Vianney Rodriguez from Sweet Life
Aransas Pass, Texas — Vianney Rodriguez, 40, is the founder of Sweet Life, a website that fuses "the spice of two diverse worlds," growing up in a Mexican household and being raised in South Texas.
Rodriguez initially created her website to teach herself how to bake, but after becoming an award-winning blogger, writing a cocktail book, and developing recipes for seven years - she still doesn't know how!
She spoke to MIMP about why blogging makes her feel "#blessed," the time Sweet Life was hacked, and why she wants people to understand it's important to eat dinner together.
What inspired you to write specifically about Mexican food? On Sweet Life, I focus on sharing the plates of my life. Dishes of the food I grew up eating and the dishes that have shaped my life. I share dishes inspired by my Mexican heritage, but also share dishes that I had growing up in Texas, so you will find a mix of Mexican, Texas and Tex-Mex.
Do you have a background in the food world? No. Ten years ago, I enrolled in the culinary program at my local community college, but my husband enlisted in the Army and we moved quite frequently so my classes were put on hold. At first I was bummed, but I decided to dedicate my time to reading and researching cookbooks online to teach myself everything I could. Plus, I had the best teacher – my mami who I called daily for tips and tricks.
In your bio, you write: "cooking reflects my life." How so? My recipes are inspired by moments in my life, whether it was the first time I had my abuelita’s homemade lemonade, or the first time I tried brisket, or the first time I cooked Thanksgiving all by myself.
Describe the environment around you in the kitchen as a little girl: A busy, flavorful environment...My mami was always in the kitchen chopping, mixing, stirring a pot, prepping our meals, or getting ready for guests to arrive. My mami could easily cook for 50 people without breaking a sweat, she is the ultimate hostess. From breakfast to dinner, she made every meal special.
You have a 'Margarita Love' section - something which sets you apart from other food bloggers. Citrus, Berry, Melon, Spicy, Fruit...the list goes on! How did you start developing it? I adore margaritas, they are my passion. I would always make them when my little sister would visit me. After I began the blog, she suggested I feature one. The first one I featured was a peach margarita and, to this day, it is one of my most popular ones.
As a child, did someone in your household have a love for margaritas? No, it’s funny because my mami only drinks wine and my dad only occasionally drank beer, but my abuelita on the other hand loved a good stiff cocktail. She would always offer me a sip of her cocktail so I knew how it should properly taste. I dedicated my cocktail book Latin Twist to her; she kicked off my journey into the world of cocktails.
What was the first margarita you ever made? Was it published on the website? My first margarita I ever made was using a mix when I was 21. It was awful. It tasted like a slurpee with too much sugar and it masked all the flavor of the tequila. The lingering taste of that horrible experience halted my margarita making days for a few years. But then, I purchased my first juicer and it was game on.
I made my first fresh pineapple margarita and that’s when my addiction began. When discussing recipes for Latin Twist, margaritas were the first topic I wanted to discuss. Yvette and I had similar experiences with mixes and we wanted to really show people you can make a great margarita at home without relying on a pre-made mixer.
Your blog really is beautiful! How long does it take you to develop a recipe, write it, and photograph it? Oh some recipes take me weeks, only because I tweak the recipe a few times or I’m not happy with the photos. What takes me the longest is drafting the story that is tied to the recipe. I’m not the best storyteller and I doubt my abilities to properly express the true feelings tied to the dish.
Tell us a little bit about the way you work on a day-to-day basis: My days never go as planned. Every Sunday, I create a schedule of the dishes I want to feature or recipes that I need to cook/shoot/style for clients. I make my grocery list and then Monday arrives and it all goes out the window. I also homeschool my kids, which makes my days unpredictable. Some days, our math lesson will flow smoothly. Other days, we may need additional time. Mi cariño also always works from home and he’s a cutie that I cannot resist. So some days, I find myself lingering at the breakfast table chatting over coffee.
When I started blogging, I did a lot of my recipe testing and shooting on the weekends. Now I go completely offline at exactly Friday at 5pm. Blogging is my passion, but my family is my everything so the weekends are now only dedicated to family time and, of course, to sipping cocktails.
