Really, I'll take any excuse to go to Five Pennies Creamery in Rockville centre, but what made this trip extra special was getting a chance to catch up with an old friend from high school, Marisa Musto, talk of the good ol' days and of course her cooking blog (which I'm obsessed with) Cook's Book!
When did you know that cooking was more than a hobby for you?
In my senior year of high school, I went to vocational school for culinary arts (hey, you were there, too!). Like most of us at sixteen, I had no idea what I wanted to go to school for or what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” Cooking was something I was interested in exploring further, and I turned out loving it. Making food, eating food, sharing food, learning about food, I fell in love with all of it. I completely immersed myself in cooking and the restaurant industry and everything that could have deterred me didn’t—the long hours, the heat, the yelling chefs, being the youngest and only girl in the kitchen; that’s when I knew for sure that food and cooking was a passion for me. I pursued it and ended up going to the Culinary Institute of America. Graduating from there is my proudest accomplishment.
I know that you did a lot of writing in college, how did you decide you wanted to combine writing and cooking?
Cooking is my craft, but so is writing. I have always been a writer; I enjoy writing and feel that it is something that just comes very naturally to me. I went to school for journalism/ communication arts for my bachelor’s degree with the idea in mind that I can combine my two favorite things. Writing about food allows me to learn more about what I love, and getting to share that knowledge with others is very exciting. If I can give someone a good recipe for their favorite dish, entice them to try a new ingredient, teach them a cooking method, or recommend a restaurant, that’s just the coolest thing in the world to me.
Yes. Cook’s Book provides me with an outlet to chronicle all of my food experiences—everything from recipes I’ve tried and liked (and recipes I’ve tried and failed miserably at), to discussing food trends, methods, cooking tips and more. It’s always a bit of a thrill to know that whoever’s out there reading it may find it helpful or interesting. It’s also nice to know that whenever I need to reference a recipe I’ve written or tried, all I have to do go to my website. On a personal level, it’s a great way to keep track of things.
So do you tend to recreate dishes you've had in your own way? Or do you like to create your own recipes?
When I recreate recipes, I like to put my own little spin on them. Creating my own original recipes is always the most rewarding. It’s so much fun when you’re in the kitchen (or any random place) and your juices start flowing with ideas that eventually turn into something delicious. Of course, sometimes it also turns out to be a nightmare, but that’s how you learn. I always find inspiration in the different foods and dishes that I eat.
Since we're on the topic of your blog, I just want to say your food styling and photography are amazing. Have you ever thought of going into food styling professionally?
Thank you. I don’t have a super fancy camera and I obviously don’t have a studio or special lights or anything like that; I just like to take pictures and I try to do the best I can with what I have. I’ve thought about food styling professionally, but I would need to get much better. One part of my job as a food editor is that I get work with photographers to help orchestrate photo shoots for recipe cards. Now that I get to see firsthand what it’s like, I realize that it is really not that easy! It’s not just about making something, putting it on a plate and taking a super zoomed in macro shot. You have to think about what is going to make the food look best, so things like props, colors, and positioning all have to be taken into consideration.
Do you think food and style go hand in hand?
Absolutely! It’s true what they say about eating with your eyes first; if something looks good, you are going to want to eat it. It’s that simple. Of course, it’s also important to make sure it tastes as good as is looks. In a way, it’s kind of like fashion. Your style can be elegant and fancy like foie gras, cute and dainty like a cupcake, or relaxed and comfortable like fried chicken; all can be tasty, but it’s the way you present it that really sells it.
What would you say your ultimate culinary goal is? I could totally see you as the next "Barefoot Contessa"!
Thanks! Well, that would definitely be nice! My ultimate culinary goal is to have a legit cookbook published and to work as an editor at a big name food magazine or website. I’d also like to think that someday I will open a small restaurant— either a brick oven artisan type of pizza place or a tea house. At least one of those has got to come true lol.