The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Klancy Miller is a food writer, recipe developer, and author of the book Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking for Yourself. She also recently announced a new project: For the Culture, a literary magazine all about Black women in food and wine. At her home in Brooklyn, Klancy cooked herself a rib eye steak and discussed how she strikes a balance between solitude and community in food.
When I graduated from school, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I was doing things by process of elimination. I would take film-editing classes, acting classes, dance classes, cooking classes. Everything was interesting to me, but the cooking classes were extremely interesting. Then I got an apprenticeship at the restaurant Fork, in Philadelphia, owned by Ellen Yin, who is amazing.
That's when things started to click for me because I so loved my apprenticeship at Fork. It was the only thing that really made me feel like my juices were going and I was motivated. I would show up bright and early and ready to go.
It was the only thing that really made me feel like my juices were going and I was motivated.
I started looking at culinary schools. Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, funnily enough, was the less expensive option compared to the others. And it also was a light-bulb moment because I was like, Sweets, pastry, Paris. I had studied French, so it was like, Paris is for me.
I fell in love with Paris. I was already in love with Paris, but I had a fairy-tale first year and decided I wanted to stay. Le Cordon Bleu was hiring in their recipe-development department, and that was around the time when I had a realization that I'm actually fairly slow in the kitchen, and wanted to explore other ways to be in the world of food. I realized writing about people in food was very interesting to me.When I came back to New York, I just did a ton of outreach. I would write to so many people and just ask or say, “I'm fresh out of culinary school. This is my background. I would love to learn a little bit about your career and how you built it.” A few people were really key in terms of helping me. I interviewed Marcus Samuelsson for one of my freelance writing gigs, and he opened up his Rolodex. I spoke with Amanda Hesser, who was incredibly generous and connected me to Julia Moskin, who introduced me to my literary agent.
That gave me a quick entry into ghostwriting and working on projects with Marcus. Then I eventually realized that I had a book in me, and that's what led to Cooking Solo, because during my time in Paris is when I really started cooking for myself. Even though Paris was a great place to go out to eat, it's also a great place to cook for yourself. Any place is really a great place to cook for yourself, but that's where I started. I continue that through relationships—boyfriends, no boyfriends.
It's an act of love to cook for other people, but it's equally an act of love to cook for yourself.
I've always just enjoyed cooking for myself. I see it as a way to enjoy myself and also practice on myself for things I might want to make for other people. I personally think it's the best way to nurture and nourish yourself. It's an act of love to cook for other people, but it's equally an act of love to cook for yourself. It's showing yourself the same kindness.
If you want to start cooking for yourself, get yourself just the basics of equipment and figure out what it is that you actually like to eat. Start with baby steps; think of one thing you want to learn how to make well. It's a little unrealistic to think you're going to cook every single day, so cook when you have the time and energy, and don’t be super hard on yourself.
Your freezer is your friend. It can be a useful way to not end up with too many leftovers, but also use things when they're in season. Freeze herbs in olive oil in ice-cube trays so that you always have fresh thyme, basil, etc. Look for single servings whenever you can. Your fishmonger is also your friend! If you eat fish, you can just go buy one piece of fish. Ditto your butcher. Granted, not every city has easily accessible fishmongers or butchers, but if you can, just buy one. If you can’t, freeze it.
For the Culture is a project I'm working on launching at the moment. It will be a biannual print magazine focused on Black women in food and wine. It’ll be unique in that my intention is for all of the writers, photographers, and illustrators to also be Black women. The idea came out of the Toni Morrison quote "If there's a book you want to read, write it." Often in food media, there's not as much coverage on people of color in general, but specifically Black women. Over the past few years, I've met so many incredible Black women who are sommeliers, farmers, food activists, chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, and on and on and on. It's an experiment because I would just like to see what it would look like to have a conversation and stories about food and wine through this lens, through this gaze. The idea is to tell these stories from a different perspective.
Often in food media, there's not as much coverage on people of color in general, but specifically Black women.
I feel like there's a need because, ultimately, it's for everybody. You know what I mean? It's definitely something that a lot of people have voiced support of who aren't Black women. A lot of people who love food and are involved in food and wine and hospitality are really eager to learn about who's creating spaces, and I hope that it will create a sense of community around that.
This is the easiest decadent meal you can make for yourself; in the book I call it Mood-Boosting Rib Eye. You have two options with the potatoes. Today I did it both ways: boiled and sautéed. I thinly sliced half the potatoes and sautéed them with a little bit of avocado oil in Large Fry. I started with the potato slices because those take longer to cook than the spinach. I set those aside, all the while boiling the other half of the potatoes, which I cut in larger wedges. I added Haven's Kitchen romesco sauce to the potatoes at the end, just because I think it's nice to have something that's delicious and readily prepared, and you can just squirt it on.
After I made the potatoes, I turned my attention to the steak, which I let sit out for about 20 minutes to an hour, actually. I salted it heavily and with coarse salt and pepper and let it sit for a bit. Then I seared it on each side for about four minutes for a rib eye. The reason why I preheated the oven is to finish the rib eye in the oven for another four minutes. I’m not a rare girl, so I do four minutes, four minutes, four minutes. The spinach cooks so quickly, so that's the last thing you want to cook. For everything, my main seasoning was salt and pepper. It's a super-simple meal, so your only big expenditure is going to be the meat.
I think so often we take ourselves for granted, which is why I was like, I will do a decadent meal! Because why should you just lavish on other people? Of course, we should all be generous with each other and with our friends and our loved ones, but I fundamentally believe that we are individually worthy of that generosity and love.