People Connected By Similar Obsessions

James Ransom

Gena Hamshaw

Meet the food blogger turned cookbook author

Before she became a food blogger in 2009, Gena Hamshaw was a longtime fan of so many others in the space. Still, she noticed something was missing. “I had been reading food blogs forever and thought they were great but noticed a lack of representation from vegan bloggers,” she says. “Veganism is a really big niche now, but at the time, the vegan blog community was small. I wanted to change that.”

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So she did—launching her blog The Full Helping while simultaneously working full-time as a book editor. At the time, Gena was still relatively new to veganism, having discovered it while overcoming an intense personal battle with anorexia. “Veganism showed me that food didn’t have to be all about obsession and a fixation on what I was putting into my body,” she says. “It helped me approach mealtime as something meaningful, almost like a form of activism.”

Her blog became her outlet, a place to chronicle all the good-for-you vegan recipes she was dreaming up in her kitchen. “Blogging has changed quite a bit since 2009,” she says. “Back then, most people thought of it as a hobby versus a career path where a professional skill set like recipe development and food photography is required. When I started, I didn’t have any of those skills.”

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Instead, Gena learned as she went, teaching herself all the basics—not just how to cook, but how to take blog-worthy photos and run her own business, too. Now, two cookbooks later (with a third on the way next spring), Gena is proud of her journey from blogger to chef. She’s also very busy. “I’m currently in grad school to become a registered dietician, which makes it hard to fit in time for recipe development,” she says. “There are weeks where I feel super organized and weeks where it feels like a beautiful mess. It’s a work in progress, but I’m excited about what’s to come.”

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On her sources of inspiration for recipe development. “There are a lot of random kitchen experiments. Food itself is so inspiring and always gives me a lot to think about. Other times, I eat something at a restaurant or read about a dish and think: ‘Hmm…how could I veganize this?’ Other times it’s cookbooks or a fellow food blogger that I want to pay homage to. Inspiration is everywhere.”

On getting people to change the way they think about vegan fare. “My blog features tons of simple recipes that are wholesome and hearty—food that will really fill you up. I think one of people’s fears about going vegan is that it’s going to kind of be like bird food and very dainty, when it fact it’s very abundant. My recipes are healthful, but it’s also really going to stick to your ribs. It’s a very rich, satisfying lifestyle.”

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Her go-trick for styling a food shot. “I always shoot with natural light. That means I have to modify my schedule to be home at certain hours of the day in order to capture the right aesthetic. I also aim for simplicity in all my photos. Basic props like linens and antique forks and spoons are my go-to.”

On the hardest part about running her own business. “It’s incredibly hard to divide your time between your professional and personal life. When I started blogging, it was a hobby and I had a regular job where I occasionally stayed late. Still, when I left the office, I knew my day was done. The biggest challenge now is that there’s no definitive time to close up shop at the end of the day.”

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On her top three vegan restaurants in New York City. Candle Café and Candle 79. I love them both and I am very devoted to both of them. I also really love Blossom, which is vegan as well. Last, I love Souen. It’s not exclusively vegan, but I love going there for a great macrobiotic plate.”