Journal

Thoughts, ramblings, and #BTS by the L&T Editorial Staff.

Glitter & Onions: A Night of Firsts.

By Stef Ferrari on Sunday, July 23rd, 2017


“So, take a bite of the burger, and then a bite of this,” Antonio instructs, handing me a miniature green pepper that looks like it’s been shrunken for service at Alice’s tea party. Less than a mile away, a party of another kind is taking place—the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards reception. People there are in three piece suits and bow ties, sequined dresses and stilettos. They’re taking advantage of the open bar, serving themselves from chafing dishes of roasted chicken and clinking glasses brimming with complimentary bubbly. They’re standing on a red carpet, earnestly handing out and receiving congratulations—it’s a well-deserved celebration for hard-working and talented TV professionals. And it’s one we’ve just left.

When it came our time to get in line for a bite, we realized the three of us had barely eaten all day. There were nerves and errands and ceremony prep to contend with––for me, a last-minute manicure, a MacGyver-ing of my strapless dress to make sure it’d stay put (safety pins to the rescue). But suddenly, we were ravenous.

“I say we skip this and go straight to In N Out,” Antonio had said as flash bulbs flickered around us, my familiar old friend looking like a totally new person with this sparkling statue in his hand. Ben’s responding grin was wordless perfection. A quick search dropped a digital pin on our virtual maps—pointing us point-nine miles away, and I set down the champagne flute after finishing off the last sip. We thanked our team at KCET and told them how honored we are to have collaborated with them. We said we couldn’t have done it without them. We let them know how grateful we are to have them as partners, and we meant every word. Then we walk-skipped to the parking garage, still dazed, still speaking in rapid fire and running on pure adrenaline. We rhapsodized about the moment it happened, the feeling leading up, the other winners and nominees we respect so much, and then we were off.

“Grilled or raw?” Ben asks from the driver’s seat when we’re next in line, and suddenly the way in which my onions are to be cooked is my most important consideration in the world. I’ve somehow never had this burger despite nearly ten years as an on-again, off-again Californian, and the pressure is on for the second time tonight. Grilled is my decision, and ten minutes later, I decide I was not wrong.

We situate at a picnic table, separated from our Emmy statues for the first time since they were handed to us a few hours before. We leave them in the car, not wanting to draw attention (or to tarnish their pristine figures). To our right is a table with a young Latino family, the parents helping to make burger bites more manageable for their little ones. On our left, a few high schoolers swap shakes and swipe at cell phones screens. Here, no one gives a damn who designed my dress or what project we might do next. We’re in our own little world, just another part of the local ecosystem of Los Angeles—the city that was subject and inspiration for our now award-winning documentary.

None of it matters the moment we sit down. We toast our burgers with toasted buns, we pass around packets of ketchup and start our individual preparations. We each finally take our first bites, and everything slows down a little. We lean back. We loosen up. We laugh easy.

I listen to my two friends discuss the kinds of roller coasters they like. We talk about recent dates we’ve been on, a new restaurant in town, family vacations on the horizon and the deadlines for our next projects. I steal fries from them both (straight up from Antonio, animal-style from Ben). I relish in my grilled onion selection, snap into the spicy pepper as instructed (sage direction), and nudge a rogue slice of tomato back into place. I spend at least three napkins before the burger disappears, and it’s possible I’ve never been more satisfied. A solid introductory visit, indeed—a night full of happy firsts.

Of the moments that I’ll remember from this night––and there are many––this is the one that will live without photographic evidence or fanfare or a commemorative trophy. Friends and Instagram followers will find it hard to believe that I stopped snapping photos for even a second, but there on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, at a picnic table in the still-warm July night air, there was a sacred space. Just three good friends, three fast burgers—and a few dozen other folks getting their mid-summer Saturday fix.

We share this incredible award with the people that participated in our documentary series—who let us into their lives so we could tell their stories—and those who are, as we speak and celebrate, in kitchens all over the country, serving food to communities and representing their vibrant, invaluable cultures.

Okay, so we did catch one little moment…

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We The People

By Antonio Diaz on Monday, January 30th, 2017

My parents immigrated to the United States in the 70s from Mexico. It was a struggle, it was painful, and they left the life they knew for a chance of a better one. We’ve heard this story countless times—the American dream. But to fully grasp it and understand how emotional and complex this very notion really is, you would have to be an immigrant yourself or be a by-product of their struggle, like myself, a son of immigrants. I was born an American, in Los Angeles County, and constantly immersed in two worlds: American culture and Mexican culture. English and Spanish. Burgers and tacos.

To me, that is the America I love. One that isn’t one thing but a multitude of things. And people. And cultures. America was built on this foundation and will always be a nation of not just one thing. A nation that sets an example for democracy, humanitarian responsibility, and compassion for people. People! Real people with real lives, hopes, dreams and loved ones. These men, women and children are not mere line items on a piece of paper to be shipped back to a country where they may face persecution, but real people that were born into this world just like the rest of us with human rights.

