How Angela Davis Turned a Cooking Hobby Into a Career

"It's a very different life than I had five years ago."

Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Angela Davis, best known as the Kitchenista, is a self-taught home cook and an avid food blogger. She’s also one of the most encouraging and relatable cooks on Twitter. At home in Detroit, she showed us how to make cranberry shortcakes on Holy Sheet, and shared the small, attainable goals that helped her improve her kitchen skills.

I didn't grow up with my grandmother, or mother even, walking me through how to cook. That came later, in my early 20s, once I was living on my own. 

I never saw cooking as a career move; it was purely creative.

I never saw cooking as a career move; it was purely creative. I had been working as an accountant for all of my 20s, and I started my blog in 2012, right before I turned 30. I wasn’t feeling my job at that point, and I needed something to do in the evenings. I wanted to broaden what I knew how to do in the kitchen beyond a few basic meals.

I took a deep dive into shopping at fresh farmers’ markets and learning how to buy the right equipment and make those investments. There was a self-exploration involved in learning how to set up a kitchen efficiently and how to shop. 

My blog took off fairly quickly. Looking back, it's hard for me to look at my old content. I didn't really take on the voice of a cooking teacher until a couple years down the road, when I started to feel more comfortable. And then I felt like my inspiration had shifted from something that was personal to knowing this is how I can help other people. It coincided with losing my job — I was ten years into my career and got fired while I was pregnant. I was just at a crossroads, and I decided to move back home to Virginia to have support from my family. That's when I started taking the blog more seriously, as something that could be monetized.

I didn’t really know how to price my work. It took a few years for momentum to build up, and then I made the decision not to go back to accounting permanently, and I decided just to be a freelance creative. It's a very different life than I had five years ago.
If you just want to learn how to cook for yourself, I’d recommend setting small goals. You can say, “I'm going to cook three times a week,” and then maybe you bump it to five. Or, “I'm going to shop for fresh food instead of ordering takeout.” Small, attainable goals in the kitchen are what work for me. You just build on those small changes until you get into more of a groove. You'll want to learn how to have your kitchen organized and start prepping things ahead of time. Like now, I make my own stocks — my freezer is full. It helps me cook better. 

Small, attainable goals in the kitchen are what work for me. 

I’m working on putting a proposal together to get an official book deal. I've been self-publishing for a while, and I'm ready to make that big leap. One of my goals is to have my own brick-and-mortar space, a test kitchen where I can do catering and host events and classes.

On Holy Sheet, I wanted to try something that was similar to strawberry shortcakes — which I do all the time in the summer — and just put a spin on it for the winter holidays. Cranberry sauce is something that we all make anyway this time of year. It's super easy, and it works as a topping.
The first step is making a batch of homemade biscuits. You can sweeten them with a little bit of sugar. You don't need much. The second step is making the cranberry sauce, which I spiked with bourbon. The third step is making some fresh whipped cream, which you can also spike with bourbon!Be careful not to overwork the biscuit dough, as you don't want gluten to form. Keep it cold, work fast, and use good-quality butter. I cut my biscuit flour with cake flour, which makes it a little bit lighter.

Keep it cold, work fast, and use good-quality butter.

Photos by Emily Berger

What I’d say to someone who doesn’t like cranberry sauce is that they need to just try it made from scratch. I think a lot of us just have memories of the cranberry sauce in the cans. When you make your own, it's really easy to infuse whatever flavors you want. You can go as simple as just cranberry sauce with sugar and water, or you can use cider, orange juice, or liquor to add more flavor. Then you can add spices and ginger. Really, there are no limits.