Catherine, Tammy and Michael Pappas run the popular lifestyle site, Living the Gourmet, which specializes in recipes, reviews and wine features. To the Pappas family, the heart of their home lies within the kitchen. Catherine created Living the Gourmet back in 2008 with the help and encouragement of her son and daughter. Since that time, LTG has grown into a popular food site with an active and growing community of like-minded food enthusiasts. You can check out the mouthwatering recipes at livingthegourmet.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to name a few.
What led you to create Living the Gourmet?
Michael: It really start well it start in 2008 more or less as a repository for family recipes. My mother would always talk about how her mother would create this or create that and how, you know, she wishes she could have really created the recipes the way her mother use to and so it started really as that. And I said, you know, why don’t you start a blog and start throwing recipes out there and it really started to grow in the best way possible from there. Which is organically and as a labor of love without really intending it to turn into a business or venture at any time and people just really started responding very very well after that. Then I would say it was, you can correct me if I’m wrong, 2011 or 12 where we got our first really big break which was really out of the blue was Jackie Collins decided she wanted to
Catherine: No that was after the storm because we lost everything in Sandy so everything then everything was kind of black for a long time because we had to move out and everything. And then it was so sweet I got this email from Jackie Collins publisher to review her cookbook and that just gave me like so much energy to say that somebody wants me to, you know, a person like her and that really was the B12 shot to give back to her.
Michael: Jackie Collins was one of my big idols for a long long time and my mother she couldn’t [contain her excitement] I remember she said “Michael you’re never going to believe it Jackie Collins wants to be on the website” and I’m like “are you kidding” it was just one of those things and that really started putting us on the map and it was just one thing lead to another after that, you know, the rest is history. And that’s really how it started and how it grew.
Catherine: Just one day after another one foot in front of another we’re still trying and it’s a lot of it. It’s fun because I never make the same thing twice so like my mother never made the same thing twice and that’s why. She was Sicilian my dad was from Northern Italy and boy we grew up with lots of good, simple, plain food that – I think cooking keeps the family together because when you walk into a house and you smell all that good cooking you just want to stay and I think that’s what keeps the kids coming back and their friends, it keeps a family together.
What is the nutritional philosophy behind the site?
Catherine: It’s peasant food really and it’s healthy. My mom we always had vegetables we always had, you know, like if you buy beets the stems of the beets get cooked up with a little, you know, a little garlic and oil and spaghetti. It’s not heavy sauces it’s not that sort of thing. It’s a lot of fish, a lot of salads, no mayonnaise you don’t grow up eating that. You know all these healthy – no butter, no butter you don’t really use butter. Butter is never put on the table, you know, so it’s a good healthy [cuisine].
If you read like oh you should be eating olive oil, oh you should be eating garlic, oh you should be eating this I’ve been eating that all my life. And it’s not true oh you eat garlic you can’t talk to anybody everybody eats the garlic and then you can all talk to each other. And desserts you always put nuts of the table like meals went for hours and lot and lots of people. So then you would have roasted nuts which people tell you is healthy so you, then you have a bowl of fruit and then everybody’s peeling an orange and peeling this and that and then you have your dessert which are usually little. And then you have your demitasse like oh Frappuccino, cappuccino all this it’s not Italian. You just have a little demitasse after dinner a little black coffee with a little maybe anisette in it and a little sugar but all these frothy this and that it’s not really real and you pay a fortune for it.
Michael: I think the heavier has it’s place but I mean it’s not an every night affair that’s really more festival food really. But I think also like when you are cooking like that and eating like that on a regular basis meaning the way my mother just described you tend to lose sight of just how uncommon that is today because it like it’s considered gourmet.
Catherine: Like if you go into the supermarket they used to hand my mother a bag of bones, you know, and things like that and you make soup and this and that out of it and now they charge you six dollars a pound for those things or oxtails or this or that. But anyway we also are trying to learn a little bit, you know, how to modernize it but really I think people like the real thing. Like even though you try to make it I think like – they don’t always agree with me which is okay but I say no I want to do it my way because I think people like real food and real cooking and it’s always tasty.
Michael: You know, when they hear about the cooking you just described it was olive oil and pretty much back to basic but back to real ingredients they tend to get, you know, more perceptive because they know inherently it’s healthier because it’s just common sense. You can’t eat the heavy sauces and the heavy meals every night. There is a very much modern audience for it even if it’s not necessarily a widespread perception…
How much of your time is spent developing recipes for the site?
Catherine: Well I’ll tell you the truth. I love to think about food. One of my favorite, they laugh at me, but one of my favorite places to go is the supermarket because I know everybody in the supermarket and they make fun of me but I have fun in the supermarket, I really do. So if I see something I’ll say “oh I’d like to do that with this”, you know, like if the fish is looking really good or if I see a certain piece of meat and I say “oh maybe I’ll do that”. So I like to try to think about what I’d like to do but it doesn’t always work that way sometime you just get in the kitchen and all of the sudden you think of it.
Michael: We try sometimes to plan things out we try sometime to develop recipes ahead of time and it very rarely works out that way it’s much more of an ad hoc I guess creative initiative.
Catherine: My daughter is more of a planner. She likes to write everything down and have everything in order and that’s a good thing. And not that I don’t plan on scatterbrain but it doesn’t always work out because not everything is always available.
Michael: I think that’s one thing that really I think we learned by experience is very important when you’re working in an industry like this which is basically creative and entertainment is you have to find your work process and even if you maybe think your work process should be another way you have to learn to work around it, you know. Say alright this is how things, this is the way we work best let’s make it work.
The imagery on Living the Gourmet is beautiful. Did you take any classes or was it self-taught?
Tammy: No, I’m self taught really with photography, it’s something that started early like a hobby of mine and I really just came to enjoy it. And basically just learning from other photographers and bloggers and just playing around practicing one my own and then finding our own style and own identity.
Catherine: I mean it’s just come such a long way from using the phone and now she has a camera and everything.
Tammy: Yeah we started out using the iPhone and then we transitioned over to the camera but for awhile like the early stages of the blog we only shot on our iPhones. So that was crazy and interesting.
What have been some of your favorite collaborations with brands to-date?
Catherine: Oh, oh my. I love collaborating with the different wine brands because I like pairing the food with the wines I just think that that’s very elegant. I really enjoyed that so that’s some of my favorite collaboration, the different wineries. Here on Long Island it has since become a wine place. They have a lot of new wineries and it was a lot of fun collaborating with the different wineries that are local and pairing the food. And so those were some of my favorite because it just out here it was local, it was places I grew up going out out east and now it’s like putting your own little place Long Island which is big, but on the map for wineries.
Tammy: And it adds a personal element to the content and that’s important for connecting with the audience and the readers.
Michael: And especially when we were researching wines from Long Island for that piece we like. Long Island has this very terrible weather, we have this very cramped space, we have astronomical land prices how are we producing good wines here. That turned out to be, you know, this big chance for a story and that was, you know, quite a learning curve. Really doing the wines does become quite a learning curve and I think that’s fun because when you’re enjoying it I think that really leads into the material.
Note: Influencer interviews are edited for time and clarity.