Interior designer Sharon Benlolo had time to run a long smoldering project out of hand: turning recipes into a handy and simple cookbook for even the most reluctant home cooks for over 20 years
After getting home from March Break last year, Aurora’s Benlolo family had to do what everyone else had to do: shelter at home.
But instead of getting bored every day looking at the few walls, interior designer Sharon Benlolo had the time to get a long smoldering project out of hand: turning recipes into a handy – and simple – one for more than 20 years. Cookbook for even the most reluctant home cook.
The resulting self-published cookbook Damn Good Food has sold out twice and is now being printed for the third time.
“I’ve always taken care of the kitchen: cooking family dinners, entertainment and dinner parties were my thing,” says Benlolo. “I’ve had this huge folder for over 20 years and every time I made a new recipe or borrowed a new recipe, I put it in this folder. The joke was that when I asked my daughters to get the folder, it was like, “Oh my god, not the folder.”
“The goal was to go through the folder and make a better folder that was more organized so I could get the recipes that I really loved. When COVID hit in March 2020 we came home and I said, “We’re all locked up, there is nothing to do, so I’ll make my folder.” I stood in the kitchen and went to the folder. My daughters are super creative and one of them said, “You should make it look cuter. We should create a different template and font. ‘”
With the aim of making it a little “cuter”, the idea quickly came about as a snowball. With her husband Alan, he proposed a bigger goal: to turn it into a book.
It was a worthwhile process – and a fruitful one. 40 issues were first printed within two days. The second print of 1,000 copies sold out between September 3 and December 20. The third print should go to more than 200 reorders this winter.
An active social media account @damngoodcookbook helps to disseminate the information, in which mother and daughters regularly publish food, testimonials and even contributions from readers who have taken the recipes for a round.
Since its release, recipes that have really resonated with those who have the book include crispy sesame beef and Benrolo’s own signature brisket, which they believe is a cross between their mother’s signature beef and their own.
“It’s the fan favorite that if I have a dinner party, I’ll probably serve it,” she says. “A user has not cooked in 20 years. She sent me a message that I have changed her life and that her husband wants to renew his vows. She can’t believe she fell in love with the kitchen. She always found it so daunting, but it’s easy and there are so many different types of recipes, everything has so much flavor, it’s versatile.
“The biggest thing is that it’s easy. If you’ve ever felt like the kitchen is daunting, check this out. Check out our social media and see that the recipes are so reliable. We also offer our followers a weekly menu that they can activate or deactivate. We have 400 people signed up and every Saturday morning I send out a menu for the week with a shopping list attached. It’s very interactive, but it’s only relatable. I think that’s the most important thing. “
For more information, including how to get your copy, visit damngoodcookbook.com or follow @damngoodcookbook on Instagram.
Brock Weir is a federally funded reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative for The Auroran