Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan founded one of the Internet’s most popular food sites, TheKitchn.com—a spin-off of the home design blog Apartment Therapy. Yet like many food writers who’ve built successful websites, she recognizes the power of print. Gillingham-Ryan’s new cookbook, Good Food to Share is just out from Weldon-Owen, with a seal of approval from Williams-Sonoma. Although the book is not officially tied to TheKitchn, it has a similar vibe. The food is easy to make, easy on the eyes, and (we’re taking an educated guess here) goes down easy, too.
How much are you still involved in the site?
I write one big piece a week, and I’m involved on a daily basis kind of as a mother hen. There is a full-time managing editor. I’m very involved—less so than when I’m writing a book in four months.
Why did you decide to focus on entertaining?
It was a way for me to write authentically about the process of cooking for people with the idea of bringing joy to them. I use these recipes as much for a dinner party as I do during the week for my family. For me entertaining doesn’t have to mean you have little name place cards at everyone’s plate. Maybe a third of these recipes were tested in dinner party settings but the rest were tested during my everyday cooking for myself and my family.
Looks like the recipes are pretty much originals, not from the site.
They’re all originals from me. There’s no recycling here. But hopefully a cookbook from TheKitchn will be forthcoming.
How much did The Kitchn’s community influence this book?
The great thing about having a readership as large as ours is I get to hear so many conversations. It’s like eavesdropping on an amazing community. Being involved in the website every single day made me feel like I was in touch with eaters beyond my little New York City world. The gift of running a website instead of a print publication is you really get that immediate feedback.
How do you use recipes from cookbooks and the web?
I do my homework first and come up with a plan. If it’s some complicated pastry, then for sure I go back to my French Culinary Institute binder. But the way that I love to cook is, I consider a recipe as a tour guide and then I can go off the beaten path. So if I’m making a classic, like boeuf Bourgignon, I think, what are some of the touchstone recipes for that? I’d probably go to both places, like a super-reliable cookbook like Amanda Hesser’s Essential New York Times Cookbook,and then look online, where you can come across a French housewife’s blog, for instance.
I still think that recipes serve a purpose; they’re like this neat little package. It doesn’t mean you have to follow them exactly. I totally agree with Michael Ruhlman [http://ruhlman.com/2010/01/america-too-stupid-to-cook.html], that people clutch to recipes. But until someone comes up with a better way of helping people engage with food more, I think it’s the best way—the best written format, obviously.