Shelley Moench-Kelly is a New York and New England-based writer, ghostwriter and editor from Tokyo, via Los Angeles.
Her areas of experience are varied and include memoir/fiction/nonfiction books, finance blogs, lifestyle blogs, parenting articles, feature articles for the beauty/medical trades, entertainment industry projects and travel/hospitality guides, just to name a few.
Shelley started out at the McGraw-Hill companies in Los Angeles, then moved into writing and editing for beauty business trade magazines for 10 years. She’s been a ghostwriter and full-time freelance writer for six years, with freelance clients including Google, L’Oreal Paris, The Prop Store, Paramount Pictures, Mamapedia, The Week, and Warner Brothers.
For food inspiration, Shelley says that she turns to the simple recipes and creations that her Asian grandmother taught her. “My grandmother created a relish of diced tomatoes, sweet onions, salt, pepper, and a splash of white vinegar, which she’d serve with steamed rice and fried trout,” Shelley says. “She also crafted a dipping sauce of ketchup, soy sauce, and a splash of Tabasco that I still make to this day!”
During a sweet-tooth-inspired craving, and no flour in the house to make cake, Shelley says that her grandmother caramelized some butter and brown sugar in a skillet and dumped a pound of coconut into the sticky mess. “We were both bouncing off the walls after finishing the entire batch,” she says. “She inspired me to be creative in the kitchen, and in life.”
While she grows her own basil, Shelley also supports the small farms, organic growers, and farmers’ markets in her little Northern Vermont region of 4,500.
When on deadline, you can catch her snacking on Japanese rice cracker snacks (senbei) and hot tea.
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
I’m constantly aware of how food smells, looks, and tastes, because I look at life through a writer’s lens. For example, “If I had to write about XYZ, how would I describe it?” This awareness leads me to expand my expressiveness, and helps me anticipate what I’m about to eat, so my senses are heightened.
“This tastes nice,” is not descriptive enough for me. “This petit filet mignon contrasts the charred, almost crusted exterior with the buttery, medium-rare inside that tastes of pure beef,” is much more descriptive and enticing. Conversely, appreciating food, I think, helps me become a better writer as a result. The relationship works both ways, at least for me.
Do you ever write about food or travel in search of food?
I’ve developed recipes and edited cookbooks. I once drove three hours into the depths of Orange County, California, from the suburbs of Los Angeles, to try the deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza at Tony’s Little Italy. Yes, it was worth the drive.
Do you have any favorite cookbooks or kitchen products you love?
My top two cookbooks ever are New York Cookbook by the late Molly O’Neill (I bought a first edition when it was released in 1992, and it’s still my No. 1 cookbook) followed in a close second by Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur: A Cookbook.
I bought Nancy's book at Campanile/La Brea Bakery before it closed, and Nancy was in-house that day. Her bakery manager rang my purchase and summoned Nancy from the kitchen; she emerged, floury and flushed, smiled, and autographed my book.
As for kitchen products, I love the 2-foot long, 4-inch diameter rolling pin that I purchased at a farm tag sale in New England. It weighs around five pounds and makes the job of rolling out dough effortless.
Do you have any favorite food writers, chefs, food TV shows, restaurants, food travel destinations, etc.?
My two favorite chefs of all time are Nancy Silverton of Campanile/LaBrea Bakery (now closed) and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, and Natalia Pereira, the chef/owner of Wood Spoon, a Brazilian restaurant in DTLA (downtown L.A.).
Fave travel destinations include Southwark, London, for its open-air, 1,000-year-old Borough Market; Waterford, Ireland, for its Saratoga Bar and Restaurant; The “Kowloon Side,” which is across the Victorian Harbor from Hong Kong Island, for night markets and street food; and New York City, for low-end to high-end international cuisine as well as the Pastrami Queen deli on Lexington.
Anything more you'd like to add about being a writer who loves food?
Writing books for clients is a very intimate relationship; you become part of a client’s life, and frequently learn secrets about them that their spouses/partners may not even know about. However, that openness does not always come easily.
Food unites the world, and I’ve discovered that if I have a difficult or “closed off” client, mentioning a recent meal or food craving blasts those walls down, because it puts all parties on a level playing field.
If you find that you grew up loving the same treats, that levels you to the same life experience and bonds you. If you introduce an unfamiliar dish to the client (that you love) and he/she loves it, that bonds you, and vice versa.
Not only do I love food and learning about it, I can (and have) built closer relationships with my clients because of it.
Shelley has written more than 3,500 articles, blogs and interviews for numerous industries over the last 20 years. She’s a longtime member of the Association of Ghostwriters, the Freelancers Union, and The Author's Guild. Her non-fiction work, Here's Your Pill, Kitten! is available now on Amazon.
Did you enjoy reading about Shelley and how she eats like a writer? We profile three writers per week, so visit often. If you're a writer who loves food, email firstname.lastname@example.org.