Earlier this year, I was thrilled to help my childhood friend-turned health coach and chef, Ali Rakowski, make a lifelong dream come true. Her first cookbook, Bowls of Love: Paleo Soups for the Seasons, has just been released after a successful Kickstarter campaign and many months of writing and editing. I reconnected with Ali to discuss the entire process.
A.J.: How was your experience with Kickstarter?
Ali: The experience was a wonderful rollercoaster ride and an incredible learning experience. I was deeply nourished by the outpouring of love and support (financial and otherwise) that were by-products of my campaign. Raising money through crowdfunding reinforced some key business principles for me. I have been lucky enough to coach other entrepreneurs as they begin their crowdfunding projects, and I continually push the importance of planning, preparation and perseverance. Planning a timeline for your project in advance, preparing for each of the key moments, and persevering through a very vulnerable time are truly the keys to success.
Health coach, chef and cookbook author Ali Rakowski.
A.J.: Were you surprised by the end result of your Kickstarter campaign?
Ali: To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Thanks to an incredible group of enthusiastic backers, I was able to meet my goal within the first five days of the campaign. I then tried to continue the momentum as much as possible and finished the month at just over 150% of my goal. I was pleasantly surprised how strong the community of supporters was, and how friends, family, colleagues and total strangers banded together to help support my dream.
A.J.: Tell me a little bit about the cookbook-writing process. What was the hardest part? The easiest? The most fun?
Ali: The cookbook-writing process was a nine-month journey with a lot of twists and turns along the way. It all started with a PowerPoint pitch deck (I am a retired consultant, after all) that I presented over Skype to my original publisher. I spent the next two to three months brainstorming recipe ideas, the structure of the book, and really building out a solid outline. The middle of the process was the most physically taxing as I had to write and cook all 49 recipes. I did seven photo shoots with my incredible photographer Erica Gannett, and I worked like a madwoman to prepare for each. My refrigerator looked like an aisle of Costco with containers piled to the top of every shelf. I then worked with Erica to style each of the shots, doing a lot of tasting, and then pawned off soup on everyone I know.
Though the months spent cooking in my tiny kitchen were challenging, I think writing the individual stories and signing off on the broader content was the hardest. As a writer you always feel like there is another sentence to add, a word to change, or a point that may be missing. Trusting my gut and believing in my work wasn’t always the easiest. The most fun part of the process hands-down (other than tasting each recipe!) was updating friends, family and other supporters on my progress. This book became a communal project and I cherished the fact that it made me feel closer to every person mentioned in it.
A.J.: How did it feel to hold your cookbook in your hands for the first time?
Ali: My future mother-in-law, Laura, told me that holding my book would be the closest feeling to holding my future child, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. Other than being a collection of recipes, the book truly is a collection of stories dedicated to some of the most special people in my life, living and not. It represents a physical manifestation of me going after my dreams, believing in my voice and trusting life. I don’t think it will ever get old holding the book in my hands, and I hope to hold onto that initial feeling and take it with me for all of the new challenges and projects to come in my life.
A.J.: How has the response to your cookbook been thus far?
Ali: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I was beyond thrilled to have many leaders in the Paleo community and personal role models of mine endorse the book, including Melissa Hartwig (co-founder of Whole9 and Whole30, and author of It Starts With Food), George Bryant (The Civilized Caveman and author of The Paleo Kitchen), Nell Stephenson (author of Paleoista and The Paleo Diet Cookbook), Melissa Joulwan (author of Well Fed and Well Fed 2), and Franz Fruhmann (executive chef at my favorite restaurant, North Star, in Pound Ridge, NY). There was a lot of suspense building up for the release of my book as the publishing process had a few hiccups, and my supporters never lost faith and held on throughout the journey. I was lucky enough to show my book to nutritionist Joy Bauer when I appeared on The Today Show last week and the response was fantastic.
Rakowski selects the best organic fruits and vegetables at a farmers market.
A.J.: What was it like being on national TV discussing one of your Paleo-inspired recipes?
Ali: It was an absolute thrill! My two long-time television dreams were to appear on The Today Show and The Ellen Degeneres Show. When I got the call from one of The Today Show producers, I was completely floored. I spent the first minute trying to convince myself it was not a prank, and then the excitement began to sink in. I am a huge fan of Joy Bauer’s segments, along with all of the other greatness The Today Show offers. I eagerly sat in the green room for two hours, waiting my turn for hair and makeup, and then finally went upstairs for the segment. The whole experience was surreal and very different than I expected as an average viewer. The studios were very small, everything happened incredibly quickly, and I am almost certain it was just a dream. Natalie and Willie were so friendly and approachable, and my mom even got a quick hello in to Al Roker at one point!
A.J.: That’s absolutely incredible — both for you and your friends and family who got to watch you on television! What a great way to jumpstart your own cookbook release. What do you hope readers and cooks will take from Bowls of Love?
Ali: I hope readers of Bowls of Love:
- Cook and enjoy the 49 deliciously healthy recipes.
- Learn and appreciate the simplicity of cooking real, clean food in the comfort of their homes.
- Use cooking and eating healthy food as a way to honor themselves, invest in the health of others and share love.
A.J.: What would you tell someone on the fence about creating their own cookbook?
Ali: That advice is simple: if your dream is to write a cookbook, write a cookbook. Push yourself to a place of vulnerability and follow your dreams. It will not necessarily be an easy road, but nothing worth accomplishing ever is. At the very least, you will end up with a beautiful collection of your recipes to share with future generations of your family. You will be amazed how many other ideas, opportunities, and experiences present themselves when you tap into your authentic self and follow your deepest dreams.
A.J.: Can we expect another cookbook from you in the future?
Ali: I would love that! I learned at least 100 important life lessons throughout this process, and I would be sure to apply them to any future projects. I would love to focus my next cookbook on broader menu choices, with everything from healthy breakfasts to side dishes and desserts! The first step is moving into my new house, renovating the kitchen, and getting the space I need to begin experimenting. Stay tuned at intersectioncoaching.com!
For more information or to purchase a copy of Bowls of Love, head over to Intersection Coaching today.