Everyday Icons: The Celebrity Chef

Want to know the ins and outs of the life of a celebrity chef turned cookbook author? Read Gaby Dalkin's inspired story!

Image Credit: Matt Armendariz

With all of the meal prep you're planning for the week's festivities, we can nearly guarantee you'll have as much respect for today's Everyday Icon as ever. We first met celebrity chef and famed cookbook author Gaby Dalkin on an international trip to Ethiopia with our executive editor Erin Loechner. She blew everyone away with her calm, get-things-done demeanor - a sure advantage in her high-pressure industry career. Here, she chats with us about landing a book deal, family support and the beauty of food:

OK, so you're a celebrity personal chef-turned-cookbook author. How did you get involved in the world of private cheffing (we're sure that's not a word!)? And how did you decide to leave a high profile career to pursue your passions of penning your own cookbook?

I first dipped my toes into the personal chef world the day I started culinary school. After college I worked for about 34 seconds (okay more like 7 months) at a job I was not passionate about. After leaving that behind, I enrolled myself in culinary school and interviewed to be a part time nanny while I was going to culinary school. The family I interviewed with found out that I was in culinary school and asked me if I wanted to be a private chef instead! I jumped at the opportunity and started the very next day. I worked with them for about 3 years before leaving for another high profile client who I absolutely adored, all while writing my food blog! When I was approached to write the book, it seemed like the perfect time to make the jump and make What's Gaby Cooking my full time job.

A celebrity chef sounds glamorous, but what was it really like? Walk us through a day in the life of your former career. And do you ever see yourself returning to that lifestyle?

Being a private chef was really fun! Each week would start with menu development. I'd throw together some of my favorite ideas and send them over to my client to see if that's what they were craving that week. From there, I'd visit the local farmers markets and stores each morning and pick up whatever I needed for the day. I'd then head over to their homes and cook up a storm for a few hours, then serve lunch and dinner before packing up and going home. Sometimes people would surprise me and come over, which turns a normal dinner for four into a casual dinner party for twelve, so that's something that I'm always ready for!

Oh gracious! We have stress goosebumps. So who has been your greatest support system when pursuing such a creative, demanding career? And how have you stayed grounded throughout it all?

It's a toss up between my husband and my parents. I'll start with my parents since they've known me the longest, ha. I have some of the most outstanding parents in the world. They have supported me through everything I've ever pursued and are always there for support. They also keep me grounded and bring me back down to earth when I get a little carried away. My husband is insanely supportive as well. From the moment we met, he knew what I wanted to accomplish and he's been by my side ever since. He knows that I have to travel a lot for work, and he's always so patient and understanding when I'm gone on and off for a few weeks at a time. He's also a dreamer, as am I, so it's fun to have my partner in life always pushing me to be the best version of myself!

Ah, you've found a gem, Gaby! So tell us, exactly how did you land a book deal? Do you have any advice for fellow budding food authors?

Getting a book deal was something that I was interested in right after I graduated college. I wanted to write a cookbook and I was going to do everything I could to get myself there. Turns out, you can't just ask for a book deal. So I started my blog, gained a following and things snowballed from there. Eventually I found an agent that I loved working with and with her guidance I developed my Absolutely Avocados concept and we sold it a few weeks later! Food writing is such a fun and exciting place to be right now, so my advice to budding food authors would be to find something that you're super passionate about and makes you stand out and go for it! Own it and make it your "thing." Start a blog, be involved in social media and then go after your dream!

Great advice! You juggle quite a few responsibilities in your multidisciplinary creative career - how do you stay organized and top of everything? And how do you separate personal Gaby from professional Gaby? Are the two symbiotic? 

I live by my planner. Everything that has to be done (and that includes my daily dose of TV) goes into the planner and I cross tasks off as I complete them. I'm a list maker through and through!

I find that personal Gaby and professional Gaby sometimes are one in the same. I love my job, so I don't mind working 7 days a week. Especially because I work for myself, so I can start working at 7 am, work for a few hours, go to yoga, take a 2 hour lunch with friends, and then head back to work until dinner. I do make sure to turn off and get some quality time without social media and my blog so I don't burn out. If I really need to turn off, I'll even pack up my suitcase, grab my husband and head up the coast to Big Sur or somewhere else where cell phone service is rare and we can really disconnect from work and relax!

Clementine Daily is a space for women who believe in embracing simple pleasures, setting realistic expectations and bettering their lives to better the lives around them. In your eyes, how do you fit in with that mission?

I believe in bringing women mostly healthy and sometimes decadent recipes that they can then use in their own kitchens to bring joy into their families' lives! I want people to come to What's Gaby Cooking and get excited to hop into the kitchen, if only for a few minutes each day, and find pleasure in cooking and being creative with food. My hope is that people get as much enjoyment out of feeding people as I do and that helps them better themselves and the people around them!

What's next for Gaby Dalkin?

I want to do more on camera cooking and travel segments. We just launched cooking videos on What's Gaby Cooking and I'm having the best time with that, so I'm just going to keep going!

You have twenty minutes to prepare a super healthy, simple dinner. What do you choose?

Quinoa Burrito Bowls! I'll toss together some cooked quinoa, black beans, guacamole, salsa and some shredded cheese and dinner is done!

What is your personal motto or mantra?

Mostly healthy, sometimes decadent! I like to indulge every once in a while and stay on track at all other times. It's certainly how I cook and I think it applies to most other areas of my life too!

What are five everyday items you can't bear to live without?

My sunnies, I can't go anywhere without them. Chapstick, it's a must. My rainbow flipflops, those things have been all over the world with me! A planner and my iPhone.

Thanks, Gaby! Want to jazz up your Thanksgiving spread? Try Gaby's persimmon, pomegranate and ricotta salad for a sure crowd-pleaser.

p.s. Check out more Everyday Icon interviews with inspiring ladies around the country.