You may remember my Cinco De Mayo post this year, featuring the fantastic Margarita Cupcakes from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson. I was so happy that my friends at the Lisa Ekus Group chose this book to send my way for review (I am a cupcake FIEND), and when Julie's publicist at Robert Rose mentioned that I could send along some interview questions for Julie I was absolutely thrilled! I love talking to people who have careers in food and food publishing. I got into the habit of doing informational interviews in college when I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my degree, and to this day I find them a valuable learning experience on how to form your own career path--by talking to those who have made a living with your own similar interests. As you probably know, I love writing, cooking, and writing about cooking, so it was really great to talk to Julie and hear her advice for us 20-something food bloggers with visions of cook books in their eyes.
"Julie Hasson has 20 years of experience in the food industry, including attending UCLA’s Culinary Arts/Professional Chef program, working at the famed Patina restaurant, and serving as a private chef for celebrities and high-profile clients. Julie opened the original Babycakes Bakery (a wholesale bakery that supplied Los Angeles restaurants and coffee houses with artisan baked goods), authored [many] cookbooks (Vegan Diner, The Complete Book Of Pies, 125 Best Cupcake Recipes, 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes, 125 Best Chocolate Recipes and 300 Best Chocolate Recipes), has contributed extensive articles and recipes to Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Family Fun magazines, and is also the host of the popular Internet cooking show “Everyday Dish.” Julie has been featured in print, and on TV and radio, including The Cooking Channel, Better, Better Portland, Good Day Oregon, Martha Stewart Radio, Veg News Magazine, Vegetarian Times, as well as numerous radio and TV shows across the country. She was one of the hosts of the cooking show 15 & Done." (source)
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions! I was thrilled to receive a copy of your new book, 150 Cupcake Recipes recently. I plan on baking my way through it over the summer--as you said in the intro, cupcakes really are the perfect dessert! I haven't interviewed someone since my college magazine writing course, so forgive me if I'm a little rusty, here we go!
As a young professional who is trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in life, I always find it interesting to ask people how they came upon their current career path. Could you tell me how you got into this career? What is your background in cooking?
I was actually an art major in college, and realized that I loved cooking so much that I wanted to be a chef. So I quickly switched career paths. UCLA had a culinary arts program at the time, and that is where I learned to cook professionally. My first job was in the pastry kitchen at a restaurant called Patina, in Los Angeles. That sort of cemented the whole dessert thing for me.
About a year later, my husband and I opened a wholesale bakery in L.A., called Babycakes, and made rustic desserts for local restaurants and coffee shops. The magazine and book writing came later.
That's awesome! I find it comforting to know that the major you choose in college doesn't have to dictate what you end up doing. What was your first cookbook? Can you share a little bit about the process of writing and publishing it?
My first book was 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes. I knew that I wanted to write a chocolate chip dessert book. I found an agent who believed in my idea, I wrote a proposal, and found a publisher. Once I got the publishing contract, I wrote the entire book in about 4 months. I had so many recipes swirling around my head, that the book just flowed out of me.
You have written a handful of books and articles about Vegan cooking. Are you Vegan? If so, do you find it difficult to develop recipes that are not Vegan? How do you go about testing recipes that you cannot eat yourself?
I am vegan. It was definitely a process for me transitioning my writing and cooking career. I had written so many dessert books and articles, which although vegetarian, were far from being vegan. My recipes relied on the usual suspects of butter, cream, and eggs. I decided to become vegan while I was writing my pie book (The Complete Book Of Pies). It was tough trying to figure out how I was going to write and test recipes and be vegan. I decided that I would finish all of the recipes that relied on dairy, eggs and butter first, and then have the rest of the recipes be vegan. So there are actually over 100 vegan pie recipes in that book, all of which I’m very proud of. They are the recipes that I reach for whenever I make pie, which is pretty frequently.
You own your own food cart business, Native Bowl, with your husband. The cuisine is entirely comprised of rice bowls using native ingredients. What was the inspiration for this menu?
When we opened our food cart, we knew we wanted to serve fresh, healthy, flavorful food. We wanted to use as many local ingredients as possible, and serve something that was pretty unique. When my husband and I entertained at home, we would often do rice bowls with all kinds of bold flavored sauces and fresh, crisp seasonal vegetables. They were always very popular, so we decided to do something similar at our cart. We also wanted our food to be vegan.
"150 Best Cupcake Recipes" is now your second cupcake cookbook. How does it compare to your first cupcake book? Do you foresee another cupcake book in the future?
150 Best Cupcake Recipes is actually an updated version of 125 Best Cupcake Recipes, along with 25 new recipes. So the books are similar, but with some fun new additions. The new recipes are more in line with the way that I bake now. In fact, some of the new recipes in the book we serve at our cart.
I don’t know if I see another cupcake book in my future, although you never know. Maybe next time I’ll tackle Twinkies or some other style of mini cakes.
You've written many books focusing on dessert. What is your favorite dessert? Did you always have a sweet tooth?
I have always had a sweet tooth, and loved to bake. I started baking at a really young age. As a teenager my specialties were chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies. I think I enjoyed making them even more than eating them.
It’s really hard to pick one favorite dessert, but if I have to pick just one I would say that it’s berry pie.
What is your advice for young professionals who are looking to break into the industry--be it restaurant ownership, cookbook writing, or recipe development?
Oh that’s a tough one. I would say that culinary school is a great place to start. Even if you already know how to cook, there is so much to learn about professional cooking. It also helps give you confidence when you go out into the field, because it’s a very competitive business. I think that I would also say that if money is your goal, you may want to rethink cooking for a living.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it!
From an interview about 150 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson © 2011 Robert
Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.