So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:
Coffee shop confections.
Lunch:
Club sandwich.
Dinner:
Burrito.


Morning ➛
I’m up at 7am, out the door at 7:30am. Praying that the traffic gods will be merciful and allow me to make it to set by my 8:30am call time (which in LA is code for 8 o’clock). Today I’m shooting an episode of a web series I host, The Science of Happiness. I usually don’t have time to grab breakfast before I leave, but there’s always some coffee shop confections on set. As I devour the pastries, my director Mike Bernstein (with his first of many coffees in hand) goes over the game plan with me. Once I have a fuzzy idea of what we’re doing, Taylor from makeup makes me look presentable. Our participants are volunteers and in the interest of science, we keep them as uninformed as possible. In LA people are skeptical of everything, so telling them they can’t know what we’re doing doesn’t exactly help. I combat this with the tried-and-true technique of awkward smalltalk while our cinematographer Yuki adjusts lights and frames us up. I run each participant through a psychology experiment that we’ve pulled from a peer-reviewed study. Usually we see some pretty amazing reactions and I do my best to control my own emotions. Outside I’m cool as the Fonz, internally I’m crying like a 5-year-old girl with soap in her eyes. Once they finish, we thank them for their time and it’s on to the next. We’ll have between 3 and 6 volunteers before we break for lunch. By this point, everyone’s been on set 6 hours.
Noon ➛
We take a half hour to unwind and everyone swaps stories from hilarious or bizarre experiences when they worked on other sets. I gorge myself on my club sandwich while I listen in. After a half hour, we’re back in. 3 to 6 volunteers later, we’re out of guests but still not done. We compile the results and try to make some sense of it. Now the pressure’s on - we’ve been on set 11 hours and only have an hour left in the space we’ve rented. Mike, myself, and producer Matt Pittman scramble to write a conclusion. Our brains churning against the thick sludge of exhaustion that even Mike’s 8th coffee is useless against. We get the conclusion in the can and we finally shoot the intro. The intro is much longer and I’ve spent every free second that day trying to memorize it. I’m now the only one keeping us here. If I get it right, we’re done. I do it over and over until Mike says the magic words, “Cut! That’s a wrap.”
Night ➛
I thank the crew while they pack up, grab something quick and dirty on the way home (a fast food burrito, and I’m not ashamed of that) and I walk through my door at 9:30pm. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted, but I cannot explain how content I feel. Tomorrow I’ll be looking for another job. I apply to hundreds of projects a month, audition for dozens, and get cast in maybe one or two. While I have fun and make a little money on the others, none of them are as fulfilling to make as The Science of Happiness. Our 7 episode run may be over, but we’ll be back in January shooting our new series, The Science of Romance.


Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with the jammer bottoms? Do you have a thing for Lincoln?
The PJ’s come from a student film I did right at the end of college. I had never acted for film and was actually studying to be a hockey broadcaster then. But a friend of mine was casting the film and they needed someone who looked 16 and home schooled and… well just look at me. My character wore a shirt bragging that he and Lincoln attended the same school and we started joking that it would be hilarious if he were obsessed with our 16th president. So the costumer made me those pants for another scene and I loved them so much I sort of emancipated them without permission.
2. Your show The Science Of Happiness is truly one of the greatest things on the internet. How did this project start?
Science of Happiness is the brainchild of the aforementioned Matt and Mike. They pitched the idea to Soul Pancake and were given the funding to make our pilot episode. Matt and Mike found me in an audition and Soul Pancake loved the pilot so much they agreed to make 6 more and another 6 on another topic. I give as much credit as I can to Soul Pancake; everything they make is equally amazing and they do it altruistically. Their only goal is to make people’s lives richer and because of that they’ve created a culture on their corner of the internet where shows like Science of Happiness can exist and thrive.
3. Your most popular episode (over 2 million views!) was “An Experiment In Gratitude”. You made your subjects think of someone that was inspirational in their life and write down why. Then you surprised them and made them tell that person why they were so grateful for them. So time to turn the tables, Julian. Who has been most inspiring in your life. Tell them why, right here.
I’m afraid I’ve beaten you to it! You see, as I said I was planning on being a sports broadcaster right up until the end of college. But I ended up having to give a speech at graduation and suffice it to say it went well. I got a date out of it. Because I asked a girl out in the front row. It’s *here* if you really want to see it. My parents were there (they flew over from Europe just to see it) and afterward they encouraged me to try making a living as a performer. It had always been something I wanted to do but I was so scared. What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? My dad (who I am convinced is the basis for The Most Interesting Man in the World, accent and all) told me, “Julian, do you know how many times I changed-not jobs-careers? You’ll figure something out, you always do.” That’s what inspired me: they didn’t tell me to try because they thought I would succeed. They told me to try because it’s OK to fail. So I moved to LA and 6 months later was cast by Matt and Mike. After we shot our pilot about showing gratitude, I went home and tried the experiment myself. I stayed strong for about 30 seconds before I broke down and told them how grateful I am for them and how much I love them. Now I try and do it as often as I can, and I’m honestly happier for it. So Jordi and Roxanne, I love you both endlessly and want to thank you again for everything you’ve given me. Have a happy anniversary today!


Julian is an actor living in Los Angeles. He is the the host of Soul Pancake’s The Science Of Happiness and soon to be released The Science Of Romance. the science of happiness  soulpancake.com

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:

Coffee shop confections.


Lunch:

Club sandwich.


Dinner:

Burrito.

Morning ➛

I’m up at 7am, out the door at 7:30am. Praying that the traffic gods will be merciful and allow me to make it to set by my 8:30am call time (which in LA is code for 8 o’clock). Today I’m shooting an episode of a web series I host, The Science of Happiness. I usually don’t have time to grab breakfast before I leave, but there’s always some coffee shop confections on set. As I devour the pastries, my director Mike Bernstein (with his first of many coffees in hand) goes over the game plan with me. Once I have a fuzzy idea of what we’re doing, Taylor from makeup makes me look presentable. Our participants are volunteers and in the interest of science, we keep them as uninformed as possible. In LA people are skeptical of everything, so telling them they can’t know what we’re doing doesn’t exactly help. I combat this with the tried-and-true technique of awkward smalltalk while our cinematographer Yuki adjusts lights and frames us up. I run each participant through a psychology experiment that we’ve pulled from a peer-reviewed study. Usually we see some pretty amazing reactions and I do my best to control my own emotions. Outside I’m cool as the Fonz, internally I’m crying like a 5-year-old girl with soap in her eyes. Once they finish, we thank them for their time and it’s on to the next. We’ll have between 3 and 6 volunteers before we break for lunch. By this point, everyone’s been on set 6 hours.



Noon ➛

We take a half hour to unwind and everyone swaps stories from hilarious or bizarre experiences when they worked on other sets. I gorge myself on my club sandwich while I listen in. After a half hour, we’re back in. 3 to 6 volunteers later, we’re out of guests but still not done. We compile the results and try to make some sense of it. Now the pressure’s on - we’ve been on set 11 hours and only have an hour left in the space we’ve rented. Mike, myself, and producer Matt Pittman scramble to write a conclusion. Our brains churning against the thick sludge of exhaustion that even Mike’s 8th coffee is useless against. We get the conclusion in the can and we finally shoot the intro. The intro is much longer and I’ve spent every free second that day trying to memorize it. I’m now the only one keeping us here. If I get it right, we’re done. I do it over and over until Mike says the magic words, “Cut! That’s a wrap.”



