There is something really beautiful about happening upon a passion. When something inspires you and fuels your soul and then you can share that with others, well there’s nothing much better than that. And that is exactly how I felt when I stumbled upon a Better Happier St. Sebastian, a food blog created by Philadelphia based photographer Jillian Guyette and her beau Robert. The blog is elegant in its simplicity and the recipes are rich with substance and quality but easy to obtain, combining the best balance of expert recipes that anyone can make. Jillian’s roots are firmly planted in photography and growing up watching her mother’s cooking with a keen eye and gentle admiration, creating a space to share both loves was an effortless progression. In my quest to learn how to cook I found this blog to be a welcoming resource, allowing me to stumble through the perfect mistakes and learn from trying. That is what is so beautiful about this space, it allows its readers to feel like they can achieve that perfect dish, and this warmth and openness is also reflected in my interview with Jillian which you can read in this week’s Girl Crush.
What inspired you to become a food blogger? It's a funny thing because even though I’ve been doing this for a while now, I still don't think of myself as a food blogger. As a photographer I really loved the idea of having a side project kept me shooting something new and different all the time. The inspiration to work with food definitely came from my mom and the family traditions from my upbringing. When it came to blogging, I was actually more inspired by photo blogs in general before I focused on food. I had an assignment while I was studying photography at RIT to keep an updated photo blog for the duration of a class, and I decided to keep going. Eventually it became focused on the food I was eating or cooking, until I overhauled the entire thing and developed a Better Happier St. Sebastian with my fiancé.
In the kitchen what is...
Favourite Smell: bread baking. Favourite Dish: this is such a hard one! Can I choose breakfast? I really love all things breakfast. Favorite Soundtrack: any and all Frank Sinatra.
You work for Free People and are featured on the Free People blog, one of my favourites! How do you identify with their brand? Stylistically I definitely identify with the tomboy and vintage aspect of the brand since my closet is largely menswear, and classic basics. FP as a brand is really good at being relatable to a huge range of women, and is always evolving. That makes me really happy to be a part of.
Food photography is definitely an art in its own right, how do you approach your food photography? What are some tricks you learned along the way? I've always felt that less is more. My aesthetic across all of my work is very minimal, and my food photography focuses on the food looking as natural, and simple as possible. Traditionally, a lot of food is rigged and tainted in a way to make it look delicious, but inedible. I never responded well to that. I want the food to speak for itself, and to stay true to my style.
If you were to host the ultimate dinner party for your friends what would be the theme, what would you serve and how would you decorate?
Best question! This is my absolute favorite thing to do. One dinner party that Robert and I were discussing recently is a pot-au-feu party. It's hard to make a soup party sound exciting, but now that the weather is about to get chilly, I think it’s pretty perfect for a big group of people on a fall day. In terms of decorating, I love lots of white, fresh flowers or some greenery, and since it's fall definitely some gourds on the table.
Since it is fall what is your favourite fall inspired dish to make?
Fall is my favorite season, especially in the kitchen. Homemade squash soup is the epitome of fall for me, and it always makes me think of my mom. Robert and I made a version on Better Happier last year with sage and orzo.
You are based in Philadelphia, what are your favorite local hangouts? What would your Philadelphia travel diary look like?
Philly is a food town, and quite a character in its own right. My travel diary would highlight all the things that I love about Philly, which is the accessibility, amazing food and hidden shopping gems.
There are innumerable places to have a great meal or cocktail. My favorites currently in no particular order are: High Street on Market for breakfast, or brunch. I always recommend a long walk around Reading Terminal, preferably while you’re hungry. Dizengoff for the best hummus of your life. Alla Spina for dinner. The Abbaye on Wednesdays for their tap takeover events (a brewery takes over the tap and you can have all the beers from 7-9 for $10, crazy.) Also for drinks, Tria Taproom for their incredible and interesting beer selection, and Hop Sing Laundromat for an experience very fancy, and very quirky.
There are some great boutiques in Old City. Vagabond is my favorite; it has a mix of new and vintage pieces. Scout Salvage is one I've just discovered and have found some amazing gems at, and of course Jinxed, the mecca of affordable vintage furniture.
What is your favourite childhood cooking memory? Watching my mom make pastizzi, and eating them as soon as they were out of the oven. To clarify, pastizzi is a traditional savory Maltese pastry that my family has at holidays. When my mom was a kid my grandmother refused to write down the recipe for her, so she decided to watch every step and take notes until she could make them herself.
An incredible meal can feel like magic. What does magic mean to you?
I find magic in al the little details of life. Sharing a meal with friends and family. The excited feeling you get when you pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. It doesn’t even matter what you’re celebrating. That’s magic.