Food52 → Meet the Man Who Can Make or Break a Cookbook

Edward Ash-Milby is an avid home cook and the cookbooks buyer at Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the United States. He’s been at it for nearly twenty years, so you could say he’s been at the forefront of all the major recent shifts in the publishing industry—from the emergence of e-books to online bookselling, the burgeoning blogosphere and the powerful rise of social media, plus the insatiable consumer demand for well-designed books on niche topics (there didn’t always used to be dedicated shelf space for gluten-free baking, molecular gastronomy, and whole animal butchery!).

He also is a supportor of self-published books; I owe a lot of my self-publishing success to Edward—he was the one responsible for placing my cookbook onto the physical (and digital) shelves of Barnes & Noble.

With so many cookbooks coming out, how does Edward choose which to stock on the physical and digital shelves of the largest book retailer in the United States? Read on to find out, along with the books he’s excited to feature in the coming months.



Tell us Edward, what is a typical day in your life as a Cookbooks Buyer?

1. Read up.

I arrive at the office and read up on what is being reported in the culinary/food/restaurant world. My favorite sources for info, trends, and just plain good writing are Food52 (!), Serious Eats, NPR’s The Salt, The New York Times’s Food section, The Los Angeles Times’s Food section, Eater, 101 Cookbooks, Skinnytaste, Smitten Kitchen, and My Name is Yeh. I also really love Bee Wilson’s column in The Telegraph.


2. Analyze what's responsible for sales spikes.

Then I analyze sales from a variety of ways to see how titles are doing across the country. I keep a calendar of which authors are doing media for any given day, concentrating on media that could create a sales impact on a national level. When I see sales from the previous day, I need to know what generated the customer demand. I’ll check my calendar to see if it was a morning show appearance that did it or front page editorial in Woman’s World or an author blog post, or some such.

A morning show appearance could generate a very quick hearty response but the demand tends to fade faster; a big mention on an author’s blog page might not generate the same kind of strong demand initially, but the effect on sales could last longer. This intelligence will allow me to make decisions regarding inventory.


3. Meet with publishers.

When I’m not actively analyzing data, a fun part of the job is meeting with publisher sales representatives and talking about books that are coming. There are too many books this fall that I’m excited about, but ones that stand out right now are: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!Smitten Kitchen Every DayMunchiesState Bird ProvisionsAutenticoSweetMeehan’s Bartender ManualValerie’s Home Cooking; and last but definitely not least, F*ck, That’s Delicious!



With new titles being released every day, what considerations do you and your team make when selecting inventory for your physical shelves?

When I choose a book, I take a number of factors into consideration: the most important one being the content itself. How is the author presenting his or her ideas? Who is the customer of the book? What are the sales, if any, of previous books by the author? What are sales of similar books on the subject? Then I look at the physical package itself: the jacket, the typography, the interior design. For a cookbook, food styling and photography are very important. How are the recipes written? Is there harmony between the recipes and the photography?

I also consider how and where the book will be marketed to customers. I carefully examine their publicity campaign, which gives me clues about where the greatest interest of the book might be. For example, marketing plans for books on Southern cuisine often include major market areas in the South, or books from an L.A. chef may focus a huge part of the publicity campaign on the West Coast.



How do you determine if a book is going to be successful on your physical shelves versus your digital shelves?

Sales of books online rise and fall based on what is being talked about in the media at that very moment, so we’re very in tune with consumer demand throughout the day. We can merchandise books online based on what’s happening right now. We do this in our stores, too, but it takes a little bit more coordination. That’s the fun part of bookselling to me: to find out what people are talking about and to give them the books to keep our customers current.



What trends do you foresee in the cookbook industry?


I see the cookbook industry adapting to technology and to social media in inventive ways to market all the talented chefs, cooks, and their books. Chefs and home cooks are more media-savvy than ever. They’re producing excellent content that’s being seen and/or read by millions of people. Bloggers in this space have been recognized by the industry as some of the strongest talent, with books hitting bestseller lists all around the country.

I love what I’m seeing from cookbook publishers that create amazing books with excellent photography, food styling, layout, design, and jacket treatments that stop customers in their tracks. They are works of art and serve authors and customers well.

Also, I think there’ll be no shortage of new voices in the cookbook industry.

Thanks for your insight, Edward!


Kendra Aronson loves playing with food—styling food, photographing food, devouring food. She is likely planning her next meal. 

