Citizens Report American Irish Culture

A Visit with Bigger Bolder Baking’s Gemma Stafford

Wexford, Ireland native Gemma Stafford has figured a way to use YouTube as a tool where she isn’t being an idiot out for garnering quick hits on her videos, but offering nice, helpful hints for making delicious desserts and other tasty treats.

Four years ago, Stafford and her husband, Californian Kevin Kurtz launched their own Bigger Bolder Baking project, which has slowly but surely built an audience of recipe-seekers, claiming more than 1.5 million subscribing to its YouTube channel and 150 million video views across the web.

Gemma Stafford of Bigger Bolder Baking at the Good Cook area of the recent International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago’s McCormick Place

Kurtz has a background in marketing and the entertainment industry and said he used to do work for the Pokemon brand and for Lucasfilm on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones brands.

Stafford said her mother inspired her passion for cooking. Her path to becoming a web celeb has its roots back in Ireland where she studied for a time at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Middleton.

Stafford’s CV has her working in Australia and Italy before coming San Francisco about 10 years ago, where she toiled in baking and restaurant businesses before starting her own catering firm.

With the San Francisco Bay area becoming a less and less affordable place to live, the couple decided to move to the Los Angeles area, where they started on the Bigger Bolder Baking project.

“We’re building a community as passionate about baking as I am,” Stafford said.

Stafford said her focus has been on recipes that intended to take the fear out of baking and that can be prepared quickly, with few tools and in regular or small kitchens, frequently using an microwave instead of an oven.

Her online offerings include microwave mug meals, homemade ice cream and easy, no-bake recipes. Working with Good Cook, mugs and whisks tied to the mug meals are set to be available at retailers, including Walmart, this April.

Stafford and Kurtz recently were in Chicago for the International Home and Housewares Show, where she showed off some of her mug recipes at the Good Cook booth and gave a few other presentations, including one at an Inventors Corner, where she and Kurtz talked of building their business.

Stafford said she has learned there are not really any social media experts, that it can be trial and error learning what to do to connect with an audience.

She said one thing that helped build her following was trying to respond to as many comments as she could after any posts. That has led to her learning what types of recipes might appeal to those “bold bakers” interested in her recipes.

Stafford said she has only really started to use Facebook in the last six months, calling it “the right platform at the right time,” as the big dog of social media has added more video components to what its users can do.

Kurtz said it is important to have a website where a business has complete control of the content and presentation of it.

All told there have been more than 500 Bigger Bolder Baking video clips made, with a new recipe put online every Thursday.

The couple also visits Ireland a couple times a year and involves Stafford’s family there in some of the productions.

With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, Stafford’s March 15 post is a seasonally-fitting recipe for scones.

For the March 17 holiday back in Ireland, Stafford said her family there typically has bacon and cabbage and her mother’s homemade bread and butter pudding.

“They serve some serious comfort food, and enough to feed an army,” Stafford said.

Of her St. Patrick’s Days in the US, Stafford said LA has a small parade and San Francisco a huge gathering.

“I was in Chicago last year (around March 17), and it was crazy. It was nothing like back in Ireland, with small towns and small budgets,” Stafford said.

Gemma Stafford of Bigger Bolder Baking at the recent International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.

Stafford seemed surprised to learn that this market has turned what is more like a Thanksgiving back in Ireland into a sort of Mardi Gras in green spread out between two weekends.

While in Chicago, Stafford said, “I like to do touristy things like hitting the Magnificent Mile, and I take in restaurants like The Girl and the Goat. The caliber of food here is fantastic, from the taverns and their comfort food to more upscale places. Chicago is a clean city, with a great view of the water, and a nice ambience.”

Stafford said her parents back in Wexford were snowed in for a few days after the recent out-of-the-ordinary storm that shut down a good portion of the country. Her visits to Chicago, though, have taught her a thing or two about rough weather.

“I was here a few years ago, when you had more than a foot of snow. And I’ve been to Chicago in summer, when it’s been in the 90s,” she said.

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