It's fitting that Aran Goyoaga, twice over James Beard Award finalist, food blogger and fountain of gluten-free recipes, says that "everyone should take Instagram with a grain a salt."
Food has been a part of Aran's story from the beginning. As a child in the Basque region of Spain, "surrounded by pastry chefs," it never occurred to the now Seattle-based culinary mind behind Cannelle et Vanille, that baking would be her path as well. "My family encouraged me to go to university, travel the world, get a higher education and get away from the blue collar job that baking was," she shares. "When I was growing up cooking for a living did not have the same aspirational career perspective that it does today." She ended up going to university, where she studied business and economics. "It was only after I finished my studies, moved to the US and found myself so far away from my family that I realized that pastry was the one bond that kept me connected to my roots." Her first stop was Florida, where the professional pastry chef worked for a large hotelier. A job which taught her reigns and ropes of all aspects of the kitchen. She initially stopped working to stay at home and raise her son. But the kitchen called her back. And food became her gateway to photography. Her photos have been described as romantic, unfussy, and nostalgic. Many writers have described Aran in the same way.
Today, the mother of two, baker, food stylist, author and photographer of the cookbook Small Plates & Sweet Treats, stays grounded and connected to her heritage through cooking and baking. "I have always loved working with my hands," she adds.
We met up in her gorgeous photography studio by Pike Place Market to chat social media, building a brand, and how her works feeds her soul.
How do you decide what to show, what to keep private? And how to be/not be a brand?
I am not sure what connotation "to be a brand" has (it probably means different things to different people) but I don't necessarily identify myself with that term. I suppose that with every piece of work I choose to show the world through social media, I am establishing a style, a personal taste, an affinity to something, but I don't generally want to sell anything or push product on people. I engage in some advertising work that I relate to or products I might naturally use but honestly my goal is to develop personal content that has an emotional narrative so branding doesn't really fit into that so easily. My instagram account is a bit of a cinematic world view that I have. Visual narrative is what drives my work and I would say I focus very much on that aspect. Sure, what I show is part of my life: my friends, my children, the food we eat, the places I see, but it has a very specific filter and I am not trying to say that is everything my life is. Everyone should take Instagram with a grain of salt.
After working for a large hotelier, what work lessons did you bring into your own business?
I loved working in a big team, especially in a company that has such high standards for service, but honestly, it made me realize that I love working for myself and making the kind of work that I want to do. I love the flexibility of working for myself despite the perils of instability.
Can you tell us a bit about the new project you’re working on and why making something that feeds your soul is important?
I spent big part of 2016 working on a new video series that explores my relationship with food, from my family roots to an eating disorder, to feeding the creative soul I never thought I had, to being open to the world and let go of a lot of the rigidity that ruled my life for so long. It is the manifestation that there is no beauty without imperfection. The series is called "A Cook's Remedy" [ed note: the first few episodes released early 2017]. I have produced the series with an incredible team of women in Seattle called Common Thread Creative. I am so excited to put it out into the world.
You moved from Spain to South Florida and have settled in Seattle. What about the city feels like home?
Seattle reminds me a lot of the Basque Country where I grew up. It's a lot larger and more majestic than the landscape of my youth, but there is a similar quality to a lot of northern countries that make it feel like home. The rain, the green, the introspection... Seattle is a city that looks forward and inward and that is a perfect balance for me. Makes me feel safe.
Aran's recommendations below:
Favorite market to buy your ingredients: Ballard farmer's market on Sundays, especially between May and October.
Have a morning cup of coffee: There is so much great coffee in Seattle that it is hard to choose. I love the morning vibe at Oddfellows. It truly is the place to get inspired in Seattle. And The Fat Hen makes incredible lattes. I also love Porchlight Coffee and Records for the obvious reasons: Coffee and music. My two favorite things in the world.
Eat a delicious gluten-free meal: Again so many places. I am just going to name a few because one wouldn't be enough. The lamb burger with no bun and fries at Tallulah's, the roasted vegetables and Jersey salad at Delancey, anything at Sitka & Spruce and Whale Wins (so many gluten-free options), baked eggs at The Fat Hen, pho at Ba Bar, Juicebox for almost everything on the menu, tacos at Copal, London Plane for their papadum and salads, Stateside for amazing Vietnamese and the list goes on.
Take your family out to dinner: Pho is the one thing we all agree on so Ba Bar is definitely our spot. Also El Camion which is a little taqueria in Ballard, especially in the summer. We are a family of simple tastes.
If you had to take a ferry to one island, which would it be and why: Vashon Island because that is where my dear friend Carolina lives and I love visiting her there.
Tourist spot in Seattle that you’ve never visited: The Underground Tour... I've heard it's interesting, but just creeps me out a bit.
Best free entertainment in Seattle: Going to KEXP radio station and watching one of their live performances. The new space is incredible with La Marzocco coffee shop and Light in the Attic record store. It's close to my home and love spending time there.