For the past five years, writer, recipe developer and photographer Maggie Zhu has been exploring modern Chinese cooking on her uber-popular blog, Omnivore's Cookbook. Born and raised in Beijing and now based in Austin, Texas, Zhu quit a job in banking to immerse herself in the blog full-time. (Appropriately, she says her motto is, "Fake it until you make it.")
Since we love learning more about our favorite bloggers, we asked Zhu to answer 10 questions about food, life and more. Enjoy!
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day usually starts with testing recipes and shooting photos for my blog. The lighting in my living room is the best in the morning. Then, I have a gym break around noon. After that, I sit in front of my computer to do administrative work and write blog posts. Then I cook dinner and enjoy it with my husband while watching TV shows. I work a bit more afterwards, practice piano, then do some reading before bed.
You used to be a banker. How scary was it to take the leap to blogging full-time?
It was actually less scary and more fun. I hated my day job at the time and I was desperate to find a way out. I jumped into blogging the moment I discovered its existence. It was a long process (a couple years) before my blog took off, but deep down I sort of knew from the very beginning that it was the right move because I was determined to make it work.
Looking back, what was your big food career break?
The first time I got paid. It was from Google AdSense, and it was a bit more than a hundred dollars. I displayed that check on my table for a long time afterward as motivation.
What is your at-home food or drink ritual?
I usually cook both lunch and dinner. Our lunch is usually very simple. It is often the food I made in the morning (for my blog), leftovers, or a simple bowl. I usually cook a lean protein for dinner, like roast fish or chicken. And a lot of veggies. In the past it’s been either a big salad, a soup, or some oven-roasted veggies. Lately I’ve been loving my air fryer so I cook a lot in it. I usually serve dinner with multi-grain rice on the side and pair it with a glass of red wine. I rarely use a recipe, but rather just throw some things together. It’s usually in a form of Western food, but made with lots of Asian ingredients. For example, we serve roast cauliflower with Chinese hot sauce.
What would be your last meal?
Baguette and butter, foie gras with a sweet sauce, very rare steak, mushrooms and roasted brussels sprouts. Served with red wine, of course.
What do you do when you need a mental break?
I started learning piano a year ago, just so I could force myself away from the computer and social media at the end of the day. I found that I can forget about the day when I practice and it’s the closest state to meditation I’ve been able to achieve. I also routinely go to the gym or go for a walk, which serves as a great everyday break. I travel practically every month, which is my bigger mental break. I always feel recharged and inspired after a trip. I try to schedule these things in advance so I don’t end up with burnout.
Where do you want to vacation next?
There are too many places on my list. But the place at the top of the list is Japan. I lived there for two years when I was in school and it feels like a second home to me.
How do you detox or reset after a particularly indulgent night or vacation?
Hit the gym first, drink kombucha, and cook super healthy food at home, like, a LOT of veggies.
What is your best wellness tip?
Balanced diet, sleep enough, and think positively.
What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects to mention?
It’s not related to food at all, but I’ve started a side project on fashion, lifestyle, and travel at @magzzhu on Instagram.
Photos courtesy Maggie Zhu.