Alex Snodgrass with daughters Sutton and Winnie. Photographed by Kristen Kilpatrick.
Alex Snodgrass has turned The Defined Dish into a phenomenon that goes far beyond North Texas.
What is a summer party without some seriously delicious food? (@thedefineddish)
The Defined Dish, a blog by Dallas’ Alex Snodgrass, is a relatively recognizable name around North Texas. Friends are constantly cooking her healthy, easy-to-make dishes (which are often Whole30-approved) on weeknights. When her first cookbook came out this month, there was a proposal to temporarily refocus our book club to cookbooks, solely so we could socialize around Snodgrass’ lasagna-stuffed zucchini boats or Mini King Ranch Casserole.
When that cookbook landed a spot on The New York Times’ BestSellers List, it was clear The Defined Dish love extended well beyond North Texas boundaries. Best-selling author Brené Brown wrote a quote for the cookbook. Erin Foster reached out to partner with Snodgrass for an event in Los Angeles. Katie Couric follows her on Instagram — along with almost 400,000 others.
During a break in her nationwide tour, I checked in with Snodgrass to learn more about what went into the making her (now clearly quite popular) cookbook and how it feels to become a New York Times best-selling author.
You were doing The Defined Dish for a few years before Whole30 became the focus. How did you decide to do the diet?
Before I really turned [the blog] into my business, I had discovered the Whole30 because I was struggling from postpartum anxiety. My sister had done a Whole30. She said, “I have such great mental clarity. I feel so good. I’ve read from the Whole30 community that a lot of them have like alleviated their anxiety depression. So I think you should try it.”
Long story short, I did it. It just kind of set off this ripple effect in me, because you really have to be cognizant of your day to day and really take care of yourself or else you won’t have a successful Whole30. I was like, “Wow, putting this time into myself is so valuable and I find myself happier, being a better mom, and being in a better mood all the time because I’m taking care of little old me.”
I also realized I had a talent in making Whole30 food taste good. You know, one week of eating kind of boring is okay, but two weeks, that’s not okay for me. So I started to get crafty in the kitchen. I’d be like, “Okay, I’m craving gumbo. How am I going to make gumbo as Whole30 and as close to the real deal as possible.” And I always found a way. I was like, “Damn! I’m really good at this.”
Do you think the Whole30 focus is what helped The Defined Dish take off?
I think it was that, plus, when Instagram Stories came about, people started seeing who the person was behind the food. I’m just not the type of person to share my personal life in static Instagram posts, so Instagram Stories was the perfect way for me to feel comfortable sharing the behind the scenes of my life. It’s really been like such a fast paced growth for me since.
How did the opportunity for the cookbook come about?
A literary agent had started following me and reached out. She said that she really liked my recipes, but also how engaged my community was and how I interacted with them. She thought they would respond really well to a cookbook. I actually already kind of knew what I wanted to put in a book, so we put together a proposal together and pitched it to the publisher. The rest is history.
What was it like to see your name on the New York Times Bestseller List?
I was dying.
Where were you when you find out?
It’s kind of funny because the day before the list came out, my editor sent me this long email to prep me for the fact that I probably wasn’t going to get it. I knew the sales were going great, and as far as numbers go, I kind of checked all the boxes to potentially be in New York Times Best Seller. But apparently, it’s just one of those things where, regardless of numbers, sometimes you just don’t get it because there’s more to the algorithm — I don’t really know how it all works.
It comes out every Wednesday at 4:30. I was getting ready for my first book tour launch here in Dallas. It was just me and my girls in the apartment. I got an email from my editor and I just started screaming bloody murder. My kids were terrified. It was fantastic.
That’s a pretty good way to start the decade.
It’s been a great couple of weeks. The best part about it, really, aside from the credentials and all those things, is just being able to see everybody cooking the recipes. I just didn’t really know what the response was going to be, and my community has really blown me away during this whole process.
Your book is endorsed by Whole30’s creator, Melissa Hartwig, but it’s not strictly Whole30.
The whole premise of Whole30 is that it’s for 30 days, not 365. I still eat Whole30, but I also incorporate healthful ingredients that work for me, like legumes and grains and a little bit of dairy here and there. I think that healthy balance is a great way to showcase the purpose of her program, which is being able to figure out what works for you. My book is the third one she’s endorsed.
I’ve actually noticed that a lot of my audience and community have never done a Whole30 before, but they just want to eat with cleaner ingredients, and they’ve found that my recipes don’t make them feel deprived. It’s nice to be able to showcase that Whole30 isn’t just eating grilled chicken and broccoli. You can really have fun.
Brené Brown also endorsed your book.
That was like when I found out I go the New York Times Bestseller List — I was literally screaming. I knew that she followed me and had made my recipes and I’m a huge fan of hers. I mean, if anybody taught me to be vulnerable and just put yourself out there, it was her. I was like, “I’m just going to ask her if she’ll endorse my book. What’s the worst that could happen?” When she responded, I was like, “Holy shit!”
I imagine a lot of notable people have probably started cooking your recipes.
Erin Foster endorsed my book as well. I’m actually doing my book tour stop in LA with Erin and her sister Sara. It’s funny because when people announce they’re doing Whole30, my community is so amazing. They’ll DM these celebrities on Instagram and be like, “Hey, you’re doing a Whole30, you need to follow The Defined Dish.”
What’s the plan after you finish your book tour?
I definitely have ideas for a second one already. And I would love to be able to have a product line so that my recipes are even easier for my community to make. Whether it be spices or sauces so they can whip things up in half the time — just whatever it takes to make their lives more flavorful and more simple.