Night ➛

I thank the crew while they pack up, grab something quick and dirty on the way home (a fast food burrito, and I’m not ashamed of that) and I walk through my door at 9:30pm. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted, but I cannot explain how content I feel. Tomorrow I’ll be looking for another job. I apply to hundreds of projects a month, audition for dozens, and get cast in maybe one or two. While I have fun and make a little money on the others, none of them are as fulfilling to make as The Science of Happiness. Our 7 episode run may be over, but we’ll be back in January shooting our new series, The Science of Romance.

Three Last Things…

1. What’s up with the jammer bottoms? Do you have a thing for Lincoln?

The PJ’s come from a student film I did right at the end of college. I had never acted for film and was actually studying to be a hockey broadcaster then. But a friend of mine was casting the film and they needed someone who looked 16 and home schooled and… well just look at me. My character wore a shirt bragging that he and Lincoln attended the same school and we started joking that it would be hilarious if he were obsessed with our 16th president. So the costumer made me those pants for another scene and I loved them so much I sort of emancipated them without permission.

2. Your show The Science Of Happiness is truly one of the greatest things on the internet. How did this project start?

Science of Happiness is the brainchild of the aforementioned Matt and Mike. They pitched the idea to Soul Pancake and were given the funding to make our pilot episode. Matt and Mike found me in an audition and Soul Pancake loved the pilot so much they agreed to make 6 more and another 6 on another topic. I give as much credit as I can to Soul Pancake; everything they make is equally amazing and they do it altruistically. Their only goal is to make people’s lives richer and because of that they’ve created a culture on their corner of the internet where shows like Science of Happiness can exist and thrive.

3. Your most popular episode (over 2 million views!) was “An Experiment In Gratitude”. You made your subjects think of someone that was inspirational in their life and write down why. Then you surprised them and made them tell that person why they were so grateful for them. So time to turn the tables, Julian. Who has been most inspiring in your life. Tell them why, right here.

I’m afraid I’ve beaten you to it! You see, as I said I was planning on being a sports broadcaster right up until the end of college. But I ended up having to give a speech at graduation and suffice it to say it went well. I got a date out of it. Because I asked a girl out in the front row. It’s *here* if you really want to see it. My parents were there (they flew over from Europe just to see it) and afterward they encouraged me to try making a living as a performer. It had always been something I wanted to do but I was so scared. What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? My dad (who I am convinced is the basis for The Most Interesting Man in the World, accent and all) told me, “Julian, do you know how many times I changed-not jobs-careers? You’ll figure something out, you always do.” That’s what inspired me: they didn’t tell me to try because they thought I would succeed. They told me to try because it’s OK to fail. So I moved to LA and 6 months later was cast by Matt and Mike. After we shot our pilot about showing gratitude, I went home and tried the experiment myself. I stayed strong for about 30 seconds before I broke down and told them how grateful I am for them and how much I love them. Now I try and do it as often as I can, and I’m honestly happier for it. So Jordi and Roxanne, I love you both endlessly and want to thank you again for everything you’ve given me. Have a happy anniversary today!

Julian is an actor living in Los Angeles. He is the the host of Soul Pancake’s The Science Of Happiness and soon to be released The Science Of Romance. the science of happiness  soulpancake.com

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:
Carrots and peanut butter.
Lunch:
Veggie burger.
Dinner:
Melon & tomatoes. Roasted yellow corn. Roasted carrots. Flatbread.


Morning ➛
Ya…I’m one of those - I set my alarm for 7am (it’s set to this WONDERFUL song by The Barr Brothers, “Beggar In The Morning”) and hit snooze a few times until I’m finally working by 8/8:30am. I work from home, so I simply walk to my table and begin emails and phone calls. I’m not in my PJs like a lot of people might think. I have to be completely showered, clothed and ready before I start my day - even if it’s just me and my computer at my kitchen table. We’re putting on a massive benefit show, so my day consists of emails, phone calls and asking incredible artists to perform. People are really sweet at telling me “no”,  while still making me feel good. I’ve requested that they teach my future ex-girlfriends how to break up with me. Generally I always get the best side of people. 
Noon ➛
You have to stay creative on the food/budget front working for a non-profit. Luckily I have a simple palate so eating the same thing everyday is fine with me. Normally at lunchtime I’d eat what’s become known as “The Kenny Medley”: a smashed up veggie burger, quinoa, frozen veggies, all smothered in Srirachca, and mashed up together. On this special day, however, three very dear friends of mine were in town from NYC…the dynamic and brilliant female DJ duo THE JANE DOZE, and the soon to be dance-pop-princess of the world BETTY WHO. We walked down the street to Hugo’s and had a great lunch, chatting about life, love, music, and ending wars. Then I head back to emailing and phone calling. I love my job because I get to work with talented artists who I respect on a creative level. Through our communal efforts to stop suffering in Central and East Africa, we’ve bonded in an entirely unique way. It’s pretty magical and I don’t take it for granted.
Night ➛
I’ll usually stay at my computer working through the night or until something else starts happening, but this night was special. I went to grab dinner with one of my best friends, Lauren Paul. Lauren has an incredible organization called Kind Campaign that empowers girls throughout the US to stop bullying each other. We decided to splurge this night and went to a great restaurant called Goldie’s (I dodged the Kenny Medley twice in 1 day)! After dinner we headed to a friends house for “Thtory Thurthday” which is an extremely dorky night where I’ll chose an episode of This American Life or Radiolab to play for everyone. We’ll all lie around drinking wine and listening to the story as if we were listening to the radio in the 1930s. The stories are always so incredibly engaging that they inspire a few hours of dialogue afterwards. It’s always SO much fun. My buddy Timmy, part of the Invisible Children family, had just arrived from New Zealand. So we went back to my place and I made him a little bed on the couch and called it a night.


Three Last Things…
1. So, what’s up with this photo? You didn’t exactly follow the instructions to take your photo in bed. Gonna let it pass because it’s so damn cool.
Hahah YES! This photo was actually taken right next to my bed. Thanks for letting me. I shot a film in Uganda with an extremely creative guy named Sean Stout from TerrorEyes.tv. He is always doing cool stuff and is the mastermind behind the photo.
2. You seem to surround yourself with some pretty incredible and positive people. Has this always been the case? Do you find that because of your work you are magnet for other doers like you?
I feel really, really lucky and am constantly humbled by how amazing the people are around me. Sometimes it actually becomes intimidating and paralyzing artistically, because I feel like can never live up to these creative, incredible people. Everybody has a talent to share with this world and you should be the person pulling it out or lifting them up for it. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability and the more open, honest and supportive you are with the people around you, the more they’ll be the same. And if they’re bringing you down, get out of there! There’s some super nice person waiting around the corner for you.
3. Thtory Thurthdays sound pretty cool. Living or dead, choose your dream guest list for one of these nights and what would you listen to.
I LOVE this question. I’m assuming since they can be dead/undead they can also be fictional, so I’m going to run with that. *Sam Hamilton and Lee from the book East Of Eden. Sam is a jolly genius of an old man whom everyone loves and is captivated by, but he can never catch a break financially and struggles his whole life. Lee is a brilliant Chinese man, seemingly limited by the circumstances of his time but who reacts to his surroundings with a very distinct and accurate moral compass. READ THE BOOK and you’ll see why I wish I can meet these dudes. *Then there’d be Doc Holiday. I feel like he’d have some incredible stories and be a humorous guy. * Then I’d pull in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. When have they ever been in a room together and not been absolutely hilarious?? We’d listen to the This American Life episode of “The Ghost Of Bobby Dunbar”, because it’s the best one ever.


