Ask Gaby

I’m back for the next round of Ask Gaby! Basically a once-a-month post where you can ask anything/everything and we can chat about it here! Full transparency. No holding back on my end. So without further ado…

Here’s the deal – I get a TON of questions on various platforms and there is a lot of overlap. Whether its on snapchat, Facebook, instagram, twitter etc… there are some fun and interesting questions out there and I think we should answer them all in one place so it’s easily accessible for everyone! Every few weeks I’ll be adding to this post so if you think of something you want to ask me, shout it out in the comments below! (and FYI it goes in chronological order – so if you’ve been here a time or two, scroll down for the latest additions!!)

How did all this start??
Oh man… ok here we go. I was the pickiest eater growing up. No joke. I ate pretty much only pasta and grilled cheese until I got to high school. In high school I started watching a bunch of cooking shows and was obsessed with making chicken parmesan. Literally, thats the only thing I made for the first few years and trust me when I tell you that I make the BEST chicken parm ever. When I got to college, I got chubby REAL fast. Freshman 15? I wish. It was more like the Freshman 25 and I was playing tennis every day too. I had 4 square meals a day (in college we’d go eat a second dinner at 9pm – super healthy… NOT!) and eventually took matters into my own hands and started cooking. After college, I moved down to Los Angeles and got a regular office job. HATED IT, and the company eventually folded. I was only there for about 9 months and rather than go get another job right away, I decided I would go to culinary school and put off the real world for just a bit longer. After culinary school I went to pastry school and meanwhile did the blog as a hobby. I started working as a private chef and the rest is history (aka I’ll fill you in on the next few questions)

Where did I go to culinary school / would you recommend going to culinary school?
I did 2 different culinary/pastry programs. The culinary program was at Westlake Culinary Institute, it was a condensed 6 month culinary program and we learned pretty much everything you’d learn at a big fancy culinary school but for a fraction of the price. After culinary school, I immediately enrolled in pastry school (Academy of Culinary Education) because I LOVED it. Plus, who wouldn’t want to make cookies all day. Turns out pastry school isn’t all about cookies and brownies. There are a lot of fancy pastry techniques that weren’t really my jam. I learned how to make puff pastry and all that jazz, ate a ton of sugar, got my first cavity and then peaced out about 3/4th of the way through and said bye!!! Would I recommend going to culinary school? Depends on what you’re interests are post school? I don’t think its MANDATORY but it absolutely helped me in my career. More on that coming shortly…

How did you become a private chef?
While I was in culinary school, I was interviewing to be a nanny for this incredible family in Malibu. I told them I was going to culinary school at the same time and I ended up being their chef and cooking for them for a handful of years. It was incredible, their kitchen is the kitchen of my dreams and I just love them!!! I had a handful of clients while I was working as a private chef and was incredibly fortunate to love all of them (I lucked out – it’s not always so fun or carefree)

Do you think you need to go to culinary school to be a private chef?
I do. I think it really helps and gives you some major credibility. At least here in LA where every other family has a private chef and they come from incredible restaurants and fly around the world to cook for their clients. That said, I don’t think you have to go to a super fancy culinary school!! And a HUGE part of being a private chef is your personality and disposition. You’re spending your days in your clients kitchen and you’re responsible for feeding their entire family. I think it’s one of the most intimate jobs as you’re in the heart of the home. So having a positive and professional demeanor is equally as important as your culinary school cred. And while this isn’t exactly the same question – I certainly think it’s helped me learn how to write recipes and learn ratios. I can look at a recipe and tell you off the bat if it’s going to work and/or taste good. So that’s a major bonus.

What keeps you inspired?
omg so many things. Living in California I have access to some incredible year round farmers markets which I visit on a weekly basis so seeing whatever is in season or new and exciting is a constant source of inspiration. I’m also pretty lucky to have such incredible friends and family who LOVE food. We’re always talking about food, throwing dinner parties, hosting brunches, and cooking together etc… and just being a part of that is a great way to constantly be coming up with new ideas to share with YOU guys!

How do you not get burnt out?

I’ll be honest – it doesn’t happen a lot because I really do love my job, but when I feel it coming on it’s a sign that I need to get out of the normal routine and switch things up. Whether that is packing up an going on an adventure, booking a weekend getaway, or just do something that is new and stimulating and inspiring. That can be as simple as going out to lunch at a new fun restaurant with food outside my repertoire, or as extravagant and packing my bags and heading off on safari for 2 weeks. For me, it’s important to travel. It makes me tick. Keeps me inspired. I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures – so as long as I make an effort to do that, I’m usually good to go 🙂

I’ve also been known to try and put my phone down for a weekend and not obsessively participate in social media. It’s never lasted for more than 24 hours, but I’ve made a few solid attempts. Once I went for a walk and left my phone at home. It was a major milestone in my life 🙂

How did you meet Thomas?

Oh this is my favorite story to tell besides the story about watching Game of Thrones in the Miami airport a few years ago. But we’ll save that for another time.

I’ve never actually taken the time to write down our story, I always tell it in person so let’s see if I can make this work. Let’s rewind to the high school days and I’ll preface this by saying Thomas is a year older than me. I grew up in Arizona and when it came time to apply to colleges I sent applications to dozens of schools. After I finally narrowed it down (St. Mary’s College of CA up in the Bay Area) and was accepted to be on the women’s tennis team, one of my best friends, Emily, suggested I look at all the athletes on their website and see which teams had the hottest guys. (Totally normal for any 17 year old girl right?) She’s also a year older than me and is equal parts best friend, older sister and life council so she knows whats up 🙂

Emily came over, we scoured the SMC website, basketball, rugby, baseball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, etc. HUNDREDS of profiles later we narrowed it down to Thomas. He was on the mens tennis team and he was 100% my type. (bleached hair and all – hahaha) A few months later I packed my bags, moved up to college, cried when I said goodbye to my parents and met Thomas on my first day of school at tennis practice. He waltzed down to practice too cool for school and I quickly learned that he had a girlfriend. RUDE.

