#110 | Delish
Delish: Eat Like Every Day’s the Weekend
By Joanna Saltz & The Editors of Delish
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast, with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table, talking to cookbook authors.
Joanna Saltz: Hey, this Joanna Saltz, editorial director of Delish, and we have an amazing new cookbook out called Delish: Eat Like Every Day Is The Weekend.
Suzy Chase: So I read that you relaunched the Delish brand to gear it towards food lovers, and not food elitists. I find that there's so many elitists out there, I'm constantly talking about how I'm not a chef, or even a top notch cook. You've really tapped into something that home cooks want. Talk a little bit about that.
Joanna Saltz: Well, you know, when we took over Delish, now almost four years ago, there was such ... elitism is the right word for it, but it also was exclusionary, that the kitchen had become a place where only people of a certain level were allowed behind the counter, if you can imagine. And I knew there was a whole section of the universe that frankly loved food, and it was tempted to come and try things, but just didn't feel comfortable there.
And so when we were really trying to bring Delish to life, we really wanted to connect with those people, use all different kinds of tricks in our content to sort of lure people in to say, "Hey, it's okay, like Delish is for everyone, this is a safe space, it's okay to get into the kitchen, it's okay to mess it up, as long as you're having fun, and you're ending up with something that seemingly delicious at the end, like we're all friends here."
Suzy Chase: Give me a brief background on Delish the brand. Like when did you take it over?
Joanna Saltz: So Delish was started probably going on seven years ago, as strictly a landing page for Hearst to put their food content that was being developed by all the amazing brands in this company. So recipes that were coming from Good Housekeeping, Women's Day, Redbook, there's a long list. And so they were basically using Delish.com as sort of an aggregate for all of that content, and then they were packaging that content, "Chicken dinners from all the different brands", or, "easy weeknight meals from all the different brands", and marketing it out to MSN.
So that's really how the site functioned for the first probably three and a half, four years. It wasn't until that point that MSN and Hearst had decided they were going to sort of part ways, and MSN decided they were going to go to lots of different places for food content. And Hearst was sort of left with this challenge, do we make Delish into a standalone editorial property, or do we kill it?
And thankfully, they decided to put some resources behind it. I had been working as the executive editor at Food Network Magazine, I'd been before that at Seventeen, so I had been at Hearst brands for a long time at that point. And so I came over and got to build a team. It was really ... you know, just like the fact that it existed before, it was really a startup mentality.
Suzy Chase: So this is the first ever Delish cookbook with your huge following on the web and social media. Why did you feel the need to write a cookbook?
Joanna Saltz: Well, you know, because we had created such a fun space, I think that we felt like we needed to show that we were legitimate cooks. We have ... you know, what we always say is that we're food lovers first and content producers second. But at the end of the day, we knew that if we wanted to sort of play in the space with real food brands, that we needed to have a cookbook.
For me, also, I'm always about just touching audience wherever I can reach them. So for me, Instagram is as important as that event that you and I met at the other night, which is also as important as Facebook, which is also as important as the book universe. I just want the Delish brand to sort of be where all food lovers are.
We also have a bookazine that's on news stands now. So it's just, for me, about touching people and making them understand what our mission is.
Suzy Chase: What's the bookazine?
Joanna Saltz: The bookazine is called Delish Chicken Dinners, and it's a slightly heavier stock magazine. And it's jammed with 100 chicken dinner recipes, a really surprising idea. And it's great, you know, we're giving people what they want where they want it. So whether it's a fast video you want to watch on Facebook, or helpful weeknight dinners, like we want to be there for you.
Suzy Chase: One recipe that you're semi-famous for is the Texas sheet cake. I found it interesting because you grew up in New Jersey. Who taught you how to make a Texas sheet cake?
Joanna Saltz: Oh my gosh, I have to tell you that one of my secret idols is the Pioneer Woman. And I just always adored how she has had such a real sort of voice, and you know, frankly, for a Food Network star, she is someone who really allows the audience to see her, warts and all. You know, she's someone who's okay ... she's okay with messing things up, and okay with showing people her real life, and I've always sort of connected with that. And it was her Texas sheet cake that I started baking for my family, and it's a favorite. I honestly ... I can't get through at least two weeks without making one.
Suzy Chase: Really?
Joanna Saltz: And also I have a family of five, and we will sit down, we will house like an entire sheet, I'm embarrassed to say, we'll basically house an entire sheet cake ourselves. It's a sad, sad state, but I don't think we're at happiest as we are when we're eating that thing.
Suzy Chase: So what are a couple of go to recipes for busy moms out of this cookbook?
Joanna Saltz: Frankly, what's funny about the Delish mentality, is that we're trying to reach busy moms the same way we're trying to reach millennials, young people who are a little bit intimidated by cooking, and they both, frankly, want the same thing. Like things that are easy and somewhat foolproof, so and this ... I would say that this cookbook as a ton of great recipes that sort of suit both needs.
Personally, I'm obsessed with the crack chicken, which is a breaded chicken ... it's just sort of like breaded chicken tenders, but it's got this amazing like tangy, limey, barbecue sauce on it. We call it crack chicken because the first time we made it, we couldn't stop eating it, like literally the staff was like clawing at each other trying to get at it in the house, in the office.
So I usually use that as a great jumping off point for like gaging whether or not our audience is going to be into it, and they have kind of gone crazy for it.
I also love the sheet pan shrimp boil, which is basically all the flavors and sort of the elements of a classic shrimp boil, but sort of laid out and cooked much quicker, you don't need the giant pot, you don't need the whole mess. But you get that old bay, you get that amazing like lemon, you get the andouille, and it cooks up in basically 35 minutes.
So to me, that's the kind of thing that like if you can make something super surprising and interesting on a weeknight, like that's a really big win.
Suzy Chase: I made that twice last week.
Joanna Saltz: It's so good, right? Why is it so good?
Suzy Chase: My husband was out of town, and my 12 year old said, "You have to make this for dad when he gets back."
Joanna Saltz: You know, I think the other thing too about sort of the way we structure a lot of our recipes, is we like to like base things on flavors and familiar sort of combinations that people sort of know and trust, or know and remember. I think that's honestly one of the things that we use to sort of draw people in, to make them feel comfortable in our space.
Another recipe I love is the buffalo chicken meatballs, which to me is like the perfect mix of like you're making a great weeknight dinner, but like everybody loves buffalo wings, this is the kind of thing where you're like, "I love buffalo wings, I'm going to try and make these meatballs." That's another great recipe.
Meatballs, to be honest with you, at Delish are always a big win, and we're always looking for ways to sort of make them a little bit more fun than your basic, boring. The buffalo chicken meatballs are one of my favorites as well.
Suzy Chase: Over the weekend, I made your grilled cheese dogs, and the garlic smashed potatoes. And my 12 year old-
Joanna Saltz: Oh my gosh.
Suzy Chase: Went crazy.
Joanna Saltz: Both huge winners. The-
Suzy Chase: So good.
Joanna Saltz: Garlic smashed potatoes are so good. Actually, and the grilled cheese dogs, grilled cheese hotdogs are also a really big winner with the Delish audience. We turned that recipe into a video, and the video went absolutely crazy. I think it got like 25 million views in like the first two days.
But that's another one of those things that people love grilled cheese, they love hot dogs, and they're like, "This looks cool, I'm going to make this."
Suzy Chase: Speaking of videos-
Joanna Saltz: So your wish is ... yeah, please.
Suzy Chase: Yesterday I made your stuffed jack-o-lantern peppers for my kid too.
Joanna Saltz: Oh, so fun.
Suzy Chase: I've been like all Delish all the time this week.
Joanna Saltz: I get it, I love it, you're full immersion, I like that.
Suzy Chase: That was so cute, and it's perfect for Halloween.
Joanna Saltz: Well that's the kind of thing too that like ... you know, we want our recipes to be really fun, and we want them to be engaging for kids too. I think it's so important, you know, I have three kids, and I really try to engage them in the kitchen. My daughter hears like a pot coming out of the cabinet, and she comes running like Pavlov's dog. Because she loves to get into the kitchen.
But for me, the jack-o-lantern stuffed peppers are sort of that perfect recipe where it's like something an adult would eat, right, but also something that a kid can be totally enchanted by. So you know, when we can hit both, when we find that Venn diagram, where the ... like the perfect spot in the middle, we get really excited.
Suzy Chase: I noticed that this is one of those rare cookbooks where every single recipe has a color photo. Talk a little bit about that.
Joanna Saltz: That is so important to me. You know, to be honest, since I didn't have a very strong culinary background, I am somewhat ... I collect cookbooks, and I love to see what the thing is that I'm making. It's super important to me. And frankly, I get frustrated when cookbooks don't have it, because I'm like ... basically I use it as a marketing tool. And when we were developing recipes for the book, you know, I said to my team, "I want someone to be standing ..." I imagined that someone was standing in line at Barnes & Noble, or a bookstore somewhere, and they were paging through the book, and I wanted them to be so enchanted by every recipe in there, I wanted them to be able to basically open to any spot in the book, and be drawn in by what they see.
And frankly, that started, that mission starts with a color photo. That's extraordinarily imperative. Don't you find it so much more helpful when you can see what the end result is?
