The Producer: How did you get your start?
Eva Kosmas-Flores: I was just freelancing when I started with my blog. At the time I was in L.A., working in the entertainment industry and my blog was the thing that I was doing for fun on the side. My blog just really took off and I started getting a lot of work from it. Then I was just like, “Well I should do this full time!” Because to be honest, I didn’t really like working in the entertainment industry.
TP: [Laughs] In what capacity did you work in the entertainment industry?
EKF: First, I was a page at NBC after which I was a production coordinator at NBC Universal Studios. Then, I was working as a line producer’s assistant on a show, because I thought I wanted to be a producer. But when I worked for a producer I thought, “I never want to do this job.” It’s so hard! Basically the executive producer was the creative producer, they usually were also writing for the show, and the line producer was the show manager.
TP: That's the nitty gritty of production - lots of juggling and all that paperwork!
EKF: And it’s really stressful because you have to manage all the different departments. If anything goes wrong, it’s always on their shoulders. So I was like, “Eh, I don’t think this is the job for me.”
TP: That's an important realization. There's power in knowing what you don't want to do. And your blog started as simply your creative outlet during that time and from there it went from a passion project to-
EKF: A full time job.
TP: That’s a dream!
EKF: Really. I just feel so lucky that I get to do food photography, recipe development and writing full time. I’m also doing lots of workshops now which I love.
TP: Tell me about that.
EKF: Yeah, photography workshops. My sister’s a teacher, my mother’s a teacher, my brother is going to be a school counselor - he’s just finishing up his masters. We like to teach, I love teaching. I don’t know if I could be around kids that long everyday but...
TP: But now you’re teaching in a different capacity, so it’s almost like a mentorship too.
EKF: Yeah it’s all adults and the workshops are travel-based. We find a really cool house to rent for the weekend, a new location every time. I teach food styling and food photography and then we also try to have one extra fun element. On the last trip, we went fly-fishing in North Carolina. This month, we will be in Cape Cod learning cheesemaking, so that will be really fun. I’m so excited!
TP: I want to do that! I want to actually eat the cheese you make! Everything you make always looks so delicious!
EKF: The workshops are really fun. We are trying to do four of them a year.
TP: And you do that independently or in conjunction with your family?
EKF: I do that with my friend Carrie, she’s my workshop partner and a food stylist / food photographer based in Vermont. We met online [laughs] through our blogs about three years ago.
TP: So I’m very familiar with your gorgeous Instagram feed but I don’t know your blog. What is it called?
EKF: Adventures in Cooking.
TP: When you started the food styling is that something you taught yourself or did you apprentice?
EKF: I just taught myself through a lot of photography. Once you review the photos, you start editing and you start to realize, “Oh shoot, I should of done this,” or “why didn’t I try it this way.” You just shoot so much, especially with the blog because you’re producing at least one post a week, so you’re always shooting. It's a lot of trial and error.
TP: Did you study photography?
EKF: Kind of. I studied film production so video photography and work stuff in LA. I went to Loyola Marymount, a small Jesuit school. It’s a really good school and they have an awesome film program. I took a photography class while I was there. I also took photography in high school. I was really lucky that my high school had a photography & film program too. I’ve always done it as a hobby, but it’s been great to do it full time. Funny though because when you’re working from home, your work becomes part of your home and it’s hard to stop at a certain point. I’m still figuring out how to do that. Sometimes it will be 9:30pm and my husband is home from work and I’m like, “Well, I should probably just like get off the computer now.”
TP: Well there are two things at play here. One is that you really love what you’re doing, but then how do you separate work from home and achieve more of a work/life balance? What do you do get up to when you’re not working?
EKF: When I’m not working I’m gardening, which is so fun and I love it.
TP: And you can use it in your photography as well!
EKF: That’s why I do it! That’s why I plant lots of heirloom varieties of my fruits and vegetables. I can use them in my photography and it looks so cool when you have a bunch of different colored tomatoes instead of just a simple standard red tomato.
TP: Here in Portland, the city and the entire area is so lush & fertile. And I appreciate how there is such a focus on craft, artisanal every thing and heirloom varieties - the farmers markets here are simply incredible.
EKF: The food here is so great.
TP: LA has amazing farmers markets as well. When you decided to move from LA to Portland was that perhaps the cusp of you transitioning to doing what you’re doing full time?
EKF: I had been doing it full time for I think six months before I moved to Portland, while I was still in LA. That was fine, but when I started freelancing full time I thought, “Well why am I still here? I’m not in the film industry anymore and I can’t afford a house here.” So we bought a house in Portland, which is so nice. It’s so expensive in those big cities. To find property, I feel like you have to be a multi-millionaire.