Immigration policy for a country as large and powerful as the United States will never be easy but it should never jeopardize human respect, much less be barbaric in its action, which is what we faced in just this past weekend. Our very own constitution and the fabric of our democracy is at risk, but if history is any indication, it will prevail in the power of the people. Not government, not policy–but people.

At Life & Thyme, we may cover the luxury of eating, we may celebrate the food industry and things that are delicious, but our stories have always been rooted in the people. It is our mission to expand the conversations of civil, political and environmental issues on our platform because you do not need to look far to find them linked to the food industry—whether in America or abroad. To enjoy the food we eat, we must first care for those that grew it or prepared it.

The Migrant Kitchen, our docu-series highlighting the struggles and achievements of immigrants in Los Angeles’ food industry, was only the beginning in this new direction. We will continue on this journalistic path while also exploring campaigns to raise awareness and donations (including opening our own pocket books) for important organizations that fight against injustice, like ACLU.

We are also open to your ideas that explore these stories or campaigns benefitting groups that face similar injustice, inequality and humanitarian struggle. Feel free to reach out to us; we are here to help.

Antonio
Founder of Life & Thyme

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So you want to start a magazine

By Antonio Diaz on Sunday, January 15th, 2017
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In October, Life & Thyme will turn five. Five! What once was a creative outlet for a band of creatives feeling unfilled at their day jobs to a real media company with a thriving community, contributors from around the globe, and profit & loss to worry about.

I mention the last part (P&L) because Life & Thyme is bootstrapped, has taken on zero outside investment, and its primary focus is to be a business. Without it being a business, I would not have had the chance to resign from the previous company I co-founded and L&T wouldn’t be here today. This is not to say that it’s all peaches and cream over here at L&T-land. On the contrary, it’s chaotic, it’s not perfect, and we are constantly scrambling. Think of a bustling restaurant. On the front-end, the drinks are flowing, the people are laughing, and the food is coming out—maybe a little late—but it’s forgivable because it’s delicious. In the kitchen, it’s like a bomb went off: the cooks are sweating, the time is ticking, and it’s a game of catch up but never sacrificing quality.

And I love it.

The stress, the long hours, and the scrappiness of it all. But like I said, we’re not perfect and there isn’t a fancy office with a loaded snack bar and bean bags to lounge on (we primarily work remotely). What we do have is freedom. Freedom to tackle any story we want, freedom to work with anyone we want to work with, and freedom to work how we want to work. This freedom can only function if there are smart decisions being made on the business end, in which they are oftentimes refined through time and experience.

Building a boutique media company from the ground up for the past 4+ years means we now know a thing or two about publishing and its business side. We are learning everyday and the element of survival is there. Like all startups, the odds are heavily against you—you will most likely fail than succeed. And when you’re building a media company, add on the wild west nature of it all and the advertising rat race game. Suffice to say, it’s not pretty and not for the faint of heart.

So when i’m asked for advice from bright-eyed creatives wanting to start a “magazine” about a highly niche lifestyle, my response is usually “are you sure?”. If the answer is still yes, then here are just a few things that worked for us:

Don’t start in print. I can’t stress this enough. There is this romantic notion about starting a high quality print magazine that retails $21 on uncoated paper, beautiful photography, minimal design, and long-form stories about obscure concepts and lifestyles. The honeymoon phase usually lasts for about one issue. And then you realize you have a stockpile of books to sell, magazine distributors are stuck in the stone ages, and a ridiculous amount of upfront cash is needed for print production, fulfillment, distribution, e-commerce, building wholesale accounts (and following up), dealing with customs/international shipping, and legal fees that come with having a physical book out in the world. All that to say, if you’re prepared to walk that path, you better have customers lining up to buy your magazine on day one. Otherwise, every day that passes without sales, you are bleeding money. And this problem can quickly become an exponential problem after each issue because this is a volumes game.

Start online and build an audience. Life & Thyme didn’t start in print; we started with a website and we worked hard to build some sort of audience for two years before we went print.

(We first launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first issue. We raised a little over $20k. Aside from raising funds to bankroll our first issue, this was a good litmus test on whether or not there was interest in our magazine. Our most loyal followers were the primary backers).

Print isn’t dead, but let’s face it, it won’t make a highly lucrative business. If you haven’t noticed, we stopped producing our print magazine after six issues. Print was never our future but a stepping stone. There is something magical about print and a sense of validation. It is the best way to graduate from a “blog” to a “publication”. Almost like a badge of honor. It’s also a way to test the editorial team’s capabilities when it comes to working under deadlines and scrutinizing copy. That said, indie magazines cannot be sustained with print. If anything, it will drive your publication into the grave without diversification to offset the expense.

