Share Your Routes: The Kitchy Kitchen’s Claire Thomas Interview
Claire Thomas’ The Kitchy Kitchen is one of my absolute favorite blogs. Claire has a bright, fun and bubbly personality, with a slight dorkiness that makes her totally feel like your accessible but cool best friend. Her YouTube videos are absolutely stunning, and cover everything from how to make a perfect chocolate chip cookie to recipe for guilt-free alfredo to tips for being a great bride or doing a great blowout. She’s also an avid traveler, one of the reasons I was initially drawn to her (she even has free travel guides on her site!), and she documents her adventures – including her recent honeymoon in Italy! – on her envy-inspiring Instagram. Here, she shares how she started her now highly successful blog, the diet rules she adheres to, and a delicious recipe for Avocado Toast (her go-to #lazylunch!). Read on to find out more!
What do you typically eat for breakfast?
Claire Thomas: Usually just coffee, on weekends scrambled eggs.
Are there any ingredients you think everyone should always have on hand?
CT: For me it’s eggs, butter, and hot sauce. For my paleo projects it’s eggs, coconut oil, and maple syrup. It’s amazing how much you can make with those three things at your disposal.
What is a “kitchy kitchen”? How did the idea for your website/cookbook/YouTube channel come into being, and evolve?
CT: I grew up in a food family where my mom was an amazing cook, so I never felt the need to step into the kitchen. Right out of college I got a not-so-great job that wasn’t very creative, and my parents saw me struggling. By this time I had started baking my feelings, so the remedy for my creative muddle was obvious: Food blog! I spent three months to develop my own recipes and practice shooting food photography. Soon I was able to quit my job and started working as a food stylist. From there I worked as a food photographer in LA, and after about a year started playing around with the idea of producing recipe videos shot like tabletop. You see, my everyone in my family works in commercials or advertising, so I grew up thinking of things in 30 second increments and obsessing over European commercials. Lurpak Butter ads are what first got me thinking, “What if I could shoot my recipes like this?” One day a guy friend came over with a 5D and mentioned that it shot HD footage. We struck a deal where I’d feed him if he’d man the camera. So I bought a lens adapter, threw my Nikon class on the Canon body, and framed up the shots. My hands are the ones in the videos, so between takes we would cut, I’d watch playback and give notes, then we’d continue. I then edited the videos together and posted them on my blog. After doing a few of these, the executive producer at Green Dot films asked is he could show them to a few agencies. My first thought was, “Who cares about my little blog videos?” but they clicked, and six weeks later I was shooting my first national commercial. At the same time, my videos were getting popular and were noticed by ABC and Litton entertainment. That same summer I started shooting my show, Food for Thought with Claire Thomas. That was about two years ago, and I now have about two dozen spot under my belt, two seasons of a show, and my friend is a commercial DP. It’s crazy what messing around in your kitchen can lead to. Honestly, I was the WORST blogger when I started. I would post inconsistently and totally didn’t get on the social media bandwagon until very late in the game. I was a bit of a blog disaster, haha. But once I started playing around with instagram about a year and a half ago, it finally clicked in. Now I’m posting I think what set my blog apart, even in those early days when I was still just trying to figure it all out, was that it was entirely original. I wasn’t reviewing other people’s work, or making recipes that belonged to someone else. I was creating original recipes for cooks like me, who weren’t maybe the most experienced but wanted to eat well and have fun in the kitchen. That combined with the food photography, I think attracted a lot of fans. Now I have new content six days a week, a YouTube channel that posts three times a week, and a super active Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that I’m constantly interacting with people on. That has been my favorite part of blogging, honestly; getting to talk to readers and answer their questions. When I was starting out, I wished I could call up Ina or Nigella for advice, but obviously couldn’t, and so with my readers I made the decision to make myself available. So if you message me a question or want a recommendation or a kitchen tip, I’ll jump in and help you out.
You take beautiful food photos – they feel like a modern take on an almost classic Hollywood style. How did you figure out your style? Do you have any styling/food photography tips you could share?
CT: For me, it’s all about getting out of the way of the food. I let the food do its thing – crumbs, drips, whatever texture usually happens, I lean into. I like to keep the propping simple, and always draw attention to the color and texture of the food. An easy tip is to only shoot in natural light. If there isn’t any available, don’t shoot the picture. Being your own editor is equally important to being a photographer. Don’t post unless you love it.
What type of food rules do you follow? Are you paleo, gluten free, organic, vegan, vegetarian? Why?
