Kristin Donnelly is a mom, an author, a photographer, a chef and an entrepreneur. And with her first cookbook just out, a household name-in-the-making.
By Kendra Lee Thatcher · Photography by Josh DeHonney
If you don’t already know Kristin Donnelly, you will shortly. She’s seemingly everywhere at once, the way a small flame suddenly catches the kindling.
A regular contributor to the likes of Food & Wine, epicurious, EveryDay with Rachael Ray, Women’s Health and Prevention magazines, Donnelly dropped her first cookbook this summer, Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share (Clarkson Potter), and already has another one in development. She also writes an online journal, Eat Better Drink Better, that’s gripping in its intimacy. An excerpt from the day after the election:
It’s 3 pm on a Wednesday. I’ve finally showered. I lit a candle and I burned sage. I walked to the mailbox and to the new bakery in town and cried with a new friend and ate the quiche she made. I’ve also received tone-deaf PR emails with titles like “Politics suck. This ladle doesn’t.” and resisted the urge to respond with vitriol.
When she’s not writing, or shooting or developing a recipe, Donnelly’s tending to her organic lip balm line, Stewart & Claire, which she developed with her husband, Philip, and to her daughter, also developed with Philip. It all seems too much to be true, so we visited her at home in New Hope and asked her to walk us through a day in her life.
7 a.m. | She’s up. And making coffee straightaway. One Up One Down Coffee brewed in a Chemex Pour-over. “I love the ritual of it,” Donnelly says. “I also love the fact that it’s delivered every other week, so it’s one less thing I have to think about adding to the grocery list.”
7:20 a.m. | As her husband and daughter, Elsa, begin to stir, she makes Elsa’s lunch. “I like to make a big pot of lentils on Sunday to use for lunches during the week. But that doesn’t always happen.” This is one of those instances, so Elsa’s ending up with her favorite lunch: a cream cheese and jam sandwich, a side of broccoli and a couple of apples they picked over the weekend.
7:50 a.m. | Breakfast varies from day to day, but Donnelly’s recent go-tos are muesli with kefir or whole grain toast slathered with jam.
8:25 a.m. | With Elsa off to school, Donnelly dresses.
8:55 a.m. | “I’m really very systematized,” she says, reaching for a leather-bound notebook that’s filled with pages of neatly written notes. “At the beginning of each month, I write a list of goals. Then on Sundays, I write my weekly to-dos. And at the start of each day, I put together my tasks and schedule.”
The window by her desk is filled with a grid of yellow and green Post-its. More lists? “Those? No. No, that’s my daughter’s ‘artwork,’ leftover from a sick day,” she says, laughing.
9:15 a.m. | “I like to start my day with the most brain-taxing tasks first because I simply have the most energy in the morning.” They range from packing Stewart & Claire orders to pitching new accounts to writing.
10:55 a.m. | Herbal tea break.
11 a.m. | “I need mental time to transition from one task to the other,” Donnelly says. Right now, that means scanning her inbox and updating social media.
11:20 a.m. | Writing. Her approach is simple, but strict: Don’t wait for the deadline. And don’t stare at a blinking cursor. She sets aside an hour each day to write. No more, no less.
12:25 p.m. | “On my best days, I have lunch planned out—a hearty salad with lentils,” she says. “I love an energizing lunch.” Today, however, leftovers will suffice.
1 p.m. | Donnelly’s afternoons are reserved for testing recipes, photo shoots, producing podcasts and exercising. What that often means is that work and dinner are knocked out in one act.
3:35 p.m. | Coffee break. Donnelly walks over to Factory Girl Bake Shop to meet a friend over an ancient grain scone.
4:15 p.m. | “I sometimes choose between working out and straightening up,” she says. “Working out has been winning.” Yoga is her go-to exercise, but, when the weather was kinder, she also liked to ride the towpath.
5:30 p.m. | Donnelly picks up Elsa from school and heads home to make (or polish off) dinner. Inevitably, a dance party breaks out. Anything by Taylor Swift and Bob Dylan’s kids station are their tracks of choice. All the while, Elsa’s helping to stir, peel and set the table.
6:30 p.m. | “We sit down to dinner as a family every night,” Donnelly says, glancing into the dining room. Here, being present is sacred.
8:30 p.m. | The dishes are done and Elsa’s tucked in, which leaves a small, fleeting window. “I’ll either do something luxurious, like read my favorite food magazines or cookbooks, or something real,” Donnelly says, “like watch ‘Gilmore Girls’ and fold laundry.”
10:30 p.m. | Lights out.