Zibby Owens: Hi. I'm excited to be here today with Waylynn Lucas who's the author of Sunny-Side Up: More Than 100 Breakfast & Brunch Recipes from the Essential Egg to the Perfect Pastry. An award-winning former pastry chef at famed restaurants like Patina and Bazaar, Waylynn has also been a judge on the Food Network’s TV hit show Cake Wars and currently lives in Park City, Utah.
Welcome Waylynn. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books.”
Waylynn Lucas: Absolutely. Excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Zibby: Can you please tell listeners how you came up with the idea for this cookbook and what it’s about? Who should buy this cookbook?
Waylynn: Everybody should buy this cookbook. I really wanted to create a very family-friendly, everybody-friendly cookbook. I find a lot of chef cookbooks can be very intimidating. Because they're chefs, they do a lot of fancy things and use a lot of extravagant ingredients that aren't really applicable to just your regular home cook. I wanted to do the opposite of that. I wanted this to be fun and easy and approachable and use what I've learned as a chef to give little tips and tricks. I love breakfast. I love brunch. As a pastry chef, I love brunch and breakfast so much because it’s very sweet oriented. That was my inspiration to do something more than just a regular dessert book. I wanted to push myself and get into some more savory things, but more pastries and eggs and breakfast, brunch, and have my experiences as a pastry chef go that much further in the kitchen.
Zibby: Awesome. As a mom, I thank you. Breakfast is the hardest for me. I feel like every day we’re doing the same old stuff, scrambled eggs, frozen waffles. Your book was very inspiring. In fact, we tried the crunchy French toast that you have in your cookbook.
Zibby: We didn't have exactly the right ingredients. We squashed up some Rise Krispies. It was still really good.
Waylynn: There you go. Perfect substitution.
Zibby: What do you think in the cookbook are some of your best suggestions for busy parents in the morning before school to make for their kids?
Waylynn: The frittatas, the baked egg cups, the bars, anything you can make ahead of time and grab and go. I know especially for moms trying to get out of the house in the morning and get your kids, get everybody going, things that you can do even the night before after the kids go to bed and have ready in the morning to grab and go, or really any time of the day. The baked egg cups are perfect for that. All of the bars, I love. Even the frittatas is something you can make and slice up and grab like a slice of pizza and eat and run out the door. I do that more times than I probably should admit. It’s one of my favorites.
Zibby: In the book, there's an acai bowl. It says it only takes five minutes to make. Is that really true? It would take far more time to order that in.
Waylynn: The acai bowl and even all the smoothies and stuff are super easy to just throw everything in a blender, slice up some fruit, sprinkle some granola on top. It’s really a no-brainer. There's not a lot of skill involved with those and with the acai bowl. You just throw it in a blender and go.
Zibby: You mentioned in your cookbook that how well you cook eggs show how good a chef you are. Tell me about that.
Waylynn: For a long time, the chef Escoffier and Julia Child even used to touch on it a lot that how you cook an egg reflects your talent and how good of a chef you are. An egg, it’s so versatile. You can do so many different things with it. It’s so hearty, but it’s also so delicate. That why I talk about with the scrambled eggs, it’s the handling and the finesse. The eggs tell you what it needs from you, if that makes sense. In the scrambled egg recipe it’s not overhandling it, overmixing it in the pan. It’s not undermixing it to where you end up with a big patty omelet. It’s just the right amount. It teaches you to watch and look at the food as it’s cooking and know when to handle it, when to not, and practice that delicate hand, if that really makes sense at all.
Zibby: [laughs] I don't know. My eggs don't really talk to me. I'm going to listen a little more closely from now on. You also mention in the book that you were very influenced by having the Food Network on in your house all time, which I feel like gives me now, license to keep the TV on all the time. How do you think that affected you in your love of cooking?
Waylynn: It just became engrained in the fabric of my being. No matter what I was doing, if I was sitting at the dining room table doing homework or hanging out when my mom was making dinner, it was always there in the background. I heard people talking about food and listening about food. Even though I wasn't really so into it myself when I was a kid, I heard about it, listened to it. It’s funny now as an adult. I think that's why I love it so much and love writing this book and cooking as well. I realize now, some of my best memories are around food, are spent in the kitchen, watching my mom cook, listening to the Food Network, sharing meals with friends and family. Those are some of the most special memories that I have in my life at any time.
Zibby: Tell me about your whole journey from when you were this kid doing homework and not really focused on cooking to now being a judge on a cooking show and having your own cookbook. How do you go from there to here? How did you do that? How did you even know you wanted to do that? When did you say, “This is my thing”?
