you make it happen. That's really how the blueberry commission came about.

I think continuing to put lots of really quality work on your blog. Blogging just for blogging sake I don't, I think people can see through that. But doing really quality blog posts, quality recipes, I think really makes a huge difference.

Jason: The concept of working for free is always contentious in blogger circles because there's, I think a few brands that take advantage of bloggers by trying to get them to work for free.

Karista: Correct.

Jason: But it's been a running theme on the podcast over the last, probably the last 5 or 6 guests that a lot, a lot of people coming on have. They know where they want to go, which is a huge benefit. Maybe not, you know, you might not have said, I want to be a cheese specialist, but you do that what direction you wanted to go in. And so you and others identified things that would get you closer to that.

And if you had to do that for free you weren't getting paid financially, but you're getting paid with adding to your resume, by adding connections, all these other ways. And they end up being steppingstones to pay off in the long-term. And I think a lot of bloggers need to remember that you can do things for free if it's getting you closer to your goal.

Karista: Exactly. It's all about. I look at it like going back to school. You know, it's like, I'm just, I'm getting an education. I'm adding to my resume. It's not something that I was willing to do all the time. I would, I would be very choosy when I would work for free and I would make sure that it was out of, it was something that I knew was going to add to my platform, add to what I was already doing and would make, would set me up for success in the future.

So, I feel the same, I don't want to work for free, but there are some things that I will do because I know it's going to benefit me.

Jason: I also think another thing that's come up is it's great practice that it is going on there for free to do a show. There is a lot less pressure on you and their expectations were probably lower than when you walked in to do the Blueberry Council or another paid job. You get this experience under your belt, and then when it really matters.

Karista: Oh, so true. I have been an on-air expert for the last 3 years. And the first let's say 6 episodes were terrible. I will admit, they were awful. And it's so big. It was so nice of the studio to let me come up and prepare these recipes. So when I hadn't had a ton of experience, they were so gracious.

And that was the other thing, I met a lot of people that are now really good friends. They're recommending me for things. So, that's another benefit, it's just the people that you meet. You never know who's going to say, Hey, you know that Karista, she was, she just did this recipe and I think you should call her. You just never know; it is nice that they allowed me to practice.

Jason: I think you also talked about that they passed your name on. This was networking because they had a good time working with you. I had a good talk with Jenny Melrose and she, one of the main tenants she says for blogging success is kindness. That interact with everyone, show more kindness. And one, because it's the right thing to do. Two, you have a lot better time and three, people will enjoy working with you.

And when you enjoy working with someone, you pass all along their name. That's how you and I met was someone that we both really like. She likes me, she likes you, and introduced us because she knew that we'd get along. And you were jerks to somebody you know, you're ending your, your networking right there.

Karista: I agree. I couldn't agree more, kindness is everything. And people need to see that in your writing. They need to see that when they come to your blog, that you're gracious and that you are willing to share, because that's really what we're doing, we're sharing. We're hoping that we can make money at it, but we're also sharing. And so I think part of you has to understand that people need to feel that kindness and that connection when they come to your blog. And that'll keep them coming back.

Jason: Yeah. It's that being authentic while still helping your users, your readers and your fans get the information that they need and they're looking for.

Karista: People are smart. They know if you're being authentic or not. And, and I figured that out early on. I think early in my blogging back in 2009, I was trying to be like everyone else so that I could join the club. And to be honest, I'm not like anyone else. I really just a little quirky. So, you know, I just had to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin. Okay, this is me. This is how I like to write. This is, this is the kind of food I want to post.

And if they like it, they'll come, and they did. I think being authentic and being true to yourself and just being you and people love it. People love when they see authenticity, and it's attracts them, and it feels good.

Jason: I think it's always a hard thing when you are authentic that some people won't like that and they leave and that's okay. Cause the ones that do like it will like it even more than if you were just bland.

Karista: I think you want the loyal readers. I don't have millions of readers, but the people that do come to my blog or my social media channels are so loyal and they're so engaging and they're always asking questions or making comments.

My youngest daughter just left. She's graduating college in June, but she left and moved out of state for a job. Which I feel lucky that she's found one, but she had to move out of state. And so I wrote a post and a risk, just kind of wallowing in my self-pity about being an empty nester. And I'm so sad and all the mamas just wrote all these beautiful comments and I thought, Oh wow, I've never heard from this person or this person, but, you know, they've felt, you know, they were sharing my pain and they felt connected.

So I think as long as we speak our truth and we speak to those who are truly loyal, I think that's how you grow. I've noticed a lot of growth in my followers just by speaking to the people that actually follow me. And not try to go too far outside that box.

Yeah. I think it's great to have that kind of mindset of the people that are reading you are the ones you need to focus on. And the more you do that other people will come around and you might grow with that. But trying to focus on the people you wish you had, that doesn't work. And I tried that, it didn't work. I totally failed at that. And so I had to sit back and go, okay, you know, I need to rethink this. So after reading a few books, listening to some podcasts, like yours. This is the information I needed to hear, and I need to change things.

