Confections of a Journalism Grad
February 17, 2012
By Tim Belter '13
Journalism graduate Shauna Sever '00 never planned to become the Next Door Baker, a popular food blogger and now cookbook author. She went from a hard news-focused journalism student, to an entertainment network TV host, to a baker, blogger and cookbook author, but every step of her career builds on her beginnings at Bradley.
"I never could have imagined that I'd be doing exactly what I'm doing," she said. "When I look back, though, I can see the path and how it all started with Bradley."
When Sever came to Bradley, she wanted to be a television reporter. She worked on Bradley's student-run news show, Midstate Magazine, and had an internship at WEEK-TV that even involved some on-camera time. She worked briefly in Chicago before moving to California, where she became a correspondent for Extra and the TV Guide Network. She began her baking blog on the side as a hobby, but eventually shifted her full-time focus to her blog and creative cooking.
"The TV jobs weren't as fulfilling as I thought they would be," she said. Writing about food allowed her to use the skills she had and inject them with her personality.
"There's always a story to tell with desserts and sweets," she said, noting she learned the fundamentals of telling a good story at Bradley and has used that skill at every job she's had since graduation.
Sever's blog, found on her website at www.shaunasever.com, shares recipes and stories about food and the ways it impacts her daily life. The recipes aren't just lists of ingredients and instructions, but tales of small bakeries found off the beaten path and unique meals for special occasions.
"Everybody has this connection to food in some way," she said. "People have a lot to say about food, so it can become challenging to think of something new to say."
One way to think of something new to say is to make something new to eat. Sever says inspiration for a new culinary creation can come from almost anywhere and involves plenty of imagination and experimentation.
"You have to look at food from a certain angle," she said. "Sometimes it's a pairing of interesting flavors. It also can involve thinking about texture. How do you want to deliver the flavors?"
That creative thinking led to her first cookbook, Marshmallow Madness!, to be released February 28. The book focuses on recipes for homemade marshmallows, which were among the most popular desserts at her small catering company. By focusing on a single snack, Sever was able to make the most of its flavors and textures. She discussed the idea of a cookbook with a friend who works for publisher Quirk Books, and the book was born.
"It's been amazing to see what kind of things you can do with one specific snack. You can take all these concepts and really make them your own," Sever said.
By writing her blog, she's noticed some big differences between baking for people you know and sharing recipes with people online. She says there's something special about hearing from people who not only eat her food, but make her recipes on their own and enjoy them with their families and friends.
"It really speaks volumes about what you're doing when someone takes the time to make and share one of your recipes," she said.
She offers cooking advice for Bradley students to chew on.
"The biggest thing that I've learned is to keep it simple," she said. "Have some good pantry essentials that can have you thinking creatively."
Although she lives far from Peoria now, the social media that's led to her success as a blogger has also kept her in touch with her alma mater. She stays close with college friends and professors through Facebook and email.
"Social media helps me stay connected with the school, even from a distance," she said. That continued connection is important to her, since she uses the lessons she learned at Bradley every day.
Sever is working on her second cookbook, Pure Vanilla, scheduled for release this fall.