CT: I aim for an 80/20 paleo lifestyle, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m more of a 60/40 kind of girl. My main food rules are keep it simple, keep it delicious, and show a little bit of self control. If I want french fries, I’ll have french fries. I listen to the craving, and then I move on. I’m a very emotional eater, so if I feel like I’m missing out on enjoying my food, or like I’m witholding something from myself, I’ll obsess and then over-do it. It’s much easier to enjoy a small piece of perfect chocolate cake and move on than obsess and find yourself at the bottom of a pint of ice cream a few hours later.
What’s your favorite thing to cook? What’s your favorite thing to eat?
CT: I love cooking pasta because it’s so simple. Get a couple of beautiful ingredients, some oil, some garlic, and you’re done. For eating, I’m a Thai food obsessee, so probably pad see yew or a curry.
What’s your favorite beauty product?
CT: I love RMS beauty’s illuminizer. It adds this amazing glow to your skin and perfectly highlights your angles. Considering I have a round face, I’ll take all the angles I can get!
You recently got married, in the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen. You’re also incredibly successful, and busy (I imagine) as a result of that. Any tips on balancing a relationship and a career, particularly one as demanding as owning your own business?
CT: Be organized with your time. People assume I do all of my jobs at once – cooking and shooting in the morning, prepping a commercial in the afternoon, and shooting a youtube video in the evening. This could not be father from my daily schedule. I prep, test, and shoot all of my recipes once a month for the blog, shoot batches of youtube videos at a time, and basically do everything in a bulk fashion. This way, I can get ahead of schedule and work on fun opportunities and projects as they pop up.
What do you think is the best healthy travel destination? What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
CT: Mexico City! The produce alone is a reason to go. I would just walk through markets and stock up on tropical fruit, have a ceviche or coctel for lunch, and then have something epic for dinner. I walked everywhere and just loved every minute of it.
What’s your process when you’re creating a new recipe? Where do you get inspiration from?
CT: Inspiration comes from so many places for me. I love classic American cuisine with a little bit of influence from cultures I connect with – Mexico, Thailand, Italy, England – so I turn to the basics and tweak from there. I also collect vintage cookbooks, so I’m constantly searching for inspiration there.
Do you work out? If so, what’s your exercise routine?
CT: I’ve been SOOO BAD since my wedding. But usually long walks and Pop Physique.
What’s the one thing you think most people could do to be a little bit healthier in their daily lives?
CT: Pick one thing to do a little bit more of, and start there. I’ve definitely done the big expectation, total failure, fall off the wagon and eat grilled cheese thing, so start with small achievable goals, and add one every day or week. Drinking more water could be one. Add little reminders in your phone to pop up, and try to stay on it.
I’m a big believer in the #lazylunch, the kind of meal that comes together in 10 minutes with very few ingredients. Do you have a go-to #lazylunch?
CT: Avocado toast is my favorite. It looks fancy, tastes great, and takes no time to put together.
What’s the best thing you ever ate?
CT: OH LORD. To pick a favorite star from the sky! I’m going to side step the question and say the best thing I ate on my last trip – which was to Chicago for the Create+Cultivate conference. Mochi glazed with soy sauce, wrapped in nori, and grilled over a robata. It’s like Japanese grilled cheese! Gooey, warm, crunchy, and savory. I had this at Sumi in the downtown area.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram?
CT: I have to promote Sweet Laurel – @sweetlaurelbakery – the paleo bakery I co-founded with my dear friend Laurel! Some of the photos are mine, mostly hers, all delicious!
Thanks so much, Claire! Below, she shares her favorite Avocado Toast recipe. Claire says: “It’s almost silly to have a post dedicated to Avocado Toast. It’s so pervasive out here. It’s on every cafe menu, pops up on everyone’s Instagram feed, it’s practically omnipotent. But unlike cronuts or sweets with bacon in them, this is of a protected status. Simple things hardly ever go out of style, and avocado toast is equivalent to a little back dress. Always the right decision. For my recipe today, I upped the creaminess by adding a little mascarpone and cut through it all with lemon and chili. It’s decadent, and simple, and wonderful. Enjoy!”
Serves: 3 slices
- 1/3 cup mascarpone
- 3 slices toast
- 1 avocado, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 pinch chili flake
- olive oil, for drizzling
- Spread mascarpone on each slice of toast. Top with sliced avocado, radish slices, and garnish with lemon, chili, and olive oil.
All photos by Claire Thomas, and the Kitchy Kitchen Instagram.