Stay-at-home project yields some “Damn Good Food” for Aurora and beyond

·3 min read

After they got home from March Break last year, Aurora’s Benlolo family had to do what everyone else had to do: shelter at home.

But rather than getting bored looking at the same few walls day in and day out, interior designer Sharon Benlolo had the time to take a long-simmering project off the backburner: editing more than 20 years of recipes down into a handy – and easy – cookbook for even the most reluctant of home cooks.

The resulting self-published cookbook, Damn Good Food, has now sold out twice and is now in its third printing.

“I have always been about the kitchen: cooking family meals, entertaining, and dinner parties were my thing,” says Ms. Benlolo. “I had this huge binder for the last 20-plus years and every time I created a new recipe or borrowed a new recipe, I would put it in this binder. The joke was that whenever I asked my daughters to get the binder, it was like, ‘Oh my God, not the binder.’

“The goal was to go through the binder and make a better binder that was more organized so I could pull out the recipes I really loved. When COVID hit in March of 2020, we got home and I said, ‘We’re all locked up, there’s nothing to do, so I am going to do my binder.’ I set myself up in the kitchen and started going at the binder. My daughters are super-creative and one of them said, ‘You should make it look cuter. We should do a different template and a different font.’” From the objective of making it a little bit “cuter”, the idea quickly snowballed. With her husband, Alan, getting in on the fun, he suggested a bigger goal: turning it into a book.

It was a rewarding process – and a fruitful one. The initial printing of 40 editions were out the door within two days. The second printing of 1,000 sold out between September 3 and December 20. The third printing was due to go out to more than 200 back orders this winter.

Helping spread the word is an active social media account @damngoodcookbook with mother and daughters regularly posting food, testimonials and even submissions sent in by readers who have taken the recipes for a spin.

Since its publication, some of the recipes that have really resonated with those who have the book include crispy sesame beef, and Ms. Benlolo’s own signature brisket, which she says is a cross between her mother’s signature beef and her own.

“It’s the fan favourite that if I am having a dinner party, that is probably what I am going to serve,” she says. “One user hasn’t cooked in 20 years. She sent me a message that I have changed her life and her husband wants to renew his vows. She can’t believe that she has fallen in love with the kitchen. She always thought it was so daunting, but it is easy and there are so many different types of recipes, everything has so much flavour, it is eclectic.

“The biggest thing is it is just easy. If you ever felt the kitchen was daunting, take a look at this. Look at our social media, see the recipes are so relatable. We also provide for our followers a weekly menu and they can opt in or opt out. We have 400 people who have opted in and every Saturday morning I send out a menu for the week with an attached grocery list. It is very interactive, but it is just relatable. I think that is the most important thing.”

For more, including how to get your copy, visit damngoodcookbook.com or follow @damngoodcookbook on Instagram.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran