Why I Write About Food 026: Brandon Matzek of Kitchen Konfidence

In need of some cooking inspiration? Turn to Kitchen Konfidence for easy recipes, ingredient tips, and a dose of Brandon's cheery approach to food preparation. He's a firm believer in cooking outside of one's comfort zone and that practice makes perfect, so be prepared for a delicious culinary journey! 

Tell us about Kitchen Konfidence.
I started Kitchen Konfidence back in July 2010 as a way to marry two of my loves: cooking and photography. Growing up in a mainly Italian family, I was surrounded by a number of amazing home cooks, and I was pretty food-obsessed as a child. I was never allowed to do any high priority tasks in the kitchen. Instead, I would help by snapping green beans or peeling potatoes. It wasn't until I went off to college that I learned some of the family recipes and started making them on my own! This passion for food continued on after college as well as with my move to San Diego.

In 2009, I got my first DSLR and I just loved taking photos of food, especially of raw ingredients. The wavy layers of a sliced red onion, the texture of a bunch of herbs, the vibrant color gradient found in a pluot. A year later, it just seemed natural for me to combine these two passions into a food blog focused on fresh, seasonal recipes!

Since then, Kitchen Konfidence has been featured on many major websites along with a few local TV shows. I've got a lot of dedicated readers who love to share their results when they try a recipe. The blog has been a wonderful creative outlet that I've steadily grown into my own small business!

Why do you write about food?
Before I started the blog, I helped a number of my friends learn how to cook and be more confident in the kitchen. Now, I mainly write about food to do the same on a large scale.  I love helping home cooks create a special meal. There's a certain rush you get when you take the first bite of something you've cooked, and you realize that you nailed it. That major of feeling of accomplishment. A dinner for a loved one. A dessert to take to a party. A pancake breakfast for the family. And I feel like I've done my job when I help to create these feelings and experiences for the home cook through my writing and photography.

You recently quit your day job and went full-time with food blogging. What prompted that decision?
The blog has always been a passion project, but in the past two years, it really started making some money as well! And I always had that "what if" thought in the back of my mind. In May of this year, my full-time gig was going through a transition, and I decided to take that opportunity to make the jump to full-time blogging, food writing and photography!  If I didn't make the change, I might be left wondering "what if" forever! In the long run, I am hoping that my income will grow to at least match what I was making with my previous full-time job.

What are some of the biggest adjustments you've had to make in the transition? 
I was in the corporate world for 10 plus years, so the home office setup is definitely the biggest adjustment. I'm in the process of developing daily routines to keep my days structured.  If not, it's an easy slack off.

One of my main focuses has been stabilizing consistency across my blog and social media channels. Consistency was a very difficult thing to maintain while working a full-time job, so now I'm happy that I've got the time to focus on a consistent experience. The extra time has also allowed me to pick up some non-blog related work. I recently started writing restaurant reviews for Modern Luxury San Diego magazine and I've got an ebook in the works as well!

What are your top 3 tips for building confidence in the kitchen?
1. Read the recipe (multiple times!).  Make sure you've got all the ingredients needed and you understand how much time each step takes to complete. You don't want to start a dinner recipe just to realize you need to marinate the chicken for two hours before cooking! Once you've mastered the recipe, then make adjustments to taste, like substitutions or putting your own spin on it. 

2. Practise and don't get discouraged. You'll fail plenty of times in the kitchen (I know I have!), so don't give up. Cooking, like any skill, requires practice. So just keep trying, and eventually you will learn and grow. Also use the Internet all the time to look things up. I like to research several versions of one recipe and compare differences between them. If I'm unfamiliar with a technique, I'll check out a video on YouTube.

3. Try a new recipe, ingredient or technique. Cooking in your comfort zone is fine, but you'll really grow and become more confident in the kitchen when you start trying new things.

What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why?  
I really love cooking with butter, because of its sweet, creamy flavor and versatility. And brown butter is truly a thing of beauty! The nutty aroma and toasty flavor go well in both sweet and savory dishes.

For the past two years, I've been flavoring my morning coffee with a pad of unsalted butter.  I banished all non-dairy creamers from the house after a brief paleo phase, and adopted the habit of putting butter in my coffee. I find that it rounds out the flavor by cutting some of the bitterness from the coffee. No sugar needed!

What's your favorite recipe on Kitchen Konfidence?
I've had so many favorites throughout the years, so I'll just share my recent favorite: Zucchini Pizza. We make pizza frequently at our house, and this is a good one to use up that excess summer zucchini. I also really love adding fresh citrus to pizza, and there are lemon slices on this one!

What are you currently reading? 
When Jorge and I first visited Portland, we absolutely fell in love with Pok Pok, the Northern-Thai restaurant by Andy Ricker. The whole experience was just so new and exciting.  A different way of eating! 

Later that year, Jorge prepared a Thai feast for my birthday from the Pok Pok cookbook. He had to go to ten different markets around town to find all the ingredients and equipment needed to make three recipes! The meal was really impressive, and Pok Pok along with the cookbook will always have a special place in our hearts. We're still cooking our way through the book, so I'm sure it'll be a favorite for a while!

Gjelina is another fun project book. The first third of the book is packed with recipes for condiments and building blocks that are the foundation for the many yummy recipes later on. We went to Gjelina for the first time this year and were completely blown away by the meal. So many bold, punchy flavors served in a casual, chic environment. I've really been enjoying recreating some of those recipes at home!

Visit Brandon's website at www.kitchenkonfidence.com
Recommended Recipes:
Beer Bread Toast 3 Ways
Nectarine Coffee Cake
Zucchini Pizza