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Accomplished food blogger Ari Laing shares on her success along with a slow baked salmon recipe.

Simply put, Ari is a woman who loves to connect through food, but it didn’t start out that way. Straight out of college she moved from Florida to Massachusetts to attend a PhD program in Social Psychology.

“I was on an academic career path that, I hoped, would land me a teaching and research position at a prestigious university. A few years in, I abandoned ship, having learned that research made me miserable, and instead deciding to pursue what I always thought would make me happy — food and wine.”

She moved to NYC to be with her then fiancé and began working for next-to-nothing in restaurants and catering kitchens where chefs helped to mould her and teach her how to cook. She always enjoyed being in the kitchen, but it wasn’t until she took a total leap of faith that she allowed herself the time to see if the food industry was the right place for her.

How did Well Seasoned come to be?

What’s interesting is that a decade ago I had another blog — Tasty Retreat. If you look for it now, you won’t find it; it’s long gone. But I knew while I was transitioning from a life of academia to the world of restaurants, I wanted to document my journey. I put my career on hold, as many parents did, to focus on my kids. When I was finally able to dedicate myself to something other than family, I went all in on food photography. I pored over every photography and styling book I could get my hands on, making my family wait to eat meals until I had styled them just right. I’m grateful for my husband’s patience and support, without which I might not have had the confidence to keep trudging along.

What do you consider when you create a dish?

Flavour, texture, appearance — all of these are critical components of whether a dish is harmonious. I learned this from the chefs who helped train me. And while I love a good easy-to-prep meal, that’s not the most important factor for me. I find great enjoyment in creating luxurious, special occasion meals. An afternoon spent prepping a dinner party is never wasted time, in my opinion, because memories are formed around the food we share. What people will remember is not how complicated or simple a meal was, but how it made them feel. To me, that will always be worth the extra time and effort.

Do you call and think of yourself as a creative?

I never thought I was creative until I discovered cooking. I cannot draw or paint to save my life, but I can create depth of flavour in dishes, and style them beautifully. I guess I’ll never be that put together Pinterest mom who creates masterpiece works of art for her kids, but I’m 100% okay with that. The kitchen is where I shine. It’s amazing to see that love transfer from myself to my kids, who now share my passion for cooking. They even pretend to take photos of their food before eating, a small gesture that always puts a smile on my face. I think ultimately if you inspire people — in any way — you are a creative.

“I owe so much to those chefs who were willing to take a chance on me.”

How do you discover new things to make?

As far as developing recipes, I gravitate towards the dishes I like to eat. You will never find black bean brownies or avocado pudding on my blog — there’s a place for those dishes, and it’s not in my kitchen. I like to elevate classics, and while I always enjoy incorporating new ingredients into my dishes, I’m more likely to reinvent the familiar. For instance, one of my most popular recipes is a cannoli cream parfait. It’s a flavour you already know and love, but presented in a unique way. That’s my style in a nutshell.

Do you have a favorite thing to bake or cook?

Always the most difficult question! I don’t necessarily have a favourite dish to cook, but rather a favourite occasion. Hosting dinner parties for our close friends is my absolute favourite thing to do. Whether I’m making a simple pasta or braised leg of lamb, it doesn’t matter — for me, it’s all about the company. When you cook for people you love, it comes across in the food regardless of the dish. As far as baking, I feel strongly that there is nothing in the world better than a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. In fact, it’s a perfect New England snow day; I think I’ll go bake some right now…

Do you think you can nourish more than just the body with good food and nourish the soul?

Absolutely! When you think back to all the major highlights of your life, what do you recall? For me, I remember conversations shared around a table. I remember sauce dripping on tablecloths and guests laughing as they sopped up every last bit with a crusty piece of bread. I remember filling glasses of wine so high and toasting to more nights spent not worrying about whether our house was clean, but talking about our dreams for the future. I remember not caring that the cleanup can sometimes take longer than the meal. I want to pass onto my children a love for people, and I think that begins with a love of food.

