Yasmin Newman’s latest cookbook is an ode to the sweet life in New York City. In 2016, with her husband and daughter in tow and a son on the way, Yasmin upped stakes from her seaside home on the NSW Central Coast to spend a few months with her brother in New York, where she ate her way through the best sweets and pastries the city has to offer. The result of all that dedicated “research” is The Desserts Of New York (And How To Eat Them All), a gorgeously written and photographed guide to New York via its top pastry chefs and cooks, featuring 44 recipes created by Yasmin, inspired by her travels.
Yasmin attributes her career in food to a mix of strategy and good fortune. With a long-held dream to write cookbooks, but no clear path to get there, Yasmin started out as a writer for food magazines. She wrote her first cookbook as a personal project on the side before she caught a break with a gig as a writer and sub-editor at MasterChef Magazine. There she honed her craft, writing about food, editing copy, and testing recipes, which confirmed that she had found her calling. She began freelancing in different mediums – including podcasting and food photography – before taking the plunge and pitching her first cookbook, 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines, to publishing company Hardie Grant Books. Hardie Grant loved the idea and by that time Yasmin was able to offer the whole package: recipe development, writing, and photography.
With The Desserts Of New York coming out on July 1, Collective Hub caught up with Yasmin to hear more about the book, get advice for those eager to follow in her footsteps, and find out how she juggles motherhood with her business pursuits. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
First up, tell us about the book! What is it and how did it come about?
The Desserts Of New York (And How To Eat Them All) is a hybrid of a few of my favourite genres – part cookbook, part travel guide, part tale of food adventure – set in one of the world’s most alluring cities. It’s both practical – cook from the recipes or follow the recommendations on what to get where in NYC – as well as, I hope, inspirational. Hang the expense, take time off work and follow your whims and dreams, whatever they may be (like moving to NYC just to eat dessert).
My brother relocated to New York about six years ago – he was among the first wave of Aussies capitalising on the new E3 work visas, and swapping London for New York as the city to live and work abroad. My husband and I had visited him a few times, but we longed for more. At the same time, I’d been watching New York raise the sweet stakes with pastry chefs such as Christina Tosi and Dominique Ansel creating wild new desserts, artisans in Brooklyn turning out produce-driven doughnuts, ice-cream and pie, and everything from freakshakes to rainbow bagels blowing up on Instagram. And like any self-respecting food lover, I wanted a front-row seat on the action. Wouldn’t it be great to spend a sweet season in NYC with my brother, and write a book about the adventure, I mused? Complete with a guide and inspired recipes, it could be a blueprint for others to follow, or experience from home. And so the idea for the book was born.
Do you have any advice for the food lovers out there who hope to turn their passion into a profession, as you’ve done?
Having come up through traditional channels, I admit I believe in the value of proper training – either (or both) through tertiary education/trade and professional experience. It turned me into a faster, clearer, smarter, better food writer, particularly my experience as an editor. That said, I’ve seen a lot of successful and genuinely talented self-made foodies turned food professionals. I think what’s important is to believe in yourself, set clear goals of what you want to achieve and by when, continually strive to learn and improve, find a mentor and network network network (or my preference, build real relationships). Same for any industry, I imagine.
Have there been any mistakes or missteps in your career that others could learn from?
If I could go back in time, I would have gotten more professional cooking experience earlier in my career and not concentrated as much on the writing and editing (or at least equally). I didn’t think I had time to fit additional studies in on top of a full-time job and freelance work. But once you add a mortgage and kids to the mix, life becomes even busier or constrained. So experiment, educate and be as bold as you can in the early parts of your career. And work abroad – that was another great thing I did.
You have two gorgeous children. How do you manage motherhood with your business pursuits?
Not with ease and all-knowing, to be completely honest! I now have a three- and one-year-old, and I’ve spent the last few years trying to work out how to balance their needs and my desires, then fit that into a workforce that supports working mothers, but sometimes only ostensibly. But, I do have a strong network of support, both logistically and morally, and that’s made a huge difference. I’m also fortunate that a lot of my work allows me to be at home and work to my own schedule. I have also come to realise that working and continuing my business pursuits personally makes me happy and by turn a good mother, and that the additional strain it causes in the moment is worth it in the long run. We moved to New York when I was four months pregnant with my second child, and to meet my deadline I was writing right up until he was born and started again just a few weeks later. It felt a bit silly at the time, but now that I have my book in my hands, I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved, and feel lucky to have been able to immortalise our family adventure in something everyone can read – that is special. In these early years, managing the two has come down to redefining my expectations of what I can get done in a day and when.
What’s your favourite recipe in the book? Can you share a story about why it’s special to you?
I’m still not able to settle on a favourite – I’m really trying, but at least I’ve got it down to my top five! And this is one of them. My husband and I eloped in the Caribbean, then spent two weeks in New York on our way home – most of which I spent eating doughnuts. A foodie friend had raved about the selection there and I was blown away by the quality and quantity to choose from. It was the beginnings, the doughnut seed as I like to call it, of this trip and book. In the time since, doughnuts have gone on to global stardom, but the best in my opinion are still New York’s. And these ‘glazed doughnuts of your dreams’ are crafted and named in their honour.
Try Yasmin’s ‘The Glazed Doughnut of Your Dreams’ recipe
You’ll probably want to follow Yasmin on Instagram. (Her food pics are on point.)