Waylynn: It wasn't until much later in life. This was actually a big career change for me. When I was young, I'd worked in the fashion industry and swore that off and quit. I'd always really enjoyed baking cookies just for fun and for friends. I started to see how happy cookies made people. I became addicted to that. I started doing it more and making more cookies. Friends who had catering companies would ask me to make hundreds of cookies for them. I was like, wow, I really love and enjoy doing this. For me, what was the turning point of “Okay, I want to make this a career” was seeing the joy that desserts brought people. Then looking at how eggs, flour, butter, sugar, however you can combine them, you can get so many different results, I really wanted to learn the science of it. I ended up opening up a restaurant when I was living in Costa Rica and had no idea what I was doing. It was supposed to only be a coffee shop. Then I started baking cookies again for friends on the side. Everybody loved it. Then that fed my passion to want to feed people and make people happy.
Zibby: Wait, hold on. Back up for two seconds. How did you end up living in Costa Rica?
Waylynn: I quit my life in the fashion industry. I had a vacation plan with friends to go to Costa Rica. I went there. I fell in love. I literally came home, sold all of my belongings, and said, “I'm moving to Costa Rica. I'm going to surf and learn to speak Spanish and hang out and figure it out.” Everyone thought I was crazy, which I probably was, and was living down there and fell in love with it. Someone said, “You should open a coffee shop.” That evolved into a restaurant. That started, weirdly, my culinary career in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica, random.
Zibby: How long did you end up living there?
Waylynn: I ended up living there for three years. I had the bakery/café restaurant for about two. From my love of that, I sold it. I came back to the States, to California. That's when I decided to go to culinary school to really truly understand the science and ins and outs of baking pastry.
Zibby: You were all in on desserts the whole time?
Waylynn: Yeah. My restaurant in Costa Rica, I actually did both sweet and savory. Something about pastry, it was more my mentality. I loved how much happier desserts made people. You can't be in a bad mood eating a chocolate chip cookie or an ice cream cone. It was that that made me really decide to put all my focus into pastry.
Zibby: Then -- sorry for all these -- [laughs] I shouldn't say sorry for the questions. I am interviewing you. I'm curious as to how one gets from a love of cooking to writing this whole cookbook. You went to culinary school. Then what? Then you became a licensed pastry chef. Then you started working for all these amazing restaurants. Then somebody asked you to be a judge?
Waylynn: Pretty much. [laughs]
Zibby: Good. I got it. Goodbye! No, I'm kidding.
Waylynn: That was easy.
Zibby: What was it like being on a show after watching it your whole life? Was that a perfect full circle moment for you? Did you enjoy it?
Waylynn: I love it so much. I count my blessings every day that I get to be a part of Food Network in any way, shape, or form. After six seasons of Cake Wars and now this other show, Cake Off, that I'm doing with Food Network and all the guest judging appearances I have, I still to this day pinch myself. Is this really happening to me? When I turn on Food Network and it happens to be an episode of Cake Wars and I'm on TV, it’s so surreal. I turn into a little kid all over again and get giddy and excited and cry. It’s mildly pathetic.
Zibby: No, it’s not pathetic.
Waylynn: It’s probably truly one of the most special accomplishments for myself as a chef, not just because I get to be on TV. It has nothing to do with that. My culinary career and growing up with Food Network on TV, it’s how it’s come full circle. Being on Food Network was never even on my radar. It was never even like, this is my goal, my dream. I'm going to work really hard as a chef and try and get on Food Network. I just wanted to make good food. This was the icing on the cake, if you will. [laughter]
Zibby: Lovely. Do you have any dreams of your own? What would you do if you could pick your own show to make on Food Network, anything you want? Is that what Cake Off is? I don't know about Cake Off. I'm sorry.
Waylynn: No, Cake Off, it’s an extreme cake competition. The cakes transform. They explode and catch on fire and spin and flip and do all these really crazy cool things. That's going to be actually airing in a few weeks. September 23rd, maybe, is the first episode on Food Network. It’s really these bakers take the cake to the next extreme level. If I could ever have my own actual show on Food Network, that would be the dream of all dreams. I might just drop dead right there in the moment on the spot. I would want it to be a little more exciting, out there -- getting my hands dirty in the food, growing the food, harvesting the food -- than a lot of the typical stand-and-stir shows. By nature, I love getting out there and getting dirty with my hands. I think that's why I love cooking so much. You're really creating something with your hands, which I think is a lost art in a way. To be able to be a part of the whole food process from growing it from start to finish is something that I definitely, whether it’s TV -- I know I'm starting to do it in my own personal life. That's the dream for me.
Zibby: Then how did you end up writing the cookbook? How did you pick -- you mentioned at the beginning why you wanted to do not just sweets. How did it come about? Was it your idea? How did it evolve into a cookbook?