Diversify. Just like your retirement plan, diversify your revenue streams. This is where most small publications fail and disappear after a year or two. Yes, we’re a magazine, but the locomotive underneath it is an agency model in which Life & Thyme’s ragtag team is hired by brands for creative services (publishing, photography, and video). Sometimes, both the magazine and the agency side of things converge in the form of sponsorships like our recent series with KitchenAid.

Play nice with brands. Many indie publishers want to stick it to the man so they can be true artists and be proud to be independent. You know, the Brooklyn way! But here’s the thing, there is no pride in going hungry because you refused to parlay with brands wanting to be a part of your ecosystem. We embrace it, as long as our partners align with our ethos and philosophy. There is a difference between selling your soul versus fruitful partnerships that are mutually beneficial to you, the client, and your audience. Finding that right balance, coupled with the right creative, is what makes media’s advertising and sponsorship world so turbulent because it is ever so changing.

You’re a business, first. If you’re more of a writer, photographer, or simply a creative more than you are an entrepreneur, stop what you are doing and find a business partner. This is probably the biggest mistake indie publishers make: they are creative but not business-savvy.

Constantly evolve the creative. There is too much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, so media companies are constantly battling to cut through the noise with interesting content. This is where good creative and presentation plays a critical role. We are constantly pushing our creative boundaries and striving for better storytelling, no matter the medium. From our online stories and photography to our short films and our documentary, The Migrant Kitchen, we remain flexible so we can try new ideas—to diversify. Not only does this keeps your audience interested but it keeps your team interested too.

Plant seeds. Often. My job has become to meet people and to build relationships. This leads to partnerships, opportunities, and traction. Your connections are your currency. Value them, respect them, do favors for them, and maybe one day, you’ll have Netflix or Condé Nast knocking on your door because one chat led to another.

(From experience, I’m not sure if you can do the above without physically being in a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles or New York)

Involve and respect your community. Without our audience and without our amazing contributors, Life & Thyme would be a shell of a publication. We strive to lift up our community by  making them a part of our narrative, especially on our Instagram feed, where we cultivate the #lifeandthyme hashtag (with more than 450,000 photos). And when we’re not hiring writers and photographers for our own stories, we are often reaching out to our network of contributors to involve them in some of our client-based projects.

— AD
Founder of Life & Thyme

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Branching Out — The Plants Issue

By Stef Ferrari on Friday, December 9th, 2016

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As we here at Life & Thyme have taken steps to evolve the ways in which we present stories, we’ve made the decision to discontinue our print magazine, instead focusing our efforts and resources on creating dynamic, in-depth digital content. And while we’ve opted to step away from the physical magazine, our emphasis on a specific theme is something we will aim to represent through a collection of quarterly stories, curated seasonally around a central idea. Our first thematic exploration for our digital content released in the fourth quarter of 2016 is a simple one–plants.

In recent years, vegetation has seen a revival. A newfound respect for the roots, stems and leaves that have for so long been relegated to the far corners of our dinner dishes has been spurred by leading food world figures, like Dan Barber and Michael Pollan (among many). And here at Life & Thyme, it made us want to dig deeper, to really get the dirt on what makes the plant kingdom rule.

We started in perhaps the most obvious places–the kitchens of chefs who have made a career of championing vegetables, like Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen. And then we went out on a limb, speaking to some perhaps less commonly associated with soil-based ingredients: April Bloomfield, who first authored a book called A Girl and Her Pig and then followed up with A Girl and Her Greens offered an invaluable perspective into the plant world. And what started as a simple question to a set of British chefs about their favorite herbal selection became a sensory exploration of memory, taking us on a journey across time and place. We even attempted to understand how our meat-eating habits benefit from the leafy stuff–after all, we’ve now tasted the difference grass-fed beef and free-range, pastured eggs can make to flavor. We even came across cattle raised on spent whiskey mash–who could deny the perfection of that rib eye and rye pairing now?

Our investigation into the plant world has opened our eyes to the ways in which we interact with the earth, and how we can enjoy its delicate offerings when we only pause to appreciate them. We hope this collection of stories inspires you to branch out, too.

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Comfort and Love: The Morning After

By Stef Ferrari on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

At Life & Thyme, our business isn’t typically politics. We usually leave that to news sources established expressly for reporting and commenting on those complex topics. Rather, we focus on something far simpler—the inherent joy that culinary culture offers the world. 

But what we already knew, and what became increasingly stark while producing our recent documentary project, The Migrant Kitchen, is that culinary culture IS political. Not solely with respect to immigration—a topic so divisive and polarizing in this election—but in subjects across the ballot, and throughout history. Food has long been employed as a connector, as a foundation of economy in emerging new worlds, as a gesture of goodwill across borders, a mechanism of aid and support among allies, and in darker times, as a weapon of war. We’ve always chosen to use it as a lens.

