From Wall Street to becoming a Culinary Pioneer in the Kitchen
In the sixth episode of Reach.Live Creator Series, we spoke with Lauren Braun Costello, a former corporate communications person from Wall street who founded - ItsLaurenofCourse. Lauren Braun Costello is a classically trained chef, published author, cooking show host, and expert food stylist. She has helped countless people become better, more confident, and capable cooks. We wanted to share her story with the broader community of independent instructors and hopefully inspire them to “say yes” and grow their business as well.
For this interview, Lauren chatted with the Reach.live team from sunny Westport, Connecticut, where her husband and children were out of the house swimming and she was in the kitchen of course, cooking up some delicious recipes.
Q: When you were a kid, did you always know that you wanted to grow up and be a chef?
I grew up in a household where there was constant entertainment. I was born in the 70s, so we're talking about the 80s when I grew up. There was always a lot of people in the household cooking, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen tugging at their apron strings. We were a big Jewish family where food was always a bit of an obsession and a big part of our lives. I don't remember a time when there wasn’t food being cooked or prepared. I liked to cook as a teenager, so when I got to college out of the freshman dorms, I was already cooking. I ended up getting involved in the Jewish Center at Colgate University, and they had Friday night dinners. I started going to the Friday night services, meeting all the kids, and making friends, and when they heard I liked to cook, they encouraged me to cook the Friday night dinners. I didn't get off that job until I went to study abroad in Geneva. In my later college years, I would have dinner parties in my house junior and senior year.
It all came to a head professionally when, after a few years of working in investment banking, my now-husband said: “it's very expensive to entertain so lavishly as we do, so what if you try to pursue it.” In my early 20s, I thought it just wouldn't work out but I went to culinary school and never looked back.
Q: How has the cooking industry evolved since you got out of culinary school?
It’s really interesting because when I started there was the internet but no iPhones and no blogging world. In culinary school, it was either you be a chef or food caterer, but now it’s a food stylist, or a blogger, or have your own cooking show. Now, it has become a video for me. I can take perfect and lovely pictures of food with my iPhone, as I certainly know how to plate the food, but I am no food photographer. I am much more suited to this medium - video for me is totally the future of this second act of mine with It’s Lauren Of Course because I am well suited, clearly, for talking and connecting with people. Video is as essential to me in this second act of my culinary journey as is a saucepan or a pair of tongs. I am not sure any of it would work without that.
Q: How have you been using your blog and ILOC social channels to stay connected with the community? How did you build an online community?
I have in certain respect had to start over, even though I have 3 published books, best of the year New York Times, had my own show on AOL with 5 million viewers. I’ve done a lot and have had a nice career, so for me, I've been using video as a way to sort of throw a dart against a board and hope someone sees it as I’m throwing it. I have used this strange quarantine time to regrow my brand, as I immediately knew everyone is home, nobody can leave, and lots of people have to cook who A: already love it, B: don’t love it, C: don’t know what they are doing, or D: are just looking for some structure. I thought: I’m doing it anyway, let's just film it. It was just seizing an opportunity, like in my older career days, just say yes. When an opportunity presents itself, don’t just sit it out. Every single connection, every gig I’ve done just turns into a plant with several branches. I have found the same to be true with connecting with users. Starting over hasn’t been so nice, but it’s been cool to see new milestones, such as earning those Instagram credentials.
Q: What inspired you to go Live for 100 days straight and where do you get inspiration from?
On any particular day, it's a combination of things. First, the actual season. For example, right now it is zucchini crazy - every post is zucchini and soon it will be tomatoes. Then there are requests from my children and husband. Then my requests from viewers became huge, so after several dozen days I would just say, “what do you want people?” And they would just tell me. There were things I wasn’t even interested in such as shrimp scampi, which I thought as a chef was so lame since it’s just shrimp with butter and garlic, but then I was like, “okay., if I do shrimp scampi I want to make it the best.” So you have to reverse engineer and research the recipes, different elements, and add in your own flare. Instagram followers have had a big influence on what to cook, and balancing a week helps me figure