Location: Murrells Inlet, SC Blog: Ally’s Kitchen Specialty / focus: Global Food & Bohemian Dining Experiences at Home Career highlights: Cookbook Author, Social Media Ambassador for Dole Packaged Foods, Winner of the Dole California Cook-Off, World Food Championships Food Champ When and why did you start your blog? After appearing in 2011 on season 2 of FOX Network’s MasterChef, I decided it was time to rewrite my script in life, reinvent myself and move from ‘Dr. Alice’ (a psychologist for decades in private practice) to following my lifelong passion and penchant for cooking. Combining my boho/hippie roots and decades of travel tasting global foods, I created my ‘brand’ that defines me today—Ally’s Kitchen Bohemian Bold thinking.fooding.living.® Photography by Alice Dantoni Phillips. www.allyskitchen.com What is your cooking style / food philosophy? My cooking style is very much eclectic, edgy, earth to table, heavy on spices and herbs, fresh ingredients and promotes taking risks with ingredients, combinations of foods, flavors, textures, colors, serving pieces, table settings and more. If it makes you feel good, if it reflects your style and personality, then all is good in the food universe! I consider myself somewhat of a ‘gunslinger’—I’ll get in the kitchen and just start making things happen without a real defined plan, but with a visual image and flavors that are bouncing all around in my brain and my imagined taste buds. My food, my presentation, my philosophy are like that life, food isn’t perfect, so bring on the spills, splatters, and smudges. I believe food should evoke an ‘experience’ that transcends one into wherever their imagination lets them go—yes, we eat to live, but our dining experiences are the indelible ink that keep us alive, happy and coming back for more. What is your lifestyle philosophy? My lifestyle philosophy resembles an orange—I’m gonna squeeze every bit of sweet nectar out of that orange, then when that’s run dry, I’ll zest for more life! As we edge up the age ladder, our runways get shorter, I know that the choices I make directly and inexplicably affect every day I’m six feet above ground! For me, life’s all about getting out of the ‘balcony’ and into the arena—I want to push myself to that ‘edge’ where I can see and do things that I never imagined—whether it’s hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim, performing on stage in a production and transforming into an 80 year-old woman or trying a food ingredient that I never even imagined—my lifestyle resonates with adventure, large, small and in between—and, being a ‘rainmaker’. Creating these ‘adventures’ only come with great health, physically and emotionally! Congratulations on the success of Ally’s Kitchen! What advice would you give someone to grow his or her own following? There’s no one piece of magic. There’s not a crystal ball. Success in this business of ‘food blogging’, which I don’t even like to call myself—my terminology is ‘food influencer’ as in Fi, not Pi, is that you have to clearly define your brand. There are a bazillion folks out there that create recipes, take pictures and that are on all the social media—finding your own voice, giving people something distinctly different is what grows your ‘brand’—then once you decide who you are, what you want to be, how you’re going to do what you do, do it with clear passion and consistency—roll up your sleeves, get ready to work hard, spend lots of hours, no weekends off, spend money and see what happens! You were formerly known as Dr. Alice D’Antoni Phillips. Tell us why you transitioned from a career in educational therapy and psychology to the culinary industry. Like I said, I was cast on season 2 of Master Chef—while I was chopped at the knees by Chef Ramsay, I learned more than any MC (MasterChef) prize could have given me. Rather than pull my tail in, sniffle and question myself, I realized that I was good at this cooking thing and that my station in life, being a baby boomer and former real ‘hippie’ from the 1960s with my flower power bohemian flair, was a plus, something that appealed to many, including young people. My husband and I were in a transition in life, too…we’d moved to Boston where he’d take about a 3 year work assignment—and rather than take the ‘road more traveled’ as in my background in psychology, I decided to dive into the theatre and performing scene—this was a huge risk, there were many rejections and lots of long days and lonely times, but between the stage and my auditions and throwing down some great food, I’d found my new calling in life in the culinary world. Did your previous career help you prepare for your work as a food blogger? Oh, I think anyone who has training in psychology has an edge on working in any industry—whether you’re cleaning toilets or running a Fortune 500 company, it’s all about human nature, personalities, and communication. Rather than have my ‘voice’ and ‘influence’ focused on individual clients, it is now focused on social media and my foodie peeps! Staying true to who I am and ‘not getting’ above my raisin’, as my Mama would say, is critical, I believe, in engaging folks and giving them a part of your soul and spirit—even if it is virtually. Photography by Alice Dantoni Phillips. www.allyskitchen.com How many hours a day do you spend on your blog? What does your work include? I probably spend an average of anywhere from 14-16 hours/day and this is 7 days a week, and even when I travel. My work includes ideas swirling all the time in my head, yes, even when I’m in yoga and in shavasana (I have to WORK at dumping them!) about food, entertaining, table settings, Boho life. Then there’s cooking and creating new dishes and everything that goes with that from grocery shopping, tending my herb garden, schlepping groceries, cleaning pots and pans and more. After that, it’s all about writing everything down (I do this as I’m creating the recipes.), food styling (yes, there’s lots of thought that goes into which tea towel to use, plate or whatever) and then the photography, which all surrounds lighting and time of day. Then, on top of that, there’s the emails, social media, working on other projects—I’m a contributor