Originally published
June 6
, 2017 on Food52


Food52 → The Ingredients For a Standout Cookbook, According to Publishers

What are the ingredients necessary for crafting a well-loved cookbook? How much time is needed to produce a book worthy of adding to our personal collection? What do publishers look for when they're acquiring a book? We asked some heavy hitters at some of the top cookbook publishers for their recipes for cookbook success.


The most essential ingredient in any successful cookbook—besides the precise food styling and photography, and the clever editorial layout, and the imperative cover image and unique jacket treatments, and the marketing strategy and game-changing press mentions—is of course, the author. Their perspective, their passion, their personality.

“I’m drawn to authors who are creative outside of the kitchens—artists and designers, musicians and illustrators, writers and photographers. People with personalities for days. You can turn to the internet if you want a recipe for lemon chicken. You buy a book because you want to be in another world for a while, whether it’s feeling like you’re at a dinner party in the woods with Erin Gleeson, author of Forest Feast Gatherings, or you are traveling the world eating with Action Bronson, whose book, F*ck, That’s Delicious, is the perfect blend of awesome food, hysterical writing, and THC.”
Holly Dolce, Executive Editor at Abrams Books

“We don’t approach things as to whether the topic is niche or general, but as to whether the chef’s point of view is highly original and specific. We like to say that if someone else could have written a book, it’s not for Artisan. Our interest in Jeni Britton Bauer’s book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, for example, wasn’t because ice cream has mass appeal, it was because she had developed an entirely new technique for making it.”
—Lia Ronnen, Publisher and Editorial Director at Artisan Books

So if you’re deciding which topic your cookbook should cover, don’t be afraid to get as niche as possible—and think about what you are best at. By bringing your readers into your world by sharing your expertise, your book will stand out on the digital and literal bookstore shelves.



This part varies wildly across the publishing industry—just like any recipe would in the kitchen. Take cookies, sometimes they need a cool 72 hours-worth of refrigeration before baking, while other cult classics only require 1 hour—both yield equally delicious results, but the prep time is significantly different. Same goes for cookbooks; they can be churned out in as little as 6 months (Dovetail Press), on average one and a half to two years (Abrams Books, Artisan Books, Chronicle Books, Ten Speed Press), or upwards of several years (Phaidon Books).

Ultimately the length of time depends on the process and scope of the book being produced. For example, Phaidon Books publishes many hundred page books like Tacopedia (318 pages) and Noma (368 pages), whereas Abrams Books hovers 200 to 300 pages with titles like Simple Fare (192 pages), Salad for President (272 pages), and Everything I Want to Eat (280 pages), versus Dovetail, which focuses on smaller, yet sizable titles like ¡Buenos Nachos! (166 pages) or Brew (160 pages).

“One of the ways Dovetail might be different than larger traditional publishers is speed. So far our projects have all taken about six months from idea to market—and that includes printing. This sounds insane to most folks in the publishing industry—and this kind of timeline doesn’t work for all book projects, but I grew up working in magazine publishing, so the idea of creating a couple hundred pages of great content in a month or two is business as usual for magazine folks.” 
—Nick Fauchald, Publisher at Dovetail Press

“It typically takes a minimum of two years, as it’s common for proposals to be rethought once we’ve begun the process of working with an author on developing her idea. Together, we get to the true heart of the project—the singularities that should be brought out. It’s of course common for authors to want to publish a book faster, but we remind them that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” 
—Lia Ronnen, Publisher and Editorial Director at Artisan Books

“The timeline really depends on the complexity of the book and can range from a minimum of two years up to several years. First we need to conceive the book in all its parts: content, structure, format, design; then once we have the manuscript, we need to decide how to communicate the content through the design, font, and photography. We always choose designers who we feel can deliver the book’s vision, then we choose the paper (that is a very important element of the book process), design the cover, and then the book is ready for our production.” 
—Emilia Terragni, Cookbook Publisher at Phaidon Books


Like a dish crafted with thoughtful intention and calculated balance, a cookbook cover must make an immediate and intriguing visual impact. Cookbook covers are paramount for an obvious reason—they will make or break sales.

Sqirl’s Everything I Want to Eat cover took three to four months, multiple conference calls, and hundreds of iterations before landing on the final design; and Food52’s very own single-subject cookbooks, Vegan and Baking, went through multiple directions and cover treatments before landing on the ones that felt right. Covers are the portal for communicating the inner content, you’ve got one shot (no pressure)—so make it count!

