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.
What’s your workout routine?
I get this question a LOT. Here’s the deal…. I eat a lot of food. I can put it down and have zero shame in that. But I have to work out on a daily basis to keep that in check. I have a trainer in LA that I try and see about 3 times a week and we run through an hour of circuit training and my ass is officially kicked at the end of each session. I box 2-3 times a week too – best cardio workout ever. I try and do active things when seeing my friends, so we’ll go for a hike or a walk and then grab a coffee or brunch. AND lastly, I rarely drive. In fact I don’t have a car, so I walk everywhere. 10k steps a day minimum!
Favorite cooking shows to watch?
I’ll be totally honest, I don’t watch a lot of food TV these days. I used to be OBSESSED with Rachel Ray and her 30 minute meals back when I was in college, but these days the only thing that I watch obsessively is Chefs Table on Netflix. It’s the most gorgeous programming on TV these days and the stories are fascinating.
What conferences do you attend and think are worthwhile when you’re just getting started?
When I first started in the culinary world, I went to just about every conference there was. I think it’s super important to get out there and meet your peers, especially when your job is isolating at times. (I mean, hello, blogging is basically sitting at a computer for a LOT of your time)
These days I go to IACP most years and find that the best networking is there. I love it because it’s not just digital media – it’s more food people from all different paths and getting to meet them and hear their stories is always super inspiring.
Can we talk blogging 101? How do you get a blog started?
Yup. First things first – you need a name. What’s Gaby Cooking is obviously what I went for so I bought my domain name online, I bought a host and then set up shop on WordPress. At first my blog was just a template, and over time I’ve hired designers, coders and tech gurus to make it customizable and easy to use for user experience. Do I think you need to hire someone out of the gate to design your blog – nope. I’d say start with a template and nail down your voice and brand before you start doling out money for it. There are various levels of design you can go for once you’re ready. At first I hired a designer to customize a template for me for like $200. After that I had my husband design a logo and build my site. He quickly became too busy to deal with the design and upkeep of my blog so I outsourced and hired a designer to create the What’s Gaby Cooking identity and then had a brilliant code guru / developer build the site from scratch. It’s not cheap but my site is user friendly so that’s a major win!
How did you turn your blog into a business in the very beginning / how long till the blog was my full time income?
oh man – it was a really long time before I started earning any money on WGC. When I first started in 2009 it was a few pennies here and there off of ads. It took about 3 years before I started doing any real sponsored work and it’s grown since then. Here’s the interesting thing – when I started my blog I had no idea it was a viable source of income. It was really just a place for me to brag to my friends and family about what I learned in culinary school. These days I think people start blogs and instagrams in hope of making money – but it’s not as easy as that. It takes a lot of time to build up a following and TRUST which is really important. There were a few deals that I took early on in WGC that I shouldn’t have. They were brands that weren’t really on brand for me and my audience so there were def some growing pains. But it’s all about time, networking, growing your following, being authentic and sharing valuable content. Once I started really honing in on my brand and messaging, things began to pick up because I had a purpose and a message which is something that I didn’t have in the early days. DON’T START your blog if you’re just in it to make money!!
Can you give me an idea of what you eat on a daily basis, workouts that you may do?
omg it really changes on a daily basis. When I’m home, I start almost every day with a smoothie. Lunch is a quick salad of some sort – that kale caesar salad I did a few weeks ago is on heavy rotation these days. Or I’ll eat whatever is leftover in the fridge or whatever I might be recipe testing that day. Dinner is some sort of grilled fish or protein and veggies on the days were attempting to eat clean. But that only is about 50% of the time, so I’m all about pasta and pizza other days. It’s all about balance so if I go balls to the wall at lunch, I try and keep dinner light and vice versa. I’m not good at depriving myself of things, so nothing is off limits. But I do try and moderate. And as for working out – when I’m in LA, I go to Rise Movement 3 times a week for private training. I’m obsessed with my trainers there and it’s the best workout I’ve ever had. It’s a circuit for 60 minutes and I usually get there 30 minutes early to warm up / do a few miles on the treadmill and stretch.
Can you provide the nutritional breakdown of your recipes?
Unfortunately, I can’t. But feel free to plug the exact ingredients you use into any of the free available online calorie counters!
Do you accept guest posts on your site?
Thanks for asking, but I do not, nor have I ever, have guest posts on my blog. It’s just how things work over here on WGC.
Can I send you a product to review on your site?
I don’t do product reviews on WGC and I don’t accept free product either. Too much packaging waste! Occasionally I do a sponsored post which often includes some recipe development with a product. If you’re interested in that, shoot me an email and we can talk!
I am so excited you are making one of my recipes and I would love to see how it turns out. Make sure to share it on instagram and tag me @whatsgabycookin so I can see your masterpiece!