Hi, I'm Jess! I'm a food photographer, recipe developer and content creator based in Chicago. I focus on keeping the kitchen real (no bs here), simple (food doesn't have to be fancy to be good), and dairy-free (keep the butter)! On my blog I share recipes and kitchen-related posts ranging from how to make dairy-free Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins to how to make your own Homemade Vanilla Extract and the best holiday gifts for foodies. I wanted to share a little bit about me!
Keep reading if you want to hear more about how I got started in food photography and blogging. If you're curious about how we can work together, click here.
My dairy-free journey
I'll spare you too many details, but a few years after college I started having pretty serious stomach issues. It got to a point where I was in the hospital getting an endoscopy to look for tumors, cysts, holes, cancer -- anything really, in my stomach. As I was getting anesthesia the doctor said he didn't think they would find anything and that he suspected this was a food sensitivity. I went through with the procedure, but instead of continuing with a million tests (a colonoscopy was next), I decided to take it away and see if I could figure out what foods may be causing me to react.
I started following a Low FODMAP diet (this book really helped me). Essentially, you spend two weeks eating the most base diet possible of very inoffensive foods that typically don't cause sensitivities. It's a boring diet, certainly, but it's one you're meant to progress out of. After two weeks, you start adding in foods to see how it affects your body.
Gluten sensitivities run in my family, so I was watching out for that, but also dairy as I knew so many people who were lactose intolerant. Sure enough, dairy was the culprit.
I had always been really into cooking and baking, but with a food sensitivity, I started to pay even more attention. I started realizing how much dairy goes into foods, and how much of it is really unnecessary. Cooking more at home also allowed me to really control what I was eating so there was no accidental dairy sneaking in, and get creative with the foods that I was missing!
What about butter?
Dairy sensitivities are different in every person. Some people can eat certain types of cheeses. Some people can take a Lactaid pill and still eat four slices of pizza. I'm neither of those and truly don't eat any dairy, but I do eat butter. Butter is highly pasturized and the amount of lactose it has is very low (check out this Healthline article from someone way more expert than me). Personally, I find this works for me (plus I really love butter!), but everyone is different!
The PR & Communications part
After graduating college I worked in PR and communications in a series of PR firms in NYC and Chicago. Primarily I worked on accounts for food and beverage, CPG and luxury brands. I ultimately moved to in-house PR for a global CPG company (maker of OREO, Ritz, Triscuit, and more). It was a conscious shift to move towards the food industry, but eventually that I really wanted to pursue something more independent and creative.
Food photography enters the chat
I've always been someone that takes pictures of their food. I probably had my first camera when I was five. I had to make a presentation to share with my parents to convince them to let me buy a digital camera in middle school. At that point, I wasn't really shooting food yet, just shooting anything and everything. I remember shooting some still life shots and glassware in highschool, but that's the closest I got to shooting food.
Fast forward a bit and my parents bought me my first DSLR. I took an in-person class at the Art Institute of Chicago to learn how to use it, and I was hooked. At this point, I knew I wanted to shoot food and was always snapping pictures of things I cooked. Pretty soon I found Foodtography School and was so excited to find a photography class that was specifically food-focused (there aren't many). If you want to read my full review of Foodtography School, check it out here.
It truly changed my path. What started as a creative outlet and hobby became a side gig and then a full-time career within two years. And my 10 years of experience in PR and communications serves me well! In a way, it's almost as if it was meant to happen this way.
So here we are! Making great food, shooting beautiful photos, and sharing my appreciation for real, simple and dairy-free cooking with all of you! And enjoying every moment along the way!
What you'll find on This Jess
I focus on simple, delicious and dairy-free recipes that everyone will enjoy! Whether you're dairy-free or not, these recipes are for you!
I like to make pretty much everything from scratch (like homemade vanilla extract and pumpkin purée). I think it tastes better, can be cheaper, and you can control what goes into it. Of course, you can always use store-bought, too! Many of my recipes are naturally dairy-free as it's the way that I like to eat!
Let's keep in touch!
I hope you'll continue to follow my blog, but you can also find me on social media:
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If you have any questions at any time, please don't hesitate to reach out! You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you're interested in working together, be sure to click here.