The Up South Cookbook presents food for the soul. In this interview, author and chef supreme Nicole Taylor dishes about her Southern roots and recipes that’ll leave all begging for more.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Hosting Hot Grease podcast on Heritage Radio Network laid the groundwork for becoming an author. I didn’t set out to write about food. My goal was to fill a small void in the storytelling space. Most people, refer to me as a blogger, but I say not really — [I’m a] media maker and influencer.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I have over 100 recipes in the The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen and each has a headnote. The words narrate my culinary journey from Georgia to New York. I love a good Souhern saying and include my favorites at the beginning of each chapter.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing or coming up with a concept for your book?
Writing and testing recipes is 75 percent confidence and the rest execution. Once you have an idea, nothing stands in your way except for self. After completing Up South, I have a great sense of what it takes to successful finish project #2.
Describe the process of getting published.
Before getting a cookbook deal, I spent a year mulling over my idea and I took a few classes about how to get published. A major factor in securing a literary agent was letting the right people know about the project.
Ultimately, an editor introduced me to my agent. She believed in my voice before reading the proposal. Then, she tore my idea apart and suggested re-working huge chucks. It took me a year to complete the edits.
Then, it took nine months to find a publisher for Up South.
What were the literary, psychological and/or logistical challenges in bringing your work to life?
A New York City size kitchen. My fridge is not a normal size and provided a challenge when preparing and styling dishes for a 10-day photo shoot.
Everyone’s process for writing is different. Explain yours.
My process started in unlined Moleskines, iPhone Notes and weekly meal planning. Next, I came up with chapter ideas. I had tons of notes but no written out recipes. Over half the dishes in Up South are things I’ve cooked a million times or watched folks in my family make. Writing exact ingredients and directions for these took precision.
Before, I got deep into testing, I wrote draft headnotes. Being in the kitchen for 8 hours a day, several days per week was brutal (some things were created 3-4 times). In addition, I recruited 20 volunteer recipe testers. I got a bit overwhelmed with the organizational piece and hired an assistant that managed testers, transcribed my early dishes and helped in the kitchen.
The last month included non-stop headnote and chapter opening writing and more cooking. I took a social media hiatus for eight weeks to stay focused.
This entire process took six months before turning my final manuscript into my editor.
Please provide three “good to know” fact about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job or the inspiration behind your writing.
My first job was Wendy’s Hamburgers. My mother had a few stipulations about my new gig. I could only work weekends and a few hours after school. I took that job so serious. It taught me that no task is beneath me and to be prideful in all things.
What is the mission you set out to accomplish with your voice in this book?
My goal with The Up South Cookbook is to pay homage to my Southern upbringing and give folks a glimpse into my life in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Also, I want people to get in the kitchen and cook.
For tasty recipes, check out Taylor’s cookbook The Up South Cookbook at amazon.