Well Seasoned - Ari Laing interview by Merrymen Magazine
Morning Glory muffins - Ari Laing interview and Recipe for Merrymen Magazine Volume 3

What is your biggest achievement and how did that influence your path?

Professionally, I’m still very much a small business owner, so any time I land a new client, I feel a personal sense of achievement. I don’t have anyone doing marketing for me, it’s all my own hard work and effort that goes into wooing companies, brands, and bloggers. When someone hires me to provide a service, it feels like a total victory. And it makes me want to work harder. Personally? Being a mom. For the first 5 years of my kids’ lives, I stayed home with them. I was going out of my mind, though. I wanted to be there for them in the way that only a full-time, stay-at-home parent has the luxury of doing, but I strongly disliked feeling like I had lost my personal identity. It was so incredibly important for me to take time to figure out what I wanted to do — both how I planned to contribute to our family financially, but also figuring out what would fulfill me, while still allowing me to work in the food industry. Photography has done both. It’s lucrative, I can work from home or in restaurants, it provides the flexible schedule I want to maintain to be present before and after school, and I freakin’ love it. I wish everyone were lucky enough to turn their passion into profit.

“If there’s an area of your life where you’d like to see improvement, work at it, and work hard. Don’t try to take the easy way out.”

When did your passion for food develop?

It absolutely grew over time. My husband and I have been together since high school; I attribute so much of my love for food to our evolving relationship. It started simply by us going out to nice restaurants to celebrate special occasions. He had moved to NYC for college. We quickly discovered that we could get anything — literally anything — in NY. I remember reluctantly trying foie gras for the first time, horrified beforehand at the thought of what I was eating. Looking back I cannot believe how hesitant I was. How close minded! That foie gras was one of the single best dishes of my life, and forever changed my opinion on food. From there, I was more willing to try ingredients and dishes that were unfamiliar to me. Nothing was off limits, and my passion (and curiosity) only grew.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Like so many people, I gather inspiration from dishes I love at restaurants, from traveling, from local seasonal produce at markets. I try to create with a purpose. No one is looking for a strawberry dish in the dead of winter, even though you can grab a container at the store shipped in from Mexico year round. With regards to styling and photography, Instagram and Pinterest offer such a wide array of images to draw inspiration from. It’d be hard to deny how useful those sites have become.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned?

I’m going to answer this from a business perspective: stop trying to replicate someone else’s path to success and instead focus on finding yourself and pushing limits that intimidate you. You can’t expect growth if you don’t push yourself. Second most important piece of advice: find your people. Surround yourself with individuals who support you and will lift you up. Not because you can’t do it on your own, but because you’ll go further with the support of a village.

“Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes for a hell of a lot better than you were before.”

Recipe

Slow Baked Salmon with Herb Shallot Butter – 4 Servings

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb salmon or arctic char
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large shallot, minced
2 Tbsp chives, chopped
2 Tbsp dill, chopped
1 tsp lemon zest (from 1 lemon), then cut lemon into wedges
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp capers, drained

Well Seasoned Article for Merrymen Magazine - Slow baked Salmon recipe by Ari Laing

Instructions

Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, then drizzle with olive oil. Pat salmon or arctic char dry with a paper towel, then place on baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine butter, shallot, chives, dill, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then spread evenly on top of the fish. Bake until barely cooked through, about 18-20 minutes (time may vary depending on the thickness of the fish — I pull mine out when it’s 120°F in the center). Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Accomplished food blogger Ari Laing shares on her success along with a slow baked salmon recipe.

Simply put, Ari is a woman who loves to connect through food, but it didn’t start out that way. Straight out of college she moved from Florida to Massachusetts to attend a PhD program in Social Psychology.

“I was on an academic career path that, I hoped, would land me a teaching and research position at a prestigious university..”

Food | Vol.3

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