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Today: We're chatting with Molly Yeh of mynameisyeh about photography, recipe inspiration, and why food blogging should be a college major.
You're probably already familiar with Molly Yeh. Our resident culinary mad scientist, she's the brains (and the camera) behind such creations as Cheeto-Crusted Jalapeno Poppers and Pretzel Challah -- and her personality is just as colorful as her recipes. A graduate of Juilliard, she relocated from New York City to a sugar beet farm on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, and from there her life only got more interesting.
As a blogger, Molly Yeh loves to push boundaries. When reading her posts, you feel as if the two of you are chatting in a corner table at the local coffee shop, sharing a biscotti. She has the ability to make the internet feel cozy. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she comes up with mind-boggingly awesome recipes -- and has incredible photography skills.
She's also a rising star in the food blogging world -- her work has been featured on sites like Modern Farmer, and she was recently nominated for Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards 2014. If you're like us, you'll be drawn into her world by the incredible photography and quirky recipes, and stay because of her warmth and wit. Read on as Molly shares the secret to photography, why she thinks food blogging should be a college major, and a recipe for Homemade Scotch Eggs.
You've been known to come up with quirky, creative recipes. Where do you find inspiration?
My roots! I used to think that the best part about being Jewish and Chinese was that I could breeze through math class like it ain't no thang; but now I'm pretty sure that the best part is getting away with taking the best foods from each culture, and smashing them together. I also love traveling and learning what other people eat for their holidays or pizza nights or midnight snacks, and then recreating them in my own way. My new home, the mighty Midwest, is another source of inspiration. It has a lot of salads that are actually Jell-O, and something called "hot dish" which, from what I can tell, is any food, placed in a casserole dish, plus canned creamed soup. However, the real inspirational foods of the area come from before that, when settlers came over from Norway with all sorts of tasties like krumkaka and lefse.
More: Take fusion to next level with this pretzel and challah hybrid.
You obviously have excellent photography skills -- was it something you'd studied before, or something you picked up as you started blogging?
I think a love of photography is in my DNA because my dad, the Asian tourist that he is, takes about five thousand million photos every single day. That is to say, I've always loved taking pictures; but yes, blogging was the thing that made me want to get better. I never formally studied it, but my friend Donny is a kickass photographer, and has been there for me since the beginning when I had questions like "What is an ISO?" He also lent me his copy of Hélèn Dujardin's Plate to Pixel, which is basically my bible. Also, the work in Rose Bakery's Breakfast, Lunch, Tea was some of the first food photography that I really fell in love with. A few summers ago, I tracked down the photographer from that book, Toby Glanville, and we ate lentil soup and strolled down Portobello Road while he gave me the secret to photography -- and that's that there is no secret.
What about the layout and design of your website? Was it difficult to learn how to manage all of that?
I have zero eye for site design and struggled with this for years when I first started out. I went through some pretty horrific and embarrassing layouts that I spent hours and hours on, hacking my way through code writing and whatnot. Last year, I made the switch to a new blogging platform. I was looking for something with a really clean presentation, and a logical process that didn't require too many steps. Luckily, there are a lot of options out there -- I chose Squarespace's Amelie template.
What's your process when you take a photo? How do you decide where to shoot, how to set up the background, and how to style your dish?
Sometimes the color and personality of the food will really click with specific props or lighting. Other times, I'll wiggle with the setting, or create a story for why that cilantro is on the table and not in the bowl. (He obviously doesn't like cilantro, but she, being his brand new girlfriend, did not know that.) Sometimes there’s just a stain on my table cloth, and I need a cookie to cover it up. I'd say I generally prefer to do more with less, and execute styling that makes sense in my logical mind.
You include a weekly roundup of posts from around the web, food-focused and otherwise. How do these other bloggers influence your own work, if at all?
Bloggers do the craziest shit -- I love it so much. When I see bloggers doing exactly what they want, when they want, and in their own voices, I get really excited. It's such a different process than creating content for print material or larger publications; I think it's a process that really fosters insanely, bizarrely wonderful ideas and unorthodox styling and made-up words. I just love seeing bloggers stretch boundaries in ways that no one else could have imagined, and that makes me want to do the same.
What do you think food blogging will look like in 5 years? Will it still be around?
At first I was going to get mad at you for even asking if food blogging would still be around, but then I recalled what my world was like 5 years ago: I was just about to start a blog, and my blog posts went a little like this. So much can happen in 5 years, but I do think that people will always enjoy documenting and telling their stories as they happen, just as humans have done in diaries for thousands of years. I'm excited to see how my favorite bloggers grow and develop their styles, and I'd also really like to see food blogging become a college major.
Which part of blogging excites you most: the recipe development, the post writing, or the photography?
THE EATING! And all of those other parts. I love them all. And I love connecting with other bloggers.
6 large eggs
1 pound ground chicken
2 teaspoons each: sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar
A few good grinds of black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 stalks green onions, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Oil for frying, such as canola
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.
Photos by Molly Yeh
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