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I have recently joined Adopt-a-Blogger, a wonderful mentorship program created by Kristen over at Dine & Dish. Through the program, mentors with blogs over a year old — that's me! — help fledgling food bloggers just starting out. I'd like to introduce you to my match, Erin McDowell of The Apartment Kitchen.
Erin is a recent grad of the Culinary Institute of America and works in its cookbook publishing department, a very cool job from what she has told me so far. In fact, when we first met she was in the middle of a cookie photo shoot! “There are so many cookies in my office right now, and the smell is both heavenly and deadly,” she wrote. Seriously, how fun would that be?
Erin currently writes two blogs, The Apartment Kitchen, where she uses her training to make delicious food on a budget, and Absence Makes the Heart Grow Hungry, a joint blog with her mom and brother. Each week, they post recipes after cooking the same ingredient in their different homes across the country to “keep the family table alive, long-distance style,” Erin says.
Erin, what's your blog all about?
After I graduated from culinary school, I was excited to dive into cooking at home — until I realized my kitchen was about as bare as could be. I decided to start a blog about my journey towards cooking easy, delicious and inexpensive meals without a lot of equipment. It's been fun using the training I received in school but in a different environment — it's forced me to think creatively and come up with new, exciting solutions!
Of all the subjects out there, why did you choose to blog about food?
Food is everything to me, but I only realized it a few years ago. When I was a senior in high school, the idea of culinary school hit me. It was only after I started that I realized that it was the perfect choice for me. I grew up around food. My mother is an unbelievable cook, and everyone in the family found their way into cooking one way or another!
Your blog is relatively young. In a few lines, can you please sum up its history/important milestones during its growth so far?
The most exciting moment was having a recipe recognized by Saveur Magazine. I also really enjoyed being a part of the food contests at Food52, it's so much fun with lots of other cooks and bloggers, and I won one competition!
Who is your audience?
I get a lot of new cooks, people who are looking for easy meals or don't have a lot of equipment either, but I've also found that a lot of foodies and fellow food bloggers tune in, too!
What new relationships/friendships have you made as a result of food blogging?
It's been amazing to see where my readers come from: India, Russia, Spain, France, even Argentina! My favorite interactions have been with people who ask me to help them with a kitchen dilemma or to develop a recipe. It's fun to work together to find a solution!
Do you have a team that helps you with your blog, or is it a one-person operation?
My friend Chris is my right hand man in all things blog-related. He really inspired me to do some new and interesting things with my blog and he became my webmaster. He's helped me design the blog and figure out all that fancy HTML and formatting stuff that I had no clue about.
How do you use social media to promote your blog?
It took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon, but I have a Twitter account (@apartmentcooker) and a Facebook page (The Apartment Kitchen), which have been really fantastic tools when it comes to connecting with readers.
Tell me a bit about one of your heroes or mentors when it comes to food and cooking, and what you have learned from them.
My mother is always at the top of that list...she taught me so much about how food influences people's lives and the importance of home cooked meals and eating around the dinner table. Other (perhaps more well-known) influences are Lidia Bastianich, who cooks delicious food and stays true to her heritage and shares it with others, and Irena Chalmers, who taught me so much about food writing.
Do you have a favourite food memory from your childhood or recent past?
So many! But just the other day I was reminded of my first kitchen job: I went into the bakeshop at 3:00 a.m. to make and bake all of the breakfast pastries. Our specialty was scones, and two days a week I had to deliver them to a local coffee shop after my shift. Sometimes I would run home and surprise my parents with an array of warm scones just as they woke up, and we'd sit on the porch and eat them as the sun came up.
One of the key themes of your blog is staying within a budget — given your gourmet training, what advice do you have for uncompromising foodies on a shoestring budget?
The best advice I can give to anyone is to build a good pantry: spices, oils, vinegars, seasonings, condiments, aromatic vegetables and so on. It can seem expensive at first, but once you have a good basis in your kitchen, you can make almost anything, including deliciously gourmet items after buying just one or two things. The other day my boyfriend requested his favorite turkey meatloaf, and all we had to buy was one pound of ground turkey!
So that's Erin of The Apartment Kitchen! We'll keep you posted about the interesting things will be trying together.