I had the lovely pleasure of chatting with Maggie Battista, an accomplished writer, cookbook author, and food entrepreneur. We met the day after she submitted a first draft of her new cookbook, and chatted about her experience in the food world I was blown away by her passion and candor - read more about her journey below.
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Maggie (above photo by Kristin Teig) and I would describe myself as a cookbook author, writer, and food entrepreneur. I started Eat Boutique, a story-driven recipe site and shop 10 years ago to really find my next phase of my career and get back to doing things that I love. I write cookbooks (working on my second one right now) and am currently working on a new food-retail concept in Boston that combines my passion for hosting food pop-ups and bringing community together. It’s part small batch grocery store, part all day cafe, cooking school, and maker’s market.
Tell me more about your background! How did you first become interested in the food industry?
Since I was a child, food was really at the core of everything in my life. I grew up in a multicultural household - my mother's Honduran and my father was Naples-Italian so life was always about mixing immigrant style and cultures into different dishes. On a separate note, early on in my career, I was in charge of running and building some of the largest online communities - TripAdvisor, Matchmaker, Wired. Through these experiences, I quickly realized I had the ability to build community both online and offline and create an environment people could learn from and enjoy. I wanted to unite my passion for food with my expertise in building community - and that's when I started exploring creative ways to combine the two.
When designing a pop-up, it’s important to think in the lens of what the customer sees and to think about every little detail that might need adjusting or editing.
I started by doing food pop-ups for fun on the side and in the process of starting Eat Boutique, I even started an online food gift box where I curated small-batch goods and individually packaged them for consumers. By now, I’ve hosted numerous food pop-up markets, varying from a 450 square foot space to events at a cruise terminal for 25,000+ guests.
How do you prepare for a food popup?
When I design a food pop-up, I often don’t know how many guests will attend. So really it’s about creating a phenomenal user experience for each individual that walks into the given space. I typically start designing pop-ups 6-9 months in advance to make sure I have the list of makers who will be in attendance and can think about how to convey their stories both online and on print collateral. If the pop-up includes workshops, we have to think about which authors want to fly in and teach the workshops. From a design perspective, we often work with an architect to make sure the space is well-lit and designed. It’s important to see the pop-up in the lens of what the customer sees and to think about every little detail that might need adjusting or editing.
Let’s talk about your cookbooks. What prompted you to start writing cookbooks?
I taught myself how to cook by reading cookbooks and recipes. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but writing about food and writing recipes really started because it was something I could do all on my own.
The first cookbook I wrote, Food Gift Love, was inspired by my process of curating small batch products to individual consumers and sharing the stories behind those products. As I tried to recreate different recipes on my own, I wanted to document the process and share these 100+ recipes, ranging from salad dressing and vinegars, to more indulgent treats. The second cookbook I'm working on was inspired by my own personal wellness journey over the last 3 years. After hiring a health coach for myself, I’ve learned different recipes that can be tailored to me, which I share in my second cookbook.
You’re constantly doing so many things. How do you stay inspired?
Real women inspire me and keep me motivated. I actually published a blog post about 12 women I met through Instagram who inspire me recently! They each give real wellness and food advice and show how much there is to learn from real women who do great things.
The philosophy that drives what we do at And Comfort is the idea of finding delight in the everyday. What’s something that brings you delight?
I love this question! I relish quiet mornings where I have breakfast and tea and plan my day. I’m a high-frequency person so quiet moments relax me and make me less frenetic. And of course, chocolate always brings me delight too.