’These Are People You Should Know About’: a Q&A with Klancy Miller on Her Stunning Second Book

Meeting your idols, recipe testing, and more ushers in a second era of cookbook making for Klancy.

September 19, 2023
Photo by George McCalman

Food wasn't always the path for Klancy Miller. But, after earning a diplôme de pâtisserie from Le Cordon Bleu Paris, it was an easy choice. Now, her work has been featured in New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food Network, Vogue, and more (including Food52!). After her debut cookbook in 2016: Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking For Yourself, Klancy turned to self-publishing, where the concept of her magazine, For the Culture, was born.

Klancy's second, eponymous cookbook—a comprehensive anthology of 66 Black women and femmes in the modern food world—is a triumphant blend of food history, pop culture, wisdom, and recipes. For the Culture features interviews with industry leaders from Mashama Bailey to Carla Hall and, of course, a bunch of delicious recipes to go along with it.

I recently chatted with Klancy about recipe testing (a shared passion), social media, and Klancy’s big takeaways from her second book. Below is our interview, edited and condensed for clarity.

Emily: For the book, how many interviews and how many hours of talking to people did you do?

Klancy: Well, I interviewed 66 people. Some of the interviews were as short as 15 minutes, and some of the interviews were as long as two or two and a half hours, so a lot of hours.

Emily: Who was your favorite interview? Who was your most surprising interview?

Klancy: I can't pick a favorite because I love everyone in the book. The most surprising interview is Ayesha Curry, just because I really had to reach to be able to schedule an interview with her. She was an absolute lovely, sweet person to have a conversation with.

Emily: Your first book is Cooking Solo, which is such a sweet, lovely book. What did you take away from the Cooking Solo publishing process and apply to this book?

Klancy: One of the things that I kept in mind for this book was that I wanted to get additional support in the PR department so that I could get the word out more and have it reach as many people as possible.

I realized the project of interviewing people and then having them contribute recipes, as simple a project as I thought it was, it was actually a very complex project. I've learned the value of relationships, just in terms of making a book, is that you need friends and colleagues and peers who are supportive to help you make your project a success.


Emily: The social media landscape has also changed so much between Cooking Solo and now. Are you approaching Instagram differently?

Klancy: I think I'm probably on Instagram more, particularly in Stories, but a little bit more on the grid. The HarperCollins/Harvest marketing team gave me a social media schedule. I'm trying to follow it. I think I probably approached my Instagram grid the way we all approach our Stories now in terms of, “here I am doing a thing.”

Emily: Yeah. Here's my lunch.

Klancy: Exactly. It doesn't have to be a gorgeous photo. Also, back in 2016, the quality of your iPhone or your smartphone camera was probably not as good as it is now. Basically, I think now we have a clearer idea of what influencers are, or not an even clearer idea, but that it is more of a thing now than it was in 2016.

Emily: There are 48 recipes in the book. Did you test all of them?

Klancy: I'll be honest, I didn't test them all. Some of them got tested through the photo shoot, which was awesome. I'd say, 98 percent of them were tested. There's a nut recipe. It's just spiced nuts. I didn't test that.

I also hired one of the stylists from the photo shoot, Elisa, plus two friends, an intern, and I did some testing. Since it was coming from different people all over, I wanted to test in terms of recipes that seem the most complicated or recipes that have perhaps ingredients that, at the look of it, might not be as accessible or available.

Also, I think even if the person is your friend, I feel like people respect it more when you're not just buying the ingredients, you're also paying them. Because you don't take it as seriously if you're not being paid—frankly, you shouldn't take it as seriously because it is a job. Costs should be covered.

Emily: Absolutely. I feel like people don't realize how much of a job it is. You're cooking through it looking for errors, basically, or trying to see holes or where the home cook would maybe not get it or stuff would fall through the cracks.

Klancy: Some of these, we tested before the photo shoot on purpose because I had in mind some things I wanted to shoot. When I got to the photo shoot, nothing had to be changed. Everything went swimmingly.

With [For the Culture], one recipe in particular, my friend tested it I think two or three times, and she couldn't get one of the aspects to work. I really want to include [it] in the photo shoot, but time is money on a photo shoot, so we're going to have to change this so that it is more efficient for the photo shoot and frankly, also for the home cook.

Emily: What is the one thing that people aren't asking you about this book that you want people to ask and you want to talk about?

Klancy: I guess there's several things I want people to get from the book, but one big, big picture thing that I want people to get is that food has become this very glamorized, trendy, aspirational field, at least sometimes when you look at it through the vantage point of mainstream media and social media, but this space obviously has been around forever.

Black women and femmes have been at the heart of it and innovating for a very, very long time in so many different fields within hospitality. My point in making this book was to center the stories of Black women and femmes, and for people to get that in many ways we have a really, really seriously valuable blueprint for how to innovate and create paths and do really important work within this space.

One of those people, for me personally, who I learned about later rather than earlier, is Lena Richard. She had a cooking show and she had a cooking school. Before Julia Child. I always think of Julia Child as being the first to do the food TV thing. Learning that a black woman in the South, in Louisiana, did her own cookbook, she had a cooking school, she had a line of food, she had a cooking show in the South in the 50s, Jim Crow South. This was absolutely fascinating to me to learn.

Know we've been here and these are people you should know about, and there's so many other people you should know about. Yeah, that's one of the takeaways I would like for people to have.

Emily: For anyone who is just starting off publishing recipes or wants to build their brand, do you have any advice that you wish somebody would've told you when you were first starting years ago?

Klancy: I think, try to keep it fun for yourself. I think that sounds simple, but sometimes it can be hard, because this fun thing does become something that is multi-pronged and requires administrative time. What are you naturally curious about? That is part of your perspective, so build on that. I also wish somebody would've told me, "You're going to want an assistant." Write down everything you want to do, whether it's creating a zine, doing pop-ups, or writing a book. Whatever you want to do, write it down and try to really be lavish in what you're imagining for yourself and what you want to do, and do it.

Emily: Is there anything else that you want people to know?

Klancy: I do have to tell you something, It's related to you specifically, because when I saw you at the gorgeous Food52 headquarters, you were wearing that cute jumpsuit that you told me you got.

Emily: Big Bud Press!

Klancy: Yes, so I went and I got these awesome pants, so I'm going to get a jumpsuit too. The pants I'm wearing right now, and I love them and they're so comfy, and they're petite for short people.

Emily: Perfect. Everyone needs to know: Big Bud Press, great for working in kitchens, great for short people.

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Emily Ziemski

Written by: Emily Ziemski

Food Editor @ Food52