Susan Palmer, 33, is the girl in the little red kitchen. How little? About 80 square feet in a 650-square-foot Brooklyn apartment she shares with musician husband, Braden, and their dog, Sir Pugsley. The red comes from her obsession with the fire engine shade of Le Creuset cookware. She manages to pack a lot of that into a tiny space.
Susan has been part of the #SundaySupper movement since not long after it was founded in 2012 and has been blogging for four years. Her recipes offer a variety of cuisines for every meal, and especially dessert, and the hallmark of all of them is seasonal, fresh ingredients. Oh, and beautiful photography.
A college photography course and love affair with the camera — and food — set her on her way to capture lovely food images. She is inspired by the work on Foodgawker.com and looks so often that she knows the photographer without even seeing names because the styles are so unique.
We caught up with her recently just after her workout and before she started the day’s cooking. Here’s what we learned:
What’s new? Susan left an administrative job at the end of March with a Broadway theater company to devote all her time to her cooking endeavors, including her online cookie business, Bake Shop. The Bake Shop, which can be accessed from her blog, specializes in classic cookies that are clearly made by hand. She also sells them at outdoor neighborhood markets. The bestseller? Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies made with organic strawberry jam.
Her neighborhood Brooklyn has become an epicenter of food startups and hipster trends. Susan is now renting commercial kitchen space from a business that provides guidance for startups. Though she can turn out turkey dinners for her entire family in her small kitchen, it’s not big enough, nor does it meet city requirements, for a commercial operation. A food co-op has opened around the corner from her apartment and she’s on the operating board. “It’s nice to have a say in where some of the food should come from.”
How’d she learn to cook? She has no formal training unless you count watching countless hours of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Sara Moulton and Alton Brown on TV. “I like ‘Chopped’ too. I like seeing what they are going to do with the ingredients and thinking abut what would I do. But I still love the old cooking shows. On Hulu, I could watch Julia Child all day long.”
What inspires her? Two things: seasonal produce and travel. “I love to cook with fresh ingredients. When the farmers markets are in high season my wallet is not safe. The amount of tomatoes on my counter (there’s just a foot-and-a-half of it) last summer was shameful.”
Susan and Braden try to take a yearly trip to Europe and then more travel around the U.S. the rest of the year. The day we talked she was planning their trip to New Orleans and thinking about what restaurants they might eat in. The list was long. Travel gets her creative juices flowing, she says, especially if she’s in a rut. “I come back and develop recipes from the things I ate there.” A recent trip to Italy inspired the Palmers to scour the Italian markets of New York for authentic old country products. She often writes about her travels on the blog.
Her food dream? To sell Bake Shop cookies in stores. “I don’t necessarily want to go national, but if you walk into Brooklyn Whole Foods and see my cookies, I’d be happy.”