Hi, I'm Jess! I'm a food photographer, videographer and recipe developer based in Chicago. I focus on keeping the kitchen real (no bs here), simple (good food doesn't have to be complicated), and dairy-free! The recipes I share are meant to be a slightly healthier version of classic comfort foods, with a heavy lean into sourdough discard recipes and brunch recipes lately.
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, visit my food photography portfolio.
Where it all started
I've always been into cooking and baking, spending hours in the kitchen with (or without) my parents as a young kid. I did a whole research paper in high school about baking (can't believe my teacher let me do that!). Somewhere along the way, I started snapping pictures of what I was making as a way to share with friends and family. Soon enough, that progressed to getting my first DSLR camera, and then it really began to escalate!
This Jess Cooks was born out of a love for photography and also sharing delicious, comforting recipes in 2018. It has evolved a lot since then, but above all else, we're still here for the food!
My photography journey
Once I started digging into food photography, there was no turning back! I became a full-time food photographer after spending the first 10 years of my career in PR and communications. There are a few courses and summits that really fostered my love of food photography, which I would recommend to any aspiring photographer:
- Master the Art of Food Photography Summit by Little Rusted Ladle is an incredible free summit that happens annually.
- Foodtography School is where I really started by photography education and was a great course to learn the fundamentals. You can read my full review of Foodtography School that goes into more about this.
- Artificial Academy by Joanie Simon at The Bite Shot was how I learned artificial lighting. It seems daunting at first, but it makes a huge difference in elevating your work!
- The Tastemaker Conference is an annual conference that takes place in Chicago and is a great way to connect with and learn from other food creators and bloggers.
For full disclosure, I am now also the Business Support Specialist at The Bite Shot, helping food photography students address business-related questions and challenges.
Learning is a life-long journey, and there is something new to learn every day. You can always send me a DM on Instagram and I'm happy to answer any photography-related questions!
If you're interested, you can also visit my photography portfolio here.
Why are This Jess cooks recipes Dairy-Free?
I discovered after college that I was lactose intolerant. For anyone that is experiencing food sensitivity for the first time, and trying to figure out what is causing the discomfort (I sympathize!), I highly recommend the Low FODMAP Diet for Beginners.
I had always cooked a lot, but this really kicked it into high gear. Cooking for myself became a way to make sure there was no dairy in my meals, and also to understand the ingredients in recipes so I could make better choices when eating at restaurants or somewhere away from home. For example, I learned some of the unexpected ways that dairy can sneak into recipes (malted milk powder in breads, for example).
With that, This Jess became dairy-free! I try not to use too many substitutes (yes, you'll see milk and yogurt alternatives, but you're unlikely to see me use things like vegan cheeses), as I don't like the majority of them and I wouldn't genuinely recommend them. All This Jess Cooks recipes are also delicious for someone who is not dairy-free! And if you'd rather make them using regular dairy, you certainly could.
A lot of my recipes end up being healthier than their cheesy / dairy-filled counterparts, but these are not intended to be low-calorie recipes in any way. Hopefully they're delicious and satisfying, and just happen to not have dairy in them!
A quick note on butter: I do use butter in my recipes and yes, that is technically considered dairy. Butter is highly pasteurized and contains very low amounts of lactose, and this seems to work for me in my diet. If this does not work for you, you can always use a dairy-free butter alternative. Everyone's dairy sensitivities are different!
What You'll Find on This Jess cooks
- Real, simple and dairy-free recipes that I've created and tested in my own home kitchen in Chicago. I hope you'll love them!
- A library of sourdough discard recipes, as well as in-depth guides on how to feed sourdough starter and how to use sourdough discard.
- An email newsletter where I share the latest recipes, tips and tricks. Only the good stuff, of course, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
- One-on-one mentoring for food photographers looking to take their photography skills and business to the next level.
- A holiday gift guide for the foodie that is updated every holiday season.
- Honest reviews, and my favorite kitchen and photography gear that's essential to how I run my kitchen!
More about This Jess cooks
If you want to try something a bit more challenging, check out these Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls or these Strawberry Pink Marshmallows. They're a bit more involved with more steps or rising time, or precise temperatures needed.
I do not currently sell my sourdough starter, but I'm happy to help you in the journey of making (or maintaining) your own! Check out these in-depth posts on how to feed sourdough starter and how to use sourdough discard. I also share a lot of insider sourdough tips on TikTok. Always feel free to reach out on Instagram or TikTok with any sourdough questions!
Let's keep in touch!
Looking for my photography portfolio or to get in touch about potential photography or video project? Visit the This Jess Photography portfolio page.
Have a question about a recipe or something on the blog? Want to share some feedback? You can always email me at thisjesscooks (at) gmail.com or send a DM on social media.
You can also sign up for the This Jess Cooks Newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and recipes from This Jess Cooks.