Food Blogger Spotlight: Susan Filson of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy

For our next Food Blogger Spotlight, we’re chatting with Susan Filson of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. Susan’s one of those multi-talented food bloggers, taking as much joy in cooking savory dishes as she does sticky, gooey desserts. Her food blog is one of the most open and heartfelt I’ve ever read, and I think that makes her a 100% superstar.

I first met Susan at IFBC 2009, and I was instantly captivated by her natural warmth and candor. She infuses her recipes with these same qualities – every time I make one of her dishes, it’s like getting a big hug from a good friend. I know that sounds cheesy, but I dare you to make one of her recipes and disagree. Go ahead, give it a try.

Please welcome Susan, and as always, feel free to ask further questions in the comments.

We all have staples that we couldn’t live without. What three ingredients do you *always* have in your kitchen and why? I’m not talking snacks like chips and hummus, but rather ingredients you use all the time in your cooking.

It’s hard to limit the list to just three! It kind of depends on whether I’m cooking or baking. I’m going to answer this from the “cooking” perspective. The three things I always have in my kitchen are onions, olive oil and chicken broth. With those three ingredients at my disposal, I can pretty much create a dish out of anything. In fact, I can create a great dish just using those ingredients alone and some pasta.

Onions are so versatile. They add something to almost any type of dish. You can cook them fast over high heat to make them kind of crispy, or cook them low and slow into caramelized, gooey goodness. Plus, you can deep fry, grill or roast them.

Olive oil is a staple in the kitchen of anyone who enjoys Italian cooking. I use it to sauté meats and vegetables, in sauces and salads, and even to just drizzle on top of various dishes or bread to add some extra flavor. There are even lots of great dessert recipes that feature olive oil.

I call chicken broth my “magic ingredient”. I use it almost daily. It’s a great flavor booster. I use it for cooking rice, for steaming vegetables, to deglaze pans and as a base for many soups and stews. It can be added to almost any recipe that calls for water.

Imagine you moved to the smallest apartment possible – a shoebox, really – and you only had room for a single cookbook. Of all your cookbooks, which one would you keep? Why do you love it so?

Although I have a vast collection of excellent cookbooks, if I could only keep one it would have to be The New Basics Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. It’s a classic! That was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself way back when I was a new bride. I taught myself how to cook from it. The first full meal I ever cooked for my husband was a recipe from that book. It was a fancy veal stew, and it took me about four hours to make. It took me almost as long to clean the mess up afterwards! But, it was the most marvelous veal stew, and well worth the effort!

The New Basics Cookbook has over 900 recipes ranging from nibbles and appetizers to all kinds of desserts. The book is also filled with information on all kinds of different ingredients and styles of cooking. It includes tips for entertaining, a glossary of cooking and wine terms, suggestions for a well-stocked pantry and instructions on how to pick good seasonal ingredients. With all of that, what else could you possibly need?

When you’re looking for new recipes (or creating one of your own), what is your number one priority? What makes you pick one recipe over another?

Obviously, my first priority would be taste. Why would I bother with a recipe if I didn’t think it would be delicious? After that, I think my top priority would be ease of preparation. By that, I don’t necessarily mean fast, although that’s a plus. For me, a recipe has to make sense. Both the directions and the ingredients have to be uncomplicated. I see so many recipes by well-known celebrity chefs that have 500 hundred ingredients and are 10 pages long. Real people don’t cook like that! And frankly, they shouldn’t have too. It’s overkill.

I’m a busy person, and most of my readers are too. Even someone who loves to cook can feel like a slave in the kitchen when preparing a family meal turns into a marathon. I want to show them that they can come home from work, create a fabulous dish with a handful of good quality ingredients and still have time to watch TV with their kids.

Blogs have the potential to be so many things, from personal journals to outrageous adventure reports. What is the most important thing you put into your blog, and what is the most important thing you get out of it?

Rather than a personal journal, I look at my blog as more like a personal journey, with occasional outrageous adventure reports. My tag line is “a blog about food with a little life stirred in,” and that is exactly what I try to achieve with it. It isn’t just an index of recipes. Along with the food, I share bits and pieces of my life – the good, the bad and the ugly!

I really put a lot of myself into my blog, and I always try to be open and honest with my words. I sometimes share thoughts or feelings with my readers that I haven’t even shared with family or close friends. I figure that whatever I might be going through, someone else might be going through it too. Maybe something I have to say can help someone else.

For as much as I put into SGCC, the return on my investment has been tenfold! I have “met” so many lovely, helpful and caring people on this journey. My readers and fellow food bloggers are the best! They laugh with me during my successes and cry with me during my disasters. More importantly, they let me just ramble on when I need to – and they keep coming back! They are constant source of support and inspiration.

Humans are visual creatures, and great images are a huge part of a blog’s draw. What makes your personal photographic style uniquely yours? What elements do you think set your images apart from other pro food photographers?

I’d never picked up a camera before I started SGCC. You can tell this by the pictures in my early posts. They were AWFUL! Two Christmases ago my sweet husband gave me a DSLR and my mother gave me my macro lens. Things got a lot better after that!

I don’t consider myself a great photographer. I think I’m an average photographer who sometimes manages to get a great photo. My style is pretty minimalist. I’m not a food stylist. The more I try to “stage” a shot, the deeper the hole I dig for myself to fall into.

I like to focus on the actual dish I’m shooting with the least amount of props and busy background effects I can get away with. I probably shoot 90% of my food with my macro lens, and I like to get in really close. My favorite way to shoot food is using a white or light background and white dishes. I want you to notice the food first – its color and texture – not my pretty china pattern.

I also don’t like my photos to look too perfect. The little drips and drops make the food more approachable. I want you to feel like you can just stick your fork through the computer screen and dive right into it!

Thanks for stopping in, Susan.
(all images property of Susan Filson)

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Some of my favorite posts from Susan Filson’s Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy:

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Michelle says

    What’s the one Macro lens you recommend most , if I can only invest in one?
    Thanks everyone!!!

  2. MyKidsEatSquid says

    Good to know that pictures don’t have to be perfect. Since I blog about food and kids, I find including them in the pictures makes the post more interesting.

  3. Christine says

    Thank you for this interview – it was a lot of fun to read, especially her top three favorite ingredients. I’d make it four and include garlic!

  4. The Writer's [Inner] Journey says

    I never would have guessed that someone with a blog named Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy would name onions as a staple. I love that! And her blog is really cool, too. A nice interview. Thanks to both of you. ~Meredith