Being “internet famous” is no small feat, but pastry chef Claire Saffitz —formerly of Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes series—spent much of 2020 translating her magnetism and talent into a decidedly lower-tech platform: her first cookbook, Dessert Person. The book packs Saffitz’s unique spin on classics like confetti cake, as well as mouthwatering, palate-expanding wonders like cranberry-pomegranate mousse pie—and for those lacking a sweet tooth, pigs-in-a-brioche-blanket.
While divining and recipe testing dozens of sweets might sound like a dream job, Saffitz was eager to unplug and refuel outside of the kitchen:
“The process of working on the book was so intense, and I needed to exercise different mental muscles. Stepping outside of the mindset of recipes and dipping into a different arena or discipline where I was exposed to new ideas helped clear and relax my thinking so the creative synapses could keep firing. I find it inspiring, even soothing, to listen to smart people talking about interesting things.”
We asked Saffitz to share the stories that inspired her—and she came back with everything from pop culture to diet culture, science fiction to Schitt’s Creek:
“I like to focus mostly on news and things that feel ‘nutritious’ during the day. I read news in the morning, listen to a lot of podcasts and NPR when I am ‘at work,’ which is either in my kitchen at home or in front of my laptop. By evening, my brain is a little fried, so I like to relax in front of a show or a movie. And before bed, I will dive into long-form articles or a book.”
CS: “This episode really helped crystallize my thinking around social media, thereby shaping my online habits. It’s a must-listen, especially in the era of Covid.”
CS: “I tend to like dark, moody series, and Mindhunter totally captivated me. It’s a terrific period show with outstanding writing and performances, plus a masterful narrative arc.”
BONUS READ: “Star Jonathan Groff opens up about compartmentalizing—and engaging in a little “Mindhunter emotional eating” via Vanity Fair.”
CS: “I love the way that Jenna and Wesley challenge one another (and the listener) to think; they constantly expand and shift my views on all aspects of culture. They’re so smart and funny and cool, and in this episode, their analysis of and reverence for Beyonce is inspiring.”
CS: “I don’t usually read science fiction but a friend recommended this and it was one of the most brilliantly creative, thought-provoking, and transporting books I’ve ever read. It’s fast and intense.”
BONUS READ: “VanderMeer agreed to publish three novels in one year—and then things got weird, via The Atlantic.”
CS: “Christy’s work pushes back hard against diet culture and introduced me to the principles of intuitive eating. In this episode, she interviews one of my favorite writers and critics, the brilliant and hilarious Lindy West.”
Claire Saffitz is the former host of Bon Appetit’s “Gourmet Makes” and is a contributor to the magazine. She studied French cuisine and pastry in Paris after graduating from Harvard. Originally from St. Louis, Claire lives in New York City.