The Minis: Rachel Holtzman - Chicago
Hi Rachel! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Chicago, and I'm a cookbook co-writer. My clients include folks like Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard, Amanda Bacon, Kate Hudson, Tiffani Thiessen, and Alicia Silverstone. I help them develop their ideas, write the books with them, and then test or develop the recipes. Sounds pretty terrible, I know. I built this business after working as an editor at Penguin, going to culinary school at night/working at Gramercy Tavern on the weekends, and realizing that I wanted to combine editorial and culinary worlds. Six years later, I couldn't be more pleased with the results.
Your career is so interesting! Could you tell us a little bit more about how you started your business and what your job entails?
I spent about six years working as an editor at Penguin, but I also always loved food--eating it, talking about it, reading about it--so I thought maybe I wanted to be a chef. I decided to go to culinary school, sneaking out of the office four nights a week, getting home around midnight, doing my garlic mincing or potato dicing homework, then starting all over again. I also worked brunch service at Gramercy Tavern on the weekends, showing up at Monday meetings with odd burns or scars from shucking oysters to order (physical and emotional). I pretty quickly ruled out being a chef, but I thought maybe I could combine the editorial with the culinary (with a bit of health-related science and wellness witchcraft thrown in for good measure). Now my job is largely to facilitate--to help tease out my clients' ideas and stories and advice and weave it all into a narrative that sounds and feels genuine to them. I also test recipes and make sure they not only work but also are accessible to a home cook. It's a Type-A's dream come true.
What draws you to food? Why did you want to bring a culinary element to your work?
In short, food is awesome. It's celebratory, comforting, nostalgic, communal, and traditional. I'm not just talking about precious, romantic moments--I didn't grow up cooking at my mother's knee, and I love pre-packaged airport sandwiches dressed with more mayo packets than I care to admit. There's just so much richness to food because it's often how we communicate, connect, and remember. And it's fucking delicious, even when it's not very good.
If you can share with us, what are some of your exciting, upcoming projects?
My first hometown collaboration--a cookbook with Paul Kahan--will be out September 19th, followed by a gorgeous project with Kate Hudson (October 31). Then in the spring I'll be celebrating the launch of cookbooks with Stephanie Izard and Tiffani Thiessen.
What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
George's Ice Cream and Treats for triple scoops, Publican Quality Meats for bread and chicken liver mousse, The Dill Pickle Food Co-op for conscientious groceries (and soon Chicago Market Co-op on the north side--become a member-owner if you aren't already!), Monteverde for Cacio e Pepe (best enjoyed at the bar), Paul Kahan and Stephanie Izard anything (not biased at all), and the North Park Nature Center for feeling like you're not in the city for a couple of hours