On Being a Private Chef

Jason: So you also built a successful private chef business back in Seattle. How did you get into being a private chef? And what does that entail? I know the phrase and I've heard it a lot, but I couldn't actually tell you what the day-to-day life of a private chef is like.

Karista: Oh, it's a lot of work. Yeah. So I started working as a private chef and this is another, you know, this is another thing that just kind of happened. I started meeting and connecting with nutritionists in the Seattle area. And I met them while working at PCC, which is a co-op market deli in Seattle. And I also met them through teaching culinary classes.

Karista and chef ana.jpeg

So one of them called me one day as I was driving to work and said, Hey, I. Do you work as a private chef? And I said, yes. I, at the time, I was just catering and doing some special events. And I said, yes, I do. And she said, well, I'm looking for someone to cook continuously for one of my clients. And so that is how I got my first private chef job.

It was her client that had health issues. He didn't want to cook. And so she said, what about having a private chef come in and cook for you? And he said, okay, let's try it. And so I cooked for him for 4 years. He was an older gentleman who had some health issues and we were working on, on his health issues trying to get his health in good condition. And we ended up really good friends.

It was a really interesting relationship. I always said the author who wrote "Tuesdays with Morrie" was Mitch Albom. Mitch Albom had "Tuesdays with Morrie", but I had "Mondays and Thursdays with Bruce". And so, so Bruce was my first client. And I would just, I would schedule, I would set his menu for the week. And I would cook on Mondays and he'd have food for Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Thursday I'd come in and he'd have food for Thursday, Friday, Saturday. And then Sunday was his free day, he got to eat whatever he wanted.

And so I would create his menus, shop, do all of his shopping, and then I'd go to his house and cook in his kitchen and from start to finish. Most of my clients were not there or would just stay out of the way, but he loved to be in the kitchen when I cooked. And so he would do all the dishes. So he was my only client who loved to be in the kitchen while I cooked and he would do the dishes.

So that's basically what a private chef does. So I would be at his house from about 9:00 to 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, prepping and cooking. And then on Tuesday I would go to the next client. So I had 1 client a day. At one point I had 2 clients a few days a week. That was a little, almost too much. It was true. It was really difficult to get all of it done. But that's how busy I got. We, we, it was just, it, it seemed to snowball once I got into it and I ended up referring people to other private chefs. So I did that Monday through Friday.

Jason: What does a service like that, what you charge and kind of from a, someone that might be interested in going into that, what type of, how much do you get to keep of what you charge? And you don't need to say specifics, but just generalities.

Karista: You know, it's different now, I have been out of that business since 2013. People price it. They will either price it by how many servings. They'll either price it by how many servings that they're making for the family or the person, or they'll charge by the hour.

And what I ended up doing was because my client's menus had to be so nutritionally specific, I would write the menu, okay the ingredient list with my client, and then they would pay the ingredient list separately. So they pay for the ingredients, that was a separate cost. And then I would just charge them for my time. And my, my rate at the time was an hourly rate. And I would say, okay, you know, it's probably going to take me 3 or 4 hours to get this done. And I would make sure that they knew, you know, how much time it was going to take. And then they would say, okay, yes or no, and most of them said, okay. So that's basically how I did it.

I think it's different now. And there are a lot of organizations. There are a lot of private chef associations that have a lot of information on their websites about how to get started and how to price out your time and your costs. And that's really important because you can, you can do a lot of hard work and not get paid well for it if you're not careful.

Jason: I could definitely see that that is the expenses kind of starts snowballing, then you're still working and making the food. Yes. Yes.

On Becoming a Culinary School Instructor

Jason: So you also were a, you were an instructor at the PPC Cooks Culinary School,

Karista: PCC Cooks.

Jason: How did, how did you get involved in that?

Karista: I just picked up the phone and I called someone and said, you know, I'm a chef and I would love to teach classes. What happened was I got a flyer in the mail about their school and all the classes they were offering, and I loved their market. And I hadn't yet gone to work for their market. But I did work for them at some point I thought, Oh gosh, I would love to, I would love to teach classes.

I was teaching private classes in people's homes. I would have different, you know, organizations say, can you come teach, you know, a team building cooking class, which is what I did a lot. And I thought, okay, I'd really like to teach home cooks how to cook. And I did that for 4 years, 4 or 5 years.

And I just picked up the phone and called the director and she called me right back and I said, can I send you some information? And it went, it was quite the vetting process to be allowed to teach, which made me feel good. I knew that once I got in, I was in. And that again was a learning curve. It took me a few classes to figure out my methods, but once I did, I think I was there for 4 or 5 years.

And it was, it was amazing. I loved meeting the home cooks. We have some amazing home cooks out there.

Jason: Yeah. I was just going to start at the Institute of Culinary Education in May, I guess earlier this month. So those obviously are delayed for the foreseeable future, but I had done in-home cooking classes and getting people up to speed on it. I do a lot of sous vide cooking.

Karista: Oh I love sous vide but I didn't always love sous vide. I hated sous vide when I was in culinary school, I thought it was the worst method of cooking. And then my husband bought me a sous vide machine and I'm like, Ugh, but now I love it.

Jason: I'm glad you've come around on it.