In a few short weeks we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, a commemoration exclusive to this great nation—one that has, despite claims to the contrary, been truly great since the day it was established. As tradition would have us do, we will invite one another to share a meal, to raise a glass in honor of that which we are each thankful. This year, that may feel especially difficult for many of us, as a specter of uncertainty looms over the future of our beloved country. 

It may be difficult to imagine what will come next. It’s clear what we cannot do, and that is change the outcome of this election, or reverse what negativity has come of it. But what we can do as a country, and what we will do at Life & Thyme, is continue to offer kindness and hope to our friends, our family, our neighbors––despite where they come from or what they believe. To give voices to those who aren’t heard, and to honor the efforts of every citizen, whether they’re fighting a war or fixing their family dinner. Because that is what makes America great today, just as it has since that first Thanksgiving meal.

At Life & Thyme, our ethos has always been to emphasize the positive, celebrate the efforts of a global community, and lift one another up in the most basic of ways. To show and share love through food is fundamentally human; it is something we have in common with every citizen of every nation.

Food is associated with comfort for a reason. It is our hope that today, we can all share a meal with those close to us, and whether we celebrate the outcome or mourn the results, we observe that only in the cultivation of love can we continue moving forward. 

Eat and be well, friends. 

SF

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Ending a chapter to begin a new one

By Antonio Diaz on Saturday, September 10th, 2016

 

To Subscribers, Friends, and Our Community —

When Life & Thyme first launched in 2012, it was no more than a hobby, a creative outlet, and an experiment. What was first a personal reflection of a group of close friends in Los Angeles, soon grew to be a global representation of food culture through the eyes of creatives with a knack for storytelling.

From online stories and cinematic short films to a printed high quality publication, the goal for Life & Thyme was never to be defined as a single idea, but an organic and evolving brand that is never stagnant. One that is flexible and willing to try new things and push the boundaries of storytelling, creativity, and documentation—which became a manifest for the last four years of Life & Thyme’s existence.

However, today marks the end of a chapter: we will be placing an indefinite pause on our print magazine. The 120 uncoated pages of Life & Thyme was the heart and soul of our creative efforts in the physical format, but our journey must continue to adapt to new ideas and the future of media. This magazine was by far the most challenging and fulfilling endeavor I have ever embarked upon—a necessary pivot in validating ourselves as a publication rather than simply a blog. That being said, our focus and resources will be placed on our online stories, digital distribution, video production and other exciting projects (both online and off) to reach more people and provide a greater impact to the culinary landscape.

While I will always be a fan of print (my proudest moment was opening that box of Issue One and smelling the ink on paper), the print magazine industry is an incredibly fickle one. Our efforts remained at the mercy of dated print distribution models—with our web presence eclipsing our print circulation ten-fold—and dramatically limiting how stories could be told. Our stories are of real people with real memories, experiences, emotions, passions, and hardships that have shaped who they are and what they do. To be entrusted with someone’s story so we can then tell others is a responsibility I do not take lightly and one that often requires freedom beyond 7.5×9.5 inches of paper on a quarterly release schedule.

So… no Issue Seven?

Issue Six will remain as the last printed issue of Life & Thyme for the time being. Stories from back issues will slowly roll out online with many new stories, city guides, videos, and other exciting projects publishing regularly on our website.

I have an active subscription for the magazine. Now what?

If you still have an active annual subscription, fret not. We will reimburse for any future copies that were due to you. Simply fill out this form.

What now?

This is the closing of an important chapter in our journey, with a fresh one just beginning. I can’t wait to share some of the exciting new projects we hope to launch soon, including a new website with a deeper emphasis on our contributors, new ways to tell stories, a docu-series launching September 20th, and bigger conversations around social and cultural issues using food as our lens. So as Ira Glass would say: “stay with us.”

— Antonio
Founder & Editor in Chief
@antonio

 

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The Migrant Kitchen – A New Docu-Series

By Antonio Diaz on Sunday, August 28th, 2016

 

In partnership with KCET, we’re proud to introduce The Migrant Kitchen, a five-part series highlighting the ethnic cuisines and immigrants that have shaped—and continue to shape—the city of Los Angeles. Watch the first episode on September 20 at lifeandthyme.com.

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The Glamour—Or, Lack Thereof—Of Food Writing

By Gianna Hughes on Monday, February 15th, 2016

As I sit and write this, the power in my apartment building is out, and has been for 9 hours now. There’s no Wi-Fi, my computer and phone batteries are on their last leg, and I’ve exhausted all my viable loitering-in-coffee-shop options for the day; it’s not looking promising. I just got home from working in a coffee shop in the middle of Hollywood, and the only available outlet was next to a woman who smelled of something fierce and was having an all-out two-sided conversation with herself. It’s 11 p.m. and the building’s halls are tinged with low-lit blue emergency lights, barely enough for you to see one foot step in front of the other. My apartment is lit with all the candles in my possession, and my pilot light is out. I’m also on deadline, with articles to edit and one more of my own to finish. It’s the night before Life & Thyme, Issue 5 is to go to print. This is what the life of an editor looks like.