Kenny lives in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He is the Director of Artist Relations for Invisible Children, a non-profit organization focused on ending Africa’s longest running war. He uses the arts as a platform to raise awareness to stop children being abducted and forced to fight as child soldiers. In addition to his work at IC, he makes films with friends, including Short Term 12 and Beside Still Waters. invisiblechildren.com  Kenny’s personal IC donation page  @kennyjamez

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:

Carrots and peanut butter.


Lunch:

Veggie burger.


Dinner:

Melon & tomatoes. Roasted yellow corn. Roasted carrots. Flatbread.

Morning ➛

Ya…I’m one of those - I set my alarm for 7am (it’s set to this WONDERFUL song by The Barr Brothers, “Beggar In The Morning”) and hit snooze a few times until I’m finally working by 8/8:30am. I work from home, so I simply walk to my table and begin emails and phone calls. I’m not in my PJs like a lot of people might think. I have to be completely showered, clothed and ready before I start my day - even if it’s just me and my computer at my kitchen table. We’re putting on a massive benefit show, so my day consists of emails, phone calls and asking incredible artists to perform. People are really sweet at telling me “no”,  while still making me feel good. I’ve requested that they teach my future ex-girlfriends how to break up with me. Generally I always get the best side of people. 



Noon ➛

You have to stay creative on the food/budget front working for a non-profit. Luckily I have a simple palate so eating the same thing everyday is fine with me. Normally at lunchtime I’d eat what’s become known as “The Kenny Medley”: a smashed up veggie burger, quinoa, frozen veggies, all smothered in Srirachca, and mashed up together. On this special day, however, three very dear friends of mine were in town from NYC…the dynamic and brilliant female DJ duo THE JANE DOZE, and the soon to be dance-pop-princess of the world BETTY WHO. We walked down the street to Hugo’s and had a great lunch, chatting about life, love, music, and ending wars. Then I head back to emailing and phone calling. I love my job because I get to work with talented artists who I respect on a creative level. Through our communal efforts to stop suffering in Central and East Africa, we’ve bonded in an entirely unique way. It’s pretty magical and I don’t take it for granted.



Night ➛

I’ll usually stay at my computer working through the night or until something else starts happening, but this night was special. I went to grab dinner with one of my best friends, Lauren Paul. Lauren has an incredible organization called Kind Campaign that empowers girls throughout the US to stop bullying each other. We decided to splurge this night and went to a great restaurant called Goldie’s (I dodged the Kenny Medley twice in 1 day)! After dinner we headed to a friends house for “Thtory Thurthday” which is an extremely dorky night where I’ll chose an episode of This American Life or Radiolab to play for everyone. We’ll all lie around drinking wine and listening to the story as if we were listening to the radio in the 1930s. The stories are always so incredibly engaging that they inspire a few hours of dialogue afterwards. It’s always SO much fun. My buddy Timmy, part of the Invisible Children family, had just arrived from New Zealand. So we went back to my place and I made him a little bed on the couch and called it a night.

Three Last Things…

1. So, what’s up with this photo? You didn’t exactly follow the instructions to take your photo in bed. Gonna let it pass because it’s so damn cool.

Hahah YES! This photo was actually taken right next to my bed. Thanks for letting me. I shot a film in Uganda with an extremely creative guy named Sean Stout from TerrorEyes.tv. He is always doing cool stuff and is the mastermind behind the photo.

2. You seem to surround yourself with some pretty incredible and positive people. Has this always been the case? Do you find that because of your work you are magnet for other doers like you?

I feel really, really lucky and am constantly humbled by how amazing the people are around me. Sometimes it actually becomes intimidating and paralyzing artistically, because I feel like can never live up to these creative, incredible people. Everybody has a talent to share with this world and you should be the person pulling it out or lifting them up for it. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability and the more open, honest and supportive you are with the people around you, the more they’ll be the same. And if they’re bringing you down, get out of there! There’s some super nice person waiting around the corner for you.

3. Thtory Thurthdays sound pretty cool. Living or dead, choose your dream guest list for one of these nights and what would you listen to.

I LOVE this question. I’m assuming since they can be dead/undead they can also be fictional, so I’m going to run with that. *Sam Hamilton and Lee from the book East Of Eden. Sam is a jolly genius of an old man whom everyone loves and is captivated by, but he can never catch a break financially and struggles his whole life. Lee is a brilliant Chinese man, seemingly limited by the circumstances of his time but who reacts to his surroundings with a very distinct and accurate moral compass. READ THE BOOK and you’ll see why I wish I can meet these dudes. *Then there’d be Doc Holiday. I feel like he’d have some incredible stories and be a humorous guy. * Then I’d pull in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. When have they ever been in a room together and not been absolutely hilarious?? We’d listen to the This American Life episode of “The Ghost Of Bobby Dunbar”, because it’s the best one ever.

Kenny lives in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He is the Director of Artist Relations for Invisible Children, a non-profit organization focused on ending Africa’s longest running war. He uses the arts as a platform to raise awareness to stop children being abducted and forced to fight as child soldiers. In addition to his work at IC, he makes films with friends, including Short Term 12 and Beside Still Waters. invisiblechildren.com  Kenny’s personal IC donation page  @kennyjamez

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:
Warm millet porridge with flax, chia seeds and hemp milk. Pot of green tea.
Lunch:
Grilled chicken thighs. Nut bread. Chips. Roasted eggplant. Hummus.
Dinner:
Swiss chard and chickpea tacos. Guacamole. Tortilla chips. Granola.