“At Chronicle, we like texture and tactile details that inspire a feeling of ‘I must touch that.’ Of course, textural details usually can’t be appreciated online, where so many books are sold. A good cover bridges the online and retail worlds, is strong in both forums. It immediately telegraphs the story inside the book, the feeling or tone of what’s inside. It draws the eye and allows the reader to place themselves in the world of the book, makes him/her think ‘I wish this was my life,’ or ‘This book would look great on my table at home.’” 
—Sarah Billingsley, Senior Editor at Chronicle Books

“Covers are massively important. Not only do they need to represent the whole vision of the book in just a few elements, but they are also the first reason a lot of people look at and buy a book. The cover of Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine is one of my favorites. With very few elements it gives you the sense of the book, the sense of the restaurant, and the sense of René Redzepi all in one. It is about the color, the texture, and the fact that it is bold and subtle all at the same time. The cover is the door into the book—a must have is to make the reader want to open it.”
—Emilia Terragni, Cookbook Publisher at Phaidon Books


To all you fellow cookbook aficionados out there, what are elements that make you pull the trigger in purchasing a cookbook? What criteria is the most important to you—the engaging writing, the tried-and-true recipes, the delectable photography, the eye-catching cover? This recipe is meant to get you to grab the cookbook, and publishers want to know what you’re craving…


Kendra Aronson loves playing with food—styling food, photographing food, devouring food. She is likely planning her next meal. 

Originally published
May  12, 2017on Food52


Edible SLO → Fork in the Road: Biddle Ranch Vineyard

Fork in the Road: Biddle Ranch Vineyard

food writing by Kendra Aronson
food photography by
Kendra Aronson

Have you ever noticed that beautiful, iconic, old barn situated off the 227 as you are leaving San Luis Obispo and heading into the heart of Edna Valley? There used to be a “for sale” sign outside the barn for years until one day Anne Fortini finally reached out to the real estate agent to inquire about the property details. The Fortinis, along with their friends (and now business partners) the Rawlings, the Roncas, and the Woolperts, purchased the property together in 2012 with the vision of producing incredible regional wine, having an on-site tasting room, and converting the existing home into a rental property. “A lot of the partners have really strong ties to the Central Coast—many of them grew up here as small children. It’s exciting to finally be here, it’s exactly what everyone had envisioned for Biddle Ranch Vineyard,” smiles General Manager Leigh Woolpert.

In 2014 they hired on renowned winemaker Ryan Deovlet to develop and manage their wine operations; in 2015 they renovated the ranch house into a stunning VRBO and wedding venue; and in November 2016 they opened up their on-site tasting room—with everything finally in place, 2017 is going to be a big year for Biddle!

To make their dreams into a reality, each partner brought their unique skill set to the collaborative table. “Mark Woolpert particularly was really involved from an architectural standpoint, designing the building, and playing off the structures that were already here. He wanted to design the new tasting room in such a way that it feels like it fits here and it has a sense that’s it’s been here as long as the other buildings on the property,” explained Leigh. Anne being an Interior Designer [of Fortini Interiors] was really involved aesthetically with the interiors and exteriors of both the tasting room and the ranch rental; her son Ryan [of Fortini Landscapes] is a Landscape Architect was heavily involved from a design standpoint designing all the hardscapes and softscapes; and the Roncas and the Rawlings brought their business expertise to the entire joint venture. “The partners and everyone working here created this space to make it feel like you are at home—it was really made for the San Luis Obispo community. Grab a glass, grab a bottle, make yourself comfortable with an indoor or outdoor tasting. We want you to really experience where we live, soak it all in, and enjoy it,” Leigh beams.

The Biddle Ranch Tasting Room is open Thursday through Monday, 11-5 pm., Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment only. Summer 2017 they will be open every day; for current wine selection and ranch rental inquiries, visit

Spotlight on Winemaker Ryan Deovlet

“I love the craft of winemaking. It’s a 6,000 year old craft, and to be able to carry the torch for a little bit as a winemaker and to have a career in that is an honor,” says Ryan Deovlet—a humble, genuine, salt-of-the-earth man whose passion for winemaking is positively palpable.

Tell me about your first experience in winemaking.