Karista: I'm like, that's not real cooking, but I, but I do love it. Oh my goodness. It is the best way to make steak. What do you make with sous vide?

Jason: What do I make with it? Pretty much everything. I've been writing about sous vide for 10 years now. So I've done iterations of almost all types of things.

Karista: Okay, so you are going to be my sous vide contact now if I have a question.

Jason: Yeah, definitely reach out to me and I can talk to you after the podcast as well, but we have the International Sous Vide Association's Sous Vide Summit is coming up in August. So if you or anyone listening, food bloggers out there interested in covering it, or if you want to come speak or do an online speech this year, or do a demo, we'd love to have you. Any food bloggers, we like to get involved.

Karista: Exciting, exciting. I'm going to have to check into that.

Jason: Yeah. I'll post a links in the show notes and I'll chat with you after that as well. But, I was doing a lot of teaching in my own house, trying to get some hands on classes, knowing that I had this coming up. And again, I didn't want to show up at the Institute of Culinary Education, which is a really well-known school and be like, Hey, I've never done this before, but let's see what happens.

So I did some for friends and a bunch of people like that. That'd be like $20 or $30. I was breaking even barely on it, but it was low expectations and just kind of, you know, learning what I was doing. And then when they were charging $150 per person for it, I feel so comfortable that I know what I'm doing at that time.

Karista: Exactly. I did a lot of those $25, $30 per persons early in my career, just for the experience. That is, that is so important to get that experience. So that's good. Yeah. Great.

Jason: It's it amazes me too how much we forget that we know. That it's doing that hands on with people really as a blogger and someone that teaches just whether it's written or videos or in person, it reminded me of, of what seems common sense to me really isn't to a lot of people because they've never done it before and they don't know what's happening.

Karista: Exactly. I found the same to be true. I would assume somebody knew how to pan-sear a scallop because I pan-seared up a zillion scallops. And you know, it was, we had a scallop class and it was amazing how you know how frightening it is for a lot of people to pan-sear scallops.

So yeah, it took me, you know, it sent me back a little bit like, Oh, not everybody knows how to do this. I could do it in my sleep, but that's because that's what I do for a living. But I found that to be so exciting to see a home cook pan-sear a perfect scallop and get excited about it. And know that they're going to go home and make this beautiful scallop. So, yeah, that, I loved that part of teaching people to cook.

Jason: That was one of the most enjoyable things for me too, is I'm just so used to blogging and you write a recipe down and you know, it's good and you send it out there and you get 10 comments on Facebook or whatever it looks nice. And that's it, you know, and you spend all this time and energy on it. And then you do a hands-on teaching class and you teach them how to sear a scallop or just use a vacuum sealer. They're just like, Oh, this is amazing, this is great. Thank you. And just getting that kind of feedback of how you're affecting somebody was really valuable for me.

Karista: And you're helping them raise the quality of their life because they're learning how to cook. And I think that is the one thing, I didn't know how to cook before culinary school. I swear anything I could, could have caused a slow and painful death. It was so bad that my husband did all the cooking.

And so learning how to cook opened this whole new avenue, this whole new door, not only for a career, but for my health and my family's health. I think teaching someone to cook is probably one of the most important things we can do.

Jason: I think that's a good ending point for the podcast. I agree completely with that. And what we're doing as food bloggers, I think a lot of times we don't view as being an important service. And I think we're finding, especially right now, when everyone is quarantined and relying on cooking their own food a lot more, that like you're saying, it is such a critical part of our DNA to cook and feed those that we care about. And as food bloggers, we're teaching people how to do that and how to take care of their families, which I think is incredibly valuable.

Karista: I do too. I think it's extremely valuable. And I admire so many people out there that are, that are in this business and teaching people how to cook. I, I really do. We have a lot of great people in the blogging space.

Jason: I really appreciate you coming on so much and sharing your expertise. You've done such a wide variety of things while blogging before blogging. And I think it's a good reminder that we don't just have to be stuck behind a screen as people that are interested in food, we can get out there just pick up the phone, like you said, call some people that are doing what you want to do and chat with them.

Karista: Yeah. And ask, ask your, ask your peers. I mean, a lot of people, I would ask a lot of people, well, how did you do this? How did you do that? And some responded and some didn't, I've had a lot of people ask me and I'm happy to share. So I think it's yeah. Ask, ask, ask.

Jason: And if people do have questions for you, I will put your email address in the show notes and they can get a hold of you. And thank you so much for coming on Makin' Bacon, it was great.

Karista: Oh, thank you, Jason. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

Jason: This has been Makin' Bacon, all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income and get the most out of your blog. Until next time. I'm Jason Logsdon.

Do you have some traffic and fans but you're not making as much money as you would like? It's time to take back control of your blog, diversify your income stream, and start moving forward again. And this FREE food blogging video course is exactly what you need to get you there.

How do you approach this? Let me know in the Makin Bacon Facebook Group or the comments below.


Jason logsdon headshot Hi, I'm Jason Logsdon! I'm an adventurous home cook and the head writer and photographer for Amazing Food Made Easy. I grew my income to 6-figures by focusing on serving my Fans by providing massive value, and I want to help you do the same.
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