I often hear rumors that the life of a writer is exciting. Sure, writing under the pressure of deadline is some form of exciting, in a masochistic kind of way—and I’ve never met a writer who isn’t a procrastinator—but it’s also a lot like how my night is going: you’re just trying to get through it.

Listen, I actually love AP Style more than most—yes, I said love to describe a style of editing. I thrive on replacing commas with semicolons. I love to tell a good story. And trust me, I have plenty. But when you read a story, let alone an entire print magazine—Viva la print!—don’t forget about the writers and editors sitting crazed in front of their computer screens, frantically writing, transcribing, rewinding and writing away. Oh, but when you finish your final draft—Ah! Bliss.

But what really makes it worth it are those moments when you’re walking around a Los Angeles institution like Grand Central Market with its owner, Adele Yellin—the woman who revived the market and helped bring Downtown L.A. back to life. Or when you’re sitting on a ledge outside of Dough in the Flatiron in New York City with your colleagues sharing a box of doughnuts Fany Gerson—the shop’s owner—sent you home with. Or when you’re sitting at Hotel Bel Air on a perfect winter morning with the Wolfgang Puck when he’s telling you about his struggles getting a job in a kitchen when your conversation is interrupted when Anthony Hopkins in the flesh comes over to pay his respects. Or reading a sign in Puck’s kitchen that reads, “The chef is still the chef even in a bathing suit.”

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These are the moments that remind us chaotic, caffeine-induced writers why it is that we write. When you’re sitting around a table at Babbo in Greenwich Village with the Life & Thyme team recounting the day’s happenings, and you order something that is just so good you have to tell someone about it. Or when you meet someone who’s story is so inspiring you have to share it. That’s why we keep drinking those coffees and getting this print magazine to you. That’s why we write in the dark on deadline.

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Life & Thyme: The 36,000 Foot View.

By Stef Ferrari on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

0S8A8079Sitting on another seven-forty-seven with a lukewarm Starbucks tall blonde balancing on my seatback tray table, I’m fastidiously transcribing my mental notes from the morning into my Moleskine, trying not to lose too many thoughts to the frenetic tide of travel––today’s made particularly hectic thanks to the lingering effects of the holiday season.

I travel a bunch. Some might even use the word constantly. In 2015, my best guess is that I boarded about 50-or-so flights throughout the year––give or take, of course. As L&T’s Senior Editor, I spend most of that travel time observing. I watch people and their interactions, I try to be always cognizant of how and what they consume––be it food or media or some combination of both. I look for patterns and search for stories. And because we all eat, those stories are literally everywhere. Three meals per day. Three potential stories per person. How many people in an airport? How many seats on a plane? That’s far more math than my predominantly right brain is suited to process. But with a quarterly print product and a twice/weekly publishing schedule for our online magazine, I’m constantly looking at these moments and wondering––is there a story here?

Right now, we’re smack in the middle of a production cycle for the print version of Life & Thyme––our fifth issue. We’re finally starting to find a groove, to understand and be able to anticipate some of the challenges we’ll inevitably face in the weeks ahead. Deadline extension requests, design snags, all-night editing benders, overdosing on espressos. But right now, we’re living in what we call the eye of the storm.

At this point, stories have been assigned, contributors are canvassing, conversing with subjects and collecting content, and for the moment we’re simply playing a supporting role. This is a golden opportunity that we’ve recognized in recent cycles. We’re tightening our systems a bit more with each successive issue––meaning we don’t need to scramble quite so much––and we have this precious time to actually think. To breath and look ahead, to get our heads above water and see beyond what’s directly in front of us. It means considering future issues––but it also means considering the future of Life & Thyme.

We’re trying to grow up a bit now that we have a full year of print issues under our shiny new belt. We’re trying to turn over some new stones, ferret out fresh stories––or perhaps bring a new perspective to some more commonly told ones. We’re trying to get creative with how we enlist and collaborate with contributors and stretch modest budgets, we need to keep one hand on the wheel while we determine what destination to punch into our GPS.

At this point in the game, every day is pretty damn exciting. People are starting to know our name, and we’re being approached rather than constantly pitching into the ether and crossing our fingers for a response. But every day brings new challenges, too––many of them self-imposed as we try to push ourselves to be better. Like the chefs that we regularly document, we’re trying to refine our processes, learn from our past and plan for a future in a constantly evolving industry.

With each new story we pursue, we’re aiming to inch the bar just a little bit higher than we had it before, to not become too comfortable and to maintain the mission and standards we’ve set for L&T. We’re finding ourselves wanting and searching for deeper content, encouraging ourselves and our growing pool of contributors to be a part of bigger conversations, to investigate the issues that face the industry and to really get to know the players involved.

