Molly Baz is in the middle of describing how her upcoming cookbook, “More Is More,” came to be, when the Zoom call drops. It’s a good story. It’s a colorful story. In it, she arrives at a restaurant for brunch and, disappointed in her meal, reaches for whatever is available — a lemon from her husband’s bloody mary, mayonnaise from a server, salt, pepper, and whatever else she can get her hands on. She’s about to tell me about the magic of transformation, about how more can be more and about how quick kitchen alchemy can be life-changing on the plate, when, suddenly, I find myself the sole voice on one end of Zoom.
If you don’t know who Molly Baz is, she is, by her own self-definition, a cookbook author and chef. She bristles slightly at another, broader definition — food personality — but some may know her as that, too. After time spent working for Bon Appétit magazine, Baz went on to write a bestselling cookbook, released in the heart of the pandemic, “Cook This Book.”
Our Zoom snafu is only temporary. Baz is back in a flash (her phone has overheated, she tells me; she had been taking the call outside, in the Los Angeles heat), regaling me with how she corrected a restaurant dish gone wrong. It was the inspiration for a follow-up book about how anyone with a little bit of kitchen confidence can toss out measuring spoons and exactitude in favor of intuition. Her new cookbook leans into instinct, embracing flavor combinations, and taking risks. Olive oil is measured in “glugs,” vinegar in “splashes,” salt in large “pinches.” Recipes feature notes at the end about what to do with extra seasonings and how to pair them with other dishes.
As an art history major in college, Baz studied abroad in Florence, where she found herself spending more time seeking out food and food experiences. “I ate so well over there, like beyond,” she says. “And that's when I realized. Something clicked. I was like: ‘I don't think that I should be pursuing a career in art history any longer because literally all I’m doing in my time off when I’m not in class is going to the market and going to discover a new restaurant and learning how to cook with my homestay grandmother.’”
In conversation, Baz is familiar. Speaking with her can feel like speaking with an old friend, which may explain how so many have connected with her on social media platforms. She boasts over 700,000 Instagram followers, and her pop-of-color content is bubbly and fun, and even a little subversive.
Take this Reel for her spiced green meatballs with pickle rice, for instance. Baz, donning a green, sleeveless, poncho-style apron over a white shirt, says, “If you were to, like, ask artificial intelligence to make a dish that tastes like Molly, this would be the dish they make.” With the word balls floating in the background, she says, “You can’t make a meatball recipe without multiple references to balls.” And then: “We love balls.”
You may be inspired to laugh, and you may be inspired — as many others were, most notably during the pandemic — to pick up a knife and join the party. “I felt like people needed me more than ever before,” Baz says of the pandemic’s specific cook-at-home, dine-at-home moment. “They needed me not just because they were bored on a Tuesday night after work and needed some entertainment, but more because they were like, ‘I can’t go out to dinner. I’m stuck at home and I need to figure out how to feed myself.’ And so my purpose as a teacher, which has always been the thing that I identify with most, was very real.”
It was during this particular moment, when Baz’s fans needed her, that she began to feel creative inspiration. People needed her and she needed them back, even as the world around was fragile and difficult and complex.
“If I can see myself from someone else’s perspective, what resonates with people in me as a food teacher, coach, personality is that I register as ‘one of us,’” she says. “ Like in my content, especially, I might have my voice and the way that I edit and the way that I present things be just sloppy enough that it’s relatable and real and someone could be like, ‘oh, yeah, that’s basically me in my kitchen; she just maybe has a few extra tips and tricks up her sleeve.’”
But Baz’s success may be due to more than just a few tips and tricks. She is effusive and warm, disarming, quick to toss out a swear and also to praise other cookbook authors (she’s a fan of New York Times staff writer and “Korean American” author Eric Kim, she says, whose recipes are “all great and they’re kind of weird sometimes and different and funky, and, like, they’re perfect”). She may have moved away from art history in formal education, but her content is deeply visual, steeped in color, living, breathing culinary setpieces evoking Gaugin, Matisse, Haring.
She has, too, found her path. Ask her what she is and Molly Baz will tell you that she is, first and foremost, a cookbook author. The idea for a third book arrived halfway through the second, and she sees the future as one full of books. “I’m very excited,” she says. “I just want to write books for the rest of my life.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Peden+Munk