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Ladies Who Lead: Abbey Sharp, Food Media Personality of Abbey’s Kitchen

Abbey Sharp is the face and food media personality behind Abbey’s Kitchen. While maintaining the generous stream of recipes, restaurant reviews, and more on her blog, she is currently working on the finale of her web series.  The Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium finale will be filmed at the Delicious Food Show this Saturday, October 27th. Based out of Toronto, Abbey enjoys writing (and finishing!) to-do lists, 50s-inspired fashion, and all aspects of the eating experience.

SDTC: What does being “food personality” entail for you?

AS: Every day is really different. First of all, I am a registered dietitian by profession. But honestly, that really plays a backseat in my day-to-day life. I work in food media so I cover a lot of restaurant and food events, launches, food products. I write for a number of food companies, often as a dietitian to lend credible nutrition and food knowledge. I appear as an expert on TV and radio, both chatting about food or food-related topics. I run charity food events, the most recent being Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium, which is raising money for My Food My Way. And this year, I am helping to curate the Delicious Food Show. Martha Stewart is going to be there, and Food Network celebrities. I’m also the host of my own web series called, “Abbey’s Kitchen” and I’m slowly breaking my way into the world of food TV. I’m a recipe developer and I’m just a girl who likes to go out there and eat!

SDTC: What would you say are your day-to-day activities on the job?

AS: Day to day, I usually do my writing and blogs in the morning, before people start getting to work. Then I will respond to media requests and emails. If I’m planning food events with chefs, mornings are not their time. So in my experience, after lunch is when I get on the phones and start making calls, because chefs are not the easiest people to get a hold of. They’re either not there or they’re busy in service so sometimes you have to be that crazy person who calls ten times a day. At night, there’s usually an event to go to, like a restaurant opening, a product lunch. So yes, perhaps a night of eating too much and drinking too much.

SDTC: What does your career path look like up to this point?

AS: I’ve had a number of short contracts. For example, I was doing the communications for an educator’s network within the Dietitians of Canada College. I also was the lead organizer for all the nutrition activations of the Royal Winter Fair. Throwing it way, way back, throughout my youth and teen years I was a professional singer. I travelled all over the world, working with different producers and music writers, working on an album. The skills that experience has taught me really have shaped the path that I’ve taken in media and in communications. I was the president of my student council. And most recently, I’ve taken on a lot of event-planning. I didn’t go to school for event-planning. I didn’t go to school for communications or media. But I just happen to have tenacity and a skill and talent for organizing things really well. It’s just my general Type-A personality kicking in there. And I’ve been able to utilize my nutrition knowledge that I did go to school for, but in a more communications-based way. My end goal and the road I’m heading down is towards food TV, so I’m able to use my background in performance to facilitate that.

SDTC: Is there anyone that you’ve modeled yourself after or are there mentors that you’ve looked up to along the way?

AS: Well, of course I am a product of food television. Food Network got me inspired to work in this field professionally. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever modeled myself after anyone particularly, because I wear so many different hats. “RD” is a registered dietitian but I often call myself a “Radical Dietitian” because I don’t subscribe to the stereotypical image of a dietitian as your food police. I’ve taken a very different approach to my career in the sense that my personal food philosophy is based in a mindfulness approach to food and an appreciation in the pleasure inherent in eating. But having said that, of course I have mentors. My professors really helped me solidify my approach which made it okay not to “fit in” with the standard dietitian model. I think from a Food Network perspective, I love Nigella Lawson. She really embodies my approach to food nutrition and touches on each sensation that is part of the eating experience. I think that’s really important in having a healthy relationship with food. Nigella sneaks down to the kitchen late at night but she doesn’t care because it’s a pleasure for her and that’s really my message as well.

SDTC: How did you decide that you would be your own boss?

AS: I’ve always been in a leadership role. It’s just who I am. I’m not a follower by any means. I was always the person in school that people either loved to work or they hated to work with, depending on their worth ethic. I have always been involved in communications, leadership, organizing, educating, delegating. I hate having to depend on other people, basically. So, working for myself was a no-brainer. It was the only way that I was going to run my life.

