I’M STILL HERE! How are you?? I’ve missed chatting to you! Here’s what’s been going down in my world. Tell me what you’ve been up to – I want to know!
All cookbook action around these parts!!
Back in October 2021, I made the decision to put a pause on posting new recipes on this website to allow myself “just a couple of months” to focus on writing my first cookbook.
I really expected (and declared as such!) to be back to my usual routine of sharing 3 new recipes a week by December.
Then in December, I declared I’d be back in February.
And now here we are at the end of March, and while I hope very much to get back to sending out new recipes regularly in April, I am not even sure I can manage that! How is it possible that I’m still full time on this project, you might wonder?? Here’s why:
1. Massive underestimation + me being me
To say that I massively underestimated the amount of work it would take to create a cookbook would be the understatement of the year. Not only did I not realise the extent of the workload, but I also did not realise how much pressure I’d put on myself to do the very best I could, being (let’s just say it) the pedantic-recipe-control-freak I am.
It has to work every time for everyone, and it has to taste amazing!
My team must get sick of hearing me chant this as I insist we roast duck #24 just to check one last time, is this really the best method, can we do better with an easier method? (This really happened yesterday, and I totally lied, it wasn’t one last time, we’ll be doing it again tomorrow .)
2. Poor decisions I made
The other big contributor to the reason why I’m still full time on the cookbook is because I made mistakes in how I went about working on this project.
It’s painful to admit that. But somehow, it feels a bit therapeutic to say it out loud to you.
And when I found myself drowning in the chaos of my errors, my natural instinct kicked in – to take responsibility for my mistakes, to do whatever it took to get the job done and meet my contractual deadline.
It’s not a time of my life I like to dwell on. Let’s just say December and January were not the best months of my life. I was surviving on an unhealthy amount of sleep every night and I was not the most fun person to be around.
Having said that though, I feel very fortunate to have such a supportive community in my life, from my family to friends, the barista at my local coffee shop ↓↓↓ to my assistant putting together survival packs to give me the little boosts I needed to keep going. Not to mention all the wonderful messages from readers all around the world! (Thank you, you guys are so wonderful. )
Do not feel sorry for me. It’s all self imposed!
As I read back over my words, I hate that I sound self pitying or like I’m seeking sympathy. I can’t tell you how many times I drafted and redrafted this post, trying to write an upbeat “it’s all fun, laughter and delicious food over here!” update. But it wasn’t coming out right, the writing was clunky and didn’t flow because, well, it would’ve been a lie.
But when I started writing how things have really been, it just started pouring out of me.
BUT – DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME!!
Firstly, I am not saving lives here. These are not real problems. The world is battling COVID. There’s that not-so-little matter of Russia invading Ukraine. We’ve had devastating floods all down the east coast of Australia in recent weeks. Precious people in my life are battling cancer. And Kim Kardashian is still struggling to cope in the aftermath of her divorce from Kanye West.
Those are real problems.
Secondly, the workload I’ve put on myself is my own fault. Partly because of the mistakes I made that I talked about earlier. And secondly, because it’s my own darn fault that I won’t let go more, or lower my standard a little bit with the recipes.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t deserve it, nor asking for it.
And I AM having fun! I haven’t talked about that enough. I love what I do. It’s because I love what I do so much that I push myself so hard – because I’m happy to do it!
So, on that positive note, I wanted to give you an update of life happenings since the last update in November 2021. It’s been busy!
Life update – in pictures
What better way to share life happenings than to take a peek in my iPhone camera roll??
1. Moving home!
Shortly after the last update post in November 2021, I moved back into my newly renovated home!
So possibly, renovating may have been another factor making life a bit busy……. What started out as a “it would be nice to give the kitchen a makeover” ended up being a top-to-bottom house renovation. Do it once and do it right!, I decided. Also, “and never do it again!”. They’ll be carrying me out a here in a box! #morbid
Too many photos to share for proper before/after photos in this update post, but here’s a photo of the most important room in the house – my dream kitchen:
The thing that gets commented on the most is the choice of midnight blue for the cupboard colours. Many were dubious but everyone is a convert. I just couldn’t do white. Too blinding. I’d have to wear sunglasses in the kitchen!!
I promise I’ll do a separate post on the whole kitchen including the floor plan, appliances and some unusual but highly practical (yet simple) design elements I insisted on!
PS The stark cleanness of that kitchen is a complete fabrication. I just hid everything ruining the “look how neat my kitchen is!” shot in the sink, from dishwashing things to iPad stands and butter I put out to soften.
2. Working through the build
I may have moved back in, but that doesn’t mean that everything was finished! But a little bit of on going building work was never going to stop me from sticking to my schedule…… I simply worked through it.