TP: And then it's not just the property, it's the taxes. Don't even get me started on New York City!
EKF: That’s right. That’s awful.
TP: So back to how lovely Portland is…
EKF: And it’s nice to have a yard. We were lucky before, because we did find a rental property with a small yard in LA, which is rare, so I did do gardening there too, but it’s just nice to have more space and not have to share it.
TP: You can really breathe here. I'm not just talking about the air quality - the buildings are lower, the city is more spread out, it's not as densely populated, the traffic isn’t as bad. It just feels good for the soul to be here.
EKF: It is, yeah, especially the summer because it’s so beautiful & green outside. When the weather is accommodating, you can just hang outside and not get wet or cold.
TP: Can I ask you about how your book project came to be and how that process has been?
EKF: Yeah, it’s been interesting. The literary agent I had emailed me a couple of years ago after finding me through my blog. She had the idea of a breakfast cookbook and had me do a proposal, but it didn’t get picked up. I was like, “Ugh, I don’t want to do another one.” However, she kept after me about this chicken cookbook, saying, “It would be so commercially successful, it would be really good.” So after eight months, I said, “Ok fine,”
TP: Oh, have you seen that Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan movie called Take This Waltz?
TP: He’s a chef / cookbook writer and it's all chicken, all the time.
EKF: That’s literally been my life for the past 6 months with this cookbook.
TP: I just started eating meat a little over a year ago, and I have to say, I’m kind of obsessed with chicken now.
EKF: [Laughs] Chicken’s really good- it's so versatile and there are so many different ways to make it! It’s amazing.
TP: I wish I lived in this city so I could taste-test your recipes!
EKF: There are so many leftovers too. I make a chicken dish literally every day so it’s been crazy. I’m excited because I think after this one - I’ll be done in two weeks - I want to actually do a proposal for something that’s my own idea, something I’m personally interested in. I’ve been talking to two other literary agents and I really like both of them, so I don’t know who I’m going to do my next book with.
TP: It’s really lovely to have options. There's the torture of having a choice, but its a real luxury to have that choice.
EKF: But it’s hard because I don’t want to choose - I like both of them.
TP: You tell them both and see who ups their offer!
EKF: Well, they are both pretty standard for literary agents. And I wouldn’t really want them to compromise greatly, because I don’t want them to wonder why they’re doing this job.
TP: They deserve a fee for the work they are doing for sure.
TP: So the cookbook came about just by a literary agent finding your blog. What was the timeline for the project or proposal?
EKF: By the time I wrote the first breakfast proposal we had probably been in communication for four months. By the time I wrote the chicken proposal, we had probably been in contact for 10 months. Initially I declined, but then she came back around and said, “Please, I really think you would be a good fit for this.” And I did it. It sold right away, which was great.
TP: Once the proposal for the chicken cookbook sold, you began production on it. Can you tell me about that process?
EKF: My editor at the publishing company has been pretty hands off. He worked with me for the first two weeks after I signed, just to get my grammar right. Recipes have a certain way they are supposed to be written, the lists, the measurements need to be written out a certain way and all the technical stuff needs to be learned. So he went over that with me for a couple of weeks, working on different drafts that I had already written for the proposal. Then he said, “Ok, I think you got this, so go do your thing.” That was it and so I’ve just been developing recipes and have been making them, testing them. There’s a lot. There’s 150 chicken recipes so I’ve been talking to people from different ethnic backgrounds, “How did your family make chicken?” Just to find different ways because there is such a variety. I’ve been trying to pull inspiration and ideas from everywhere. When I went to visit Clem [of TPD, EKF's photo agent] in New York - which went really well, everyone was really nice - Clem was telling me about this dish called Chicken Laksa, which I guess is popular in Australia. I’ve never had it or heard of it.
TP: Yum! We had laksa in Bali in February, it’s so good. Just how many recipes have you been testing, cooking and then styling and photographing per week if you’re doing 150?
EKF: Well I’m turning in 75 photos, so not all of them have photos, thank God. My kitchen was being remodeled and was taking way longer than it was supposed to, so I didn’t even start working on the cookbook until December 1st, even though I signed back in July. So I was doing 2-3 a weekday. Now that I’m back from New York, I’ve been doing three a day. With my workshops and traveling for work, I was out of town a lot, so I fell behind. So I’m really catching up and now I only have three left - so exciting! After that, I’ll start picking out my final photos from each of the pieces that I shot and getting those exported correctly. Then I’ll work through the text, do several proofs, rearrange stuff - I’m super close to the entire process. But it’s a lot of text and so many recipes, I feel like I’ll probably be okay when I turn it in, maybe just a few small errors that I missed or weird grammar things.