What are your kids' favorite dishes? My kids love fideo, mole and shredded chicken sopes.
Do you cook every night or how does it work in your household? I cook everyday for the blog or for my clients, so we always have homemade food ready for meals. And my daughter plans to attend culinary school so she cooks a lot of our meals, which I love because she is always finding new recipes to hone her skills. Some days she will cook Indian food or Italian, so our family loves that we get to experience different cuisines from around the world. Her passion for the kitchen excites me.
Does your husband cook? Mi cariño (my love) is the grill master from brisket to ribs - he does it all. When I travel for the blog, he does step in to make breakfast and lunch, but my oldest is in charge of dinner.
What is a Mexican dish you can't resist? Chilaquiles – I freaking love chilaquiles. Funny thing is I have yet to post a recipe for chilaquiles…they never last long enough to photograph.
Tell us a little bit about your cookbook Latin Twist. Was it always a dream of yours to create a cocktail book? Latin Twist is a cocktail book that features traditional and modern cocktails from Latin countries. I have always wanted to create a cocktail book, but I was not sure that I wanted to take on such a big task at this particular moment in my life. I met Yvette at a blogging event. After the event, we were both stuck at the airport waiting on our flights. She asked me if I ever wanted to write a cookbook and I replied yes, someday. Over the next following years, we kept in touch then one day she wrote me and said I have an idea to run by you…and the rest well is Latin Twist.
What was the process like to publish it? It was a crazy, busy, fun ride. From developing, to editing to styling the photos it was a simply happy process. Don’t get me wrong it was hard since we were both very busy at the time with blogging, but I wouldn’t change anything. The moment I held my first copy of Latin Twist in my hands I cried from pure joy. I keep a copy by my computer to keep me motivated on those days when I feel completely drained.
Will we be seeing a margarita book in the near future? *fingers crossed* Oh that is on my bucket list. A margarita book would be super dreamy. I have three notebooks of recipes scribbled down in hopes that one day I decide to make another book.
What other dreams do you hope to accomplish? I have so many. I want my blog to continue to grow with me and hope that one day I can pass this passion project to my daughters. I would love for it to live on forever as an online family cookbook.
What is the BEST part about having your own cooking platform? There are so many things. I love, love what I do. It’s the best, hardest job that I have ever had and even on the toughest days I still thank God for this wonderful job that allows me to stay home with my family. I am fortunate enough to be at home, spend the entire day in the kitchen, take pictures of beautiful food and share it with the world….it really doesn’t get any better. The bonus is the talented people I meet online; they inspire me, support me and lift me. Blogging has really changed my life. I am #blessed.
Which cocktail best describes you and why? A hibiscus margarita with a thick salt rim. Shy, but vibrant with a kick of spice…that’s me.
What's your absolute favorite margarita you've made? All of them… LOL
If you got the chance to make margaritas for First Lady Michelle and President Obama what would they be? Wow, how dreamy would that be? I would make a fresh grapefruit margarita to highlight my South Texas roots and a guava margarita to pay homage to my abuelito.
If you got the chance to make margaritas for the Royal Family, Will and Kate, what would they be? A sparkling lavender margarita. A splash of tequila blanco topped with bubbles in a lovely shade of lavender, they would love it!
What is your favorite recipe that you've developed on your own? There are so many, but I would have to say my guava bars. I have a special place in my heart for guavas. The smell of guavas remind me of my abuelito, so I feature guavas a lot in my blog. I find any way to incorporate them into my recipes when I miss him.
What advice do you have for others trying to make it as food bloggers? Stay passionate, do not compare yourself to others bloggers, tell your story and support others.
What is the worst adversity you've had to face as an accomplished food writer? I’ve had a few hateful emails, but the worst was when my site was hacked. Luckily, I have a great friend who helps me run Sweet Life and was able to save my blog.
What do you hope to accomplish ultimately? My hope for Sweet Life is for it to inspire people to get into the kitchen and enjoy dinner as a family. I live for Sundays when my entire family gets together at home to enjoy dinner as a family. Sharing dinner as a family re-energizes me, fills my heart and keeps me connected with my loved ones. I share these dinners on my Instagram with the hashtag #comerjuntos because I believe in the importance of eating dinner together as a family.