A passion can turn into a career

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Becky Olsen has a plan on baking days.

First, she checks all her favorite cooking blogs. Then she heads to her day job. At lunch, she comes home and sets out some butter to soften and goes back to work. At the end of the day, she comes home and bakes.

This is the life of Utah food blogger Becky Olsen. She has taken her hobby and, with a lot of hard work, turned it into a career. She also uses her skills to help others live their dreams.

Olsen writes two successful blogs and does public relations work for Orem food product company, Shirley J. However, this hasn’t always been her life.

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Becky Olsen rolling out brioche dough for Pecan Sticky Buns
Like many good stories, hers starts in New York.

As a newly married BYU grad, Olsen worked at a high-tech public relations firm, but she wanted a hobby. She decided to begin her first blog, Project Domestication, which focused on her personal domestic journey. Three months later, Olsen and her husband moved to New York for the summer. That’s when it happened.

“I just fell in love,” Olsen said. “My eyes were opened to all the possibilities and flavors and textures and cultures and stories behind food.”

The couple moved back home to Utah at the end of the summer, but Olsen had foodie fever. She wanted to learn more.

“The biggest thing BYU taught me is how much I love learning and to never stop learning,” she said.

She joined a group of bloggers from around the world who were baking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Baking from My Home to Yours.” They called the group “Tuesdays with Dorie”.

The rules were simple. In order to get through the whole cookbook, the group made one recipe a week and participants were allowed to skip every other week. Olsen, however, decided she would make every single recipe. The only problem was the group started in January and she didn’t discover it until August, putting her eight months behind the others.

She baked 60 desserts in three months so she could catch up. Her days were full of flour and sugar.

She took butter out at midnight to soften. She got the dough ready in the morning. Sometimes she baked on her lunch break. And she loved it.

“Honestly,” she said, “there never was a point that I wanted to quit because it became a passion and a way to step into a different world of baking and people and food and culture.”

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Olsen baked all 370 recipes from this cookbook.
Olsen completed 370 recipes in a little more than three years.

She and her husband wrote notes and stories in the margins about each recipe as she made her way through the cookbook

“Made for Easter Sunday” is written next to Bill’s Big Carrot Cake. “Made to celebrate my in-law’s plum tree harvest” next to Flip Over Plum Cake.

“This cookbook became a diary of sorts,” she said, thumbing through the pages and pointing out notes. “I want my kids to fight over this when I’m gone.”

Not only was it a diary, but also a teacher.

“I call this my second degree, my bachelor’s of baking,” she said. “It really changed my life. I actually learned how to bake.”

About a year into Tuesdays with Dorie, Olsen used her new-found skills to land a job doing public relations work for Shirley J. One of her responsibilities is to develop recipes using Shirley J products, shoot step-by-step photos and then blog about them.

“As a food blogger you explore new ideas, recipes and ways to share daily,” she said. “I take that and apply it to Shirley J, its test kitchen recipes and story. Because I love to cook and bake, writing for and promoting a food product company makes sense to me. Sure the jargon could have been learned, but the passion and experience was in place.”

Olsen’s coworker, Amy Keller, said she sees directly how Olsen’s experience with Tuesdays with Dorie and Project Domestication has made her a better cook, baker and employee.

“When she started the Tuesdays with Dorie project, she kind of kept it to herself,” Keller said. “But as she went through the cookbook, I could see her becoming more confident in herself as a baker.”

Olsen also shows all that Utah small businesses have to offer in a weekly blog series called Utah Local Love.

“I think Utah is great, but in order for it to stay great, we have to support our local businesses. If we don’t support them, they’re going to go away,” she said.

One business she has helped is The Chocolate in Orem. She first blogged about the company when they were making cupcakes out of a basement kitchen.

“As a small business owner, you can’t always afford to pay for advertising,” said Craig Christiansen, owner of The Chocolate. “I am so grateful to people like Becky who reach out to small businesses and help them get the exposure they need. Her blog is our highest referring site. That’s what turns a small business into a thriving business.”

Olsen’s blog has allowed her to live her dreams as well as help others to do the same.

“I always thought it would be ideal to get paid for doing what I loved and to use my degree,” Olsen said. “When I first started food blogging, I never thought I’d have a career in food. Now I do.”

 

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