This interview was originally published on May 14, 2016 and has been modified and updated for our new website.
Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack is the author of Muy Bueno Cookbook, a website filled with homestyle Mexican recipes that are as delicious as they are easy to prepare.
But before she became a well-known food blogger, she actually had no idea what a blog was. She spoke to us about how a conversation at the dinner table with her 8-year-old daughter (at the time), led her to publish a cookbook with her mom and sister, and eventually to become a self-employed entrepreneur despite being laid off in 2012.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started blogging
In the spring through the summer of 2010, my mother was visiting frequently because she was helping me with my son who became ill with RSV (a respiratory virus). He had to be put on oxygen and we could not send him to daycare.
At the time, I was working full time in graphic design and marketing and had limited time off. While my mom helped with our son, she was also cooking for us.
When my mom visits, I always crave the food I grew up with so everyday she would make my favorite dishes. One evening, my daughter, suggested we write a cookbook. That’s when the light bulb went off. I started taking photos of every dish my mom made, scribbled the recipes out in a notebook, and posted photos on Facebook.
It was my friend and photographer, Jeanine Thurston who suggested I start a blog. I had no idea what a blog was. But since I was a graphic designer, I was on a mission to design one and start blogging.
How long have you been blogging
Have you always wanted to write about Mexican food?
You cowrote Muy Bueno with your family, but you created the Muy Bueno blog on your own, correct?
That’s a long story…When my daughter gave me the idea of writing a cookbook, I turned to my mom and said, “Lets write a cookbook!”
We were so excited about it and immediately started to brainstorm names. But nothing came to mind. Finally, on my way to work one day, I called my mom and said, “Call me if you come up with anything.”
A couple of hours later we were both calling each other. It was so weird, because I said, “Let’s say our name at the same time.” And we both said, "Muy Bueno."
We seriously started to cry! It was what my grandma always said. She always welcomed friends and family into her house and would say “Siéntate a comer, esta muy bueno.” (Translation: Sit down and eat, it’s very good.)
My ultimate goal was to write a cookbook—hence the blog name— muybuenocookbook.com. But what I didn’t know was how I was going to do it. I started the blog as a place to share my recipes with friends and family.
At first, I figured I’d design a book myself and self publish, but as more folks found the blog they wanted the book too. The blog was basically a platform that reached an audience who wanted a published book.
A couple months after blogging by myself, I turned to my mom and said, "Let’s ask Ronnie (my sister) if she wants to write the cookbook with us." My sister had always talked about writing a cookbook, and I figured this would be the perfect family love story coming from the three of us.
In the beginning, my sister blogged with me—and my mom was the one behind the scenes making my grandma’s recipes and documenting them for the book.
My sister and I would take turns writing blog posts and developing our own modern recipes.
My sister and I became very close and had a lot of fun sharing our stories on the blog and writing the manuscript, but as you can imagine it was a lot of work and stressful at the same time.
About six months after we were blogging we were also getting branding opportunities. We had no idea that you could make money blogging.
We started working with brands like IMUSA and Avocados from Mexico and were getting invited to fabulous events and trips and getting lots of press. Again, no idea this would be possible.
I was then laid off from my job in the summer of 2012, right before our book was published in the fall. It was so scary, but thankfully I had blogging and made it a mission to make blogging my career.
My sister was a full time teacher and before our book was published she moved to Germany. Eventually, blogging became difficult for her to juggle with her move, job, time zone difference, and not to mention the lack of Mexican ingredients.
She also fell in love with the European lifestyle and traveling and food blogging was no longer her passion, but of course we would always have the book.
Was it difficult to write your cookbook? What motivated you to pursue this dream?
It was time consuming, but not difficult. Our passion for our history and love of the dishes we grew up with was so motivating. We worked many hours, days, weekends, and holidays on it.
We were very excited about it. It’s more than a cookbook. The book is filled with stories and memories of our childhood and the history of my grandma’s journey from Mexico to Texas during the Mexican revolution. It was also a healing journey. We cried many tears as we remembered so many beautiful stories.
How do you self publish a cookbook?
How do you get in touch with a publishing company?
I pulled out every Mexican cookbook off my bookshelf and made a list of publishers and researched each one of them. Back then you had to submit a portion of your manuscript and write a proposal and mail it and wait for their reply.
Then I found a couple publishers who accepted online proposals. One of the books I had on my bookshelf was by another El Paso author, Teresa Cordero-Cordell. It’s a paperback book and completely black and white. I saw that the publisher is in New York, so figured I’d reach out to them.
I figured since I was a graphic designer maybe I could design the book and we could publish a book collaboratively. My motto has always been: It never hurts to ask. I sent an email to the publisher, introduced myself, and asked.
To make a long story short they loved the idea. The cookbook was born. I was the graphic designer, my friend Jeanine was the photographer, and I was an official author along with my mom and sister.
When did you fell like you really started to become successful on a professional level?
When did you feel liike you started to become successful on a financial level?
What advice do you have for others looking to make it as food bloggers?
What is your favorit recipe that you have developed on your own?
What is your favorit recipe that you have developed on your own?
What is your favorite recipe that your grandmother made?
What do you miss most about your grandmother in general?
Do you miss living in El Paso?
shop food & snacks
What are some of your kids' favorite recipes?
My 7-year-old son loves empanadas, especially pumpkin and my 13-year-old daughter loves cilantro lime rice. The recipe is in our cookbook and was developed by my sister.
My daughter is a great cook, and makes it all the time! She also loves anything topped on a tostada, but just last night she was asking me to make mole. So I’m looking forward to making mole with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.
You mentioned you didn't like to cook in the past. Tell us more about that.
How did you learn to love cooking?
When my grandmother passed away my mom asked me what I wanted from her. All I could think about was her rolling pin that she would make daily flour tortillas with.
Come to find out my grandma had two. It’s as if it was meant to be. I got one and so did my sister. The baton was literally passed to us to continue the tradition and legacy of making homemade Mexican food for our families.
How do you teach your children about their background?
We can tell you're busy! Any tips for time management? How do you do it all?
I don’t do it all. My house is not as clean as I wish it were. And there are piles of laundry calling my name. Sometimes I’m grumpy at the amounts of work I have. I don’t exercise often or take much me time as I probably should.
I read about others who are able to balance it all, but for me its about juggling. And guess what, sometimes I drop a ball or two, but I try to do my best.
Blogging is now my career and I have even co-authored a new book, Latin Twist. I travel a lot, but thankfully have an amazing husband and my mom who help me when I need it.
Describe yourself using one of your recipes, which recipe would you say you are?
Describe your mom using one of your recipes.
Describe your sister using one of your recipes.
What is your ultimate goal in writing for your blog Muy Bueno?
What do you hope to accomplish ultimately?
Ultimately I’d love to write more books and have a cooking show where I can share my recipes with a larger audience. I’d love to travel more to Mexico! I’d love to teach young moms how to cook Mexican recipes that are healthy.
Childhood obesity makes me very sad, and especially to see the majority of children who are obese are Latinos. Childhood obesity in the Hispanic population is growing faster than other segments of the population. Mexican food does not have to be unhealthy and I’d love to share that with more families.
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