Her name is Kerrin Rousset but she's best-known for MyKugelhopf, an award-winning food and travel blog that came out of nowhere a year ago to reap a string of prestigious awards, including Lonely Planet, Tripbase and Weblog Winner for Best Travel Blog.
An American (with the soul of a Frenchwoman) Kerrin now calls Zurich home - in her words, "It's right in the center of Europe!" Women on the Road talked to Kerrin about her travels and her craft. And what's a kugelhopf? It's a cake from the French and German-speaking parts of Europe - in fact Kerrin is holding one in her hand!
Women on the Road: How did you get into travel and food writing?
Kerrin Rousset: The passion was building over the years, and really just exploded here in Zurich. I've always been doing this: my life was a deconstructed blog. I was always keeping a journal - I didn't feel my trip was 'complete' until I'd written about what I'd seen and tasted. I was taking pictures, sending them to friends, cutting out recipes. All I was missing was the blog. Somehow I wanted to turn these passions into a career - I really wanted to be a professional food and travel writer, not just doing it for me and my journals. I had good contacts already from my work in marketing in the food world both in New York and France. So now I want to put it all together and take my work to the next level, publish articles in magazines and really make a living out of it all.
How did you end up in Switzerland from the US?
I'm from Long Island in New York and I lived in the same house growing up. But I've been passionate about everything French for as long as I can remember. I studied abroad in Paris and discovered this crazy, huge passion for food and for Paris, so as soon as I could, in 2001, I moved to Clermont-Ferrand in central France (to teach English at a teacher's college). In a strange twist of fate I moved back to New York and met Olivier - my French husband! Even in New York I was still in France: I worked for a French PR agency, representing French restaurants, wines and food products. Best of all, we ran the Chocolate Show, the US equivalent of the world-famous Salon du Chocolat. Olivier's work brought us to Zurich and it's perfect for me, right in the center of Europe - I can get anywhere from here so easily.
How do you take advantage of living in Zurich?
Zurich is an amazing city - I fell in love with it! The lake, the river, the mountains, the trendy and new, but also the old and traditional. I am always discovering something new in the city and nearby. Also, I travel all the time. Switzerland has a great train network so we just hop on and find ourselves on a new adventure. Also, flying within Europe is pretty accessible (if not all that cheap from Zurich!).
Where did the idea for My Kugelhopf come from?
Alsace in northeastern France is one of my favorite places in the world, and Colmar was always one of my favorite cities in Europe. That's where I first discovered the 'kugelhopf'. There's a personal story behind it too - I have strong memories of learning to bake a kugelhopf when I was living in France. That's where I really began photographing food. My husband Olivier took me to Colmar after proposing marriage too. Now I live in Switzerland, in the very center of all the countries where this cake is from, so it's symbolic of where I am - at the heart of the kugelhopf empire! I also have an affinity for languages and majored in linguistics - I just love the sound of the word...
What are some of your favorite places so far?
I looove Alsace, but then I've said that already, haven't I... It's a mixture of French culture, German architecture, the colorful houses and oh the food!
Other favorite places that I'd love to return to are Portugal, the Basque country and Greece. Outside Europe there are so many places nearby too. I love Morocco - it's so rich in everything: history, religion, culture, and the cuisine - an amazing mixture of savory and sweet. The landscape is so incredibly varied too: sand dunes, valleys, mountains, villages, desert, medinas, bustling cities, dry, lush...
What do you like most about your work?
I love getting comments from readers: it's amazing to me that I have people who read MyKugelhopf from over 100 countries around the world!
I really enjoy the interaction because it makes it all so interesting and personal, it's enriching for both me as a writer and for the reader. Meeting people through the blogging network, and meeting people in my travels. That's the best part of it all.
I love the travel of course. I never get tired of seeing new places and trying new foods, especially sweets. I love to bake and try new recipes and share them with my readers - who then try them at home too. I love it all! I feel so lucky that I can do what I love as a career.
Your blog is filled with amazing photography. How do you do it?
I'm not technically savvy and don't have any formal training in photography. I have two cameras - a Canon Powershot 800IS and a Canon G10 - and they're both point-and-shoot. I just use my instinct and figure things out. When I take photos people say they can taste the food, feel the texture. You really have to bring them to the table with you, so they can almost taste the food and feel as if they are there with you.
The more I shoot, the more I learn and the better I get. I always ask for permission though, and people are usually willing (but not always). I try to be discreet and not get in the way of other customers. Sometimes I'll buy something, but other times I don't - I visit so many shops I just couldn't buy something in every single one!
Do you have any food writing tips for beginners?
My secret is passion, and to me that's what sets a writer apart from someone who simply goes to a restaurant and writes about the food they ate. It's all in the details, you have to take in the full experience and relay that to the reader who is starting with a blank canvas.
Paint them the picture; bring them the aromas and flavors you experienced. Write with all of your senses.
I can't travel and not be totally consumed by what's around me: food, colors, smells, it's what I love to do and when I write about food or photograph it, I'm trying to bring those same sensations to my reader.
With all this food, how do you stay so thin?
Well, I'll be expanding into magazine writing, as I said. And I'll keep traveling, keep eating, keep shooting. I can't see myself doing anything else. I love what I do - it's who I am.
Kerrin Rousset is the creator of MyKugelhopf, an award-winning food and travel blog that combines her passions for food, writing, travel and photography. She has branched out and now runs chocolate tours in Zurich and Geneva. All photographs taken by Kerrin Rousset.