Morning ➛
As a freelancer, I’m either up at the crack of dawn, or I work from home where I plan my own schedule (and barely care to get dressed). Today the alarm is set at 4:40am for a shoot in the city. I’m in charge of all the food/equipment/props for four segments at four different locations with Clinton Kelly and the Mango Board (yes, mangos have a board). That’s a ton of lists. So, of course I’m up an hour earlier than my alarm thinking about what I could be forgetting. At 4:30am I finally crawl out of bed and head downstairs to bake off the blueberry mango cobblers. I usually have breakfast with my 3-year-old daughter before taking her to school, but today it’s just me and my dog in the semi-darkness. I pack up the car with the help of my half-asleep husband (hey, he offered), and I’m on the road at 6am. As I’m heading down my driveway the hot cobblers start to slide around on the front seat so I grab my dog’s towel from the backseat to anchor them. Unbeknownst to me, the towel is completely covered with sand and gravel, which sprays everywhere. I frantically check the cobblers, praying that they’re not full of dog grit.
Noon ➛
Traffic was terrible, but my assistant is waiting for me, and we unload the car and make it up to the Better Show with plenty of time to set up. I run through the recipe with Clinton (who thankfully doesn’t comment on my ratty running shoes). The segment ends with him tasting the blueberry and mango cobbler…Phew, he shows no (outward) sign of dog grit in his teeth. From there, it’s a rapid clean-up, repack, schlep, unpack, set-up, run-through, clean-up, repack, schlep. Three more segments and no time to stop for lunch. I inhale cold grilled chicken leftover from the Fox News segment, along with a couple of slices of nut bread and a bag of chips that I brought from home (always, always travel with snacks when on location). We wrap around 3pm, and I make it home in record time, slightly delirious at this point. I fortify myself with leftover roasted eggplant and hummus, then unpack the car, clean all the dishes and put everything away.
Night ➛
I call James to see if he could pick Ella up from school, giving me time to get a start on dinner before they get home. Tonight’s meal is on autopilot. We’ve had a riot of Swiss chard in our garden, and I’ve made a version of Swiss chard tacos virtually every week, mostly because it’s about the only way Ella happily devours greens. Since I’m often testing or trying new recipes, I love taco night because it takes absolutely no thought. Tonight I slide in some leftover curry-and-tomato-stewed chickpeas because, well, it’s that or the compost bin. The curry adds an awesome but indistinguishable sweetness. Note-to-self: could a sprinkle of curry powder become my new secret ingredient in tacos? After dinner we hang out, drink some tea, watch Ella chase a caterpillar and play doctor before James has to head to his studio above the garage for a call with New Zealand (he works with Howard Shore and is an orchestrator for the second Hobbit film). I wrangle Ella to bed around eight, then get in my pajamas and half-watch an episode of American’s Test Kitchen on PBS while eating a bowl of granola, trying to brainstorm a blog post. I give up and head up around 9:30pm to read with the crickets.


Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with that blueberry and mango cobbler? Who do you have to know on the mango board to get this recipe?
Ha, it was Clinton Kelly’s recipe (he’s the spokesperson for the Mango Board). The recipe can be found here: Mango & Blueberry Cobbler.
2. You’ve worked for all the big dudes in your industry - Food Network, Saveur, Fine Cooking. But you majored in Anthropology in college. How’d you make this leap?
That’s an interesting question. When I look back, it’s a bit like fitting puzzle pieces together. I always wanted to be in the food industry, but I didn’t want to be a restaurant chef. After college, marketing and PR seemed like a good fit (studying and connecting with human groups was what I did as a cultural Anthropology major, after all), and I landed a job at a pharmaceutical PR agency in New York City. I was miserable, mostly because I couldn’t care less about pharmaceuticals. I happened to work across the street from the Chelsea Market and spent any free moments (of which there were few) wandering the market and dreaming of working in food. One day I introduced myself to the owner of a specialty food company in the market (Chelsea Market Baskets), and, long story short, a few weeks later I quit my job to work in the store. My colleagues (and parents, I’m sure) thought I was crazy. But I was so much happier, and eventually I became the marketing director for the company’s mail-order division. After a year-and-a-half of that, I was all set to get my Master’s in Food Studies at NYU but dropped the program at the last minute, realizing that I wanted to actually cook, not just learn about food. I enrolled in culinary school and have been freelancing ever since! I feel grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and absolutely love what I do. It’s all about connections, and each job leads to another.
3. So, your daughter has some really talented parents with pretty cool jobs. Can you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and report back?
I’ve actually never asked Ella this before! I asked what job she wanted when she grew up, and at first she said she wanted to “wash dishes with Daddy.” Hmm, clearly for her “job” = “chore”. When I rephrased the question, she quite emphatically exclaimed, BALLERINA! Hopefully she hasn’t inherited my clumsiness.


Nicki lives in New York with her husband and daughter. She is a food writer, stylist, and culinary Instructor with a focus on sustainable cuisine. She’s also the host of Fine Cooking magazine’s test kitchen video series. fromscratchfast.com

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:

Warm millet porridge with flax, chia seeds and hemp milk. Pot of green tea.


Lunch:

Grilled chicken thighs. Nut bread. Chips. Roasted eggplant. Hummus.


Dinner:

Swiss chard and chickpea tacos. Guacamole. Tortilla chips. Granola.

Morning ➛

As a freelancer, I’m either up at the crack of dawn, or I work from home where I plan my own schedule (and barely care to get dressed). Today the alarm is set at 4:40am for a shoot in the city. I’m in charge of all the food/equipment/props for four segments at four different locations with Clinton Kelly and the Mango Board (yes, mangos have a board). That’s a ton of lists. So, of course I’m up an hour earlier than my alarm thinking about what I could be forgetting. At 4:30am I finally crawl out of bed and head downstairs to bake off the blueberry mango cobblers. I usually have breakfast with my 3-year-old daughter before taking her to school, but today it’s just me and my dog in the semi-darkness. I pack up the car with the help of my half-asleep husband (hey, he offered), and I’m on the road at 6am. As I’m heading down my driveway the hot cobblers start to slide around on the front seat so I grab my dog’s towel from the backseat to anchor them. Unbeknownst to me, the towel is completely covered with sand and gravel, which sprays everywhere. I frantically check the cobblers, praying that they’re not full of dog grit.



Noon ➛

Traffic was terrible, but my assistant is waiting for me, and we unload the car and make it up to the Better Show with plenty of time to set up. I run through the recipe with Clinton (who thankfully doesn’t comment on my ratty running shoes). The segment ends with him tasting the blueberry and mango cobbler…Phew, he shows no (outward) sign of dog grit in his teeth. From there, it’s a rapid clean-up, repack, schlep, unpack, set-up, run-through, clean-up, repack, schlep. Three more segments and no time to stop for lunch. I inhale cold grilled chicken leftover from the Fox News segment, along with a couple of slices of nut bread and a bag of chips that I brought from home (always, always travel with snacks when on location). We wrap around 3pm, and I make it home in record time, slightly delirious at this point. I fortify myself with leftover roasted eggplant and hummus, then unpack the car, clean all the dishes and put everything away.



Night ➛

I call James to see if he could pick Ella up from school, giving me time to get a start on dinner before they get home. Tonight’s meal is on autopilot. We’ve had a riot of Swiss chard in our garden, and I’ve made a version of Swiss chard tacos virtually every week, mostly because it’s about the only way Ella happily devours greens. Since I’m often testing or trying new recipes, I love taco night because it takes absolutely no thought. Tonight I slide in some leftover curry-and-tomato-stewed chickpeas because, well, it’s that or the compost bin. The curry adds an awesome but indistinguishable sweetness. Note-to-self: could a sprinkle of curry powder become my new secret ingredient in tacos? After dinner we hang out, drink some tea, watch Ella chase a caterpillar and play doctor before James has to head to his studio above the garage for a call with New Zealand (he works with Howard Shore and is an orchestrator for the second Hobbit film). I wrangle Ella to bed around eight, then get in my pajamas and half-watch an episode of American’s Test Kitchen on PBS while eating a bowl of granola, trying to brainstorm a blog post. I give up and head up around 9:30pm to read with the crickets.