I moved on to various other guys but Thomas and I always got paired up to play mixed doubles together and to cross train together when tennis got rained out.  I’ve never been a good poker player, so I think it was pretty obvious to him that I was interested. One thing led to another, he eventually broke up with his girlfriend and FINALLY asked me out. I wasn’t having any of it. In case you didn’t know this about me, I really only like to do things on my own terms. We casually dated for a few months but I wasn’t ready for any sort of committed relationship. I had only had 1 other boyfriend before and that was in high school and it was so casual that a real relationship scares me. That all changed when I went on a girls trip to Tahiti with some of my friends from the tennis team. After a few too many cocktails one night I decided it was a great idea to get a tattoo of a whale on my ankle. Super logical right? We had just seen a TON of whales off the coast and I was obsessed. (side note – I’m still obsessed with whales and will drop basically anything to go whale watching anytime anywhere) Before making any major decisions I decided to rack up a giant phone bill and call Thomas to run the idea by him. (He’d met my parents a few times at this point since they would come up to visit and take the mens/womens tennis team out for dinner and knew the family dynamic fairly well) and Thomas was like GABY DALKIN if you get a tattoo while you’ve been drinking in Tahiti your mom will be so mad at you. The rest is history. I came home from Tahiti, he surprised me at my house in Tucson and threw me a big birthday party and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We dated for 6 years starting the end of my sophomore year and then got married about almost 5 years ago.

How do I decide what brands to work with?

Easy! Is it a brand that I love? Is it something that I know my audience would appreciate and love? Is it delicious? Is it a product that I can get behind and incorporate into my everyday life? Is it providing some sort of value or education to my readers? Boom. There you go. I always make sure the brands I partner with are on brand for me personally and my audience. No amount of money is worth sacrificing the trust of you guys – EVER.   

What are your top 5 kitchen tools?

1 – my All-Clad Dutch Oven

2 – my Copper Vitamix

3 – A really good silicon spatula

4 – my Kitchenaid mixer

5 – my Global chefs knife

How do you make the food so pretty?

3 years ago I realized I was allowed to put money back into my brand, (it is my full time business after all and most companies have some sort of overhead) what a concept right? So I tapped 2 of my very best friends, Matt and Adam to help me create a more cohesive What’s Gaby Cooking visual brand. Matt is a food photographer and Adam is a food stylist and between the 3 of us, we come up with all the creative for the images you see here on WGC. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s a little more challenging, but it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.  At this point we’re a well oiled machine. Three musketeers in real life!    

Have you ever paid to promote your blog?

Nope. Haven’t ever done any paid advertising on my end. But sometimes my brand partners will pay to promote a video on Facebook or something along those lines.

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30 Comments

  1. What are some recipes you recommend for a college student living with their partner and pet rabbit haha.

  2. In your snap that references this Q & A , you were wearing a University of Michigan shirt-it appeared to be at least-lol. What are your ties to Michigan? I’m a Michigan California transplant. 🙂 thanks and love your recipes!

  3. I tried making the basil vinaigrette in my vitamix, but because of where the blade rests, it seems like I would have to put in larger quantities than what i would want for one or two servings. Do you have this problem with your vitamix?

  4. I’m ALWAYS in the kitchen cooking for my kids. They’ve loved everything I’ve made from your site! Question : Any pots/pans you can recommend? I feel like we go through them so quick. I’d rather spend the $$$ and have ones that will last me! Also, any MUST HAVE kitchen items? Thanks Gaby!

  5. Yes, please tell me the best nonstick pan that won’t cause weird diseases AND can last longer than a year.

  6. You mentioned in a snapisode why you don’t wash mushrooms. I thought it was so interesting and was telling my fiancé about it a couple days later, but completely forgot WHY you don’t wash them! My brain is mush! What is the reason again?! Thanks!!

    1. They absorb a lot of water when you wash them, therefore you’ll get soggy mushrooms. I clean mine with a slightly damped paper towel and remove any dirty 🙂

  7. Hello from a fellow LA-er! Are there any weekend or shorter day-length cooking classes or courses you would suggest in the LA area? I’d love to hone my cooking skills, but I work a 9-5 and don’t have the resources to dive full-time into a culinary school right now. Thanks Gaby!

  8. What’s the deal with maldon salt? It seems like it’s your favorite salt to use, but why? I would love to get in the secret!! 🙂

  9. Hi Gaby! I know you shared your content calendar scheduling before, which I need to reread. But was curious if you al so used any apps to help with social media planning? Thanks so much for all that you share!! And your recipes are so on point, just love them !! xo- Em

    1. Thanks Emily!! I don’t actually use any apps to help with social media – most of it is done directly through FB, Insta, Twitter etc. I do use Viraltag to help with pinterest!!

  10. Love your work and attitude, Gaby! I’ve been inspired by your work and recipes for some time now and I enjoyed reading this. I love food and beautiful things and breaking bread with love ones and have made several of your recipes in the past. I recently started my own food blog called Basil and Roses. I was wondering if you have any advice for someone just starting out in the game?

    Thanks and wishing you continued success!

    p.s. love the story of how you and husband met 🙂

  11. You’ve been shark diving before, what are other items on your bucket list that you hope to cross off soon?

  12. How do you decide which cookbook will be chosen for the month? We have enjoyed them, especially Everyday Cook and the Mediterranean one.

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