In the world of home cooks and food bloggers, inspiration is perhaps the most important resource, especially when trying to differentiate yourself from the rest. From farmers' markets to fellow chefs, there is no lack of sources. But how does one sift through all of the noise that is the internet and social media? Food bloggers, Sierra French-Myerson and Stephanie Farrar, find that while cooking inspiration can come from almost anywhere, the best ideas come from the simplest places.
The Right EnvironmentFor both French and Farrar, one of the most important things for them when cooking and creating is to make sure that it’s not just about the food, it’s also about the environment. So, creative spaces that lend themselves to being points of opportunity for the home cooks to use their imaginations are critical.
“I’m always inspired by kitchens that have been lived in and loved,” French says. “So few of us home cooks are lucky enough to have the gorgeous, expansive kitchens that we ogle in our favorite magazines--though it’s definitely a top goal for me one day--but we still manage to create lovely meals and memorable events.”
Earlier this year, Farrar moved into a new house with her husband and two kids, and with the help of a stunning remodeled kitchen, home has become an inspiration source.
“When I see modern kitchens in some of my favorite magazines like Dwell or Architectural Digest or from my favorite blogs, like Sunday Suppers, 101 Cookbooks, and Kinfolk,” Farrar says, “I half-wish I had a stark white minimal kitchen with birch branches holding candlelit lighting and one giant bowl of lemons. But that is not how I roll with two kids and a busy life. My kitchen is clean and well stocked for a newish blogger, but more importantly, it's full of great light for photos and life for inspiration.”
Sourcing the FoodWhile the kitchen is where the magic is born, the most important element of cooking is the food. One reoccurring theme for French and Farrar is their love for simple ingredients such as French’s appreciation for true honest-to-goodness lettuce and Farrar’s delight in purple beans and nectarines.
“I’m a mainstay at the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sunday mornings. I’ve been going for years, probably since it started," French says. "I love the ritual of it. I know my favorite farms. I could probably go blindfolded and get myself to each of my go-to stalls. However, for true inspiration, I love to go to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market early on Wednesday mornings. Talk about bountiful! And, if you pay attention, you’ll spy all of your favorite local chefs buying their produce for their restaurants.”
“My favorite farmers' market in L.A. is the Studio City Market, in our hood,” Farrar says. “It’s kid friendly, the produce is excellent, and we can pretty much walk there. I can get fish caught that morning, and my oldest can jump in a bouncy house.”
Cooking the FoodLooking at postings on FrenchandFarrar.com (for example, Summertime Whiskey Ribs), it would seem that these two chefs have been cooking all of their lives. They have a way of making every recipe look so simple, but like every story, it all started somewhere.
“After being back from New York for a year, my two oldest friends--siblings--also moved back to L.A.,” French says. “We rented a great house together. We had so much fun living together in our early 20’s with our own real kitchen. My one friend and I just gelled while we were cooking. We tried everything. That’s really when my passion for all things culinary was ignited.”
Farrar is continuously inspired by the recipes of her mother and grandmother, as well as her Southern roots, but in true French and Farrar fashion, they found inspiration from one another.
“Honestly, while my mother and my mother-in-law are both jaw-dropping cooks, Sierra was really inspiring to watch cook,” Farrar says. “Over a decade ago was one of the only times I was able to attend her annual Thanksgiving Bash for all us kids in and around L.A. who couldn’t make it home. She cooked for over 30 people, like three turkeys, what seemed like limitless sides, ever-flowing wine, and conversation--all at her mother’s insane home in the heart of the city, where the classic vibe of traditional Los Angeles charm was invented. After having my first child and being rather cooped up, I knew it was time to reach for a level of cooking that was above take-out. Sierra was an incredible inspiration and partner in the kitchen, from our first days cooking chili and cornbread for a Sunday football bash to our New Year’s feast for 30.”
Stirring Up InspirationWhen they are not finding creativity from their friends and each other, they find it among other food bloggers.
“Probably my favorite [blog] is bonappetempt.com, one of the funniest ladies in the world,” Farrar says. “I love blogs whose writers have an original voice, great writing, and the pictures have to be epic. I don’t want to read too much on a food blog, but I do wanna learn why a recipe matters to this voice. I identify with bloggers who manage to blend it all… family, work, and creativity. It inspires me to see these folks juggling it all. It makes is all seem possible, I suppose.”
As far as professional inspiration, French is energized by such icons as Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, and Eric Ripert, but one thing this pair can agree on is their admiration for Anthony Bourdain.
“Anthony Bourdain is a great on so many levels,” French says. “He’s obviously a phenomenal chef, but his take on food and cultural immersion is inspirational and fascinating. Not to mention that he can take the piss out of anyone in the best possible way.”
“I am obsessed with his cooking of course, but his writing makes me want to eat paper," Farrar says. "I will watch, eat, and read anything he puts out into the world. He’s my hall-pass.”
Earlier: Meet French and Farrar