Three Last Things…

1. What’s up with that blueberry and mango cobbler? Who do you have to know on the mango board to get this recipe?

Ha, it was Clinton Kelly’s recipe (he’s the spokesperson for the Mango Board). The recipe can be found here: Mango & Blueberry Cobbler.

2. You’ve worked for all the big dudes in your industry - Food Network, Saveur, Fine Cooking. But you majored in Anthropology in college. How’d you make this leap?

That’s an interesting question. When I look back, it’s a bit like fitting puzzle pieces together. I always wanted to be in the food industry, but I didn’t want to be a restaurant chef. After college, marketing and PR seemed like a good fit (studying and connecting with human groups was what I did as a cultural Anthropology major, after all), and I landed a job at a pharmaceutical PR agency in New York City. I was miserable, mostly because I couldn’t care less about pharmaceuticals. I happened to work across the street from the Chelsea Market and spent any free moments (of which there were few) wandering the market and dreaming of working in food. One day I introduced myself to the owner of a specialty food company in the market (Chelsea Market Baskets), and, long story short, a few weeks later I quit my job to work in the store. My colleagues (and parents, I’m sure) thought I was crazy. But I was so much happier, and eventually I became the marketing director for the company’s mail-order division. After a year-and-a-half of that, I was all set to get my Master’s in Food Studies at NYU but dropped the program at the last minute, realizing that I wanted to actually cook, not just learn about food. I enrolled in culinary school and have been freelancing ever since! I feel grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and absolutely love what I do. It’s all about connections, and each job leads to another.

3. So, your daughter has some really talented parents with pretty cool jobs. Can you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and report back?

I’ve actually never asked Ella this before! I asked what job she wanted when she grew up, and at first she said she wanted to “wash dishes with Daddy.” Hmm, clearly for her “job” = “chore”. When I rephrased the question, she quite emphatically exclaimed, BALLERINA! Hopefully she hasn’t inherited my clumsiness.

Nicki lives in New York with her husband and daughter. She is a food writer, stylist, and culinary Instructor with a focus on sustainable cuisine. She’s also the host of Fine Cooking magazine’s test kitchen video series. fromscratchfast.com

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:
Coffee. Raisins.
Lunch:
Quinoa Salad. Whole wheat roll.
Dinner:
Whole Foods salad bar. Trail mix.


Morning ➛
My alarm on my phone goes off at 5:00 am and I hit snooze twice until 5:20 am I speedily dart to my coffee maker. I am always accompanied (and often tripped) by my two felines, Oscar and Ali, who could care less about the coffee and more about their morning treats. I check the weather by stepping outside my backdoor which will help me determine my running gear for my morning run. Then it’s straight to the arsenal of running clothes and shoes to select my outfit (short runs require a certain shoe versus longer runs or speed work). I check the Chicago Tribune and New York Times headlines, my work emails and schedule for the day. By 6:15 am I am out the door and running my regular route that takes me through Logan Square, Humboldt Park, and East Garfield Park. At that hour, the serenity is palpable. Since I don’t run with music when I run outside, my runs are a time when I can ingest my surroundings to the fullest capacity and think about how I am going to resolve a certain work or personal issue. I always say, “there isn’t a problem you can’t take with you on a run.” It’s now 7:30 am and I am frantically getting ready for the day ahead and trying to cool down from the run. By 8:15 am I am in my car for the seven minute drive to my office.
Noon ➛
It’s 11:45 am and I am running from a meeting at a school with a principal to my lunch meeting with a prospective funder. Heading a start-up non-profit requires me to wear many hats and lunch meetings are typically with donors and external partners. The waiter knows my usual fare and my prospective funder and I are now playing the “name game” to break the ice before we delve deep into why her foundation should sponsor our youth running programs. Chicago is a small town in a big city and the “6 degrees game” is typically my way to begin building bridges and trust with a new funder or partner. By 1:00 pm I am back in my car trying to catch up on the hundreds of emails I have missed throughout the day. Next on the agenda is to jump on the phone with my trustworthy Director of Development to reassure her that I will be back in the office to edit a grant that is due by 5:00 pm. No pressure!
Night ➛
It’s 5:15 pm, the grant is in and I am re-applying my make-up before I head out the door for a fundraiser at a downtown hotel. Uncannily, I see the same funder I had lunch with a few hours before at the door speaking to a few colleagues (see, it is a small world!) We discuss the recent funding cuts and how that will affect all of our non-profits and then move on to lighter talks about online dating and the difficulty with work/life balance. The hotel does not have the vegetarian option available at the dinner, so I am forced to pick at the bread basket. By 8:00 pm when the program is over, I sneak out the door, so that I can make the 8:30 pm yoga class at my neighborhood yoga studio. By 9:30 pm, I still have half hour to make a dash to Whole Foods and get the yummy salad bar I have been craving all day. I madly rush inside my home with my yoga mat, laptop, purse, and Whole Foods grocery bag, trip over the cats (again), and finally sit down to eat and Skype with my Mom in Mexico. Ahhh! Can’t wait to do that all over again tomorrow.


Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with your skin being all glowy? Seriously. Is this from all the running?
Wow! Thanks for the kind words. It probably is from running, but it’s also the exhilaration I feel about the mission of our organization and the work that we do. Studies do prove that daily exercise can improve your skin because the sweat allows us to purge our bodies of the toxins that can often clog our pores. Studies also prove that exercise, especially sports like running are great ways to decompress and de-stress. Running allows me to dream big. So, I guess the afterglow of a run shows in this picture, or maybe it’s just good blush?
2. Everyone always talks about wanting to volunteer or help people more…you’re actually doing it. The non-profit world is hard work. What led you to this career and what’s keeping you there?
I grew up in a Mexican-American community that is considered low-income. My father was an artist and community organizer. Money was always very tight, but no matter how little we had my father always gave up his time, energy, and the majority of his paycheck (or lack thereof) to others. Being surrounded by parents who emphasized the importance of giving back drove me to start volunteering at a young age. My first real stint at non-profit work was starting an AIDS Action Committee in high school. I was driven to start this group because a family friend passed away in the early 1980’s from AIDS and his death never escaped me. I knew I had to do something. I have been working in non-profit ever since because it’s my calling. I think that we all have to give back to some degree and we each can do this in very small ways. Whether it be volunteering at a school or local non-profit, running a race to raise funds for a cause, or getting involved in a political campaign. Just REACH OUT and familiarize yourself with your community and the issues, that are often times right outside your door. Cesar Chavez said, “the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others”. This quote hung on my wall as a child and now hangs on my wall at work.
3. Um, so what if you are really bad at running. Like, really bad. Is this something you can learn or you either have it or you don’t?
3. There is no such thing as being bad at running. We all have different gaits, paces, body sizes. I remind all of our students in our programs that it does not matter if you are the fastest. Each of us creates our own journey when we set out on our run or walk. Just keep moving forward. And sometimes that is not even one foot in front of the other as we have some of our kids that “roll their miles”, because they are in wheelchairs. I think if you are just getting started the best advice is to have small goals and keep track of your progress. For example, tell yourself that you are going to run or jog for three minutes and then walk one minute for a total of twenty minutes. Breaking it up into smaller intervals lessens the daunting nature of going out on a run. Or don’t even bring a watch and just set a destination that you know is only a mile or two away and just keep moving toward that goal and then head back. I am more of a solo runner, but I do know that having a partner or a group is also a great way to get motivated and to hold you accountable. Make small goals, don’t overthink, soak in your surroundings, and don’t forget to breathe.