TP: And that’s what editors are for!
EKF: That’s what I figure, so as long as its generally along their guidelines and there’s only one mistake here and there that’s fine.
TP: First of all congratulations. Yours is kind of a dream story. You go from your blog and Instagram to having cookbook deals and also a commercial rep and now you’re shooting commercials too - how has that transition been because that’s a pretty major step.
EKF: It’s been really really great. It’s been nice to be able to travel for work which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I get paid a fair amount which is nice because sometimes when people reach out to bloggers and they’re not a professional brand, they don’t know what a reasonable rate is. So when you tell them a legitimate rate they’re like, “Oh that’s so expensive.” Well I have to buy ingredients, I’m styling on a professional shoot where you would also pay someone separately to style this, and I’m editing these images afterward which is even more time.
TP: If someone were to line out all of the tasks you do on a normal shoot, it would take multiple humans! You're a recipe tester, a food stylist, a food photographer, you even do post-production editing.
EKF: Well, you might separately have a lighting assistant or a prop person to find props and bring them there.
TP: A food styling assistant… We're up to seven roles right there.
EKF: Yeah, it's so nice to work with people who actually understand how shoots work, because it’s hard to explain that to people on the outside.
TP: For your commercial shoots, do you hire a food stylist?
EKF: Yes, on the last shoot, we had a food stylist. It was a beverage shoot, so she was more of a props person and we hired her because I wasn’t going to be there early enough to get all the props - and they wanted a ton of props. It was so nice to delegate that. She ordered everything, it was all there. I would be like, “I feel like we should switch this up for something like this.” And she would come back with exactly what we needed. It saved me so much time. I could focus on making the image look the way I wanted it to instead of, “Where’s the spoon!” and rummaging for things. She was really great, I’d love to work with her again.
TP: Here in Portland, do you work with any assistants?
EKF: I do it all by myself, but I’m starting to think I should get an assistant for my next book. My mom actually comes and helps my one day a week with the cooking and then I’ve had a couple of friends who are food bloggers in the area and it’s really nice because then I can get photos of them holding a dish. It adds a cool element when you can get hands in a photo.
TP: Also with having other people around and involved, the energy shifts in your day and you’re not so in your head. And you feel like it is more of a collaboration.
EKF: It’s nice to have someone to talk to, so I’m not in my head all the time and there’s stuff that takes a while that needs to be done like mincing onion, mincing garlic - it saves so much time if there’s someone else who can get the smaller things out of the way, so I can start tasting and testing.
TP: And it's more fun to have someone there to talk to and make the time pass!
EKF: I definitely would like to have an assistant for my next book. Maybe someone who can come a few hours a day a few days a week.
TP: I’m sure you could make that happen. What about your favorite recipe that you developed or that you’ve had?
EKF: I really like this Greek dessert called baklava, but instead of nuts, it’s filled with a lemon custard. It’s so decadent, just buttery layers of filo dough, custard in the middle and right when you take it out of the oven, you poor honey syrup over it and let it just steep for [hours?]. It’s so rich, but it’s sooooo good. For the chicken cookbook, I made these really good crostini type bites. Took maple syrup and sea salt and mixed it into butter and then spread it on little baguettes and toasted them - so just maple sea salt little toasts. Then I put half a date on each one. Then, I fried chicken skin with rosemary and you pour maple syrup on top - it’s the best. If you were having a party you would need a tray of them. I love chicken skin, I don’t really make chicken unless its with the skin.
TP: For your commercial shoots, do you hire a food stylist?
EKF: Yes absolutely. On all our shoots this year we had a food stylist, drinks specialists and props people. When it's a beverage shoot we will always have a drinks specialist. Bubbles, condensation, keeping drinks fresh under studio lights - that's a job in itself and I've been really lucky to work with a great drinks guy on my last 2 shoots, Ed Gabriels. Renee Flugge is a fantastic props person I've had the chance to work with a few times this year. The jobs those guys were involved in were really big productions, both in NYC with my agent. When it comes to commercial shoots focusing on making the image look the way I need it to instead of, “Where’s the spoon!” and rummaging for things is a necessity. It takes a village on a commercial shoot.
Eva is repped in the USA and Europe by TPD New York and TPD London.
Thank you, Eva, for sharing your story!
You can see more of Eva's work here.
Interview by Annika, Photos by Adrian Alston