We’re frustrated sometimes by limitations, both internal (a small staff here at L&T, fueled entirely by good old-fashioned hustle), and external (like the logistics of how we can physically get to some of these subjects).

We’re often exhausted, we’re regularly running from place to place, meeting to meeting, talking with the chefs and publicists and writers and photographers that comprise the L&T world, trying to capture and tell stories that might be otherwise overlooked.

Hours often evaporate while we huddle among overworked MacBooks and generously piled plates of breakfast-then-lunch-then-sometimes-dinner at restaurants that have become homes cooked by chefs who have become family. And without a dedicated office space, we’ll operate on a steady drip of caffeine (an espresso for Antonio, a macchiato for me), bolstered as much by our neighborhood baristas as we are by one another.

But somehow we manage to keep each other energized, always eagerly bringing new ideas to the table, always inspired by something we read or saw or someone we met. And still at the end of the day, we want more. We want to get to know more incredible people. We want to share more stories from more places. We want to investigate areas that are unrepresented. We want to humanize issues that are so often reduced to statistically reported blurbs and listicles. We want to find and present more diversity than is typically seen in the food world. We want it all.

We want to grow up so fast. We feel big, but we know that we’re really so young. We’re stoked that we’ve made it to the party, but we’re still sitting at the kiddie table for now. It’s all good, though––being that we’re a bunch of Star Wars geeks and Ninja Turtle aficionados. For the moment, my table is the one attached the seat in front of me. But as we push forward at Life & Thyme––a little bit every day––I know that when I disembark, there will always be another big adventure waiting for me.

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2015: Year in Review

By Antonio Diaz on Thursday, December 31st, 2015

And here we are, at the midst of a new beginning and reflecting back on the last 12 months. Honestly, it’s all starting to hit me at once. We accomplished a lot prior to 2015, but frankly, no other year became as critical as the work we produced in 2015. We went from a “blog” to a publication. We grew up!

We are still a very young company ran by a young and tight-knit team of creatives. Though we are only now starting to scratch the surface of forming our own path, 2015 really set the tone of what is possible by simply executing creative ideas.

So, below is a quick and dirty recap of what execution looked like for us in 2015:

We launched a printed magazine — the biggest, most ambitious project we have ever embarked on. And not only did we launch one issue that was well-crafted, beautifully designed and more akin to a coffee table book, we published four of them, just this year. That is over four hundred 7.5×9.5 inch pages of stories spanning across the world. I must also confess something: I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I’m still learning and continue to iron out the kinks as we go on. But you know what? That’s okay because we’re evolving, refining, building, and getting better. That process is what makes this whole journey an exciting adventure.

We released five original short films — while we now publish a fancy new magazine, cinema will always play a large role here at Life & Thyme. This year, we released Pasta Fatta a Mano (reaching over 100k views on Youtube), Prelude (in collab with Verve Coffee), Alimento, Otium: Chapter One, and our latest, a Holiday Chef Potluck (a spin-off to a story in Issue Four). Each one being unique to their own while elevating cinematic storytelling into food.

We published over 133 original stories online — That is 133 original, mainly longform stories documenting the world of food.

Our Instagram account reached over 65,000 followers — our main channel to connect with our community.

Speaking of Instagram, our #lifeandthyme community hashtag clocked in over 120,000 photos — this here is definitely one of the most meaningful numbers to me. People from all over the world, contributing photos of what excites them about food, on Instagram.

We launched Journal — what you’re reading now, a place to organize our own internal thoughts and a peek into the behind the scenes of Life & Thyme.

So we have been busy, but we’re only getting started. We have big ideas to execute in 2016 and we can’t wait to share them with you. See you in the New Year.

—AD

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Contributor Spotlight: Deepi Ahluwalia

By Antonio Diaz on Friday, December 18th, 2015

Life & Thyme veteran contributor, Deepi Ahluwalia, is a commercial and editorial photographer based out of Los Angeles. As one of our most trusted correspondents, Ahluwalia has spearheaded our Dispatch channel on Life & Thyme which is focused on bigger issues surrounding our food ecosystem, like the California drought. Suffice to say, she is hungry for deep stories beyond the kitchen, a direction we are constantly after here at L&T.

On a Tuesday morning, I sat down with Deepi for an espresso at Verve Coffee for a quick chat to hear more about her story.

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Where did you grow up? — I was born in Toronto and grew up in St. Catharines, a beautiful city off of Lake Ontario.

What was the earliest food memory you have growing up? Eating cut-up Schneiders hot dogs with ketchup.

When documenting through the lens of a camera, what sort of details are you looking to capture? How do you tell a story through photography? — I love capturing moments of truth, whether I’m shooting a portrait, location or food. The human element and the environment I’m shooting in are super important when creating engaging, visual stories. I pay special attention to lighting, textures and color, and how they affect mood. All these elements add depth and intrigue to a story.

