Beacon’s Own Nerds with Knives: Emily and Matt Clifton

Interview by Julie Chibbaro

Beacon, N.Y. is a small but fertile city. We have lots of fresh food and creative people. When those two come together, the results can be magical.

Emily and Matt Clifton are two such creative people. They’re not professional chefs, but they love to cook, and they’ve managed to share their love of cooking with a whole lot of people through instagram and their website, nerdswithknives, and now, through a new cookbook, Cork and Knife , which focuses on cooking with booze!

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I found a moment to catch up with them and ask a few questions. We’ll get to hear more from them on October 13, at our Get Lit Beacon literary salon at Oak Vino in Beacon (5-8pm).

GLB: So, you wrote a cookbook! Where did the idea for this come from?

E & MC: We were actually approached by the publishers, Page Street, who have developed a pretty solid range of cookbooks and other non-fiction publications. I think they do a lot of outreach to established food bloggers where they feel the style would work well in book format. We went through some ideas over phone calls and after one conversation where a lot of our ideas were gently rejected (mostly because they already had similar books in the planning) we were asked if we had any other thoughts and, after we shared a slightly panicked look, Emily said “well . . . we do cook a lot with booze” and that was that.

GLB: How did your audience find out about you?

E & MC: It was a slow process! The first year or so of writing for the blog, our audience was pretty much just our mums and any polite friends we could convince to visit the site and leave a nice comment. We weren’t taking it seriously at all so we posted very sporadically (a no-no), didn’t really have any kind of theme (another nope), and our photos were pretty terrible (not a great look for a food blog).

Around the second year as we got more into it, we began to find our voice, and Emily upped her photography game so we also began to develop a visual style. We learned a lot about the web development and all the social media things that you need to do in order to expand your reach. At one point we got a ping from a forum in Hungary that linked to one of our recipes and there appeared to be a very energetic conversation about it. We still don’t know what they were saying, but it was a lovely signal that we’d expanded beyond the circle of people who could pick us out of a line up.

GLB: Do you follow any other cooking shows? What are some faves?

E & MC: We would (and still do) watch anything with Anthony Bourdain. He had such a unique way of seeing deep into the heart of so many communities through their food. He showed us that food encompasses everything about a culture; what it values, what it finds pleasurable, what its politics are.

A Chef’s Life on PBS is great. We love Vivian Howard and made a special trip to visit both her restaurants in Kinston, NC, last year. It’s less a ‘cooking’ show than it is a portrait of a talented and charming chef going back to the food of her roots, specifically eastern North Carolina. She visits farmers, cooks with elderly ladies who’ve been making the same dish for 60 years and stresses out about having two very busy restaurants. It’s wonderful. Similarly, Mind of a Chef, also on PBS, showcases a wide range of creative chefs and their behind-the-scenes recipe development.

Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” was an incredible explosion of knowledge, passion and just throwing her heart into cooking. She’s one of those people who is so enthusiastic about what she’s doing that it’s infectious. You can’t want watch her and not become a better cook. Or at least a better eater.

We’re excited to come and talk with you at Get Lit!

Matt and Emily live in Beacon, New York, with their dog Arya; cats Trixie and Ziggy; and variable numbers of chickens (the count is currently three).

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