Jane Pace on the success of Bon Appetit Mom and must-go Long Island restaurants
Close to five years ago, Jane Pace was at a personal and professional crossroads, looking for something to do after her daughter Jenna graduated high school. On a whim, she bought a domain, which spun off into an Instagram account. Now with close to 10,000 followers on Instagram, the Long Island resident is both a popular provider of recipes and restaurant reviews.
Jane did some Q&A with No Place Like Long Island, which came across as both inspiring and hunger-provoking. After getting all of her restaurant recommendations, I realize that there are plenty of places that I need to try in the near-future. You can follow Jane on Instagram via the handle @BonAppetitMom, while her website remains at www.bonappetitmom.com.
Where did the name Bon Appetit Mom come from?
JP: In 2012, a year after Jenna graduated high school, I needed something to do. I went on a babysitting interview and I definitely found out that I was not going to work for me. I was coming off my Julia Child head and I wanted to do something with my food background. A friend said to go to godaddy.com. I did, and I found out I needed a name.
I thought, “Let me try bonappetit.com,” which of course was taken. Then I put “BonAppetitMom.com” in and it was accepted. I started out blogging, on a webpage which wound up being WordPress, because that was being sold by GoDaddy. The blogging site was impossible for me to work with. I had no idea if the website content would work, in terms of recipes, diets, counseling or anything else in the area of food.
After my nieces and nephew put me on Instagram, Bon Appetit Mom took on a life of its own. I hit 2,000 followers and I decided to re-do the website. I have a few wrinkles to iron out, but I am happy with the outcome. Companies started sending me products and now I’m doing restaurant reviews. Go figure. (laughs)
Where do your ideas for recipes usually come from?
JP: Many of my recipes have been from my family. Others from TV food shows. I then tweaked many of them and made them my own. Some recipes come from my own visions. I can see something in a store and create a dish including that item. For example, ground turkey. I must have dozens of different recipes for ground turkey. For example, stuffed peppers with ground turkey -- substituting the beef -- turkey tacos, turkey meatloaf, and on and on. The recipes are on my website...
Is there a recipe of yours that you're most proud of? Or you were especially proud of the feedback from?
JP: I love my brisket, my Caesar salad dressing, my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage – I won’t give those away -- my meatballs and my salmon. I get a lot of positive feedback on my salmon and pasta recipes.
When you post a recipe online, do you have goals or expectations?
JP: I really don’t know who checks out my recipes online. My website is not popular, but my Instagram account is. I don’t post recipes on my Instagram account, just on my website. I just post and I hope the overall response is positive.
Were you always good in the kitchen? Or did you take courses to develop your skills?
JP: I always loved to be in the kitchen. I learned a lot from my great grandmother, my grandmother and my mom. I also have a B.S. and M.S. in Nutrition Education.
I don’t bake, however. I find baking daunting, while cooking is very cathartic. However, the only thing I don’t like about cooking is the inevitable clean-up. (laughs)
Is there something you haven't tried cooking or baking that you one day hope to make?
JP: I would like to make Baked Alaska for my 10,000 followers. I wish I had a bigger kitchen with granite or marble countertops. Then I might try to bake again.
Are there any cooking shows on television that you especially enjoy?
JP: I love Barefoot Contessa, 30 Minute Meals, Paula’s Home Cooking – which is no longer aired – and I like Valerie’s Home Cooking.
Do you have any aspirations to do more with Bon Appetit Mom? Like to write cookbooks or have a show of your own?
JP: I love doing the restaurant reviews. It took a long time for me to say this, that this is what I want to do when I grow up. I would also love to write a book about the amazing journey I had on Instagram, of course incorporating recipes as part of the story.
I have been sent products from vendors across the country and have been asked to develop recipes. I also enjoy that as well. I would love to bottle and sell my salad dressing, which would be a dream come true.
When you're not busy with cooking, how do you like to spend your free time? Are there activities or causes that you're particularly involved with?
JP: I love to shop, go to movies, and of course dine out. I enjoy having coffee with friends, and going on road trips. I also enjoy participating in an international cooking challenge known as the Ready Steady Cook Club. Somebody picks six ingredients and we prepare dishes and feature them on the Internet. Participants come from England, Spain, Canada, etc.
Do you have a favorite restaurant or two on Long Island?
JP: I have a lot of favorite restaurants on Long Island and in the five boroughs as well. But since we are focusing on Long Island, I will go by cuisine:
- Italian - La Famiglia in Plainview, La Piazza all locations, Salumeria Pomodoro in Huntington
French - Cassis in Plainview, Sage Bistro Moderne in Woodbury
Steakhouse - BBG in Williston Park
Japanese - Koban in Merrick, Sawa in Syosset
American - Jonathan's Restaurant in Huntington
Fast Food - All American in Massapequa
Pizza – Mario’s all locations, Bella Vista in Plainview
Chinese Take-Out - China Dragon in Plainview
Seafood - Bostwicks Chowder House in East Hampton
Pub Grub - Harbor Grill in East Hampton, Indian Wells Tavern in Amangansett
Chicken & Ribs – Zorn's in Bethpage and Bellmore
Finally, what do you wish more people knew about Long Island?
JP: Coming from Brooklyn, growing up there most of my life, I had to adjust to Long Island. For me, I feel in love with Dairy Barn, especially when Jenna was very young. I didn’t have to get out of the car in the cold to get milk...The supermarkets are bigger, cleaner and there are many more to choose from. In Plainview, I go to Shop-Rite, Trader Joe’s and Fairway. I also take advantage of the libraries, the shopping with great malls close to home. I like the LIRR, so I don’t need to drive into the city. I like that the lifestyle is easier than the boroughs. I also like the summer concerts in the park. I used to like the concerts and events at Nassau Coliseum.