Lucy O’Reilly has one of those jobs I’m completely envious of because she pretty much gets to work with food all day. She’s a freelance food stylist and food writer who published the book Posh Eggs. It features over 70 Recipes for wonderful eggy things. I was intrigued to find out how you go about creating a recipe book and learn more about Lucy’s writing.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No not at all, I’ve always been visually creative and during my degree in Fine art sculpture I found a way of expressing myself using image and materials rather than words (funnily enough I have always migrated towards food, using it as a material, even then). After my degree in Fine art I had a previous career as a food and drink photographic researcher in London. It was here that I realised I wanted to be a food stylist. I trained to cook at Leith’s cookery school where I landed a job on the food team at Good Food magazine. I then went on to spend 5 years as the deputy food editor on delicious magazine before becoming a freelance food stylist and recipe writer in 2012.
What is the story behind Posh Eggs?
For Posh Eggs I was approached by the publisher. I already had a relationship with them from food styling and ghost writing other people’s books. They had a title and a vague concept, but wanted me to turn this into a 70 recipe cookbook. The whole process of writing, testing the recipes and photographing the dishes was very quick, around 6 weeks. It was hard work, lots of fun and we all ate a ridiculous number of eggs!
Where’s your favourite place to write?
A cosy café with a good coffee but in reality it’s often in my kitchen surrounded by washing up, food splattered cookbooks & kids toys. Cooking is always a source of inspiration so my kitchen is probably as good a place as any.
For those looking to write a book. What piece of advice would you give them?
For cookery books you need an original idea or angle. Publishers are always on the look out for the next zeitgeist idea or the latest health trend. Unfortunately, these days the competition is tough unless you’re famous, connected or with a large following. You need to find your way in with your publisher, have something to say, and be able to prove to them you know your stuff – can write a recipe that is accessible and really works! and that you absolutely love your subject.
Ambition or talent. Which matters more?
I’d like to think both.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing?
There is a challenge to continually come up with new recipes. You will often be working in different seasons, to a particular brief, trying to be original and second guessing what people really want to cook. To write engaging recipes you need to make them easy to follow, approachable and use supermarket ingredients. As a food stylist it is also important to me that the recipes on the page will look as good as they taste.
What is your favourite word and why?
‘Yum’ as it’s the seal of approval for any recipe I’ve written.
What are you currently working on right now?
I am writing a Summer dinner with friends recipe feature for a magazine using seasonal ingredients. In magazines we tend to work 4-6 months or so in advance. Christmas is often written and photographed in August, when we’re wearing flip-flops & breaking for ice cream.
The Verulam arms for a good Sunday lunch and delicious wine. I also love the cosy pubs around Sopwell, we’re spoilt for choice in St Albans.
Favourite place to get a coffee?
I have to be loyal to my lovely friendly local the Fleetville larder. And I now make cakes for Fade to Black at the Quadrant who make an awesome coffee.
Favourite place to eat?
A bar snack at Dylan’s. Anything warm and sticky from The Pudding Stop. And a Friday night takeaway from `Taste of Vietnam’.
Your favourite memory of St Albans
I vividly remember visiting friends in St Albans for the first time. It was an incredible summers day and we walked past the cathedral and into Verulanium park, it seemed to stretch for miles. We then had a pint and crisps outside Ye olde fighting Cocks and fell in love with the place.
Favourite place to buy a gift
Cositas is lovely. Or for cheese, chutneys and interesting foodie bits The Fleetville larder.