Alicia lives in Chicago. She is a public health advocate, runner, and the Executive Director of Chicago Run, a non-profit that provides free running programs to Chicago Public School students. chicagorun.org

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:

Coffee. Raisins.


Lunch:

Quinoa Salad. Whole wheat roll.


Dinner:

Whole Foods salad bar. Trail mix.

Morning ➛

My alarm on my phone goes off at 5:00 am and I hit snooze twice until 5:20 am I speedily dart to my coffee maker. I am always accompanied (and often tripped) by my two felines, Oscar and Ali, who could care less about the coffee and more about their morning treats. I check the weather by stepping outside my backdoor which will help me determine my running gear for my morning run. Then it’s straight to the arsenal of running clothes and shoes to select my outfit (short runs require a certain shoe versus longer runs or speed work). I check the Chicago Tribune and New York Times headlines, my work emails and schedule for the day. By 6:15 am I am out the door and running my regular route that takes me through Logan Square, Humboldt Park, and East Garfield Park. At that hour, the serenity is palpable. Since I don’t run with music when I run outside, my runs are a time when I can ingest my surroundings to the fullest capacity and think about how I am going to resolve a certain work or personal issue. I always say, “there isn’t a problem you can’t take with you on a run.” It’s now 7:30 am and I am frantically getting ready for the day ahead and trying to cool down from the run. By 8:15 am I am in my car for the seven minute drive to my office.



Noon ➛

It’s 11:45 am and I am running from a meeting at a school with a principal to my lunch meeting with a prospective funder. Heading a start-up non-profit requires me to wear many hats and lunch meetings are typically with donors and external partners. The waiter knows my usual fare and my prospective funder and I are now playing the “name game” to break the ice before we delve deep into why her foundation should sponsor our youth running programs. Chicago is a small town in a big city and the “6 degrees game” is typically my way to begin building bridges and trust with a new funder or partner. By 1:00 pm I am back in my car trying to catch up on the hundreds of emails I have missed throughout the day. Next on the agenda is to jump on the phone with my trustworthy Director of Development to reassure her that I will be back in the office to edit a grant that is due by 5:00 pm. No pressure!



Night ➛

It’s 5:15 pm, the grant is in and I am re-applying my make-up before I head out the door for a fundraiser at a downtown hotel. Uncannily, I see the same funder I had lunch with a few hours before at the door speaking to a few colleagues (see, it is a small world!) We discuss the recent funding cuts and how that will affect all of our non-profits and then move on to lighter talks about online dating and the difficulty with work/life balance. The hotel does not have the vegetarian option available at the dinner, so I am forced to pick at the bread basket. By 8:00 pm when the program is over, I sneak out the door, so that I can make the 8:30 pm yoga class at my neighborhood yoga studio. By 9:30 pm, I still have half hour to make a dash to Whole Foods and get the yummy salad bar I have been craving all day. I madly rush inside my home with my yoga mat, laptop, purse, and Whole Foods grocery bag, trip over the cats (again), and finally sit down to eat and Skype with my Mom in Mexico. Ahhh! Can’t wait to do that all over again tomorrow.

Three Last Things…

1. What’s up with your skin being all glowy? Seriously. Is this from all the running?

Wow! Thanks for the kind words. It probably is from running, but it’s also the exhilaration I feel about the mission of our organization and the work that we do. Studies do prove that daily exercise can improve your skin because the sweat allows us to purge our bodies of the toxins that can often clog our pores. Studies also prove that exercise, especially sports like running are great ways to decompress and de-stress. Running allows me to dream big. So, I guess the afterglow of a run shows in this picture, or maybe it’s just good blush?

2. Everyone always talks about wanting to volunteer or help people more…you’re actually doing it. The non-profit world is hard work. What led you to this career and what’s keeping you there?

I grew up in a Mexican-American community that is considered low-income. My father was an artist and community organizer. Money was always very tight, but no matter how little we had my father always gave up his time, energy, and the majority of his paycheck (or lack thereof) to others. Being surrounded by parents who emphasized the importance of giving back drove me to start volunteering at a young age. My first real stint at non-profit work was starting an AIDS Action Committee in high school. I was driven to start this group because a family friend passed away in the early 1980’s from AIDS and his death never escaped me. I knew I had to do something. I have been working in non-profit ever since because it’s my calling. I think that we all have to give back to some degree and we each can do this in very small ways. Whether it be volunteering at a school or local non-profit, running a race to raise funds for a cause, or getting involved in a political campaign. Just REACH OUT and familiarize yourself with your community and the issues, that are often times right outside your door. Cesar Chavez said, “the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others”. This quote hung on my wall as a child and now hangs on my wall at work.

3. Um, so what if you are really bad at running. Like, really bad. Is this something you can learn or you either have it or you don’t?

3. There is no such thing as being bad at running. We all have different gaits, paces, body sizes. I remind all of our students in our programs that it does not matter if you are the fastest. Each of us creates our own journey when we set out on our run or walk. Just keep moving forward. And sometimes that is not even one foot in front of the other as we have some of our kids that “roll their miles”, because they are in wheelchairs. I think if you are just getting started the best advice is to have small goals and keep track of your progress. For example, tell yourself that you are going to run or jog for three minutes and then walk one minute for a total of twenty minutes. Breaking it up into smaller intervals lessens the daunting nature of going out on a run. Or don’t even bring a watch and just set a destination that you know is only a mile or two away and just keep moving toward that goal and then head back. I am more of a solo runner, but I do know that having a partner or a group is also a great way to get motivated and to hold you accountable. Make small goals, don’t overthink, soak in your surroundings, and don’t forget to breathe.

Alicia lives in Chicago. She is a public health advocate, runner, and the Executive Director of Chicago Run, a non-profit that provides free running programs to Chicago Public School students. chicagorun.org

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:
Black Coffee. Bowl of Raisin Bran.
Lunch:
Sausage Link. Pulled Pork. Texas Toast. Can of Pearl Light. Blue Jell-O Shot.
Dinner:
Salt & Pepper Shrimp. Peanut Chutney Chicken. Salad.  Kombucha and Vinegar Cocktails. Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. Breakfast Tacos.