I was in this wanderlust period after graduating UC San Diego with a Sociology & Economics degree—I thought I was going to go into law. But before I went to law school I wanted to travel a little bit, I found this program in Australia and New Zealand, it’s called Willing Workers on Organic Farms [WWOOF]. I got the WWOOF program and circled all the vineyards because my Dad was a wine drinker, and I wanted to travel to these places on a bit of a budget, and I wanted to see the country, and to learn at the same time. Within 6 months I was officially bit by the wine bug. I just loved it, I thought everyone was so passionate and their work ethic was through the roof and yet no c omplaints, they were in the right place.

What drew you to the Central Coast?

It would be hard not to speak about the transverse mountain ranges, proximity to the ocean, and these diurnal shifts that we have so that we can get a great kiss of sunshine in the area all the while retaining good acidity from colder nights. You get fantastic flavor development and phenolic maturity in the grape, plus you get good acidity which is very nice for food and wine.

What is the most exciting thing about producing wine in Edna Valley?

The vibrancy of Edna Valley—compared to Napa and Sonoma—we are only 30 years young [in Edna Valley] and we are taking such phenomenal strides. Not only what the grapes, the soil, and terroir can provide, but we can rely on the youth of the area and learn from the Niven family, the Talley family, Stephen Dooley, Jean-Pierre Wolff, Claiborne and Churchill. We can really continue what they’ve done to set the bar, and constantly keep finding the tenderloins and honing in, and making this region better and better.

Wine Profiles + Food Pairings


2013 Chardonnay

This lovely wine offers quintessential Chardonnay flavors and highlights the Edna Valley region with naturally high acidity. Offering seductive fruit and maintaining its freshness, the wine explodes on the palate and provides great length on the finish. Fermented in both stainless steel and neutral French oak barrels. Suggested food pairing: chicken.  

2014 Sauvignon Blanc

Lovely nose of bosc pear, lychee, green apple, and white flowers with a flinty mineral undertone. The palate delivers bright delineated fruit, and pristine focus, all the while filling out a rounder mid-palate from its time in barrel. This wine was aged in both stainless steel and neutral French oak barrels for 10 months. Suggested food pairing: salad or cheese.

2014 Syrah

The wine has stunning aromatic lift offering an expressive nose of blue and black fruit, dark olive, espresso and bakers’ chocolate alongside beautiful floral notes of violet and plum blossom. Balanced with both power and concentration from the warmer vintage and freshness from the coastal vineyards, the wine has great structure and the quintessential chalky tannins of Syrah. Suggested food pairing: pork.

2014 Odyssey-Thurlestone Pinot Noir

Wonderful red fruit, quintessential brightness and acidity found in pinot noir, with stunning palate presence and texture. Suggested food pairing: fish.

2014 Spanish Springs Pinot Noir

This single vineyard wine leaps from the glass with sweet dark cherry, plum skin and spice. With the addition of 50% whole cluster fermentation, the wine has great structure and a tight core, that with air offers bright red fruit, herbs, crushed flowers, potpourri, and sassafras. Suggested food pairing: red meat.

Biddle Ranch Wine Club Membership Perks

  • Free to join!

  • Enjoy 15-20% discounts off all wine purchases based on your membership

  • Complimentary tastings for members + 2 guests (4 total)

  • Exclusive members-only events (pick-up parties, winemakers dinner) and promotions (access to newly released wine and first dibs on library wines)

  • Priority reservations at the Biddle Ranch Tasting Room

Originally published in Edible San Luis Obispo & Wine Country 
Spring 2017
 · Issue 17

Edible SLO → Back of the House: Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen


Back of the House: Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen

food writing by Kendra Aronson
food photography by
Kendra Aronson


Restaurateur Debbie Thomas has defied all odds. In 2003 she left her corporate job to start an organic farm—with no farming experience; and in 2009 she started a farm-to-table bistro and wine bar in Paso Robles—with no restaurant experience. During the 2016 holidays she opened up a sister restaurant in San Luis Obispo: Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen. One part grit, one part vision, and one par perseverance—that’s the recipe of her success story.  


14 years ago, her and her ex-partner started an organic farm in the hills of Paso Robles. They had 900 fruit and nut trees, as well as various row crops. “From there we did CSA programs [Community Supported Agriculture] where our neighbors would buy boxes of produce on a weekly and monthly basis; then we ended up having so much fruit that we didn’t know what to do! We decided to open a restaurant—not knowing anything about a restaurant but I saw a beautiful location in Paso Robles. It was hidden, it had a patio—I saw Europe in it,” she reminisces.


