This week, we’re proud to feature Nicole Gaffney of Coley Cooks in the Blogger Spotlight. For those new to the column, every Friday, we highlight a member of The Daily Meal’s Culinary Content Network, a limited group of bloggers who write about food and drink.
We look to this group of talented food writers for inspiration and participation in The Daily Meal, whether for restaurant recommendations or new recipes to try out for dinner. Our editorial team covers All Things Food and Drink, and we tap the CCN to keep up to speed on what is happening around the country and the world — from fine dining to home cooking.
Nicole Gaffney, a.k.a. “Coley,” is based in Brigantine, New Jersey — a small island north of Atlantic City — and is the blogger at and creator of Coley Cooks. Gaffney was the second runner up on the tenth season of Food Network Star. Gaffney has also been featured on The Rachael Ray Show, The Chef’s Kitchen, and My Family Recipe Rocks.
The Daily Meal: What is the mission of your blog?
Nicole Gaffney: To boost confidence in home cooks and inspire them cook as seasonally, locally, and sustainably as possible.
How’d you get started with your blog?
I started my blog when I was working as a personal chef and felt like I was losing my own sense of cooking style and self. I was cooking very specific food for each client I serviced, and it was often very different from the food I was cooking at home. I wanted an outlet to showcase my own personal thoughts and feelings about food that was separate from what I was doing in my professional life, so I started blogging about it. Through that process, I learned that I loved writing about, photographing, and developing recipes for the food I love to eat a lot more than I loved cooking the food my clients were requesting.
What are some foods you can’t live without?
Tomatoes! Especially the ones I grow myself. I also love fresh herbs (really, anything from my garden) and all-purpose wheat flour. Gluten gets such a bad rap these days, but I love the stuff. I'm ride-or-die.
What are some foods you can’t stand?
Hot dogs and other cheap processed meats. Not big on organ meats and offal either.
What is your proudest blog post?
Probably my final recap of my time on Food Network Star. It wasn't easy losing a competition that I spent so much of my year trying to win, but I was able to put it into perspective and find the positive lessons.
What is your biggest blog blunder?
Probably starting blog with a name that didn't make sense to a lot of people. When I started my blog, it was just a hobby, so I called it, “Too Full For School,” which was an inside joke between me and my friends. Whenever we ate too much, we'd hold our bellies and say we were too full for school. Once I started to grow my blog and take it seriously, I realized that it was too wordy and very few people actually understood it. I changed it to “Coley Cook”s at the beginning of this year to better reflect my overall brand, and really, just to make sense to the masses.
What is your most memorable comment from a reader?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I have to say all the positive comments, words of encouragement, and support I received on my Food Network Star recaps. They are what did, and still continues, to keep me going.
What’s on your cooking playlist?
Music is essential when I cook and it changes with the times and my mood. In the fall, I switch to moody indie rock like Warpaint, Built to Spill, and The Strokes. For some reason, I like Bossa Nova at the holidays. Sometimes a little Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang Clan, or Tribe Called Quest for no reason at all. I also like Talking Heads and Fleetwood Mac at dinner parties, and Billie Holliday on Sunday mornings.
What are some food blogs you love?
Smitten Kitchen and Orangette were the first two blogs I started reading and two I still love today. I love Pinch of Yum for not only their recipes, but their income reports and better blogging tips. Not Without Salt has also been a favorite for a while, and is the reason I double the salt in almost all the desserts I make.
Favorite food apps?
You know, I'm not a big app girl. Maybe one of these days I'll venture into the 21st century.
What is the best thing about blogging?
Being able to share my recipes, stories, and connections to food with the world. It can also be quite therapeutic and cathartic at times. It's also nice to have a lot of these recipes written down for me to reference later, whereas in the past I would whip something up and then forget about it altogether.
Worst thing about blogging?
It's incredibly time consuming and doesn't always come easily.
What recipe are you currently obsessed with?
Philadelphia-style ice creams that require no cooking. They're so pure tasting and perfect for easy desserts. I've also been obsessed with Jim Lahey's no need bread/pizza dough for a while now. My tomato obsession will also never die.
What would even your most loyal followers be surprised to learn about you?
I put off starting a blog for so long because I was self-conscious about my writing. I still am, but I just don't care as much.
Five of your all-time favorite posts: