The Way We Eat: Bri Emery, Founder of Design Love Fest in Los Angeles
- Name: Bri Emery, founder of Design Love Fest
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- How many people regularly eat together in your home? Mostly just me and my husband, Justin! His cousin Blake (who is like a sister to me) comes over for dinner once a week. We also try to do Sunday dinner with a few friends at home!
- Avoidances: I’ve recently been trying to eat more of a Mediterranean diet and it’s really working for me — less dairy, processed foods, sugar, and bread and more colorful, fruits, nuts, veggies, grains, olive oil, etc. It feels good to listen to my body and what’s working and what isn’t.
Creative Director, designer, and blogger Bri Emery of Design Love Fest knows how to make food look beautiful — but she didn’t always know how to cook it. Her relationship with cooking mirrors her relationship with her new husband, Justin (married in late April), who taught her to fall in love with cooking while they were falling in love with each other. Here, we got to talk to Bri more about food styling and her struggle with perfectionism in the kitchen.
Congrats on recently getting married! We have to know: What was the food situation at your wedding?
We had Southern food, crawfish etouffee, and steak au poivre. That last one had to do with the funny story about how we met on Tinder. I reached out and just said ‘Hi Justin’ and he said ‘You look like a girl I’d like to cook a meal with.’ So I said ‘What are we making?’ And he said ‘steak au poivre.’ It was fancy! We had it for the first time ever at our wedding. We printed out our Tinder conversation and put it next to the steak.
That is the most adorable thing ever. Has food always been a big part of your relationship?
I have had a food column on my blog forever, but as for home cooking, it was never my thing. I went through little phases, but it never stuck — I didn’t have the kitchen tools, or the confidence, or the technique, or the knowledge. But once Justin and I started dating, he was cooking all the time and then I became more interested in it. I started out making breakfast (lots of poached eggs and breakfast tacos). Then when he moved in, I got all of his kitchen stuff and really got down to it. We go together to the farmers market and I get more confidence every day. Now he’s like “Great, I don’t have to cook!”
And now you’re the big-time chef? You went to culinary school, right?
Yes! At school, I learned technique and that gave me a lot more confidence. Most of my life I was doing things I already knew I was good at, so this pushed me outside of that. The first week I burnt the quinoa. I didn’t know anything. Now knowing how to make a recipe from my mind feels really good. I really enjoy making dinner now. It’s my meditation.
What’s meditative about it?
What’s that saying? Busy hands make for a slow mind or something like that? It’s definitely true for me. I’m focusing on not chopping off my finger instead of petty things. I love thinking about flavors, having new ideas, watching something crisp up — the whole process is so soothing. I love the ASMR, all the sounds, and just being quiet. It’s a big part of my life, that time in the evening when I’m just alone with the sounds of my cooking.
What would we find you eating at any given moment?
I do a lot of steak because I’m a meat-and-potatoes girl at heart. Potatoes are my favorite food, so mashed potatoes for sure. I’m also always roasting stuff because we have a CSA and I’m big on not wasting food.
- Biggest challenge in eating? Eating regularly. I tend to skip meals, which is not good for my mood and energy. Often, it’s too late before I realize that I’m probably feeling angry, sad, or cranky because of blood sugar!
- Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? Honestly, probably 90%. We used to eat out a lot but now I love being home, cooking in my kitchen — it’s very calming.
- 5 things on your grocery list every week? Lemons, eggs, avocados, spaghetti squash, a rotisserie chicken, a good cheese, and fresh herbs (they help elevate everything)!
- Where do you shop, primarily? I loving using Instacart about once a week, going to the farmers market on Thursdays in Pasadena, and I also get a weekly box from Farm Fresh to You which I love and helps me mix things up.
- What’s the last food thing you splurged on? Hmm, some really nice Port that I brought back from Portugal? Does alcohol count?
- Top 3 default dinners? There is a recipe on my blog called Greek bowls, and I make a variation on those a lot! I love to challenge myself to make a fridge clean-out meal — what’s something I can make that’s delicious without going to the store? I also love to make braised short ribs, they are so easy and turn out amazing every time.
- Best underrated snack? Rice thins! You can put anything on them, and they are crunchy, healthy, and easy to throw together on a whim.
- Favorite thing to eat while watching TV? Popcorn!
- Favorite kitchen tool? Bench scraper! It’s great for cleaning, transporting cut vegetables, making dough, etc.
- Cookbook you actually cook out of? Donna Hay’s books.
- Who does the dishes in your home? Both of us.
Your gift for visual styling is so evident in the success of your gorgeous blog, Design Love Fest. How did you translate that talent into cooking?
I have a graphic design background and have always been interested in food styling— the way that food looks for me is obviously huge. But most of that involved photo composition. I never knew how to make the food. I knew it looked delicious and it looked cool. Now that I know how to cook, though, I still care about how I present it. Even regular dinners I plate! Something as simple as fresh herbs on top take it from a zero to a 10, and that little extra effort brings me a lot of happiness.
What’s the prettiest ingredient to work with?
What are some things you do in the kitchen to stay sane?
Mis en place is something I learned in school, kind of like keeping organized with little prep bowls and having everything on the tray. At first I thought it looked like a lot to clean up, but it makes the whole process easier. I’m a really impatient person and cooking has taught me a lot of patience. I know now to just let something cook and use those five minutes to pick up an area of my kitchen so you’re never overwhelmed with everything at once.
Biggest struggle in the kitchen?
I struggle a little bit with perfectionism. I’ll beat myself up if I make a recipe and then an hour later I remember that I forgot to put lemon zest in it. I’ll sometimes want to remake the whole thing when that happens.
What part of your kitchen brings you the most peace?
Just watching something that you’re making — say, a soup — transform over time. It’s so soothing. I’ll make chicken stock on Sundays; that feels like a tradition now. The biggest compliment I can get is when people say that my cooking Insta Stories make them feel relaxed! I think that just getting my hands dirty and being more present has positively impacted my anxiety. Cooking is something that we have to do every day, so it’s teaching me to be more mindful.
The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.