Suzy Chase: Oh, I do, especially in this Instagram day and age, where you can kind of see what it-
Joanna Saltz: Totally.
Suzy Chase: Needs to turn out looking like, so you can take the picture.
Joanna Saltz: Completely, it's marketing.
Suzy Chase: Yes!
Joanna Saltz: You're marketing yourself, let's be honest. This is all part of the package. You have to market your life in a very specific way, and the food that you make in your kitchen is just one of those elements.
Suzy Chase: Tell us about the Delish team.
Joanna Saltz: This team is amazing. So I think as I mentioned, we started ... we were super small, it was just five of us. And we were like rubbing two stones together to make anything work. One of my ... my deputy editor, Lindsey Funston, she was like cooking recipes, we had a tiny test kitchen in the corner of the Hearst Tower, and she was like making recipes and then shooting them with her phone, like basically on the floor in front of a window that had really nice light. Like, this is where we started.
Now we are 18 strong. We have an amazing video team. We have a news editor, we have a features editor, we have a fantastic food team that develops, but also comes up with crazy ideas. And we are all just so invested in this mission of bringing a fun food voice to the world.
Suzy Chase: Some recipes hae a little icon that says "Delish fave", how did they get that distinction?
Joanna Saltz: Oh, that's a great question. Well we have a few in here that are a classic, we call them OG Delish, that we are obsessed with and have been obsessed with from the beginning. You know, even though our beginnings here are sort of humble, a lot of those original recipes really resonated with our audience and killed. One of them is the Tuscan chicken pasta, which even when we kind of were still figuring out how to do video, and kind of figuring out what our audience wanted, that video did insanely well in the universe.
And so the ones we've marked that, "Delish fave", are the ones that we just like ... our audience has always come back to time and time again.
Suzy Chase: You also have Delish diary entries. One that I love was Delish goes to the ultimate Taco Bell. Describe that.
Joanna Saltz: Oh my gosh, well that is one of my favorites too. You know, one of the things too about when we were building Delish was in order for us to be like a truly welcoming food space, we needed to acknowledge the fact that sometimes people don't feel like cooking. Some nights they want to eat Chipotle or get take out, or eat Taco Bell, or McDonald's. Or some nights they want to just get from the Tai restaurant downstairs. So we've always been a food brand that has sort of welcomed and embraced like the brands that America loves. And Taco Bell has been an early sort of ... and early adopter for us, like a company that we really felt close to. We have a crunch wrap knockoff in the cookbook, which you might see.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Joanna Saltz: But Taco Bell, when we had heard about this monster Taco Bell in Vegas, we sent a team there to go check it out, and write a story. And it was insane. It's two gigantic floors, they have this huge wall of all different kinds of icees, like all different flavors that you can get booze in if you want. It's got like a huge store that's got Taco Bell merch. So, and then actually what they just recently started doing was they offer weddings, like you can actually get married at the Taco Bell.
Suzy Chase: I saw that. Oh my god.
Joanna Saltz: Isn't it amazing? Isn't it great? And they do a cake that's made out of their little cinnamon dippers-
Suzy Chase: Oh no.
Joanna Saltz: They do like a bouquet that's got hot sauce in it. I mean, they will take it to ninth degree. But honestly, only a true food lover, frankly, could like imagine getting married and feel comfortable getting married at a Taco Bell. I just ... I love that. You know, Delish, we want it to be a place where food lovers can come, but also you'll hear food stories that you don't hear everywhere else. The book also has an amazing story about this 90 year old woman who's like a beer pong champion. She plays for the beer championship every year with her grandson. Which is amazing.
There's a great story about the ... Sonic does the carhop skate off. You know, when you go to Sonic the guys come out with their trays on roller skates, and so every year they gather all their guys together and they have a skate off. And it's these guys that are like the most amazing roller skaters you have literally ever seen. But no one's talking about that stuff. You know, everybody is, to your point about elitism, talking about the world's fanciest restaurants, but there are these guys who are just doing this amazing thing because they love their job, and they love Sonic.
So we want to be there for those people too.
Suzy Chase: I love that. I love Sonic too.
Joanna Saltz: Exactly.
Suzy Chase: I'm the high, low eater.
Joanna Saltz: Well you have to be. That's the thing too, and that's what I hope people get out of this cookbook, is that we are all of these things on any given day. You know, I love eating fancy food too, and then sometimes I want to eat chips out of the bag and not be embarrassed by it. And sometimes I ... like sometimes like now that I'm out in the world, like meeting all these great people, sometimes I am having like Giggle Juice for dinner, because I like had such a crazy day. You know, sometimes like our lives are ... we want busy weeknight meals, and sometimes we want to go a little bit more time and make a gorgeous layer cake. And then sometimes we want to get taken, and sometimes we don't feel like eating anything, and we want to be totally fine eating flaming hot Cheetos.