Her corporate life required a lot of worldwide travel and clientele entertaining, a skill set which inadvertently played a huge role in her career today. “Part of my job was sales and entertaining, and of course when you are entertaining you take people to nice places, and you have great food and great wine. Pretty much that is how I developed my palate. It was fun.” Debbie has great taste, both literally (in food) and figuratively (in interior design). Her menus are ever-changing based on the availability of fresh produce at the local farmers’ markets. The ambiance of each location caters to different crowds—cozy, eclectic, and casual for the wine aficionados in Paso Robles; and, chic with a touch of old world charm for the urban folks in downtown San Luis Obispo. Although their seasonally-driven menu changes frequently, (nearly) year-round crowd pleasers include: black lentil tacos with carrot purée, candied jalapeño, cashews, cilantro, coconut; avocado toast with soft scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, Hush Harbor levain, aïoli, chili; and Olea Farms lemon verbena olive oil cake with seasonal preserves. “Our emphasis is really on organic; we use farms that do not use sprays and pesticides. I’m into the environment, I care about how animals are raised. I want natural and grass-fed, knowing that these animals are in pastures and able to walk around. I just believe in supporting the local agricultural community, and most of all: local produce tastes better.”


The cuisine at both Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar (Paso Robles) and Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen (San Luis Obispo) is all about utilizing high-quality produce and proteins, and working within the creative constraints of super fresh, hyper local, and sometimes seasonally fleeting ingredients. “We don’t have a freezer in Paso, it was a deliberate decision so that we are not bringing in frozen products, we are bringing in everything fresh. In San Luis we have a very small under-the-counter freezer and it’s used exclusively for ice cream. We are local and we want to bring in fresh things daily—sometimes at night we run out of things, but that’s who we are,” explains Debbie.


Her phenomenal chefs, Executive Chef Justin Casey and Chef de Cuisine Elijah Blackburn, are both at the farmers’ markets multiple times a week to keep up with the demand of running two true farm-to-table establishments. To get a taste of what their currently cooking up at their new location, visit Thomas Hill Organic Kitchen located at 858 Monterey Street in the new San Luis Obispo Chinatown. Check out their website for hours of operation:


Originally published in Edible San Luis Obispo & Wine Country 
Spring 2017
 · Issue 17

Food52 → 5 Insider Tips for (Successfully) Self-Publishing That Cookbook You Dream About

In Part 1 of this mini series, I previously shared how design dictates everything and how to reverse engineer your production timeline based on your release date (plus 3 more tips!). Now it’s time to dive deeper into other important elements: cover design, recipe testing, proofing, campaigning, and marketing!

Photo by Joe Johnston.

Photo by Joe Johnston.

1. Make a Big Impact With Your Cover.

Everyone judges a book by it's cover—whoever says differently is lying. The goal of a book cover is two-fold: First, it must be eye-catching enough to grab someone’s attention, and second, it must be intriguing enough to make a potential reader physically pick up copy (or click to learn more if perusing the internet). The cover is the ultimate marketing hook—your cover will make or break your sales.


A good rule of thumb here is, “Show, Don’t Tell.” Imagine if your book cover did not display your title and subtitle—would your imagery or illustrations be able to stand on their own to succinctly convey the inner content of the book? Does your cover give readers a compelling glimpse that encapsulates your cookbook’s core message? For example, my cookbook is all about farm-to-table, seasonal, from-scratch cooking and all of my food photography is shot on a black background; my cover demonstrates both those themes. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it count.

To learn more, I highly recommend taking “Introduction to Book Cover Design: Making Stories Visual” taught by legendary book cover design and industry expert Chip Kidd on Skillshare.

Photo by Tina Loveridge.

Photo by Tina Loveridge.

2. Recipe Test First; Style and Shoot Later.

Even though my cookbook took two and a half years to produce, I was always operating on a tight production schedule. Oftentimes this meant recipe testing a recipe contributed by a chef, frantically scribbling notes on a scrap piece of paper as I was preparing it, then plating, styling, and shooting that dish all in one afternoon. I learned the hard way that I should recipe test first, fine tune it, and get familiar with the end result so that I could set myself up for success for styling and shooting on another date. Sometimes trying to do too many things all at once is not as productive as it seems; single-tasking truly is the new multitasking.