Your photo is on the cover of issue 4; what was the creative process in creating the holiday drinks story? — I have a background in art direction and pastry arts, so for me, concept and execution are extremely important. For the winter drinks story, I didn’t want to overload on the typical holiday-themed imagery, as the winter season varies culturally around the globe. Instead, I wanted to focus on the tone. The image on the cover of Issue Four is of Mexican Hot Chocolate. Given the rustic nature of Mexican chocolate, I really wanted to give the entire image that similar feeling.

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For creatives wanting to enter the photography field, what advice would you give them? — What I’m about to say, I say with love and (some) wisdom: Don’t quit your day job. You may be super talented and passionate about photography, but until you can make a proper living doing this full-time, have some sort of income coming from somewhere. It takes a long time to build a name for yourself in this business, so patience and working your ass off are key. Also, you may be inspired by other photographers and it’s OK to learn from their techniques, but don’t copy their style. Having an art producer or creative director tell you that your work reminds them of someone else, is not a compliment. Use your life experience to help guide you in finding your own voice, that’s specific to you and only you. The more you shoot the things you’re amped about, the more your unique style will develop.

View Deepi’s profile on Life & Thyme or catch her on Instagram.

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New York Travel Journal: Days Two & Three

By Stef Ferrari on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Having recently relocated away from my long-time neighborhood in Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens – represent), this trip was a bit of a homecoming for me. And maybe it was the extreme lack of sleep and general overindulgence of it all, but it feels a little like this whole New York trip was just a dream. In fact, if it weren’t for a recorder full of interview tape and a camera loaded with photos, I might just assume I imagined the whole thing.

I guess that’s the result in the city that never sleeps, especially when you add to standard-option insomnia the sheer mania of producing an indie magazine in less than 72 hours with 3 of your best friends, 2 double beds––and 1 single bathroom.

Talk about a scrappy crew.

Day 2 – Thursday

5:30 am

My alarm goes off and despite not having a call time until 9 in the West Village, I heave myself out of bed. My strategy is to get ready before anyone else wakes up. Then, once I’m mostly put together, I can lay back down and close my eyes until the real wake up time, at which point it’s a quick brush of hair and teeth and out the door. Bathroom sharing crisis averted.

I’m still working off a dinner high from a solo trip to the LES Meatball Shop on Wednesday night — I couldn’t very well be in the city without my standard chicken-and-classic sauce sliders and side market salad. Hits the spot every time (insert high five Emoji here).

Afterwards, Gia and I met with a friend of hers at Nitecap to toast a successful first full day with a couple of extremely solid cocktails (mine a Manhattan variation, hers more like an Old Fashioned). Then I proceeded to sleep like a ton of bricks.

So basically what I’m saying is — meatballs & bourbon is the new cookies & milk.

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9 am

Antonio ventured out a bit before us this morning to meet with a close friend of L&T, Veronica Rogov, for what we’ll call “first coffee,” since I’m also meeting him for coffee at Chalait at 9. Amy Buchanan of Spring Street Social Society has promised to show us some of her favorite spots in the area. In the emails exchanged prior to meeting, her NYC autumnal enthusiasm made me instantly trust her, so I’m super excited to see what she’s got lined up for us.

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Gia and Josh are off to the Whitney Museum to meet with Miro Uskokovic, pastry chef at Untitled and Gramercy Tavern. We wrap up the readying bathroom rotation and hop in our respective Ubers.

I’m the first on the scene at Chalait, which gives me ample opportunity to peruse their selection of yogurts (pumpkin pie!) and debate over the many matcha and espresso options on the board (I stick with a classic macchiato, my usual selection). Amy arrives, fresh off a brisk bike ride from her home in Fort Greene. She banters with the barista before we sit down with some avocado toast to talk Brooklyn, Broadway, and get real dewy eyed over the city this time of year. Antonio and Veronica arrive shortly and we’re off.

10 am

The next few hours are a blissful fall blur. We get lost in the off-the-grid WV blocks, somehow finding our way to each of Amy’s recommended spots—Bubby’s for an ice cream breakfast, Bookmarc to browse the latest literary picks.

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By the time we hit The Meadow––a specialty salt & chocolate shop––I’m hungry again. Cereal Bowl bar from Compartes chocolate seems close enough to breakfast, so I buy the bar and share with the gang that we’ve picked up along the way like some sort of rousing Broadway opening number. We’re now going six strong––including L&T contributors and friends Jessica Gilgurd, Judy Kim, Veronica, Amy, Antonio and myself.

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Next stop is Tertulia, where chef Seamus Mullen makes us a Spanish-inspired spread that includes everything from anchovy toast to carrot soup. All beautiful, all delicious. Then it’s off to The Spotted Pig––the final stop on the list of Amy’s favorite fall things.

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12:30 pm

I desperately need another coffee. I excuse myself a few minutes early to try catch up on a couple of quick emails that are nagging at me and ingest some caffeine. But first thing’s first––another NYC favorite to check off the list.

