Athena Calderone

Athena Calderone has taken a love for cooking, developed through early days of motherhood in her mid 20s, and a passion for a well-organized Instagram feed and put forth a seasonally organized cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is as curated and visually striking as the foodie Instagram of your dreams.

The book, out today, is the start of what Calderone hopes will become a domestic goods brand; another cookbook is on the way and she aims to launch a homeware line.

“I got married at 23 and had a child really young. I got pregnant at 25 and had my son at 26, so when all my peers, all my friends, were developing themselves in the career space, I found myself at home a lot,” Calderone says, from the lower-level kitchen of the Brooklyn townhouse she’s in the midst of renovating. “And found myself in this homemaker role, which could be frowned upon. There were times [when] I struggled with that because I knew I had a lot of creativity that I couldn’t quite figure out where to place, but at the same time I was filled with so much love and happiness through my family.”

Related: Miso Glazed Carrots, a Recipe From Athena Calderone’s New Cookbook

Calderone is married to music producer Victor Calderone, whom she met during her new-to-the-city club days as a young adult. “It was ‘96…I worked at The Tunnel and The Limelight and The Palladium; I had a shaved head and a septum ring,” she says. “Victor proposed to me at the Roxy, onstage. A drag queen came out with a birthday cake for him…[this was] in 1998.”

Becoming a mother in her 20s created a sense of isolation, through which Calderone found food, an initially solitary activity that soon opened into a wide community of food creatives.

“My husband is a DJ who travels a lot so I didn’t have that much of a social life at the time, and rather than getting a babysitter and going out, I would put my son to sleep and pump up the music and started baking and rolling out pastry,” says Calderone, whose most noted previous professional experience was a job at Indochine in her pre-baby life. “I found I enjoyed the solitude and creativity, and that led to me experimenting more with food. I would find myself making these elaborate meals and setting a gorgeous table and luring friends to my home…so it became a creative outlet and then it became a social outlet for me at the same time. And I finally just found myself, through food.”

As friends began requesting recipes and home decor tips, Calderone decided to launch a blog, EyeSwoon, where she posts about all things home, decor and food. The blog, her Instagram, and now the cookbook are all heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food.

“I started to think what is it that I want to share that nobody else has shared, and it was twofold,” she says of starting the cookbook, which was a two-year process. “I wanted to teach people what I’ve learned over the years about making your food look beautiful…I wanted to make sure every recipe had some sort of visual tip for the reader. But then I also wanted to expand what seasonality means to how you live, how you feel, the palette of our lives from season to season.”

As such, the parties in the book for each chapter of seasonal cooking different greatly in tone and texture, a concept Calderone ran with off of her own Instagram feed.

“Instagram was really what inspired this concept about each season having its own look and feel, because I was scrolling through my feed and I was trying to come up with a visual statement for the book and I started to notice that in winter, my Instagram was darker and sexier and moodier and when spring hit it was bright and green,” she says. “So I really gained inspiration for the book through my own Instagram. When I develop a dish I’m always thinking about what the visual is that’s going to make it more alluring.”

‘Cook Beautiful’ by Athena Calderone  Johnny Miller

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