3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time for Proofing—and Throw a Proofing Party!

Please note: The editing and proofing process takes time (give yourself more time than you think) and do not rush this stage of the process. Editing tip: Take your written content (recipes, stories, captions, quotes) from your Word doc, change the font to something hideous (think: Comic Sans, gasp!), print out the doc, and then edit, edit, edit. You will be shocked as to how many mistakes you find off-screen and how blatantly obvious typos look when displayed in a terrible typeface!

Make sure you get fresh eyes to edit your content; if you can hire an editor, it’s worth every penny. Next, you will submit your already-edited files to your printer and then receive proofs in return. These proofs display what your pages will actually look like in the final cookbook. Now is the time to throw a proofing party! Prepare some bites to eat (make your favorite recipes from your soon-to-be-printed cookbook), invite over your friends who have a penchant for grammar, and let them go to town with their red pens.

4. Pre-Order Campaigns Are Genius.

Self-publishing = self-financing. In order to take part of the financial burden off of your shoulders (read: savings), I highly suggest launching a pre-order campaign in order to fund the upfront printing costs of your cookbook. Raising capital through a crowdfunding campaign is a great way to create buzz before the book comes out, build momentum with press mentions, connect with your future readers, and gauge the overall interest of your cookbook in the marketplace. When I launched my Kickstarter campaign, I was able to create a lot of excitement about the soon-to-be released cookbook by being featured in local and national media (on the radio, on blogs, in newspapers, in magazines) while building a solid community of folks that would champion the cookbook in their own social media feeds.

5. Create a Solid Media Kit.

In order to make a big splash in the media, you have to be prepared. While my Kickstarter campaign was live I created a comprehensive media kit with links, press releases (in various word counts), e-flyers, downloadable high res photos (portraits, book cover, sample pages), and shareable social media (copy and paste, plug and chug!). The point of a press kit is to make it super simple for others to share your news. When media outlets come knocking on your door, you want to have all your ducks in a row. This will save you an immense amount of time when someone reaches out requesting a portrait, a paragraph about your cookbook, and where to direct people to learn more. All you have to do is send them the link to your media kit and you are done!

Self-publishing is clearly a labor of love, but immensely rewarding. Best of luck to all of those out there that are pursuing their cookbook dreams!

The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook—produced by writer, photographer, designer, and self-publisher Kendra Aronson—features 60 seasonal recipes and 40 short stories from the Central Coast of California.

Kendra Aronson loves playing with food—styling food, photographing food, devouring food. She is likely planning her next meal. 


Originally published on Food52
January 3, 2017


For those who are unfamiliar, Sophia Amoruso (Founder of Nasty Gal) wrote the New York Times Bestseller #Girlboss—required reading for any girl interested in owning her own business and owning her own life.

At 22 years old, Sophia dropped out of community college and spent her free time hitchhiking, dumpster diving, and committing petty theft. Directionless, broke, and afflicted with a hernia, she wound up with a ho-hum desk job of checking IDs at an art school lobby (in order to get health insurance).

During her boring day job she created an eBay store: Nasty Gal Vintage. Long story short, what started as a one-woman operation has become the fastest-growing e-commerce site in the world and has landed Sophia on Forbes Richest Self-Made Women List with an estimated net worth of $280 million! Yup, a true rags-to-riches story.  
Needless to say, she is a total badass and incredible inspiration worldwide. 

In 2014 she wrote #Girlboss to share her unique journey which ignited the #girlboss movement. That same year she launched the #Girlboss Foundation to award financial grants to women in the worlds of design, fashion, music, and the arts. In 2015 she launched #Girlboss Radio, a podcast featuring interviews of world-class girlbosses who have made their mark in creative, cultural, and business ventures. Each week Sophia invites gals to share their #girlbossmoment of the week on social media and she celebrates those moments with her audience on her podcast and blog


A few weeks ago I posted my #girlbossmoment of the week on Instagram:

💃🏻  My #girlbossmoment of the week 👉🏼  Wowie! What a thrill to see my @food52 article live on the site today! " The First Five Steps to Self-Publishing Your Cookbook" 💭 📝 📸 🍴 🖥 📬 📦 📚 #Food52 is the dreamiest food site and it's a privilege to share my tips with their readership—fellow foodies and cookbook aficionados (my kind of people!) 😛 🍴 🙌🏼 ‼️ 



"Thanks again for sharing your story with us; Sophia was really delighted by your success :)" 

—staff writer for #Girlboss



photo credit: Joe Johnston. 

photo credit: Joe Johnston

“My name is Kendra Aronson and I’m the writer, photographer, designer, and self-publisher of The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook. When I started this personal passion project (now a profitable book business!) I couldn’t claim those creative titles as my own.

