Issue Nº1: Interview with Adrianna Adarme

Adrianna Adarme in her home with her corgi Amelia.

Adrianna Adarme in her home with her corgi Amelia.

Adrianna Adarme is the creator of the recipe sharing blog, A Cozy Kitchen. Her unique and beautifully inviting photos make you feel like you’ve just walked into a dear friend’s kitchen who you’ve known for years. This Fort Lauderdale native, now living in Los Angeles, California is responsible for creating a myriad of well-loved recipes by her more than 230K followers on Instagram

Q: What was your household like growing up? On the about page on your website, it says that your parents are Peruvian and Colombian. 

A: A little loud (laughs). My house growing up was pretty normal I would say. [It was a] pretty American household –  in that we were four people;  I had a little brother, my parents were married. You know, sort of idyllic in that way? My dad is from Colombia and my mom is from Peru. There were a lot of family gatherings. There was a lot of music, a lot of Peruvian food mostly because my mom was the one who primarily cooked growing up. She had me really young, so the only thing[s] she really knew how to cook were things that were Peruvian except this weird casserole dish that she learned from, like, the back of a can or something (laughs.) We went to school. I played tennis and so did my brother. My dad was the coach of a soccer team. So I guess I would say my childhood was pretty normal! 

Q: How did your Latin-American background affect your creativity?

A: I would say that my Latin-American roots definitely helped with cooking because everyone in my family cooked. My family actually owns a bakery in Lima, Peru, and it’s one of the oldest bakeries in Lima. It specializes in very traditional Limeño desserts, so whenever family would come and visit us, there was always a huge deal about baking. It was really interesting because my mom is a terrible baker. She does not bake at all, but there were always these things that we would make together and I think that initially really got me interested in cooking. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that pretty much everybody in my family that was a matriarch, or who was revered, knew how to do this thing. I think that that was my attraction to it. 

Q: You said you were originally a producer, could you expand on what led you to creating A Cozy Kitchen? 

A: I went to film school and I actually wanted to direct and produce music videos when I was in high school and that’s why I went to film school. Mainly hip-hop music videos (laughs). So I would watch them everyday, like TRL and BET. 

When I got to film school, I really realized that I wanted to produce indie movies. When I got out of school it was really difficult to do that because no one was buying movies the way they used to even just a couple years before. So I think I felt defeated a little bit because I graduated during the recession. I was stuck in this job at a trailer house; it wasn’t the worst job in the entire world, it just wasn’t something that... I didn’t go to film school to work at a trailer house and work in film marketing. I just thought it was like, just not anything that I aspired to do and I was sort of stuck at this job. I think that when you’re in film school, when you’re in college period, you get sort of spoiled that all these teachers and all these people care about what you do creatively. You realize that you’re paying them to care (laughs). You’re paying them to care about things that you think about and when you get out it’s like ‘oh no, nobody cares’. Nobody cares, nobody cares at all! I just felt like with film it’s really hard to make things without lots of people and lots of resources. I really wanted to find something that I could do on my own. If it didn’t mean I was making any money then I was fine because I’d sort of realized that maybe I just needed to wait out this job and wait out until the economy got better so I could find another job. So what do I do in the meantime to just be happy and be creative on a daily basis? I found that in cooking and I found that in food blogging, oddly enough, because I was at work and I didn’t have anything to do so I would read fashion blogs and food blogs. So, I just found a lot of joy in that. I was like, maybe I can try it. I got a used camera and just tried to take pictures of food, and I was awful at it. But I think that since I learned film, I learned actual film in school, I understood the rules of a digital camera very easily because it’s the same rules. I think my learning curve was perhaps a bit shorter because I had that background. And then I realized that, ‘oh I can actually be creative every single day’ and eventually people cared about it. 

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Q: When you’re making food, do you feel like it’s a creative process? Do you have your recipes and follow them exactly or are you making things up along the way? Or is the creativity just the process of making the food? 

