Remember when career paths were set in stone? You’d study in the profession of your choice, find a job in your field upon graduation, and work your way up the ladder. It’s safe to say that today this traditional trajectory has been severely disrupted with many young people opting out of the classic college route to carve out their own instead—think YouTube creators, TikTok stars, or Twitch streamers. Thanks to the internet, we have an entire university library of information at our fingertips, not to mention online courses and tutorials that are easily accessible to anyone. In fact, Google was how Tieghen Gerard learned her culinary artistry and build her wildly successful Half Baked Harvest food blog in 2012.
“Everything I had questions about I Googled,” she confesses. “I didn’t grow up with a family that loved to cook, so most of what I’ve learned has come from Google… and more importantly, trial and error. I really learn by doing, so the more I cooked and photographed, the more I learned.”
Since then she has amassed a following of 3.6 million on Instagram, been featured on all the major channels including The Cooking Channel, Food Network, and HGTV, and has authored three best-selling cookbooks including her latest, Half Baked Harvest Every Day with more than 120 soul-satisfying recipes. If there’s one thing that Gerard does best, it’s creating food that makes you feel good. We caught up with Gerard at our recent holiday gathering at Camille’s home in Austin to chat about all things career including the biggest misconceptions about her job, cooking tips, must-have tools, and so. much. more! Keep reading to be majorly inspired.
image above by kristen kilpatrick, all others by michelle nash
Take us back to the beginning—what was the lightbulb moment for your business/career and what inspired you to pursue this path?
Well, technically I started Half Baked Harvest when I was 17. My mom encouraged me to start a food blog since I was enjoying cooking so much—yes, the very, very early days of blogging. Together we came up with the name Half Baked Harvest, and it was my mom who then took out the domain name. However, I didn’t touch it again until just after my 19th birthday. I had big plans to attend fashion design school in LA, but after working there for the summer when I was 18, I worried it wasn’t the right path for me. And I didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money on schooling when I wasn’t sure. So, I decided to head home to Colorado. Feeling incredibly defeated and not sure of my next move, it was my mom who again encouraged me to start writing a food blog. Without much else holding me back, I wrote the first blog post, and honestly, I’ve never looked back. I didn’t have a plan, and neither did my mom nor could I have ever imagined what HBH would eventually become, but I always say it was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about your job?
Well, there’s a lot. I don’t think people understand just how much work goes into running a website and now a brand. There is so much that happens behind the scenes. There’s the obvious… cooking, photographing, filming, cleaning, and writing. But there’s also social media which is so time-intensive, then upkeep of the site, engaging with your audience—both on the blog and on social media—and then managing a team. I mean the list really goes on and the work never really stops, not even on holidays—in fact, those are actually some of the busiest days! People think it’s just a lot of cooking and eating, but really that’s only a very small portion.
If someone wanted your role specifically, what advice would you give them on how to land their dream job?
You just need to start. Don’t let the fear of the unknown scare you. Starting is the hardest part. But once you start, the better you become, and the more you immerse yourself in the space. You’ll learn so much as you go. I also recommend reaching out to others for advice. I know it might be intimidating, but you never know until you try and in my experience, most people are only too happy to dish out their knowledge!
If you could pin your success down to one thing or one moment, what would that be?
Consistency and just good ol’ hard work. None of this happened overnight. It was years of consistently putting out quality content, engaging daily, and connecting with our community. There are mostly late nights and early mornings. You really have to love this career because it’s not a 9-5 job. It’s all hours, all days of the week but I honestly love what I do, so it doesn’t always feel like work!
Describe a typical day for you.
It really varies day-to-day. I’m an early morning person and upon waking, I head out for a hike almost immediately. I’ll grab water and then I’m out the door. It’s my favorite part of the day, and also when I’m the most creative. Once I’m home I’ll do my morning skincare routine (I love a good morning and night skincare routine and never miss either one), then I’ll grab my coffee and head over to our studio to start work for the day. If I’m cooking (which is most days), I’ll respond to a few emails first. I then get started cooking, photographing, and filming recipes until sundown. Our team will text me throughout the day, but they know I usually won’t respond until the sunsets. Once dusk sets in, I’m on the computer/phone working on social media for a good amount of the night till dinner. Then I make a point to step away from all screens and do my usual night routine (shower, skincare, and light my candles). I enjoy a meal without any work to let my brain chill. Then it’s off to bed.
What does “baking/cooking outside the lines” mean to you?
To me, that’s stepping outside of the box. Taking the usual day-to-day recipe and reinventing it in a new way with something that makes it extra special and even more delicious. Try new things, add color to your food, and switch things up a bit!
What do you drink when you wake? And what’s for breakfast?
I always drink warm water, and recently it’s been warm water with lemon. When I get home from hiking, I usually have one cup of black coffee with a shot of espresso. I’m not a huge breakfast person, but my go-to is a little peanut or almond butter and a banana.
What are your must-have cooking tools and why?
Truly all you need is a good sharp chef’s knife, a cutting board, and a cast-iron skillet. Staub is my favorite! With these three things, you can cook, roast, or bake pretty much anything. Keep it simple, you don’t need a ton of kitchen gadgets. Though I do use a cookie scoop a lot!
The cooking tool you always give beginners and why?
A cast-iron skillet! It’s just an essential that everyone should have. It’s easy to cook with, easy to clean, and you’ll have it for a lifetime.
What are your favorite cookbooks and why?
I actually don’t read many cookbooks. I love to find inspiration from outside sources. I do love the vintage cookbooks that were once my grandma’s. And Eden Grinshpan’s Eating Out Loud is amazing! She has some really delicious middle eastern recipes.
Tell us a few things we’ll always find in your refrigerator?
Avocado, cheese, butter, so much fresh fruit, all the vegetables, and goat milk!
And what about your pantry? What do you always have on hand?
Good olive oil, Rao’s jarred marinara sauce, tomato paste, nut butter, olives, raw nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and everything for baking. I try to keep it stocked pretty well.
What scares you about entertaining?
Getting everything out on time. It’s hard to manage a lot of food, different cooking times… and party guests.
What scares you about cooking?
Honestly, not much. Cooking shouldn’t be so stressful, it’s fun! I guess I don’t love to burn things which I sometimes do.
Your signature dish for parties?
The one meal you always make at home and why?
Chili and beer bread! Both are so easy and always better made at home while enjoyed by the fire.
Dinner party pet peeve?
The people who show up early. No host is ever ready early!
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
I’m horrible with music, so I usually have someone else make a playlist.
Go-to centerpiece solution:
Seasonal produce is always my go-to. I love using pomegranates to create a festive centerpiece for the holidays. And in the summer I’ll use fresh-cut flowers from the yard.
Dream dinner guest?
My Nonnie! She passed away a few years ago and she’s the best dinner party guest. I’d love to create the perfect party for her. It would be so fun!
Fill in the blank:
A perfect meal should be… created with whoever will be enjoying the meal in mind.
It’s not a dinner party without… cocktails to kick things off.
Every cook should know how to… throw a quick cheese board together for surprise guests.
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