When it came to cooking, I had no formal culinary training. When it came to writing, I had never been formally published in print anywhere. When it came to photography, I wasn’t familiar with most of the settings on my camera. When it came to design, I didn’t own a single Adobe program—hell, I didn’t even know how to import an image into Photoshop, let alone lay out an entire book in InDesign! This just goes to show you, if you have an idea and the grit to make that idea happen, you really can do anything you set your mind to.

With a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages & Literature (Spanish, French, and Italian) and a Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), how did I end up producing a cookbook from scratch? I did it the way any big idea comes to fruition: a lot of late nights and early mornings, learn-by-doing, and Googling—all while holding down a day job to pay the bills. I started in April 2013 by shopping at farmers' markets, interviewing farmers, going to farms, testing recipes contributed by local chefs from farm-to-table restaurants, researching food photography and food styling, taking courses on Skillshare, educating myself on editorial design and negotiating with printers. Then came the scary part: creating a crowdfunding campaign with a solid marketing plan and social media strategy.

On July 27, 2015, I launched my Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the up-front printing costs to make my cookbook a tangible reality for the 2015 holidays. To my wild surprise, I ended up hitting my asking goal of 12k in just 10 days, and my project was chosen—out of thousands of live campaigns—to be featured on the homepage of A huge #girlbossmoment!


On December 1, 2015 four huge pallets carrying 2,000 copies of my cookbook fresh off the press were delivered to my driveway. Words truly cannot describe what it felt like to hold the cookbook in my hands for the first time! Then I blinked, and 3 weeks went by: all 2,000 copies were gone in just 20 days. The inventory I purchased (which I thought would realistically last 5 years, ha!) was completely sold out and all my retailers sold out before Christmas, too. I had absolutely no idea the response would be so overwhelmingly positive!

In March 2016 I was able to fund a second print run of 6,000 copies and this December I will be getting another 6,000. The book is now available at 70+ retailers and all the California locations of Barnes & Noble. It’s garnered the attention of farm-to-table goddess Alice Waters, Food52, and now Girlboss! It’s been an amazing journey thus far, and I’m already working on my next cookbook—stay tuned!”




1. Be enthusiastic; your energy and excitement will attract others. Being a go-getter with a great attitude will draw in crowds, promise!

2. Share your acquired expertise with others. I’m always learning and sharing my resources with others. Since the launch of the book, I’ve taught in-person workshops on food photography, Kickstarter, and self-publishing.

3. Trust your personal path. Like most gals in their mid-twenties, I felt lost and worked a string of jobs until I found the one that stuck. Trust that you will find the career that will make you thrive, and if you can’t find it, create it like I did.

* // // @kendraaronson


Originally published on #Girlboss on October 26, 2016.


Coyote + Oak is a printed magazine, created by and showcasing California artists and entrepreneurs. After Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Wallace realized there were very few outlets for creative folks to share their stories and projects in a tangible, detailed form, the idea of her self-published magazine began. Her non-profit magazine features artists who are following their passions—whether they are creating a business, or simply finding moments in between family and work to make their creativity come to life. 

I'm honored to be featured in Volume III, enjoy!

Writing by Caleb Wiseblood
Photography by Tina Loveridge

When someone texts me: “Farmers?”, I automatically assume that person is inviting me to farmers’ market—specifically the one held every Thursday evening in downtown San Luis Obispo. But from now on my response to such texts will not be, “I’m down” or, “I can’t make it”. Instead I’ll reply with: “Which one? Tuesday afternoon? Saturday morning? Sunday morning?” And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! There isn’t a single day of the week that SLO County doesn’t host a farmers’ market. My text continues: “Monday in Los Osos?…Wednesday in Pismo?…Friday in Avila?!” Upon double checking page 8 of The San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market Cookbook, I realize I’ve excluded: Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, and Templeton.

