Q&A with Phoebe Lapine:
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 27-year old food woman of many trades, born and raised in New York City. Currently, I reside in a cute little studio in Chelsea, where I constantly bang my head on the ceiling of my sleeping loft.
There are plenty of things that might make me, as my dad has put it over the years, kind of a “wacky gal.” The key to my heart, a close second to a good foot massage, is a parchment paper cone of very crispy French fries (classy, I know). I do a lot of things backwards. Like, I literally read magazines back to front. I enjoy animal impressions. I have a fear of fruit
How did you originally decide to start a food blog?
After graduating Brown University in 2007, I was hired by L’Oreal, where I worked in global marketing and developed women’s fragrance brands for Ralph Lauren. It had its perks – like, taking home drawers full of lipstick – but it wasn’t my passion. To balance my day job with my love of cooking and feeding friends, I co-founded a food website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. The site spawned my first cookbook, In the Small Kitchen, which was published by Harper Collins in May 2011, with a foreword by Ina Garten.
My food philosophy has since evolved from “twenty-something cooking,” and about a year ago, I began my current blog, Feed Me Phoebe. This is where I document my kitchen confessions, healthy comfort food, gluten-free finds, snap shots of my professional cooking world, miscellaneous shenanigans, and all the reasons why every dish tastes better when shared with family or friends.
Above ease and self-sufficiency, I believe that feeling good about your body and your food, is the most compelling reason to get in the kitchen and get cooking. You’ll notice that I preach a balanced diet, which means eating a lot of good with a little bad. It’s not a highly scientific theory, but I believe that kale lasagna is better than no lasagna at all.
How did you come up with your recipe for blueberry pancakes?
I found out I was allergic to gluten two years ago. Since then, I’ve tried to find recipes that use ingredients that are naturally gluten-free. Some decent store-bought substitutions – like quinoa pasta and Udi’s bread – are great to incorporate. But since so many people these days eat gluten-free, it’s just as important for non-GF folk to have some great naturally gluten-free dishes in their arsenal that don’t require obscure ingredients or 10 different types of flour.
Pancakes are actually a really easy item to adapt to a gluten-free diet since they don’t have very much flour in them to begin with. In these ones I use almond meal and white rice flour, which is my go-to all-purpose flour.
Make sure to check in with Phoebe at Feed Me Phoebe. She will be posting her recipe for the blueberry pancakes sometime in June.
Was there anyone or anything in particular that influenced your life and gave you direction?
I had two very important food mentors growing up. One was my mother. And the other was my kitchen fairy Godmother, Ina Garten. My dad met Ina back in high and they have been friends ever since. One of my most vivid cooking memories is of helping her make German Chocolate Cake for my dad’s 50th birthday when I was 13. This was before Ina became a superstar on the Food Network, and I remember how she swept through my childhood kitchen in Westchester assessing the platters, grabbing small silver serving bowls that hadn’t see the light of day since my parents unpacked them with the rest of their wedding china, and whipping out a large tin of caviar from her supply bag, which we ate with potato chips and champagne (or, at least, the adults did).
Everything we made that night was simple, elegant, and perfect for the occasion, from the pumpernickel smoked salmon tartines with herb butter to the cake, which stood tall and proud on its stand, flaunting three dense chocolate-y layers and decadent icing. This early cooking experience stuck with me and taught me that cooking shouldn’t be intimidating – it should be fun.
How did you learn to do what you do as a professional in the culinary world?
It’s been an on-going process of trial and error. I think the catering events, more than anything else, have pushed me to hone my craft. Anyone who has catering experience knows the chaos that lurks around every corner and the constant moving parts you have to deal with at every event.
About a year ago, I catered a book party at the home of a very well respected editor. The book we were honoring was all about food, and the client was also the author of Alice Water’s biography, so he was pretty legit. The food he requested was 60’s themed – deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches, and chopped liver. That’s it.
I was a little worried about the chopped liver. It was my first time making it, and I am not a fan. I thought my version tasted awful, so hopefully right on target? As I finished plating the deviled eggs, the first guest arrived. The host introduced me, and the man shaking my hand casually said: “Danny Meyer, nice to meet you.” My reaction was “oh wow.” I wish I hadn’t actually said that out loud, and that my hands were a little less yolk-y. An hour later, I looked on in horror and ecstasy as Gael Greene shoveled a rye toast with about an inch of chopped liver into her mouth.
What is a favorite project you’ve worked on or recipe you’ve made?
I loved writing my cookbook. My favorite recipe from it is a sweet and savory Moroccan stew. It reminds me of my mother and a trip we took to Morocco together right after I graduated college. It’s also damn delicious.
What do you love about the work you do?
I love the creativity that goes into coming up with recipe ideas. For some people (including Ina) it’s the meticulousness of testing the recipes. For many restaurant chefs, it’s the adrenaline of playing with knives and fire. For me, it’s really the art of conception, and then watching people I know and love enjoying my creations.
Any advice for someone who is interested in doing what you do in the culinary world?
You have to throw as many darts at the wall as possible to figure out what sticks. Amanda Hesser wrote a great piece on Food52 about advice for young people wanting to get into the food industry. It’s so right on. So yeah, what she said: Food 52 Advice for Future Food Writers