Friday, February 8, 2013

Look What's Cooking! {Interview with Sherry Dryja}

Recently, I had the honor of photographing a bread-making workshop, where participants learned how to make no-knead Artisan bread. Photographing this type of event was a first for me, and I was really surprised how much I loved it.  I'd never given any thought to doing food/cooking photography before, but this experience was too amazing for words!  I am definitely going to be keeping my eye out for other opportunities to photograph similar events in the future.


The workshop was taught by Sherry Dryja, who was gracious enough to allow me to interview her for this feature post.  So read on to learn more about Sherry and her cooking blog!


Sherry is the author of Kitchen Dilettante. Kitchen Dilettante is a blog which helps new cooks build confidence in the kitchen through tips, demonstrations, product reviews, and uncomplicated recipes. She grew up in Texas, but as a self-proclaimed nomad she has lived all over the United States. In addition to living in Texas, she also spent part of her childhood in Arkansas and Oklahoma. As an adult, she has had the opportunity to taste life in West Virginia, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and Seattle. Sherry’s travels have taken her all over North America, South America, Israel, and Europe. She claims a strange and not quite understood kinship with the people of Canada, and perhaps one day she might feel at home there. But for now Sherry resides in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, Michael, and their dog, Lukas, who Sherry describes as, “a miniature schnauzer with the temperament of that sheepdog in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons--very calm and laid back.”

This is Lukas, who was at the workshop to supervise and ensure that the floor stayed spotless...


When did you first fall in love with cooking?

I was late to the cooking game. My first forays into the kitchen were met with such huge failure that, to this day, they are family jokes. When I did try to sneak into the kitchen to try again, I tried to take on recipes which were far more advanced than I was. I made it overly complicated and, as a result, got overly frustrated and quit. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s when a friend gave me my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook that I started to see things differently. I like the way she writes. Her directions are easy to follow. Her books and TV show taught me that food can be good even if it doesn’t look “perfect”. I had lots of success with her recipes and, as a result, I started relaxing, enjoying the process. Now, nearly 10 years later, my family actually thinks I can cook!

How did you get started writing a cooking blog?

I am a writer by nature. (You can see from this interview I am a bit wordy.) I needed something to focus on and cooking seemed like a natural direction, given how much I enjoy doing it. Kitchen Dilettante was my first attempt at blogging, which began in 2009. I wasn’t sure what I was doing back then, or what I wanted to do, so a lot of my articles were all over the map--and sometimes still are. These days, I’m focusing on the new cook--the person who looks at a recipe for lasagna and their eyes cross not knowing what to do. I used to be that cook, but I’ve come a long way just by trying and trying again. KD is meant to be a resource, provide encouragement, and provide a sense of community for people just starting out in the kitchen.

How did your blog get its name?

I’m embarrassed to admit that the name for my blog came about because I have a short attention span. I stay interested in something for a while and then, when I feel I have accomplished it enough, I move on to something else. That’s essentially what a dilettante is, a Jane of all trades, master of none. When I came up with the name for my blog, I had to be realistic and name it something that allowed flexibility if I got restless writing about cooking. Happily, though, my love for All Things Kitchen has not waned. Four years later, I’m still busily trying new things. Maybe cooking is the exact challenge I needed all along. It’s hard to lose interest in something that is so vast you could spend a lifetime on it and still not know how to do everything.

Where does your inspiration for your posts come from?

Inspiration for my posts comes mostly from readers who visit the site and comment on the articles. The goal is to provide encouragement, or at least camaraderie, to others out there just starting out or struggling with cooking.

How did you get started teaching workshops?

The workshops grew out of the blog topics. One topic that has been hugely popular is how to make artisan bread. I have posted about it a lot and spoken about it with people who read the blog, but nearly every single person says it intimidates them. I know that feeling. I’ve been there. The workshops are a way to bring people together, get their hands doughy, ask their questions as they’re going through the recipe, and go home with success.

What is the one kitchen gadget you absolutely could not live without and why?

This question actually inspired a recent blog post. My answer is given grudgingly because I must admit that I can’t live without something that I hate: the food processor. It’s big, it’s clunky, it’s heavy, and it takes up way too much space in my cabinet and dishwasher, but I love how quickly it shreds cheese, grates carrots, turns hard bricks of chocolate into powder, and blends up sauces in seconds. It even kneads dough. Now if only I could get it to shrink when I wash it or put it away.

Do you write about any other topics?

My husband and I travel a lot, so two years ago I started a travel blog called “Jet Planes and Coffee”. When I’m not traveling, that blog turns into a “traveling the road of life” blog with guest posts from other writers, and articles about inspiring people I’ve met. I have a lot of fun writing the human interest stories because I get to meet people who are living out their dreams.


If you would like to stay up to date to Sherry’s cooking adventures you can join her over at Kitchen Dilettante. If you want to read about her travels, swing on over to Jet Planes and Coffee to see where she will be jetting off to next. Better yet, join her on facebook where she posts links to all of her blog entries and other writings.

Sherry, thank you for allowing me to interview you for my blog and for letting me photograph your bread-making workshop! It was such a pleasure getting to know you and your students during this class.  I might have to return to a workshop in the near future as a student, because who can resist bread that looks this amazing?...



Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area.
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© 2013 Michele Whitacre Photography LLC

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