Waylynn: It was always my dream to write a cookbook. I’ll be totally honest right now. It was something I was way too terrified to do. People had talked to me about doing it for years. I always said, “Sure, that's a great idea,” but pushed it off because I was way too nervous and scared to have to work so hard to create all these recipes and then send them out into the world. It seemed like this daunting, scary task, and opening myself up for judgment and all these things. Then finally enough friends and people pushed and pushed and said, “C’mon, c’mon, you've got to do it.” It seemed like the next hurdle that I hadn’t quite gone over and through in my career. I was like, all right, I'm going to do this, and set out to do it. I got a dream team of people to work with, and to publish with Rodale and the team I got to work with, with them. The concept, it started out to be a dessert book. The concept of breakfast and brunch happened by accident. I didn't think anyone would really consider me writing a breakfast/brunch cookbook because I'm a pastry chef. They all saw how passionate I was about it, so decided to let me run with it.
Zibby: Do you still practice pastry chefdom somewhere? Do you work in a restaurant still? Does TV take up most of your time?
Waylynn: The TV does take up some of my time. I live in Park City, Utah. I have a little wholesale bakery and catering company. I provide a lot of baked goods for coffee shops. We’ll do a lot of special, custom birthday cakes and catering for parties and sweets and stuff like that. It’s nice for me doing it on that level, not having an actual brick and mortar restaurant, because I can create my own schedule. If I need to be filming or leave or be going somewhere for a book tour, I have the freedom to do that. I still get to be cooking for people. It’s the best of both worlds.
Zibby: Is there anything you just love cooking in the pastry world, or some creation you made that you couldn't believe you even did it, or something super cool, or something you've mastered, like the perfect croissant, or something really awesome?
Waylynn: I'm the type of person that I don't think I’ll ever really feel like I've mastered something. I’ll always find something, “It could be a little bit better. It could be a little bit more this,” and always continue to push and challenge myself. I do love making ice cream. That's something that is probably one of my favorites. I love the challenge of the croissants and baguette recipes and stuff that are in the book. I find bread to be such a skill and such an art form. That still intimidates me. It was probably one of the things that I loved so much. That's why I really wanted to set out to try and make it easy for the home cook. You can do this. You can make croissants at home, or baguettes or brioche or breads. I have so much admiration for people that solely do breads because it really is an art form.
Zibby: I feel like there's so many excuses not to bake. It’s so easy to buy something. I love to bake too. That's part of why I'm super interested in this. For people who don't bake -- truth be told, I'm not going to sit there and bake croissants from scratch. A cupcake or something more simple with my kids is fine. What do you see as the biggest benefit to baking? Do you bake for your sanity? Do you bake for fun? Does it calm you down? I know you like to make people happy. What do you think it does for you?
Waylynn: For me, it’s like an active meditation. A lot of people, it’s knitting or whatever. It’s that time in the kitchen focusing on something. I think that's why I like pastry so much. It forces you to focus on a recipe. You really have to be focused and present on the recipe and on your technique and to not overmix your batter or overwork your dough or something like that. It takes me away from everything and anything else and lets me focus and be in the moment, which is really therapeutic for me. Then the bonus is I get to feed people and make people happy too.
Zibby: Awesome. Too bad this isn't in person so I could sample some of your stuff. Sad that we’re over Skype. Do you have any advice to anybody who is also trying to do a cookbook and that was one of their dreams, or their dream is to be on a cooking show? What would you say to those people?
Waylynn: Just to start doing it. If you want to write a cookbook, come up with a theme and a concept. Start creating those recipes. Start putting it together as much as you can yourself, and shopping it around to people. The cool thing about people that want cooking shows or that sort of thing, YouTube and social media has allowed so many people the opportunity to do that. That's so much fun. There's even a part in the book where I say -- my biggest thing when cooking is I always tell people, have fun. Have fun. Have a glass of wine. Pretend like you are on your own cooking show. Do whatever you can and want to do, whatever makes it fun for you. Have fun doing that. As cheesy as it is to say, I am a firm believer that you can taste the love and the spirit of the mood you're in when you're cooking food. Have fun.
Zibby: I tried to explain that to my kids after making frozen ravioli last night. They were like, “This doesn't look good.” I was like, “I made this with all my heart. You can taste the love. Eat it!” [laughter] They finally tried it. I believe you can feel it too. I really can. When people cook for you with care and love, you can definitely taste it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. Sorry, I feel like I was in a job interview asking you question after question. I'm really interested. Thanks for answering them all.
Waylynn: Absolutely. Thank you. I loved chatting and loved being asked all the questions. It was wonderful. It was super fun. Thank you.
Zibby: Thanks so much. Take care.
Waylynn: Thanks. Bye.