Author interview - Klancy Miller

Klancy Miller

Klancy Miller is a writer and pastry chef. Following her graduation from Columbia University, and a stint in international development in French Polynesia, she earned a Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. After apprenticing at the legendary Michelin-starred Taillevent restaurant, she was hired by Le Cordon Bleu Paris to edit recipes. She wrote about food for "Bonjour Paris" and was featured on Food Network's "Recipe for Success." Now in New York, she is author of the blog Klancy's Potluck, has appeared on the Cooking Channel's "Unique Sweets," and writes for Marcus Samuelsson's Food Republic. Klancy has just released her first cookbook, Cooking Solo, that tackles the challenges of cooking well for one. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book, and visit the World Calender of Cookbook events for information on her book tour.) We asked Klancy to give Members some advice on cooking for one:

What are the issues that those cooking for one person face that couples and families do not?

The biggest issue facing a person who cooks solo is avoiding waste or an over abundance of leftovers. If you cook from a traditional cookbook, chances are the recipes serve four or six or sometimes more than six. As a single cook, following a cookbook recipe often means having more leftovers than you might want. The ideal solution to that is to either scale the recipe down or freeze leftovers and hopefully consume them in a timely way-as opposed to forgetting they're in the freezer. My hope is that Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself will help single home cooks have fewer leftovers because most of the recipes are already streamlined for people who like to cook meals for one on occasion.

There are more single people than married people in the USA (for the first time in history) - how do you think this affects food buying, cooking and eating?

As a casual observer of American pop culture, I think food has never been as trendy as it is right now - among all people, single and married alike. My guess is that single people who are food lovers may mix it up and rely on a combination of take out, going out to restaurants and cooking at home occasionally. I also think because there's more interest in food now than ever before and people are getting more informed about what kind of food they buy and how they cook it.

Many people don't think it's worth spending time and effort just cooking for themselves. I love cooking for myself as I can make exactly what I want to eat. How does your book get the reluctant cooks recognizing they are worth more than take-out and frozen meals?

My intention with this cookbook is to show that cooking is not that hard and cooking solo can be a chance to unwind. I believe it's important for single people to treat themselves to enjoyable experiences--with themselves and with other people--and some of these experiences can be had while cooking a good meal. It's not only an opportunity to have quality time with yourself, it's also a chance to practice making homemade food so that you're that much better at it when you invite friends and family to your home. I find cooking for one cathartic. With that said, I know what it is to have a long day at work. Some days I come home feeling exhausted and I don't feel excited to cook. Those are the nights I eat the simplest foods or treat myself to a meal at a restaurant. However, sometimes those low energy nights are the ones where cooking something (really easy such as an omelet and a salad) helps melt away the day's stress. Doing this with a glass of wine while music is playing makes cooking an act of relaxation and less of a chore.

How did you start cooking?

I took my time finding a career path. After graduating from Columbia, I worked at a non-profit non-governmental organization called American Friends Service Committee. I was interested in international relations and was able to tap into that interest at AFSC. I also knew I wanted to explore other interests so I took lots of classes after work. Everything from film editing to acting to cooking classes. The cooking classes were really fun for me and I sought out restaurant work experience, specifically at a restaurant called Fork, in Philadelphia. The chef said I did not have enough experience for a job in the kitchen but said I could apprentice. I started coming in on the weekends to do prep work and loved it. The chef told me I didn't need to go to culinary school to become a chef but it could be worthwhile if I wanted to be a pastry chef. That's when I decided I wanted to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to enroll in their pastry program. Being a pastry student in Paris was like a fairy tale and started a series of lessons in the culinary arts - not just in class, but outside of class too.

How did you start food writing and how did the cookbook come about?

I began freelance writing about food in Paris. I had completed my studies at Le Cordon Bleu and had started apprenticing in a bakery and then at a restaurant with three Michelin stars and while I loved working in the kitchen, I also wanted to explore how I could work in the food world and not be in a kitchen full-time. Le Cordon Bleu hired me to join their recipe development team and I started writing about food on my own too.

When I came back to the States, I started a food blog and started pitching to magazines. I worked as a ghostwriter on a book project and realized I wanted to write my own book in my own voice. I read an article in The New York Times about the rising number of single people and I thought I should write a cookbook for single people. My agent liked the idea too and was able to sell my book proposal to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That was in 2012. I'm thrilled that Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself is now a reality!

Baking is a problem when you live on your own - you bake it then you eat it all! As a trained pastry chef, what are your solutions?

I love dessert so I had to include a chapter devoted to sweets in Cooking Solo. There are plenty of desserts that just serve one in the chapter, The Happy Ending. One example is the Rustic Strawberry Shortcake. There is also the Ginger-Peach Crisp. And there are others. I did the math and streamlined the recipes so that single cooks can bake on a smaller scale and have no leftovers-or way fewer leftovers than if you're making a whole sheet of brownies for example.

What other tips do you have for those shopping and cooking for one?

My main tip for people who are cooking for one is to buy small quantities of food so that you avoid waste. When buying smaller quantities is not an option I suggest storing food properly (often in single serving Ziploc bags) in the freezer. If you freeze food items in Ziploc bags, write down what the food is and the date you put it in the freezer.

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