SDTC: If you could go back and talk to yourself just after you had graduated and become a Registered Dietitian, what advice would you give?

AS: Here’s what I think. School is amazing. It is so important. I can’t stress that enough. When I was in university—I hate to say it—but I was the know-it-all student who studied their ass off. It was just because I am a perfectionist, not because I was genuinely interested. So I won all the awards; I graduated with a highest GPA. But my advice to myself back in those days is: if doing school isn’t going to get you to the end goal the fastest or the most efficient, or if you’re totally unhappy like I was– then it’s just a distraction and source of procrastination. After my undergrad I went to grad school because I thought that’s what I supposed to do. But the fact of the matter was that I was absolutely, absolutely miserable in grad school. I thought, how much longer can I push myself through this if I hate it now and I don’t know if I’m ever going to love it and I don’t know if even when I’m done it, if it’s going to make me happy? I was always looking ahead and thinking, I’m just going to get through this, my PhD and THEN I can work in food media, that kind of thing. Just jump in, as scary as it is, find your way to wherever you want to be as fast as you can. Why put off being happy if you don’t have to?

SDTC: And the result of your leap of faith?

AS: For me, getting out of school was the best decision I have ever made. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a to-do list that is still sitting on my desk that says, “Abbey’s Dreams”. I wrote out everything that I wanted to accomplish if I quit school. And I’ve gotta say, it’s been less than a year and I have pretty much knocked off everything on the list or I am on the road to it.

SDTC: What are you doing to prepare for your upcoming event, “Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium”?

AS: On October 27nd at the Delicious Food Show, this is the finale event of my year-long series, Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium. We’ve done three previous events so this is a finale between the three winners and a wildcard: Matt Basile (Fidel Gastros), Dustin Gallagher (Acadia), Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball), Bruce Woods (Woods Restaurant). I’ve taken on every role from nagging the chefs, to creating the to-do lists, finding sponsors, making sure the sponsors are organized, worrying about rentals and equipment, and getting celebrity judges. Organizing, getting the charity, My Food My Way, involved and raising money for the charity. I’ve had help—don’t get me wrong—but this has been my vision and my baby.

Right now, we are in the final planning stages so my life basically consists of calling and making sure everything is super clear. I want to make sure that there are no last minute crises. There always are! But I do my absolute best to safeguard against that. As a typical Type-A perfectionist, I am the to-do list queen. I’m constantly making to-do lists for every single day until the day of the event and it feels good to cross stuff off!

STDC: This may be a difficult question since you do have many different roles, but is there a go-to attire?

AS: It depends what hat we’re wearing, but when I work from home I wear Lululemons. I can therefore just rush down to the gym in the middle of the day. And by the way, I honestly consider exercise a legitimate part of my job. I’m a dietitian who works in food media, who goes to events and drinks and eats every night, and I want to keep up my health. There’s also a certain level of legitimacy; I want to be credible and do what I preach as much as I can. Obviously, there are still meetings every day and events every night. I have my style- if you check out my website you’ll see it’s very retro. I call my style “retro pin-up housewife” so I wear a lot of 50s-inspired, vintage looks. If I have event, that’s usually how I will be dressed. In the Abbey’s Kitchen webisodes, I’m out in the forest and on a farm- still in a dress!

SDTC: What do you think is your absolute favourite part of your job?

AS: Oh, well, definitely the food- that’s the easiest question! Yeah, you go out to restaurants and are invited to media parties. And the next day, you have to work; you have to write about it. Maybe you need to do a follow-up. But at the end of the day, it is so much fun. I look forward to going out and exploring new food experiences whether it’s in Toronto or abroad. Eating is always such a pleasure. And also, meeting the people behind it all. Meeting the chefs and hearing their stories, seeing the passion there and learning about different food culture. To me, I’m absolutely fascinated by food culture and the meaning of different food in different social settings. So just being able to share that experience with  the chefs and with the farmers- I can’t even explain, I feel like the luckiest person.

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