Chicago-based food blogger Jocelyn Delk Adams is equal parts chef, boss lady, author, wife, daughter and grandbaby. Just like ingredients in a recipe, those identities are blended, mixed and baked until you can’t pull them apart if you tried. Last year, the 35-year-old Bronzeville resident released her first book, “Grandbaby Cakes,” as an extension of her blog by the same name. Through her blog and book, Adams shares recipes that are inspired by her grandmother (whom she affectionately calls “Big Mama”) and remixed with modern, personalized touches. From maple-brown butter chess pie to pomegranate-honey wings, there’s something for every skill level.
It’s almost been a year since you released your first book, “Grandbaby Cakes.” How have things changed since then?
I’m just trying to get back into the groove of things and create a schedule for myself again. You’d think that when you write a book and it’s actually gone to print that things slow down, but they actually amp up a lot. I was doing the book tour, which involved a lot of travel, and then also a lot of TV appearances. It hasn’t slowed down and it’s still been pretty crazy, which is funny. But rewarding and exciting, too. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do next, getting things on my blog and recreating some type of normalcy.
As a blogger, how do you find balance between posting fresh content and doing all the other stuff that comes with being an author and entrepreneur?
When I first started, I posted three days a week without fail. Even when I was writing the book, I managed to do that. I have no idea how. I was probably never sleeping, just up baking and cooking all the time. Then it went down to two. And now it’s more like one post a week, sometimes one every two weeks. I’ve been allowing myself to be OK with that and accept that it’s OK that I’m not crazy posting all the time.
The food blog market is definitely saturated. How did you find your niche? Was it always obvious?
It was always a very natural fit for me. I think that when you’re trying to figure out what your focus is going to be as a food blog, you shouldn’t force it. It should be something that’s very natural to you and comes with ease. For me, I knew right away that the name would be Grandbaby Cakes and that the focus would be family recipes with a modern twist. From day one, that was the focus. I had no other ideas in mind. Now, sure enough, I’ve kind of edged out of certain things and changed other things around, but everything still has the same focus. You can always change your route or focus, but you should stay on the same path.
Solid advice. You seem to have the balance of old-school and new-school mastered.
For me, it’s figuring out my past while also carving my own way. Some of the recipes are classic and traditional; they’re straight from my grandmother. A lot are just my spin or take on classics. I try to remix it a bit, make it cooler, doper, more me. I’m not the grandmother, I’m the grandbaby. You can respect the past—and a lot of those recipes are golden, and I would never touch them at all—but there are ways to make them newer and hipper. I hope I forge the middle and find a place where you can have both.
What was your “Mama, we made it” moment?
I don’t know that I’ve had that moment yet. I’ve had a few really awesome milestones where I felt that I was on my way, like going on the “Today” show. It had been a dream of mine for like three years. Same thing with “Rachael Ray.” The NAACP Image Award nomination was a huge deal, too. My first book was so exciting. Those were a few moments where I thought to myself, “Oh. Oh, my gosh. I’m on my way.” I don’t think I’ve made it yet, but I’m definitely on my way.
You’ve talked about African American women being severely underrepresented in the cookbook scene. Why do you think that is?
It’s not just the cookbook scene. It’s in general, in every facet, in every industry. … There just needs to be more room. I hope that I’m carving a niche that feels very authentic that anyone can relate to, not just African Americans. Everyone has these recipes that they feel connected to. We all have these family moments and memories that make us feel alive. Anyone can relate to those ideals, right?
Are there any assumptions or stereotypes people have made about you as a food writer that you want to shake?
I heard someone say to me, “Do you feel like it’s stereotypical to be in a kitchen or have a career in the kitchen as a woman?” … You’d never say anything about men in the kitchen as chefs or restaurateurs. I’m a boss. I’m an entrepreneur. This is what I happen to love. Food is a connector in so many ways, and family is so important to me. Being able to push those ideals is a great thing to be a part of. Regardless of how you feel about the stereotype, it’s all positive.
You have a lot of awesome women in your world, and they’re clearly part of your everyday life and career. How have those relationships changed as you’ve grown up?
The friendship aspect. When you’re young, you look at them as authority figures and you’re in awe of them. And I still am, but in a different way. I call my mom my bestie. We’re so close and we’re friends. The respect and admiration have always been there, but there’s just a level of friendship that develops when you grow up. You connect on a different level. I love that aspect of our relationship now.
Beyond the baking genes, what qualities do you hope to inherit from your grandmother?
She just keeps it going and has so much energy. I want to be just like her. She’s so funny and one of the most heartwarming and loving people. She just has a genuine love for people. And that’s what I always gathered from being around her and being in her presence: kindness, being kind to people and seeing how far that goes.
Is there a recipe that’s therapeutic to you?
For me, it’s usually just a good old fashioned pound cake. I don’t need a book. I don’t need a recipe. It’s very natural to me. Give me a mixer and an oven and I’m going. I’ve got Spotify on and I’m going with it. It feels really good and it’s calming. It’s soothing like a bubble bath.
I have to ask, is there a second book in the works yet?
Definitely possibly in the works soon. I have not been scared off the mountain yet. Even though it was a crazy experience. I definitely want to do savory [recipes] in the next book, whenever that happens. I don’t want to be put in a box as just desserts. I did think it was a good starting point, though. I mean, I’m Grandbaby Cakes, so it makes sense to do a book on cakes. But the next book will definitely be broader and include a lot more perspective and different cuisines.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @morgancolsen