Quintard descendant Paige Grandjean found herself at a crossroads. Realizing she had no interest in her degree field of exercise physiology, she quit her first job after graduating from Texas A&M. But with months left on her lease in Birmingham, Alabama, she needed to find a revenue stream. Inspired by her love of cooking and baking, she applied for an internship opportunity with Southern Living’s test kitchen. Six years later, Grandjean continues to artfully craft and test recipes for major publications like Food & Wine Magazine, Magnolia Table Vol. 2 by Joanna Gaines and Southern Living through the Meredith Corporation.
“All my summer jobs in high school and college were in restaurants or kitchens. I didn’t think it was an actual career path for me, but somehow I ended up there,” she said.
“Just to have my name in the magazine … I just never thought it would happen, but it’s really cool.”
Food has always served an integral part in bringing Grandjean’s family together. The traditions and memories crafted as a child with her mom, grandmother and aunts in the kitchen still inspires her today.
“The point of everything I do is for (readers) to bring it into their home kitchen, and how important food is from a family aspect. To be a part of that is great,” she said.
Since joining the Meredith Corporation, Grandjean has had several recipes featured on the covers of renowned food publications as well as articles, spreads, tear sheets and more. One of her favorite projects so far included a trip to her mother Debra’s home state of New Mexico.
“For as long as I can remember, we’ve been going back (to New Mexico) every October and September to pick up chiles,” Grandjean said.
The September 2021 issue of Food & Wine included her story, which takes readers to the desert fields of southern New Mexico alongside her family to harvest and process Hatch green chiles.
“Our day begins in the chile fields at dawn, the cooler nighttime temperatures vanishing as the sun peeks over the distant mountains. After meticulously picking for hours, we pile 50-pound burlap sacks of chiles, still warm from the desert sun, in the back of the pickup truck and meander home along dusty farm roads,” Grandjean wrote.
The accompanying tutorial and recipe highlight how to process the chiles at home and make fool-proof chiles rellenos with crisp, golden exteriors and warm, flowing cheese interiors.
While Grandjean did not attend culinary school, she strives to learn new techniques and always improve her craft.
“I’ve done bakery stages around the country. I’ll go hang out with the chefs for a couple days, shadow, help out, go to conferences, just random things here and there,” she said.
Creating print-worthy recipes requires a team effort. Grandjean begins most workdays in the kitchen, and then takes what she prepares to a review panel.
“We all sit around the table, pass the food around, taste it for feedback and suggest changes for next round,” she said. “Then we go back into the kitchen, remake it, type up recipe notes and any changes, and then pass that recipe on to the recipe editors.”
Assignments include a mix of Grandjean’s concepts, other staff members’ ideas, themes and more.
“It’s a lot of back and forth. Some stories, you get more freedom. … Other times, it’s cross-testing recipes from chefs. So it’s translating a chef recipe into something that a home cook can actually execute, scaling it way down, changing out obscure ingredients, that sort of thing,” she said.
Grandjean employs a multi-pronged approach to her work.
“You have to look at it from a visual standpoint and also taste profile — flavor profile,” she explained. “Because it’s going in a magazine, the visual is very important to draw people in. But then, obviously, you need to execute on the flavors.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, more people are opting for cooking and baking at home. According to Hunter PR, a consumer market research firm, even as restaurants and businesses return to a new normal, 70 percent of consumers plan to continue preparing meals in their own kitchens.
“Like with the sour dough craze, flour sold out everywhere. It seems like people are really diving into multi-day cooking projects,” Grandjean said.
This trend has provided an opportunity to explore her love and talent for pastry and bread making, earning a cover spot on the September 2020 issue of Food & Wine.
“I definitely went down the rabbit hole of how to make the best croissant and how to translate that for the home cook — the best butters,” she said. “It was very surprising how many people actually went to the effort of making the croissants and how well they were turning out for the first time. That’s exciting to see, from a developer standpoint.”
She encourages other CPN members to explore through cooking and baking, and looks forward to future opportunities to learn about her Potawatomi culture. Find Grandjean’s work online at paigegrandjean.com.