eating fabulously, DC, popcorn, popcorn queens, food, cooking, April Wardlaw

As all of you fabulous readers know, I love to surf the web and social media for all things food. Whether it is a prominent news feed or a Instagramer uploading amazing drool worthy food pics, surfing the web has become my everyday thing. I met April Wardlaw via social media and we have been keeping up with each other though likes and retweets. I kept my eye on April as she owns her own food business, is a food contributor for a popular magazine, and also holds one of the hardest jobs in the world, being a teacher. April was featured in my Foodie Holiday Gift Guide for Christmas, but I had other plans for April as I wanted to pick her brain about the food she cooks,her philosophies, and what made her take the leap and start her own business. 

CS - Where did you get your education?
April Wardlaw -  My tag line is that I'm a teacher by day, serious home cook and food entrepreneur by night.  Therefore, I am proud to say I hold two degrees in Education: a BFA in Theatre and Education from Howard University and an MA in Educational Theatre from New York University.  I've received no formal training in cooking.  Everything I know was either passed down to me from the amazing cooks in my family or learned from lots of practice as well as reading and watching professional/celebrity chefs.

CS - Where did you get your experience? 
AW - My experience in cooking comes from, like I said, lots and lots of practice.  I love cooking at home and because I cook 3-4 times a week, that has given me lots of time to hone my skills.  However, I also cannot discredit the experience I received, as a teen, working under my grandfather at The Alibi Club, one of Washington, DC's most prestigious men's clubs.  Women, even to this day, are not allowed to serve food or bar-tend, so when I worked there I assisted my grandfather in the kitchen and washed the dishes.  At the time, I thought it was hard work and I was encouraged to get an eduction so that I wouldn't have to work in anyone's kitchen.  Though now I know that a love for cooking was instilled in me back then and alot of skills that I have now, I learned from my grandfather at the Alibi.

CS - Current job title?
AW - Job title 1: 10th Grade English Teacher for DC Public Schools 
Job title 2: CEO of Popcorn Queens, a Gourmet Caramel Popcorn Company that I started with my Mom.  

CS - What's 1 ingredient you have in your home at all times?
AW - I have lot's of ingredients that sneak their way into so many of my dishes but if I had to narrow it down to one thing that's a must have, it's Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Almost every dish, especially when cooking healthy, starts with EVOO.  I like to buy it in bulk and when I'm getting low, it goes at the top of the list so that I'm never without it.

eating fabulously, salmon, asparagus, April Wardlaw, cooking, recipe

CS - What made you start your own food business?
AW - It was during the last 2 years or so that I decided to really embrace what made me happy and that's cooking.  My whole life I've loved to cook, and everyone around me recognized it as my true passion, but anytime I thought about pursuing cooking as a career either I talked myself out of it or I allowed someone else to.

It wasn't until I began to build my presence on social media, that I started to get the positive feedback and confidence that I needed to go after my dream.  I would post pictures of my food and my recipes and people actually started looking to me for inspiration AND they began to offer me money to cook for them.  I thought that maybe I could be a caterer but there was one thing I hard it is to be a caterer! I was questioning if this was the avenue I wanted to head down when I booked a pretty sizable cocktail party.  I brought my mom on to help me and she decided to make her famous caramel popcorn as a snack for the bar.  People loved it and when I got more inquiries the next day for the popcorn then I did the food, I knew we had something.  

Next thing I knew I was learning to make the popcorn, creating the "line" of flavors with my mom, pricing it, packaging it and I loved every second.  Popcorn Queens happened so organically that I knew it was our destiny.  And I was passionate about this business because it was something that my mom and I could do together to secure our futures.  Being food entrepreneurs was in both of our blood but it just took us a while to get here.

snacking, eating fabulously, popcorn, Popcorn Queens, April Wardlaw,

CS - Do you have any advice for foodies looking to start their own food business?
 AW - My advice would be to find a niche in the food industry and run with that, all the way to the bank.  There are countless chefs, caterers, bakers and cooks so you have to ask yourself "what am I good at"?  "What sets me apart from the others?  Do you specialize in a genre of food"?  "Is your goal to create a unique dining experience or are you like us and there is one food item that you can make really well?  Whatever it is that sets you apart from the others, that is what you should sell.  

I mentioned above how I started out as a caterer, someone who loved to cook and simply wanted to get paid to do it.  But that was it.  I had no focus, no niche, no idea what I was doing.  Then when my mom's popcorn came along, and we developed these amazing flavors that people truly loved, I knew we had to run with that.  I consider myself a good cook, and yes I had the passion, but I got passed up for catering gigs all the time because there are a lot of people that, for the most part, can make the same kind of food as me.  But no one can make our popcorn.  

CS - How did you hook up with Ebony to have your recipes featured in the magazine?
AW - Being a contributor to Ebony magazine was a prime example of me utilizing my network and not being afraid to ask for what I want.  One of the editors at was a classmate of mine from Howard.  We were Facebook friends and I noticed that she was quite regularly seeking interns. I had just gotten into food blogging and I knew I wanted to take it to the next level and see my writing and recipes posted on established sites.  So one day I found the courage to reply to one of my classmate's post and say that I was interested in applying for the internship.  She immediately replied to me and said that I absolutely would not be considered for an internship (I had a Master's degree for goodness sakes), but she did want to hear about what I wanted to do.  So I told her, she checked out my blog, was impressed and brought me on as a monthly contributor to the food section.  

Contributing to Ebony magazine has done wonders in terms of giving me credibility and setting me apart from the other cooks and chefs out there.  So if you don't learn anything else from this story, learn that you MUST network. Some people you know may be in the exact position to help make your dreams come true. And you MUST ask for what you want.  Don't be afraid!

Ebony Magazine, cooking, recipes, April Wardlaw, Popcorn Queens, magazine,

CS - What are your food guilty pleasures?
AW - When I think of guilty pleasures, I think of those food items that I refuse to cook or keep at home because if I did, I will eat them all the time.  And these items are your standard "American" fare: Cheeseburgers, Fried Chicken and Ice Cream.

CS - What is your food philosophy?
AW - I kind of eluded to this above, but I believe in being conscious of what you're putting into your body and making healthy choices when it comes to food but I DON'T believe in dieting and I DON't believe in depriving yourself. 
Instead, I believe in planning healthy weekday and weeknight meals and allowing yourself a calorie fest every now and then when you get those urges.  One thing about me is that, in my kitchen, nothing is deep fried, I use healthy oils like EVOO instead of butter, and I keep junk food out of the house so I'm not even tempted.  This style of healthy eating hasn't ever gotten me into a size 2 or 4 (because I love food too much to be that skinny! ) but it has helped me to maintain a healthy weight even as I've gotten older.  

Another (big) part of my food philosophy is a beautiful plate.  Plating is one of my favorite things to do and I believe that people enjoy my food so much because I present it well.  Remember people experience your food first with their eyes and then with their mouths so make sure they have something beautiful to look at.

CS - What's next for you?
AW - Well, I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing, teaching high school by day and working hard to grow Popcorn Queens by night.  Our goal is to have a store front by 2015.  I also will keep cooking and posting food to Instagram because I'm addicted! (maybe I should have mentioned that above! Food pornography is definitely my guilty pleasure! Lol)  

But 2014 is also the year that I put my finishing touches on my cookbook that I've been working on for years.  It's a cookbook for singles and I'm ready for it to get out there.  Even if I have to publish it myself.  :-)

 Continue to Chat Fabulously with April: 

                                TWITTER | BLOG | POPCORN QUEENS | INSTAGRAM 

No comments

Post a Comment


This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Professional Blog Designs by pipdig