A: I think it’s a combination of different things. For instance, a lot of times I’m like ‘oh I want to make this’ and then sometimes I think I’m a genius – then I google it and realize it’s been done a million times. I’m like ‘oh okay I’m not a genius at all’ (laughs). But then I’m like, well I can do my version of it or I can do something. So generally, I’ll put flavors together that perhaps have never been together or maybe they have but I’m going to do it with an interesting twist. I’ll write the recipe how I think it should go like ‘2 cups of flour or a half a cup of this’, you know. As I go through it, I change it on the fly. With baking it’s more difficult to do that. I’ll have to bake it and then make the changes afterward. I also think that creativity, for me, comes with the photography and propping and shooting it in a way that makes people feel like they’re in a warm, pretty place that has soft light and somewhere they want to be to eat this. I think that there are different, not levels, that’s a bit dramatic, but there are different times in which I creatively think of something. 

Q: Could you discuss your cookbook and coloring book?

A: “The Year of Cozy” is a book that has recipes, little life tidbits to be happy, 

and crafts. It’s broken up by season. I made it like, oh my god, I made it like three years ago. It came out two years ago, like fall 2015! It’s been a really positive experience. It’s been one of those books that’s had a good amount of life to it. People’s responses have been really positive to it. People have written to me telling me what they’ve made. The introduction is about how you’re supposed to find moments in your life where you can carve out things where you can find happiness in your life, whether that’s through cooking, or making, or creating, or just going for a walk and finding happiness in small places. It’s actually a thing that I’ll read like the introduction and be like ‘I need to work on myself’ (laughs). 

Q: Like self-reflection? 

A: Yeah! I’m like ‘I was smarter then than I am now (laughs)!’ It was a really labor intensive process making that book, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life. The coloring book was an idea from my publisher, that was a really great one. It was really fun. I’ve never made anything like that before! It was also really interesting writing very simple recipes because there wasn’t a ton of space because we wanted it to be primarily something that people could color. 

Q: Would you have done anything differently, following the path that you did? 

A: I mean, maybe. I think, sometimes, I should’ve gone to school. Since I didn’t actually do film, I probably would’ve benefited from being an English major or something. Or I could’ve studied something like history. Something that doesn’t have to do with film or food or any of that; that would’ve made me a smarter person, perhaps. At the same time, there are a lot of things that I learned in film school because my school [University of North Carolina School of the Arts] was such a hands-on school. They were so interested in teaching everyone a trade that I really learned how to manage my time. I really learned work ethic, which has become super important in what I do because everything is self-motivated. I don’t have a boss, so I’m really dependent on myself. There’s a lot of things I learned in school and college that I probably wouldn’t have learned at another school, but it’s hard to look back and go “I would’ve changed this or whatever” because then I wouldn’t have gotten this from it. So I guess no? Short answer, no (laughs). 

Q: Why did you choose the word cozy? 

A: I think that, a lot of the times, the thing that I felt when I started A Cozy Kitchen was actually a lot of uncertainty and anxiety because I was like, ‘am I going to have a job tomorrow?’ It was actually the opposite of what I think of when I think of a cozy feeling. When I think of a cozy feeling, I think of a place that’s secure and warm and safe and somewhere you would be okay with sitting and eating and enjoying something. The world I was living in at the time was the complete opposite. I lived in a shithole of an apartment that had zero light, I didn’t know if I was going to have a job, I could barely afford the bills I had. I was living in the opposite world. In a way, I kind of created a world that was maybe a form of escapism for myself. 

Q: You said in one interview that your style is “modern-meets-nostalgia”, could you explain that? If it has to do with comfort food or the way you look at cooking?

A: I think the things that I enjoy have to do with the fact that I didn’t really grow up with that American food in my household. We didn’t really eat mac and cheese. My mom would buy a box of Kraft mac and cheese for when I came home from school and stuff, but for the most part I didn’t really eat a lot of super American food. So in a way, I look at kids on television and I’m like ‘they had milk at dinner?’ We never did that (laughs). I think that some of it’s almost like a fake nostalgia. Like what I kind of wish that I had, even though it’s like ‘okay calm down’. It’s not like I was deprived (laughs). Some of the stuff I make is from my childhood, like Peruvian dishes that I loved. I think that we all want to have the most fun with food.  I’ll be like ‘yeah I’m making crunchy tacos tonight’ and my fiancé Josh is a chef and he’s like ‘oh my god, YES!’ He’ll be so excited because food that is fun is often nostalgic or things that you ate as a kid. One day I made homemade Ding-Dongs and they weren’t like the ones with tons of chemicals, they’re ones that you can make yourself that were actually pretty doable. I think people just get excited about those things because it’s not everyday that you get to eat an Airhead or eat those things. Bringing that funness to food is what I really enjoy. 