Morning ➛
With alarm clock’s warning, I spring awake promptly at 5:30am and hit the showers. I pump some music through a tiny waterproof speaker. Currently, I’m engrossed in an obsessive study (verging on anthropological) of the music of mid-1970s Texas, and I’ve found a great many treasures in Mr. Guy Clark. Soap, my girlfriend will tell you, is incredibly important to me. Currently in rotation are a lavender bar soap from Dr. Bronner’s, the Milk bar from K. Hall Designs, made by a couple in my hometown of Saint Louis, and the aptly named Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap (say that five times fast). Today is a travel day, and I’ve packed accordingly. This morning, my girlfriend beat me to the coffee machine, and as I’m shaving, she’s handed me a brimming cup of Big Bend Coffee Roasters’ Texas Wildfire. Coffeed, cerealed, I usually take thirty minutes to an hour each morning to write. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the musician Josh Ritter, who explained that mornings are when everyone is the smartest. "You’re more willing to tackle the hard stuff. Nighttime is when the real good magical stuff happens," he told me. Today, I had a full hour with my writing, and I used it to write about donuts, not just any donuts, Somerville, Massachusetts’ Union Square Donuts, the sometimes harebrained, always heavenly creations of Ms. Heather Schmidt. Wrapping up a sentence on Heather’s chocolate chipotle long john, I grab my bags and head to the train. A short commute and a shorter flight later, I’m in Austin and on my way to making a cowboy hat at Texas Hatters, with the same kid whose grandfather made hats for presidents, kings, and cowboys.
Noon ➛
Before heading to the hat shop, I pop into the pride of Lockhart, Texas, Smitty’s Market. Downing a link of sausage and pulled pork plate, I need something to cool me off. Striding through the swinging doors of Lilly’s Bar, I order up a can of Pearl Light and a blue Jell-O shot. A quick swig and slurp later, I’m standing amidst the finest ten gallon hats in all of Texas ––if not the world. It’s a hot day, and everyone in the Texas Hatters has shed their layers as sweat pours over the pelts and Panamas. My man Joel walks me through the process of shaping and fitting a custom cowboy hat, and after a few passes, I walk out of there with a pecan-colored cowboy hat, fit to be tied. And hungry again.
Night ➛
Working for a bourbon company has its perks. I meet up with Brian Dressel, manager of Midnight Cowboy, a not-so-secret speakeasy in Austin’s hip Sixth Street District. He suggests we meet for dinner at Sway, this cozy Thai place that’s newly opened. The place is abuzz with lively conversation and bright plates spinning with spicy food. We share a salt and pepper shrimp, a sweet and sour salad, and a peanut chutney chicken while drinking cocktails made with locally crafted kombucha and drinking vinegar. Afterwards, we settle in at his bar with a couple more conventional cocktails, and he explains the madness to his methods. Fortunate that my accommodations at the serene Heywood Hotel are within walking distance, I shut the bar down and head for a breakfast taco at one of Austin’s famous food trucks. It’s never too early. While traveling, before bed, I try to hang everything up in hopes that some of the wrinkles will come out, and I wash my face with a travel-sized bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap, hoping I can keep the wrinkles at bay myself. I quickly jot down notes on all that I did today, lasso as much of that magic of which Josh Ritter speaks, and hit the hay. Alone in a hotel room is the quietest place on earth. ESPN’s SportsCenter has taken top billing as my ambient noise. The sweet sounds of the play-by-play of Stan Verrett and Neil Everett coo me to sleep.


Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with the suit and tie? Is this how you typically travel?
While working as a traveling salesman, I had an experience that forever changed the way I fly. I was in Newark, all set to fly home after three weeks on the road. After I checked in for my flight, I learned it had been cancelled as Air Force One was landing at Newark within the hour. Bumped by the President. I was rebooked on a flight leaving 25 hours later, provided no overnight accommodations, and ten dollars in food vouchers. Owing to a number of extenuating circumstances, I literally did not have access to a single dollar. No cash. A maxed out credit card. And no money in my bank account. While I’m sure I could have stayed the night at the airport and stretched the food vouchers by munching on granola bars, I wished to avoid it if possible. I pleaded with the gate attendant, who directed me to a customer service desk in the terminal, which — you can imagine — was inundated with disgruntled passengers, as everyone’s flights were being re-booked. I did what most of us would do in this situation. I called my dad. His suggestion: leave the terminal. Go back to the ticket window and plead with them to get you on an earlier flight with another airline. “Oh, and Max,” he said, “look presentable.” Of course! I hadn’t been wearing a tie, and my sport coat was slung over my carry-on bag. Quickly, I went into the bathroom. Put on a tie that I’d shoved in my briefcase, buttoned my jacket, and left the terminal. As I approached the ticket window, the attendant asked with a smile, “May I help you, sir?” Again, I pleaded my case, but this time the response was much different. The airline attendant made a quick phone call to her friend at another airline, and I was set to leave within the hour. Ending each sentence with “sir,” she apologized and arranged for me to have a TSA employee escort me through security and to my gate. I beat Obama’s arrival into Newark by about an hour, and wrote a letter to the airline commending the ticketing agent, encouraging the airline to give her a raise. They did.
2. How did you manage to make trying on cowboy hats and then eating and drinking all day a career? Sounds like a pretty ball-tastic job.
That is definitely the first time anyone’s described my job as “ball-tastic.” I’ll take it. I’m not sure if it’s become my career yet. Get back to me in twenty years. This is a corny story, but it’s one that I often relay. A friend attended a talk given by Russell Simmons where he doled out the following advice: "Do the thing you love every day. Do it for free. Eventually, you will get paid to do it." It’s not the best story, partly because Russell was involved in many nefarious goings-on at the start of his career, but it does ring true at times. I’ve always had an interest in how a thing is made and, more importantly, in the kooky characters making it. Just as we’re all different, each maker goes about the manufacture of his or her product in a variety of ways. I enjoy sharing that which makes us the same in concert with that which makes us different. Luckily, Basil Hayden’s approached me to do that for them full-time. For the past year, I’ve made a job of my hobby, and I’m putting in the time now to ensure that I’ll be able to continue to do it for as long as people find my work entertaining and educational.
3. Ok, Mr. soap expert. You’ve been tapped to do a soap collaboration with any brand you choose. What’s the scent and who’s the brand?
3. Easy. I’d like to work with John Barley at Solemn Oath Brewery to make a sweet-smelling, bourbon-soaked soap for my shop Buckshot Sonny’s. I’d add peaches from Peter Klein at Seedling Farms, and a mixture of ground peach pits and Basil Hayden’s barrel staves for some grit. Call it The Catfish Bar. A catfish cocktail is basically just bourbon and peach schnapps.


Max is a writer living and working in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to his own website, All Plaidout, he heads up the blog for bourbon company Basil Hayden’s, co-hosts a forthcoming web series called Made Right Here, and runs an online store, Buckshot Sonny’s. photo credit: Carolina Mariana  allplaidout.com basilhaydens.com maderighthere.tv buckshotsonnys.com

So, How Was Your Day?

Breakfast:

Black Coffee. Bowl of Raisin Bran.


Lunch:

Sausage Link. Pulled Pork. Texas Toast. Can of Pearl Light. Blue Jell-O Shot.


Dinner:

Salt & Pepper Shrimp. Peanut Chutney Chicken. Salad.  Kombucha and Vinegar Cocktails. Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. Breakfast Tacos.