I tuck into the WV Big Gay Ice Cream realquick and take a breather. I can’t decide between the Salty Pimp and a straight up vanilla-with-rainbow-sprinkles cone. The beauty of being an adult is that I don’t have to. I order both.

2 pm

I arrive at Babbo, coffee in hand and residual rainbow sprinkle evidence recently discovered and dispensed with. Antonio texts. He’s around the corner at The Spotted Pig and en route.

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When he arrives, we spend the next hour or so being fed ridiculously fresh fish and pasta by Mario Batali & company. I sit and listen to Mario tell me stories of his holiday traditions while Antonio shoots longtime Babbo chef, Frank Langello, in the kitchen.

3:30 pm

We wrap up at Babbo, I’m now very full and looking forward to the precious few free hours that we’ve left unscheduled. Antonio takes the opportunity to post up at Stumptown, but it’s a perfectly gorgeous fall day, and I’m after a little fresh air.

And by fresh air, I mean doughnuts.

I head in the direction of Dough in Flatiron, where Gia and Josh have just wrapped with NYC’s sweet treat phenom, Fany Gerson, for an upcoming story. I arrive at the corner of 19th & 5th at just about the exact moment that they walk out with more than half a dozen fresh doughnuts. With doughnuts, timing is everything.

They’re on their way to grab a late lunch, but before they make off with the bag, I make a point to take a bite of each of the perfect pillowy pastries inside. They’re all so good, but Passion Fruit, I’ll miss you most of all.

6 pm

After walking up to Ace Hotel for another brief email session in the lobby, I walk back to Babbo by way of Eataly, the Lego store, Madison Square Park, and back through the Dominique Ansel Kitchen (for seconds on the yuzu sake pate de fruit).

I’m beat, but mostly I’m just beyond excited to be sharing this dinner with the L&T crew. It’s long been one of my favorite spots in the city, and I’m looking forward to a “family meal” here for our last night in town.

When everyone arrives, we can barely contain ourselves from swapping stories from the day––who we met, where we went, what we ate, what we’re most excited about publishing.

For the next few hours, we go to town on Babbo’s best––pumpkin lune dusted with a grated amaretti cookie, fresh cauliflower fusilli, flutes of prosecco and a dessert selection that leaves us (nearly) speechless. When we’re done, we’re stuffed, satisfied and feeling like ourselves again.

10 pm

Gia and I take leisurely stroll back up to Ace Hotel for another late-night email pitstop, breaking repeatedly to snap Instagrammables of the idyllic night. Antonio and Josh had to make a run back to the hotel, and our rendezvous point will be NoMad bar around 11-ish for a nightcap. Those guys seriously know their way around a cocktail shaker, and it’s the best way to prepare for a group photo booth session.

Mission accomplished.

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12 am-ish

We know we should be in bed, but the city feels way too enchanting to call it a night. So cameras in hand, we decide we’re just going to walk until we decide we don’t feel like it anymore. That finally happens somewhere around Times Square, at which point we jump in a cab and head back to LES.

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2 am-ish

Back at the hotel, someone remembers the bag of doughnuts, and halfway through a serious sugarfest, Josh decides it’s never too late for pizza. Smart man, that Josh. Personally, I’m more than satisfied with the array of sweets, so I opt out while Gia, Josh and Antonio venture in search of a late-night slice.

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3 am-ish

Full of doughnuts and pizza––like any self-respecting NYC tourist––we all collapse.

Friday

7 am

Despite how much we’ve crammed in, it’s hard to believe it’s our last day. I get up early, wanting to head to Gramercy Tavern on foot. I’m desperate to soak in as much city time as possible; it’s another crisp and flawless fall morning, ideal weather for the 20 or so blocks I’ll need to walk.

9 am

Our call time at Gramercy. We spend the next three hours chatting with, shadowing and shooting chefs Mike Anthony and Howard Kalachnikoff and their team. It’s mesmerizing to watch the clockwork crew at such an institutional New York restaurant. It’s a well-oiled, well-spoken, and well-meaning machine that embodies the spirit of the city.

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12 pm

Antonio and I sit down to break bread together one final time in the big apple. The food is a gorgeous smorgasbord––brightly colored veggies and kale salad with along with a house-made concord grape soda make up for all the doughnut and pizza eating the night before. But that’s not to say we’ll go without a few final desserts; Josh and Gia made sure to tell us that Chef Miro’s creations are not to be missed. Sold.

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1 pm

We wrap up and I begin my winding walk back to our LES hotel, while Antonio heads off to JFK. It’s there, in the comfort of Terminal 4 that at my insistence he finally has his first Shack Burger. He sends me an iPhone shot and I could practically shed a proud tear.

This trip may not have allowed much in the way of sleep, but it was definitely an adventure that we’ll all dream about.

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