This really happened:
Apparently, my home has gotten quite a reputation with local tradies on site often joining us for lunch – and team birthday celebrations! This was for a popcorn loving team member – edible popcorn bunting!
3. Makeshift shoot room
Much to the horror of my interior designer who has desperately been trying to get me to care about cushion colours and rug patterns (I just can’t!), the minute I moved in, I converted the study off the kitchen into a makeshift shoot room, complete with garbage bags taped across the entry to block the light.
Ohhhhh, the memory of my interior designer arranging stylish pieces she chose while I was climbing ladders to masking tape garbage bags on the wall… BA HA HA!!!
I’ve since upgraded to fabric “curtains” for my makeshift shoot room and the garbage bags were moved to the window.
(PS My marvellous interior designer with the patience of a saint is Sue Irving who is a Northern Beaches local. If it wasn’t for her, I would have no bed, no couch, no dining table .)
4. The Work Studio
In case you are wondering, as some regular readers may recall I did some work on the lower ground floor to make it my work kitchen and shooting studio, the reason I chose to work in my personal kitchen for the cookbook is because of the sheer volume and speed of cooking required to meet the tight cookbook contractual deadlines.
The larger kitchen with multiple work zones is more efficient to work in (some days I have 2 professional chefs plus two kitchen support for washing up, shopping and shoot support). We cook fast, we cook a lot, shoot a lot and we create a lot of mess. My cosy little work kitchen is not cut out for big, fast paced projects like this!
The photo below of the work kitchen is a current WIP. The interconnecting wooden benches you see were only put there a couple of weeks ago, and peeking out of the right side is an extra washing up station currently being installed.
And here is my proper shoot studio (no garbage bags in sight, I actually have REAL blinds!). Once the cookbook photos are done and the new washing station in the work kitchen is completed, I plan to do all my work shooting in the studio.
5. Cookbook recipes CHOSEN!!
By far the hardest decision for the cookbook has been done – CHOOSING the recipes!
The early days of the cookbook involved a great deal of recipe development, and playing around with recipes as I tried to come up with the recipes for the cookbook.
Based in your feedback and because it’s the core of the very food I cook most of the time, I knew that the bulk of the recipes would be “everyday food”. But it couldn’t just be standard stuff! It had to be exceptional yet still accessible.
I’m happy to say the recipe list is now FINAL! Though initial feedback from the publisher is that I may need to cut back on all the extras I included – sides, salads, dressings, sauces, stocks – to fit into the page limit budget. Apparently the manuscript I submitted would be a cookbook encyclopedia.
PS The binder below is one of two…
6. Manuscript submitted!
Boy did I underestimate the work involved on the writing part….
There I was, so focussed on the
fun cooking part, and also a little too cocky on the writing part (pff! I write recipes for a living, how hard can it be??), I really made my life difficult, leaving the writing part until the end.
Turns out, when you’re writing for a cookbook where things are enshrined in print forever, as opposed to on a website where I can fix things on a whim (like that time I forgot to include PORK in the roast pork recipe ), it’s a little more structured. There are detailed style guides, you need to be super mindful of character allowance, use consistent writing formats etc etc.
But, I’m happy to report that I got there! The contractual deadline for the submission was 31 January 2022, and I believe I hit send on the final chapter at 8.36 pm.
Then to celebrate, I went straight to bed!
7. The crazy decision – “I want to do ALL the photos myself!”
The next phase after submitting the manuscript was to take photos for the cookbook. While I had been taking what I called “reference photos” throughout the whole recipe development phase, they have to be done properly for the cookbook.
For quality and also workload reasons, it had always been the intention to use a professional food photographer and food stylist to take most of the photos, scheduled to take place over a 5 week period.
However, three days before cookbook shooting was due to commence, I decided I’d rather shoot all the photos myself…. CRAZY I KNOW! But hear me out!
Right up to the moment I submitted the manuscript, I fully intended to do as advised and work with a professional for the photos.
But the moment I hit send on the manuscript and I had a moment to breath, it dawned on me. This cookbook, it is literally my blood, sweat and tears (really, I’ve cut myself, sweated over the stove and yes, shed tears). And the thought of anybody else’s photos in it other than my own just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s such a big part of the cookbook (every recipe will have a photo) and also, I know I have a very particular style with my photos where I focus much more on capturing the deliciousness of food rather than technical perfection or prettiness.
And so, 3 days before shooting was due to commence, I made the difficult phone call to my publisher to tell them I wanted to pull the pin on the photographer and stylist. I was at least relieved to learn that they were both moved onto other assignments so they didn’t lose out on any work.
8. Shooting a cookbook!
And so, we arrive at today!! Here’s my typical day in photos.
LOTS of cooking – no surprises there!