Morning ➛

With alarm clock’s warning, I spring awake promptly at 5:30am and hit the showers. I pump some music through a tiny waterproof speaker. Currently, I’m engrossed in an obsessive study (verging on anthropological) of the music of mid-1970s Texas, and I’ve found a great many treasures in Mr. Guy Clark. Soap, my girlfriend will tell you, is incredibly important to me. Currently in rotation are a lavender bar soap from Dr. Bronner’s, the Milk bar from K. Hall Designs, made by a couple in my hometown of Saint Louis, and the aptly named Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap (say that five times fast). Today is a travel day, and I’ve packed accordingly. This morning, my girlfriend beat me to the coffee machine, and as I’m shaving, she’s handed me a brimming cup of Big Bend Coffee Roasters’ Texas Wildfire. Coffeed, cerealed, I usually take thirty minutes to an hour each morning to write. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the musician Josh Ritter, who explained that mornings are when everyone is the smartest. "You’re more willing to tackle the hard stuff. Nighttime is when the real good magical stuff happens," he told me. Today, I had a full hour with my writing, and I used it to write about donuts, not just any donuts, Somerville, Massachusetts’ Union Square Donuts, the sometimes harebrained, always heavenly creations of Ms. Heather Schmidt. Wrapping up a sentence on Heather’s chocolate chipotle long john, I grab my bags and head to the train. A short commute and a shorter flight later, I’m in Austin and on my way to making a cowboy hat at Texas Hatters, with the same kid whose grandfather made hats for presidents, kings, and cowboys.



Noon ➛

Before heading to the hat shop, I pop into the pride of Lockhart, Texas, Smitty’s Market. Downing a link of sausage and pulled pork plate, I need something to cool me off. Striding through the swinging doors of Lilly’s Bar, I order up a can of Pearl Light and a blue Jell-O shot. A quick swig and slurp later, I’m standing amidst the finest ten gallon hats in all of Texas ––if not the world. It’s a hot day, and everyone in the Texas Hatters has shed their layers as sweat pours over the pelts and Panamas. My man Joel walks me through the process of shaping and fitting a custom cowboy hat, and after a few passes, I walk out of there with a pecan-colored cowboy hat, fit to be tied. And hungry again.



Night ➛

Working for a bourbon company has its perks. I meet up with Brian Dressel, manager of Midnight Cowboy, a not-so-secret speakeasy in Austin’s hip Sixth Street District. He suggests we meet for dinner at Sway, this cozy Thai place that’s newly opened. The place is abuzz with lively conversation and bright plates spinning with spicy food. We share a salt and pepper shrimp, a sweet and sour salad, and a peanut chutney chicken while drinking cocktails made with locally crafted kombucha and drinking vinegar. Afterwards, we settle in at his bar with a couple more conventional cocktails, and he explains the madness to his methods. Fortunate that my accommodations at the serene Heywood Hotel are within walking distance, I shut the bar down and head for a breakfast taco at one of Austin’s famous food trucks. It’s never too early. While traveling, before bed, I try to hang everything up in hopes that some of the wrinkles will come out, and I wash my face with a travel-sized bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap, hoping I can keep the wrinkles at bay myself. I quickly jot down notes on all that I did today, lasso as much of that magic of which Josh Ritter speaks, and hit the hay. Alone in a hotel room is the quietest place on earth. ESPN’s SportsCenter has taken top billing as my ambient noise. The sweet sounds of the play-by-play of Stan Verrett and Neil Everett coo me to sleep.

Three Last Things…

1. What’s up with the suit and tie? Is this how you typically travel?

While working as a traveling salesman, I had an experience that forever changed the way I fly. I was in Newark, all set to fly home after three weeks on the road. After I checked in for my flight, I learned it had been cancelled as Air Force One was landing at Newark within the hour. Bumped by the President. I was rebooked on a flight leaving 25 hours later, provided no overnight accommodations, and ten dollars in food vouchers. Owing to a number of extenuating circumstances, I literally did not have access to a single dollar. No cash. A maxed out credit card. And no money in my bank account. While I’m sure I could have stayed the night at the airport and stretched the food vouchers by munching on granola bars, I wished to avoid it if possible. I pleaded with the gate attendant, who directed me to a customer service desk in the terminal, which — you can imagine — was inundated with disgruntled passengers, as everyone’s flights were being re-booked. I did what most of us would do in this situation. I called my dad. His suggestion: leave the terminal. Go back to the ticket window and plead with them to get you on an earlier flight with another airline. “Oh, and Max,” he said, “look presentable.” Of course! I hadn’t been wearing a tie, and my sport coat was slung over my carry-on bag. Quickly, I went into the bathroom. Put on a tie that I’d shoved in my briefcase, buttoned my jacket, and left the terminal. As I approached the ticket window, the attendant asked with a smile, “May I help you, sir?” Again, I pleaded my case, but this time the response was much different. The airline attendant made a quick phone call to her friend at another airline, and I was set to leave within the hour. Ending each sentence with “sir,” she apologized and arranged for me to have a TSA employee escort me through security and to my gate. I beat Obama’s arrival into Newark by about an hour, and wrote a letter to the airline commending the ticketing agent, encouraging the airline to give her a raise. They did.

2. How did you manage to make trying on cowboy hats and then eating and drinking all day a career? Sounds like a pretty ball-tastic job.

That is definitely the first time anyone’s described my job as “ball-tastic.” I’ll take it. I’m not sure if it’s become my career yet. Get back to me in twenty years. This is a corny story, but it’s one that I often relay. A friend attended a talk given by Russell Simmons where he doled out the following advice: "Do the thing you love every day. Do it for free. Eventually, you will get paid to do it." It’s not the best story, partly because Russell was involved in many nefarious goings-on at the start of his career, but it does ring true at times. I’ve always had an interest in how a thing is made and, more importantly, in the kooky characters making it. Just as we’re all different, each maker goes about the manufacture of his or her product in a variety of ways. I enjoy sharing that which makes us the same in concert with that which makes us different. Luckily, Basil Hayden’s approached me to do that for them full-time. For the past year, I’ve made a job of my hobby, and I’m putting in the time now to ensure that I’ll be able to continue to do it for as long as people find my work entertaining and educational.

3. Ok, Mr. soap expert. You’ve been tapped to do a soap collaboration with any brand you choose. What’s the scent and who’s the brand?

3. Easy. I’d like to work with John Barley at Solemn Oath Brewery to make a sweet-smelling, bourbon-soaked soap for my shop Buckshot Sonny’s. I’d add peaches from Peter Klein at Seedling Farms, and a mixture of ground peach pits and Basil Hayden’s barrel staves for some grit. Call it The Catfish Bar. A catfish cocktail is basically just bourbon and peach schnapps.

Max is a writer living and working in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to his own website, All Plaidout, he heads up the blog for bourbon company Basil Hayden’s, co-hosts a forthcoming web series called Made Right Here, and runs an online store, Buckshot Sonny’s. photo credit: Carolina Mariana  allplaidout.com basilhaydens.com maderighthere.tv buckshotsonnys.com