to International Housewares Association Inspired Home, Social Media Ambassador for Dole Packaged Foods and now the cookbook tour, and, yep, already planning cookbook #2! Did I say 18-24 hours??? Do you do your own photography? If yes, what equipment do you use? Yes, I do all my own photography…totally self-taught. I use a Nikon D5100 with a 100mm lens. Photography by Alice Dantoni Phillips. www.allyskitchen.com Do you have any help with your work? Is this a trick or funny question? No, basically it’s me. I do have a webmeister who takes care of the mechanics of the website, but I upload all the fresh content. And, I have an editor goddess who worked with me on the cookbook and other things and will continue working with me on cookbook #2. If only both of these amazing friends could be full-time—someday! What are some of the best and worst things about your job? Best—making foodie peeps and those who follow me on social media happy, giving them new ideas and inspiration, then gaining that inspiration right back from them, reading comments/suggestions on social media that show that others appreciate my hard work, and finally, giving my gift of food to those I love. Worst—rarely eating when something is hot (you don’t eat until the glamor shots are done!), being too tied to my smart phone, and going out to eat and usually wondering why we went out to eat! Brands like Dole and Hormel are flocking to Ally’s Kitchen! Tell us what it was like to be approached by household names and how you got the gig. My role as Dole Packaged Foods first-ever Social Media Ambassador came after I won the 2013 Cook-Off—as a progressive company, they see the value that home cooks bring to their brand—home cooks are the foundation of their brand. They wanted someone who could connect with their audience, someone who was known and trusted, and I reckon I was that person. Plus, did I say I’m ‘shy’…ha ha! I love connecting with people and when you believe in a brand, like I do with DPF (Dole Packaged Foods), then it’s not ‘selling’ at all—it’s just sharing the good stuff in life. I’ve done work for companies like Knorr, Hormel, Fiji Water, Gallo Family Vineyards and more through contest winnings and assignments—it’s all about going to that ‘edge’ and seeing what’s out there. I’ve never been reluctant to ask because I’ll never know if I don’t put myself out there. And, if the answer is a no, a ‘rejection’, then on to the next rainmaking ‘opportunity’! What is your general rule of thumb on reviewing products? Do you ever post negative reviews or stick to positive ones? I only will review brands that are compatible with my brand, and if they are then it’s already on the positive track. I won’t do reviews just for the money—it’s got to be something that I’d see myself using, recommending to friends or family, something on my wish list, something that would make my/others life/lives better. When I review, I make every effort to do so objectively, but sometimes my subjective love for something might just come through. If there are ‘negatives’—I’ll share them diplomatically and honestly. Actually, I don’t do that many reviews of products—would like to do more—maybe I’m scaring away companies now by just what I’ve said! What are you always looking to feature in your blog? Authentic and real information. Information that adds value to the readers’ lives. Like I just did a blog on ‘The Art of Grandmothering’—grandmothers come in all shapes, sizes, and types—and sometimes this is totally dictated by the way the cards fall in life, other times it’s because of choice. Another fun post was on finding my roots and traveling back to Croatia and everything that whirled around that experience—I think people found nuggets of happiness and hope. Food is all about evoking memories, and when I did a post on cast iron skillets, I had a thunderous cascade of people sharing their family memories about cast iron skillets. So my website is more than just recipes, although those are the lion’s share—I want to give folks some of me, my life, my experiences, my world—if it just helps one person, then the entire time it took to create that post is all worthwhile. How important is it for food bloggers to be on different social media platforms? Which one seems to give you the most activity? I think it’s imperative for ‘food influencers’ (aka ‘bloggers’) to be on several social media platforms—I’ve drawn a line though otherwise I’d be totally “cray-cray”. My main platforms are Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Flipboard and LinkedIn. Most of my website activity comes from FB then Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and G+. What are 3 things you’d like the world to know about Ally? If I ever take a nap in the middle of the day, I’m either slapdab worn out or you’d better call 911. I have the most wonderful husband in the world who totally supports me, puts up with my shenanigans and makes me better. I love yoga. What are your goals as a food influencer and what would be the ultimate accomplishment for you? My goals as a food influencer are to keep doing what I’m doing as well (and better) as I’m doing what I’m doing—everything after that is just gravy. Oh, yes, be able to financially afford to have my editor goddess and webmeister come FT to Ally’s Kitchen! The ultimate accomplishment—I’ve done so much in life that I’m so proud and grateful for, I’m not sure how I could top what I’ve already done—maybe have a food show, hang out with Anthony Bourdain during his adventures and have a line of Ally Boho textiles and kitchen/cooking/entertaining products! Name one Food Blogger we should look out for in the future. Just one? That’s not fair! Come into my Boho Tribe on Facebook, yes, we’re a private group, and you’ll see literally world-class food influencers! What’s next? I’m working on my cookbook #2 proposal—and, oh, yes, my magic carpet will be gassing up for more traveling and audacious food seeking—peace & namaste xoxo ally Learn more about Food Blogger Ally Phillips on her Chef’s Roll profile HERE. Are you a Chef, Culinary Photographer, Food Stylist, Food Blogger, Farmer, or other Culinary Professional? Join & be featured on our network HERE.