Michele McMurry is the owner of McMurry Communications, providing marketing and PR copy for creative agencies. She and her husband also run a blog called Kitchen Traveler, where they travel the world, via their kitchen.
Tell us a little about your writing background?
Earning degrees in English and Business Management led me initially to pursue writing as a profession.
My first writing job involved documenting procedures and writing training manuals. Feeding a need to write more creatively, I submitted a travel piece to the weekend section of my local newspaper, and that first clip (these were the days of print only) paved the way to writing and eventually editing trade and lifestyle magazines.
My role coordinating the dining guide as assistant editor of San Antonio Magazine opened a new world and a peek behind the scenes of local restaurants.
This introduced me to chefs, food writers and food photography, which prepared me for editing San Antonio TASTE. I was hooked, despite the magazine’s eventual end.
As owner of McMurry Communications, founded in 2009, I provide marketing and PR copy for creative agencies, which brings its financial rewards and the opportunity to tell stories about different industries.
As COVID-19 took its toll on businesses and marketing dollars, I looked inward at ways I could promote my own talents and passions. In classic cobblers’-children-have-no-shoes fashion, I had never desired to blog until now.
My husband and I, even pre-pandemic, enjoyed a passion for travel and cooking, and often selected a culinary theme for our weekends in the kitchen. Because we couldn’t travel to international destinations (restrictions required cancelling my husband’s 60th birthday in New Zealand), I developed an idea to travel the world via our home kitchen and chronicle our experiences in a blog, Kitchen Traveler.
In 2019, I completed my first stage play, The Cooking Class, a one-act comedy about how ingredients and personalities come together to create a recipe for disaster.
Do you ever travel for food?
An essential part of travel for me is experiencing the cuisine, and when we select our travel destinations, our itineraries lean largely on activities that capture the essence of how that culture eats, including restaurants that showcase local, indigenous customs along with those incorporating that of migrating cultures and ingredients that over time have shaped a particular cuisine as we know it today.
In Brazil, we rode bicycles through the rainforest to cachaça distilleries. We tasted authentic feijoada, the national dish, Bahian seafood moquecas, and sushi, representing the large Japanese influence there.
Ireland brought us Irish stew and piping hot fish and chips wrapped in paper, but also the inventive ways chefs are presenting celeriac on fine dining menus.
In Mérida, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, we enrolled in Los Dos cooking school, which guided us through local markets before hands-on instruction on dishes that blend ancient Maya and Spanish techniques and ingredients with French, Dutch, Portuguese, Lebanese and Caribbean influences.
Do you grow or catch your own food?
We maintain a small herb garden and harvest seasonally for home use. Herbs we grow include basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano and various chile peppers.
A business trip to Alaska in 2014 ended with a fishing excursion from Seward into Prince William Sound. We caught, and returned home, enough halibut and King Salmon to enjoy for a full summer of entertaining and eating for ourselves.
Do you try to focus on healthy food?
I have a natural inclination toward a healthy lifestyle that includes practicing relatively clean eating during the week (when I am not preparing global cuisine for my blog), exercise and meditation.
I write professionally for a gastroenterologist through one of my agency clients, which involves tremendous research about disease, and so that, along with my innate interest and belief in food as medicine, shapes much of my approach to diet ─ especially so during a global health pandemic, when eating immune-boosting foods is essential.
Anything else you'd like to add relating to food?
My father-in-law competed in chili cook-offs in Texas and Louisiana. I have helped my husband hone his own chili recipe that we prepare each fall. As taught to me as chili gospel, authentic Texas chili must never include beans. In fact, my father-in-law, in his cowboy poetry, deems the act illegal!
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Writers bring things to life through their words. And although it is said we eat with our eyes first, describing a dish in a way that helps readers taste and experience it beyond its initial visual appeal can equally tantalize.
Do you have any favorite food books or cookbooks?
Food books: “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain.
Cookbooks: “Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook” for technique and classic bistro cooking. Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for sauces and egg dishes. Rick Bayless’ “Mexican Everyday” for just as the title implies. I have prepared about 40 salsas, dressings, recipe mains and riffs for my family from this easy-to-follow collection of consistently good recipes.
Any favorite kitchen products?
Yakitori charcoal grill
Oggi espresso maker
Mauviel copper cookware and Matfer Bourgeat nonstick cookware
Shun chef knives
J. Leblanc olive oil
Maldon flaky sea salt
Favorite food writers or food-related TV shows/movies?
Writer: Anthony Bourdain
Film: Like Water for Chocolate
Television: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories; Chef’s Table (both Netflix)
Favorite restaurants or food travel destinations?
Through Kitchen Traveler, my husband and I have enjoyed Provence, South Korea, the Algarve region of southern Portugal, New Zealand, Cuba, Belgium and Japan. Other favorites include Quebec, Ireland and Mexico, where, because of proximity, we have traveled most frequently.
Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
I am inspired by the seasons, and it is often a single fresh ingredient that triggers an idea for a dish or culinary theme.
What do you snack on when on deadline?
Popcorn, which is among my favorite food groups. Green tea helps me focus.
Anything else you'd like to add about being a writer who loves food, or being a writer in general?
Writing and food are my two passions, and when I can marry the two, I produce my best work.