Writer Name: Yvonne M. Maffei
Location: Southern California
Years of Experience: 20+
Available for writing projects: Yes
Niche/Beat/Genre: Halal, All-Natural Cooking, Lifestyle
Favorite food: anything Mediterranean
Writing tip for fellow writers: No matter what, keep writing.
Yvonne Maffei is a food researcher and writer, cookbook author, e-commerce entrepreneur, public speaker, food industry consultant, marketer, expert in halal cooking, and the founder of the first website on halal food and cooking, MyHalalKitchen.com.
Yvonne has been an invited guest at the Obama White House, a special counselor to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and a consultant for the first ever all-halal campus dining facility at New York University in Manhattan.
How did you get started in writing?
I have been writing since my youth, but I started professionally by doing freelance work in the late ‘90s when travel websites first started.
I lived in San Francisco, and was so inspired by all the fabulous food I was surrounded by there, and all over California, that I couldn’t help but share it in travel pieces.
It would be several years later before I started my own website, MyHalalKitchen.com, after realizing that I really needed to pursue this for a living because the halal food space was not being written about and I felt I had enough cooking and writing experience to combine the two into a platform that would help readers looking for halal substitutes in global cuisine.
Do you specialize in Halal food writing now?
Since I have been writing about halal food for the past 12 years, I’m pretty well-equipped to write on matters related to halal food and cooking, such as what makes a recipe halal and how to make any type of cuisine taste authentically delicious even with all natural halal substitutes.
Tell us about your books.
I’ve written three books, two of which are cookbooks. My first book was called Clean Your Kitchen Green which is how to clean your cooking space without the use of toxic chemicals.
My second book, Summer Ramadan Cooking, was written to help readers make a variety of healthy and delicious during the holy month of Ramadan when it falls in the summer (Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims and since the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, it comes at a different time each year).
My most recent book, My Halal Kitchen: Global Recipes, Cooking Tips, Lifestyle Inspiration is a foundational book for learning how to cook in a halal way.
What’s your advice for struggling new writers?
If you don’t start somewhere, you’ll go nowhere.
I understand the frustration of getting your name on a by-line and getting yourself published out into the wide and busy world where it’s hard to gain the attention of readers. However, you must start somewhere.
Don’t overthink things, either. Find something to write about and just do it, even if no one will publish you, you can prove yourself by publishing articles on your LinkedIn page, on your own blog or website, even on social media. The point is that you have to just do it. Eventually, people respond. That’s how you get your name and your words out there and that’s how you eventually get published in the way you want.
Also, try to think outside the box. Traditional publishing isn’t the only way to go. I’ve self-published two books and traditionally published one. They each have their pros and cons, and are equally a chance to keep the momentum going. As long as you’re writing, you are working.
What has been your biggest professional struggle over the years?
It’s always been a struggle for me to know if I was moving in the right direction with my writing; if I was really giving my readers what they wanted and needed, while at the same time growing at the pace and breadth that I wanted.
It has been difficult not to get distracted by the various opportunities that have come along the way, which were not exactly in line with my goals mainly because I, often, didn’t consider my writing alone as a real business or if it really made me an entrepreneur.
I’ve since let these notions go and realized that these types of things can only really be reflected upon in hindsight. They are good to remember and acknowledge, as my mistakes or shortcomings are things that have shaped me as a writer and businesswoman today.
Writing as a profession is a business and it is something anyone can and should be paid for, according to the value they are adding to the world.
How is your relationship with food affected by you being a writer, or vice versa?
Sometimes I feel internally pressured to keep writing about food for the sake of writing about food, and oftentimes I just don’t want to focus on recipe after recipe.
It took me a long time to realize that I can take a break from recipe writing and simply write about my thoughts on food, food products, or anything related, including travel, which I love so much.
I realize that I don’t have to stick to just one way of doing things, and it’s okay to experiment with the things that really bring me joy in the hopes that my readers will also find joy in reading about those things as well. Most of the time it involves food, of course, but not only in ways just related to offering up a food recipe.
Do you have any favorite food/cooking/writing books that you would recommend?
Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write for Food, is must for everyone interested in food writing as a profession. Dianne was also my mentor and book coach for the My Halal Kitchen cookbook and I consider her a good friend, too.
My other favorite book has to be Musa Dagdevirem’s, The Turkish Cookbook. I lived in Turkey and was doing research on the origin of Turkish recipes related to Ottoman cuisine as well as the more village fare of the Aegean and this book is an absolute gem of preserving their food culture, and one I love quite a bit.
Any favorite kitchen products?
Hand-held citrus presses, kitchen shears (I use them for everything), mini cheese graters, and Italian fruit knives--all of which I travel with because I can’t live without them for a day!
Favorite food writers, chefs, or food-related TV shows/movies?
Nigella Lawson because she’s unapologetically imperfect and loves to eat - that’s utterly liberating!
Musa Dagdevirem, author, chef and owner of Ciya Sofrasi in Istanbul. He’s teaching young Turkish chefs how to revive old dishes that have nearly been forgotten. I just love that.
Li Ziqi, a Chinese vlogger who lives on a farm and shows how she makes everything from scratch. It’s fantastic.
What do you snack on when you’re on deadline?
Sunflower seeds, because I can eat them while typing!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Everyone says to follow your passion, which is true, but I think it’s a lot more about curiosity.
As a writer, one needs to stay curious to keep finding the next inspiration, which leads to the next thing to write about, with passion.
It also helps with creativity and the desire to get out of one’s head and onto paper/computer when you’re just bursting with ideas because of all the curiosity you’ve fulfilled.
When it wants to be unleashed, writing is that perfect outlet we as writers need. In essence, live life and live it well. It will give you all the content you need.