Q: Do you have any significant cooking memories? You were talking about being with all your family and really enjoying those moments and food was always present. 

A: On Sunday we did this thing called “almuerzo”, it translates literally to lunch, but it’s generally it’s at 2 or 3pm; my grandfather would always come over and cook and people would come over.  It generally took a long time to cook. I wasn’t a part of it really, but they were. I remember it always being a really fun day; we just hung out together and spent time with each other. 

Q: What’s your biggest struggle as a cook/food blogger? It seems like it’d be difficult to have work life balance.

A: I see what you’re saying. Like, how do I separate work life and home life because I’m working in the same space? I think that it helps that I actually have someone who comes and helps me: my friend, Billy, who also has a blog. It’s called Wit & Vinegar. It’s really cute. He comes and helps me like one to two times a week. A lot of times, what I’ll do is write down all the recipes that I want us to make and we usually try to get through three to four recipes in a day. When we shoot those, we have a stockpile of stuff. Sometimes I’m working for clients, so I’ll throw that in there. Sometimes the recipes don’t work so I don’t get three or four. Sometimes I just recipe test things. That’s helped a lot; but, at the same time, I still work on the weekends. The nature of being freelance is that a lot of times you just work at odd hours, but the upside is that if I wanted to go get my haircut at Tuesday at 2pm, I can also do that. So there’s good things with this kind of lifestyle and there’s bad things, but you sort of have to take them both in stride. 

Q: What’s planned in the future? Where do you see A Cozy Kitchen going? 

A: Well I like what I’m doing right now; I’d love to keep doing this. I also would be interested in products! Some form of product line or something like that. I took a ceramics class a couple years ago because I felt like a lot of the things I wanted didn’t exist. So I was like, ‘oh I can actually make these things’. Not that I was that good at it (laughs). I had the option to make things! And some of the things I made are actually things that I need. You know? I know what is useful to me and what the style is that I really like. So that’s something I would love to explore more. 

Q: Speaking of style, your instagram seems very curated and it has a distinct look. How would you describe your style or aesthetic? 

A: I would say that it’s a combination of soft light and mauve colors, like dusty pastels. Hopefully not overly girly, but, at the same time, I still like feminine silhouettes in plates and flowers and stuff like that. I would say that it’s minimal too. I don’t have a lot of fuss. 

Q: What dish elicits the happiest memories for you? 

A: The most happy one? I would say paella. We would make that all the time on Sundays. That was like the one thing that I was so excited to eat, but I also loved how long the process took and what psychotic steps my parents would take to make sure it was good (laughs). I also remember them working through problems on how to make it better, which now I feel like mine is better than theirs (laughs); I remember them telling me things that I have to do in order for it to be good. I remember them teaching themselves how to make it better too. It was always a thing that was at pretty much every single family event. 

Q: What advice would you give to fellow creatives whether creative advice or just day-to-day advice? 

A: That’s like the hardest question you could ask (laughs). I would say be humble, but, at the same time, know your worth. I think that’s a hard balance to strike, especially when you’re starting off. You’re so eager to do things, which is so great, especially doing things for free for “exposure” or whatever. I would just say if you are going to do things for free, or do things for exposure, to stand your ground and make sure that you’re being very clear about what the exposure is and what that is. You can still be friendly and positive, but still stand up for yourself. This is actually something that someone told me that I wish I’d taken more seriously. As a creative person, you’re obviously concerned about money cause it’s just, like, a normal requirement in life to survive; but, I would say if you get good at one thing, whatever that is, photography, whatever, the money will follow. You just have to practice getting good at that thing, like really good, and I think a lot of other things will fall into place.