So we want ... we're for all the types of food lovers.
Suzy Chase: What's in Giggle Juice?
Joanna Saltz: Oh, gosh. That recipe is one of my absolutely favorites. And if you notice, it's how we start the book, because I said like I thought it would only be appropriate if Delish started their book with a laugh. It's something that one of my editors had seen as she was researching all kinds of crazy things to do with booze, but it's actually ... it's got Moscato, which is something that our audience loves, certainly a very polarizing wine, some people find it too sweet, but America really loves Moscato. Lemonade, pink lemonade, it's got lemon lime soda, a little bit of vodka, and then it's garnished with sliced strawberries, lemons, and like a sugar rim.
So it definitely goes down easy-
Suzy Chase: Oh yeah.
Joanna Saltz: As I'm sure you experienced. But it's also such a conversation starter. Like food should be fun. And food, and making food with your friends and your family should be fun. So for me, I love those kinds of things too, that like when you serve it, you're like, "This is called Giggle Juice," like what a funny little conversation starter. You know, what a funny way to get like a little bit of a laugh out of your guests.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called My Last Meal.
Joanna Saltz: Okay.
Suzy Chase: What would you have for your last supper?
Joanna Saltz: All right. I love steak. Personally, I love skirt steak because I love like how tender it is. So I'd probably have skirt steak, grilled skirt steak, with A1 on the side because A1's my favorite. I would have french fries, so steak frites, the fancy way to say it is steak frites, but I would have skirt steak, and I would french fries, a gigantic mound of french fries, preferably homemade, but if you had to buy it from a store I'd probably get Five Guys because they're also my favorite fries. And then I would have ... I love Diet Coke, so I would have a Diet Coke on the side, I'm just saying it, no shame. And I love Dairy Queen ice cream, I love a Dairy Queen soft serve with rainbow sprinkles, it's my favorite, favorite. But then also I'd probably eat an entire Texas sheet cake.
So as long as I could have two desserts in this scenario, steak frites, and Dairy Queen and Texas sheet cake. That's what I would do.
Suzy Chase: Okay. I have to tell you-
Joanna Saltz: That's hard.
Suzy Chase: I'm doing the last 90 days challenge, where you have to give up something for the last 90 days of the year. And I gave up Diet Dr. Pepper, and I am dying.
Joanna Saltz: No. No, no. No. No, I can't do it. I honestly can't do it.
Suzy Chase: I'm 30 days in and I am dying.
Joanna Saltz: I am dying for you, I don't even know how you're doing it.
Suzy Chase: I'm drinking coffee, which is gross.
Joanna Saltz: No. No, I love coffee too, but I'm also like ... I don't know sometimes that's like ... I just need it to get me through. But I mean, it's terrible, my husband gets so mad at me. We have such a La Croix addiction at the Delish kitchen. We go through it so quickly, and so for a while I was really trying to wean myself off, but I just got right back on the wagon. Like, I'm like no, I miss it too much. So I commend you, my friends, I don't know how you're doing it-
Suzy Chase: It's rough.
Joanna Saltz: But I'm very, very impressed.
Suzy Chase: Well I'm 30 days today, so ...
Joanna Saltz: No, that's good. Keep it going, stay strong.
Suzy Chase: I feel like a crack addict or something.
Joanna Saltz: Stay strong.
Suzy Chase: I'm like dreaming about it.
Joanna Saltz: Well just think about how good it's going to ... it's going to taste so good when you get back on.
Suzy Chase: Exactly. Where can we find Delish on the web and social media?
Joanna Saltz: You come to Delish.com, crazy new stuff there every day. We're developing like close to 200 new recipes a month, so it's a machine, you literally every day you come back you'll see something new and fun. You can find us on Instagram at @Delish, and on Facebook, same thing, @Delish. And we're also like really big into Instagram stores, we do great polls there so you can engage with us. And you can find our amazing book in bookstores, and you can find our amazing bookazine on news stands. Certainly if you ever see any of those things out in the wild, send us pictures, we love to sort of re-gram, repost what our audience is making, we love that communal spirit. So, and it doesn't even have to look beautiful. Send it how you make it. We give props to literally everyone who gets in there and tries.
Suzy Chase: I mean, don't we all want to eat like every day is the weekend? Thank you so much Joanna for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Joanna Saltz: Thank you.
Suzy Chase: Follow me on Instagram @CookerybytheBook, Twitter is IAmSuzyChase, and download your Kitchen Mix Tapes, music to cook by on Spotify at Cookery by the Book. And as always, subscribe in Apple podcasts.