News Column

Food Network Star, Cookbook Author, and Mom: The Recipe of Daisy Martinez (EXCLUSIVE)

April 2010

By Jeremy Nisen, Online Editor

If you subscribe to the theory that a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a television show is probably worth tens of thousands. And perhaps sampling authentic, exciting, and delicious cuisine is worth millions.

Daisy Martinez aims to bring you all three.

One of the Food Network's recently added superstars, Martinez is the host of Viva Daisy!, which debuted on that channel in January 2009. Before that, she cut her small-screen teeth by hosting the PBS series Daisy Cooks!, and wrote a cookbook of the same name, published in 2005, that's still an bestseller to this day.

As this one-time actress and model transitioned to a career in food, her business acumen had to grow in new directions as well. Martinez graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 1998, which allowed her to take her next career steps. But she knew she couldn't work in a restaurant.

"The hours were too demanding," she told Hispanic Business magazine. A mother of four, Martinez maintains that "the biggest hat that I wear says mom on it."

So, in addition to finding work as a prep-kitchen chef on PBS' Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, she started her own catering business, The Passionate Palate.

"Catering allowed me to pick and choose time that I spent away from home," she said, "and still allowed me to indulge love of cooking."

Cut to a few years later, and Martinez is a television star and best-selling author whose business obligations have grown immeasurably. But she takes it in stride, staying on top of things with her primary secret of success: organization.

"Keep your legal affairs in order; keep your business stuff organized," she says. Part of her method for doing so is keeping lists. For Martinez, being meticulous works in all of her many arenas of influence, including where she learned it in the first place: the kitchen.

"I've done events, from private dinners for two to weddings for 400. The great thing about working in the kitchen -- it's all organization, organization, organization," she shared. "Once you have the military-like drill in your head, the sky is the limit."

And Martinez's horizon indeed seems limitless. Her follow-up cookbook to 'Daisy Cooks,' has recently been published by Simon and Schuster. While this book has a lot to live up to due to the success of the first one, 'Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night' is poised for success because of her clear vision. She doesn't have to think about branding -- at least not consciously. There's no time.

"Simple is better for me," said Martinez. "When you see me -- catering, TV, whatever -- what you see is what you get. I don't have the luxury of being an on-stage person."

Instead, she leverages her real-life persona and her love of food to create compelling content.

"[I am] the girl next door," Martinez explained. "I'm a mom; and that's an incredibly big responsibility; I communicate through food. That is how I respond to happiness, sorrow, concern . . . I cook!"

Martinez believes that the best way to experience a culture and a country is to eat the food.

If there is a "Daisy Brand," she says it's "to share the joy that is Latin food and culture through a pot and a pan."

In fact, despite her television and publishing success, The Passionate Palate is still going strong, more due to her devotion than a business need.

"The liberty to be particular as to what gigs I accept is a real luxury," she explains. "I don't rely on The Passionate Palate to pay my bills, because thankfully I have more going on, but it indulges me my love of the craft to do it professionally."

Part of Martinez's approach -- and charm -- is that she seeks to share experiences and memories through food, by recreating dishes from her family dinner table or, more recently, family vacations. A number of years ago, her clan decided that instead of presents under the tree, they would take a different approach.

"We're going to give you memories from now on," Martinez told her family, and now they travel every Christmas through New Years to destinations like Spain (Barcelona, Madrid), Peru (Sacred Valley, Machu Pichu, Lima), Mexico (Oaxaca, Yucatan), her ethnic homeland of Puerto Rico, and more.

Now, in addition to photos, Martinez recreates those memories through cooking and recreating the dishes her family experienced.

"These recipes are a love letter to my children," she said. "They are also the core of 'Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night,' which incorporates these flavor memories with anecdotes, beautiful, full-page photos, and, of course, instructions on how to share her experiences via recipes.

'Daisy Cooks!' was a unique success, but 'Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night' may have a real shot at matching or exceeding her first book. Martinez's personality, expertise, and family memories burst from every page. As with Viva Daisy!, it's a testament to what organizational skills, when combined with a mother's devotion and a chef's passion, can accomplish.

Source: HispanicBusiness Magazine

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