Lots and lots of shooting…. On days when it’s just “not happening for me”, it frustrates me so much. Yet, yet, yet…. I have the bug. I love it. There is something so satisfying about capturing the yum factor of a dish I’ve created!!
Inordinate counts of dirty dishes to deal with…. Yes I have a team who supports me but I still do more than my fair share of dishes, especially on weekends!
Mastering the self timer to do shots of myself, smiling serenely at the camera, shooing Dozer away whilst simultaneously trying to lift the lid at the perfect moment to capture that perfect waft of smoke:
Here’s the DIY photo I captured!
And another thing we spend a lot of time doing – scheduling. With so many photos to take and so much recipe testing to do, there is SO MUCH SCHEDULING!!!
Then there’s all the extras – the “non standard” photos, plus photos of me and Dozer, my team, hopefully some tables capes of food.
And of course, photos from RecipeTin Meals, my food bank (“RTM”). I really hope there’s room in the cookbook to include a page on RTM.
Speaking of RTM… an update!!!
Life at RTE HQ (as we now affectionately call my home!) may be rather chaotic but I’m happy to report it’s all smooth sailing at RecipeTin Meals!
RTM is my not-for-profit arm where I have a full time team of 3 in a commercial kitchen in Sydney city making meals for the vulnerable. Since starting RTM in September 2021, we’ve provided 25,000 made-from-scratch meals (mostly recipes from this website!!) and 4,000 desserts (we started this fairly recently).
That’s a LOT of hungry tummies filled.
For more about RTM, read here! But in a nutshell, the meals are distributed by a wonderful organisation called One Meal, and the revenue from this website funds the staff and food costs of RTM. It was always been my secret goal to be able to do something like this, and it’s my greatest professional achievement to date.
This is a photo of me at the One Meal Northern Beaches premises with my eyes closed (of course) with my two Chefs, JB (left – you’ve made his Bourguignon!) and Stephen (right), our Chef at RTM who, aside from being a mad cook, manages to have me in tears of laughter more days than not.
I guess in the hospitality world you’d call JB the Corporate Chef who works with me at HQ and whose responsibilities include helping me with recipe development and testing, expanding my culinary knowledge, and teaching me new skills (breaking down a live crab! ). He also oversees the set up, running and expansion of RTM. Being that me, just an ex-finance girl and all, has no idea how to run a real commercial kitchen, I have to rely on people who know better – and who can chop much much faster than me!
Oh look, and here I am in front of a fridge full of RTM meals, looking like I had something to do with the making of them:
To all the kind, generous souls who have offered their time and donations to support RTM, thank you so much! I am still trying to get my official charitable status to be able to legally accept donations. And as for volunteers – in exciting news, we are looking to MOVE so we can EXPAND to enable us to start a volunteer program! Stay tuned!!!
Getting back to sharing recipes
I miss sharing new recipes on my website! Never did I think I would take such a long break from it. Especially for something like a cookbook where, let’s face it, I’m taking a risk whether this time investment will pay off through cookbook sales.
I don’t want to promise exactly when I’ll get back to sharing new recipes because I keep getting it wrong, keep misjudging the workload and how the process will run.
It’s been a learning experience. Certainly a labour of love. Hard work. LOTS of delicious food.
But as exciting as it will be when it launches, I have to confess, I look forward to getting back to my usual routine of sharing new recipes here on my website!
Thank you for your patience, and for the wonderful messages of support that have continued to come in despite my silence here on the website. Some days, it’s been just what I needed to give me a kick up the bum to crank through the work! – Nagi x
Life of Dozer
I was about to start this section by saying that there’s FOUR WHOLE MONTHS of Life of Dozer catching up to do!!! But then I realised, nothing much has really changed in his life….
I still take him everywhere with me:
I still can’t snack in peace:
His big boof head still gets in the way when I’m watching trashy TV:
He still insists on squeezing himself into the most precarious positions when I’m working:
He still heaves big sighs when I bear hug him:
He still can’t resist it when ducks waggle their bottoms at him, even when the golf pond is the brownest and stinkiest I have ever seen it:
He still hates his tux (WHY! He looks so cute in it!!! ):
He still thinks food will jump off the bench (though in this case, it very nearly did!):
He still enjoys working on his tan:
So, in short, nothing new.
There has been, however, one VERY exciting event in Life of Dozer – when we saw that his photo had been used for a poster advertisement by a local dog photographer!!!
Dozer was so chuffed, he insisted on getting a photo of him beside the poster.
(Let’s all pretend not to notice that the poster he is so proud of is on the side of an overflowing, extremely smelly doggy poo bin.)
We’ll be back in your inboxes regularly soon. Thank you for your patience!
In the meantime though, tell me what you’ve been up to! I want to know!!
– Nagi & Dozer