When Fanny Slater was a wee-bit—3 years old, to be exact—she stood on a stool beside of her father at the stove, as he prepared to make her the fluffiest egg sandwich ever. Unbeknownst to small Fanny, it would be the founding path to her career with food. And writing.
A graduate from William Peace University in English (with a focus on creative writing), Fanny entered the Rachael Ray Great American Cookbook Competition in 2013 at the suggestion of her grandmother. “She’s nearly 90 years old and texts, Facebooks, emails, and Ubers,” Fanny says. “She told me I should consider submitting a video.”
Fanny thought back to her father’s egg sandwich, made with sharp cheddar and sage, on an English muffin. Though simple, its nourishment filled her soul. She decided to make a video in her family’s kitchen in north Raleigh, but upped the ante on the sandwich by topping it with her homemade orange, lavender and fig jam. Along with an essay, three recipes, her concept of a cookbook—which at that time was called “Tastes Like Childhood” and would be centered on Fanny’s favorite childhood food memories—and video, her submission made it to the top 20 out of thousands. Interview processes continued as they pared down contestants; Fanny made it. “On April 1—yes, April Fool’s Day—Rachael Ray called me herself to tell me I made the top five,” she remembers.
Fanny flew to NY to tape the finale of the competition in May 2014. She won and soon was given a four-month deadline to write her manuscript. It took a year and a half to test more than 100 recipes, get all measurements exact, write 30 stories, and fly back and forth to NY for the cover shoot and stylizing food for pictures—not to mention edit and copy edit the entire book. In March 2016, “Orange, Lavender and Figs” hit the shelves.
“All of my recipes are my own interpretations of my childhood food memories,” she tells. “I would scribble down random words like ‘rainbow chard’ on napkins or my hand when something popped into my mind. I once woke up with a recipe for guava butter sauce in one of my iPhone notes. I have no idea how it got there. When I ran out of ideas, I started an email chain with my family, who reminded me of how I used to run around the house with bologna on my face. That led to recipes like ‘Parmesan Crusted Prosciutto and White Cheddar Wraps.’”
Though not culinary trained, Fanny’s experience in the food industry comes from waiting tables (“an experience I think everyone should have once in their life,” she notes). As well, during college she did one of her internships at Margaux’s Restaurant. She staged in the kitchen and wrote about it.
“It was like being on the other side of Oz’s curtain,” Fanny describes. “It fueled me toward a very authentic passion for creating food of my own, but not toward wanting to be in the restaurant industry. Those are two different things. . . . I like playing by my own rules. I don’t want to be burnt out by the restaurant industry, and I don’t want to lose my passion for cooking because it becomes like a job. Some people love the high intensity and pressure of a hot kitchen but not me. I have to find my own way to do what I love, and I’m cool with being different.”
And so she is. Fanny is known locally for her numerous musings and quips in print. She writes recipes for Wrightsville Beach Magazine, as well as food columns for encore’s sister publication, Devour, not to mention she freelances for Wilmington Magazine, North Brunswick Magazine, Ideal-Living Magazine, Cape Fear Living Magazine, and blogs for a wine-cork company called Nomacorc. However, the pen(wo)man originally had her sights on an acting career—not surprising to anyone who is impacted by Fanny’s infectious humor and personality.
“I knew, one way or another, I wanted to perform in front of lots and lots of people,” she tells. “Once my passion for cooking completely revealed itself, and I realized I could be in front of the camera just by being Fanny, everything fell into place. Future cooking show, here I come.”
While she’s currently being vetted for a show, also she’s been thrust into the world of a book tour. Fanny started the promotions last month. “I kicked things off in New Jersey where my grandmother lives so she could enjoy the first part of this crazy ride with me,” she says. She had a launch party locally at Wilmington Homebrew Supply and has made stops in Raleigh and Cary before moving on to Chapel Hill, Richmond and Charleston in coming months. Then she’ll return to her home camp in the Triangle.
“I’ll do a luncheon, speech, signing, and demo in Holly Springs, a potluck event in Wake Forest, and a speaking and signing event at Peace,” she says.
This weekend, Saturday, April 16, Fanny will stop in at her favorite neighborhood watering hole in the Brooklyn Arts District. Goat and Compass will host another book launch party.
“When I started planning my East Coast book tour, I thought very carefully about my events in Wilmington,” she says. “I wanted to make sure I planned signings at locations that had meaning to me, and also partnered with and promoted as many local businesses as possible. Goat and Compass is the epitome of home for me. It’s our neighborhood living room. I moved to Wilmington four years ago (Azalea Festival weekend, to be exact) and lived in the Mercantile Building on North 4th. For weeks I would watch crowds gather outside of the homely bar across the street. When I finally got the courage to walk in one rainy Tuesday night, I met Scott Wagner (then-bartender, now co-owner). He was the first friend I ever had in Wilmington and treated me like family from day one.”
Fanny also reached out to Funky Fresh Food Truck to churn out some of her recipes to go along with Fanny-inspired cocktails that will be served. “This means all-things Coors Light, whiskey and hoppy IPAs,” she says. “[Funky Fresh] was ready to rock and roll out a menu of dishes straight from my cookbook.“
A rep from Pomegranate Books will be onsite selling “Orange, Lavender and Figs,” and Fanny will be armed with her Sharpie to sign everyone’s copy. “Bring your friends, neighbors, grandmothers, and farm animals; it’s going to be a damn good time,” she promises.
Fanny Slater will do another book signing with AJ Tata on Castle Street for Cape Fear Living Magazine’s Relaunch Party on April 30. Plus, she’ll be a judge as part of the upcoming Wilmington Wine and Food Festival in May.
“My love for cooking came from being in a family where we nurtured each other through food,” Fanny explains. “My dad and I love to do the cooking, while my mom and sister love to be surrounded by wonderful food. When we plan a vacation together, each day is based around the meals we’ll eat. Those are our activities. My family’s favorite pastime is food. It’s just who we are.”