The book itself isn’t divided according to location, rather it’s organized by season, starting with summer recipes. Coincidentally, this happens to be author Kendra Aronson’s favorite time of the year. “August and September are great because absolutely everything is in season, from stone fruit to winter squash,” Aronson told me at Linnaea’s Café, where we met and discussed the book over a pot of Earl Grey.  

As I’m typing this article weeks later, it is 90 degrees outside and hot tea is the last thing on my mind. Iced tea, on the other hand (specifically “Jerry’s Double Citrus Iced Mint Tea”) sounds great! Lucky for me, there is a recipe for it on page 29. But now I’m left wondering who this Jerry person is. In the bottom right corner it states: “Recipe contributed by Jerry Rutiz, Rutiz Family Farms (p. 180)”. I flip to the page and find the Jerry I’ve been looking for. I’m given a brief, but insightful glimpse into his life. A verbal snapshot of over 30 years of farming experience. Jerry is 1 out of the 40 mini biographies featured in The SLO Farmer’s Market Cookbook, hence the subtitle: Simple Seasonal Recipes & Short Stories from the Central Coast of California.

Aronson spent more than 2 years compiling these tales, getting to know as many farmers’ market vendors, farm-to-table chefs, and food artisans as possible. The cookbook features 60 recipes total and every person included contributed at least 1 recipe. Each seasonal section is broken down into 5 categories: Breakfast, Light Bites, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert. Aronson strongly recommends the Grilled Salmon with Broiled Apricot Jalapeño Preserves for lunch. Her favorite light bite recipe is the Garlicky Blackened Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Aioli. As for dessert, it’s a tie for her between White Peach & Olallieberry Crumble with Whipped Cream and the Pistachio Crust Honeyed Goat Cheese Cheesecake.

“I remember the first time I ever went to the downtown SLO farmers’ market. It was right before my first year at Cal Poly,” Aronson fondly recalled. “It was during WOW [Week of Welcome]. What I remember most distinctly were the strawberries—I was blown away.  I’d never tasted strawberries that good before!”  she said excitedly, as if it was happening all over again.

The same nostalgic enthusiasm manifested when Aronson described growing up in San Diego and her first job at age 12. She worked as a hostess at Tony’s Jacal, a family-owned and operated Mexican restaurant. Aronson got hired due to the fact that Tony is Tony Gonzales, her grandpa, who opened the Jacal in 1946. “I’m not sure what the labor laws were back then, but I was getting paid $5 an hour, under the table,” she said. “I would usually work 4-hour shifts, so my aunt would just give me a 20 from the cash register at the end of the night.” My right hand freezes. “Wait, how do you spell Jacal?” I naively ask her, before jotting down my best guess. “J-A-C-A-L, it’s Spanish for little shack,” she said politely.

Speaking of Spanish, Spanish is only 1 out of the 3 languages Aronson studied during college, along with French and Italian. She graduated from Poly in 2009, with a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literature. Then Aronson moved to San Francisco in 2010 for graduate school at SFSU. “That’s when I really got into the food scene and food blogging,” she revealed. “I did the Big Eat SF, it’s a list of 100 things you must eat in San Francisco that is compiled by the lifestyle magazine 7x7. I ate my way through the list and documented everything on my blog.” Aronson received her M.A. in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in 2012. She moved back to SLO in 2013 and got a teaching position at Verbling, an online language learning platform. It was April of that year that she began work on the cookbook.

Between then and now, Aronson’s life sounds like an elaborate balancing act. In 2014, she launched Kendra Aronson Creative Studio, which provides various services such as writing, photography, graphic design, and web design. Aronson became particularly immersed in designing websites for small businesses. Notable clients include Ember, SLO Provisions, and Noonan’s Wine Country Designs. In 2015, she founded The Central Coast Creatives Club, which meets monthly and is meant to facilitate collaborations between local creatives from every medium. Keep in mind—as all of this was going on—Aronson was simultaneously writing, photographing, designing, and self-publishing The SLO Farmer’s Market Cookbook. How does one juggle any of those things with a full-time teaching job? “What keeps me sane is scheduling, even free time. It’s important to schedule breaks for yourself. I literally calendar out everything: going to a coffee shop, reading, walking my dog,” she replied calmly. I’m nowhere near as organized—except when it comes to shopping lists. My latest one: water, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, citrus, fresh mint, tea bags… and yes, those are the ingredients for Jerry’s Double Citrus Iced Mint Tea.

Originally published in-print in Coyote + Oak Volume III