Welcome to my Interview Series! I will be featuring amazing female entrepreneurs & digital influencers that are breaking ground in their space. This week I am featuring Gaby Dalkin from What's Gaby Cooking!
Gaby Dalkin has built her own digital cooking empire through her blog, What's Gaby Cooking and her original recipes. She is a food/lifestyle blogger who has gone on to publish 2 cookbooks: Absolutely Avocados & What's Gaby Cooking: Everyday California Food. She currently has over 446k followers on Instagram and shared her recipes on the Today Show. She also has her own product line of seasonings in William-Sonoma.
In short - Gaby is KILLING IT!
In this interview, Gaby is sharing how she landed her first agent, a book deal and product line with William-Sonoma! She is also breaking down her content strategy and how early she starts planning her editorial calendar. If you are building your brand or trying to launch product - keep scrolling to read all the great information Gaby is sharing on how she built her cooking & lifestyle brand.
**Fun fact: I went to college with Gaby and I can confirm
she is totally as fabulous and real as she comes across on her Insta-Stories and Insta-Lives.
When did you start blogging and how/when did you take the leap to full-time??
I started my blog in 2009 when I was attending Culinary School to document all my recipes. I walked away to focus on What's Gaby Cooking full-time in 2013. I was very diligent in spending and budgeting. I had a decent amount of savings when I left my job as a private chef. I budgeted for 6-10 months of rent & expenses, so I could go full-time with What's Gaby Cooking, but I was still very nervous.
How did you land your first literary agent?
I was at a conference IACP, which is a conference I started attending in Culinary School. It was a great networking opportunity. I met multiple literary agents and set out multiple proposals. I was able to land my first agent from there.
How did you secure your first book deal?
I was in New York for some meetings and we invited everyone we knew in the food world to come to dinner. At the dinner I met a publishing editor and we started talking about cookbooks. He asked me what I wanted to write about and I said "Avocados". A week later he called my agent and bought an 80+ RECIPE Avocado cookbook. That part was very exciting, but I did not get much creative say in the book. It was a very big learning curve for me on what goes into a good partnership vs one that doesn't allow the tastemaker a full voice.
What was your experience with your 2nd book - What's Gaby Cooking?
The first book I did not get much creative say, my 2nd book was a completely different experience. It was a dream experience and I loved working with my editor Holly on it. She was so supportive of my vision for the book.
Where is the Food Blogging world with brands and relationships?
I think the food blogging world is behind the fashion and lifestyle world. It's hard to it's hard to measure how many bottles of tomato sauce I'm selling when I'm working with the tomato sauce really but I think brands are learning that influence/tastemakers have selling power for the consumer, especially with the Millenial audience. They want to talk and hear from someone who is their friend and has that personal connection.
Advice to Brands -
Its easy to celebrate the wins, when have you failed or something not worked out for you?
All I wanted to do was be on Food Network 8 years ago when this all started. I applied to be on Food Network 3 different times and got denied every time! I decided that if I can't have a Food Network Show - I will write a book! A few months later I was in New York at a Food party and met a publishing editor.
How did your partnership with William-Sonoma come about?
I decided in 2016 that I wanted to do a product line and I emailed a few different retailers. I had meetings with multiple teams. It was after making a meal for the William-Sonoma team that I realized they were the dream partner. They were really great at giving me creative freedom and allowing my voice. It's such a great partnership. I really appreciate their entire team.
Then my first product line William Sonoma came out in 2017 and we were in a meeting halfway through and I was like 'guys my book comes out in spring 2018!' We decided to launch more product in conjunction with my 30-city book tour. We decided to do seasonings, it's a way to put a little like sprinkle a little Gaby on everything you're making!
What is your advice on building a brand and how you gained traction?
What's Gaby Cooking started in 2009, its been a slow build. There has never been a huge spike, but it's about staying consistent and putting out content and CONNECT WITH YOUR READERS! Here are a few tips around building your brand:
Advice on Building Brand
Authentic voice - find what is different about your voice and stick to it! And it's important to remember that it evolves over time, but you have to be true to yourself and stay authentic.
Pick one thing - do it really well
Great on camera? great photographer and stylist? Focus on refining those skills. But remember you don't need to spend a ton of money to start! Creating an Instagram account is free! You want to do outfit posts, go borrow clothes from friends & family.
Collaborate with different Influencers
Find people of similar following size to you, whether that's food, fashion, fitness, and find a way to work together. I feel like you get exposed to their audience they get exposed your audience - it's a win-win!
Tell me about your cookbook writing experience and how you vet your recipes?
Everything is tested at least four to five times in two different kitchen. I typically recreate the recipes three to four times and then my tester tests it one more time somewhere else. but I'll cook in different places because different stoves might have different temperatures so I spend a lot of time on recipe testing. Quality Control is extremely important to me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
it's totally different every day. I don't have weekends anymore. I can't remember the last time I actually took a real day off. Let's see... this past Sunday and Monday was a huge photo shoot for a magazine in Malibu and today I have a couple podcasts. Before we hopped on this call, I was doing the interview. I have to test three recipes from my next book and I have an Instagram live tonight!
How far are you planning your content? What does your Editorial Calendar
I try to plan 6-8 weeks out! I shoot 6-8 weeks out, but we do have things come up last minute with brand partnerships and other things. After doing this for so many years, I know the schedule for parties, seasonal menu shift, and life events.
For example, I know everyone's gonna want to start eating clean in two weeks to get ready for spring break, grilling is gonna start kicking off in May. Events like bridal showers and baby showers are going to start happening and all these different things.
Do you have a limitation on Sponsored Posts?
It really depends on the time of year, the Holiday Season is always quite busy. I try to do a max of 1-2 per week. I do not like seeing sponsored posts from bloggers every day. It's also really important that I work with brands I really love and support. My audience trusts me to only work with very legitimate brands. It's fun, sometimes my Sponsored Content performs even better than my organic content.
What are your go-to recipes?
I never want to spend more than a half an hour in the kitchen so I would say everything I would say 90% of my recipes are very quick and easy. My favorite recipes include white wine steamed salmon, slutty brownies, squash salad!
Can you share Core Kitchen Essentials that everyone should have??
My favorite kitchen essentials are a chef's knife, glass prep bowls. I also love my Vitamix. That has been my biggest splurge for my kitchen, but so worth it. I don't even use my food processor anymore, that is how much I love my Vitamix. And obviously the What's Gaby Cooking Cookbook & Seasonings
What's in store for 2019 and beyond!
New product launches are coming in 2019. Spring 2020 my next book is coming out! I am testing a lot of new vegetables, like eggplant and mushrooms for my new book! It all about California food, eating what you want. For me, eating and cooking is all about balance. The title of the book is still TBD.
Make sure to check out What's Gaby Cooking and sign-up to get her latest recipes!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answers all these questions Gaby!
If you are new here - make sure to check out my Work Series where I share personal stories, interviews, and career lessons to empower women in the workplace.
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