Chef Gabrielle McBay Makes Cooking Easy
The You Have Food at Home author shares life advice and a savory pop tart recipe.
Now a popular author, video blogger and private chef in Hollywood, Gabrielle McBay ’14 traces the roots of her culinary passion to her childhood kitchen in DeSoto, Texas, cooking with her mother, aunts and grandmothers.
In high school she was a finalist in the 2010 TCU Texas Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by the Neeley School of Business, for her cookie business Crumbstious. Later as a TCU Community Scholar, she minored in food management while continuing her cookie venture on the side by baking in her dorm’s kitchen.
“I took a lot of food science classes, like Gourmet Foods with Anne VanBeber, that helped me think beyond just becoming a pastry chef — which is what I was passionate about at the time,” she said.
With roles ranging from assistant pastry chef to sous chef, McBay built a successful culinary career in Dallas. In 2017, she published her first cookbook, Peace, Love & Good Food, a collection of fall and winter dishes inspired by family recipes.
She was enjoying a brisk business as a private chef and caterer when the Covid-19 pandemic brought her spatulas to a screeching halt. At home in quarantine, she wrote her second cookbook, You Have Food at Home (Lulu, 2020), in just 10 days and launched it on Instagram. Minimizing ingredients, steps and time, the collection of 25-plus recipes found a robust following and was featured in Forbes and Essence.
“The reaction was amazing,” she said. “People seemed to really gravitate toward it.”
A couple of months later — on an impulse — McBay moved to Los Angeles. “With Covid, a lot of things I was working on just switched up, so I decided to move here for work.”
In LA, McBay found her groove working as a private chef, producing content for her growing social media following and beginning her third cookbook — a reflection on how food has helped her through chaos, love and solitude. “It’s written from a quarantine perspective, so the recipes are 1-2 servings — so kind of a minimalist approach to cooking for yourself or someone you love.”
Long term, owning a restaurant is likely in her future.
McBay took a break from creating and posting about savory dishes to share some of her lessons learned about life and cooking.
Cooking teaches patience — the patience that comes from knowing that things are going to work out. Sometimes when you’re cooking, you try to rush the process, and when you rush the process, it doesn’t turn out that well. Usually when I’m cooking, I like to just vibe in the kitchen, take my time and let the process be what it is supposed to be.
The state in which I cook is important. I’ve learned through cooking that having the right heart posture and love as part of my spirit in general is important — as cheesy as that may sound.
Cooking is not limited to a specific gender. It’s a life skill to know how to fend for yourself. If anything, 2020 showed us that when all of our traditional eating methods were removed.
“Affirmation is important for building confidence in the kitchen.”
Affirmation is important for building confidence in the kitchen. The best way to feel confident in the kitchen is to be in it often and to learn as much as you can while you’re in there. Shifting your mindset to expecting it to be a pleasurable experience and practicing more will make you feel more confident.
I love leaving softened butter in a butter dish on my counter just because you never know when you may want to spread butter on a pancake or a piece of bread or something.
I still burn bacon. You can’t take it to heart just because you mess up or something doesn’t turn out right the first time — or maybe even the third time. Every day is not a perfect day. Give yourself grace. Things aren’t always going to be what you want them to be. You can’t take it personally. Just keep moving and try it again the next day — or the next week — until you master it.
Magic is timeless. A lot of things can happen in a very magical way when we least expect them to. That’s something I learned from my You Have Food at Home book and the impact it has had. That project came from me just wanting to inspire people and live out my purpose. So I would encourage anyone who is committed to something bigger than themselves to really believe in it and do it with full force, faith and trust that it is going to be epic.
Through social media, we can reach and inspire people where they are. I’ve been able to virtually be in people’s kitchens in Brooklyn, London, Canada, Africa — and I love that my recipes are being used in homes around the world.
Being consistent and authentic is the key to social media. The people who are into what you’re into will find you, so having content that’s ready for them to explore and consume is important. Providing quality pictures and content and relaying your message in the most authentic way — that’s the perfect way to build a social media following.
Through the pandemic I learned that our time is not really our time. We can have as many plans, hopes and expectations as we’d like with our schedules, days and life and career goals, but really our time is not our own. Just being cognizant of that helps me to be able to adapt to whatever happens.
Last year also showed how much our homes mean to us, but sometimes the kitchen gets left out of the conversation. The kitchen can become just a place where you throw a dish in the sink or try to figure out what you want for dinner after a long day of work. I try to transform the conversation into, “How can I make my kitchen into a warm and inviting place to feed my family, be comfortable and love?”
I encourage people to invest in your kitchen — from its cleanliness to its organization to the placement of décor, fresh flowers, a candle or whatever makes you feel good when you’re in there.
Review and clean your refrigerator every week just to make sure things are fresh, ready to cook and not expired. We can have a lot of clutter in our fridge. Decluttering as often as you can prevents it from becoming a big pileup and you being stuck cleaning out a whole refrigerator.
Organize your cabinets so you have “sets” of plates, cups, forks and such and not a whole bunch of mugs and glasses from everywhere. I’m really about minimalizing what’s in our pantry and cabinets. Only keep things that are meaningful in your kitchen — things that look good and make you feel good.
When I graduated, it was a rushed moment. I didn’t enjoy the process because I was trying to think about what was next instead of enjoying the fact that I had graduated and celebrating that moment. Enjoy the moment and trust in the process. Things don’t happen overnight.
I love pop tarts and they are really easy to make. All you need is pie crust and filling. They’re good when they are fresh out of the oven and don’t have a lot of preservatives. It’s the equivalent of a homemade cookie or brownie.
Edited for clarity and length.
Brunch Pop Tarts
Growing up, I was a pop tart girl. They’re just so convenient. This recipe is a savory take on this nostalgic classic. You can hold the jelly if that’s not your thing. Make these with your kids too. They’ll love this brunch project.
Method: oven • Time: 30 minutes • Serves: 4 • Difficulty: 3/5
1 package pie dough
3 eggs, scrambled
3 slices bacon, cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar
¼ cup grape jelly
Pinch salt and pepper
1 tablespoon water
To assemble: Roll out the dough and cut into small-medium rectangles. Arrange half of them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese.
Scoop a tablespoon or two of scrambled eggs into the center of the rectangles. Add crumbled bacon on top, then sprinkle with more cheese. Lay another rectangle of pie dough on top and use a fork to press them together on all edges.
Brush the top of pop tarts with egg wash so they’ll turn nice and golden brown. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy.
If you want to enjoy them at a later time, just wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and freeze them. Later you can unwrap and bake in the oven or toaster until light golden brown.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from You Have Food at Home by Gabrielle McBay.