SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Since the pandemic shutdown production of most television series, South Plainfield resident Katie Stilo, a culinary producer and food stylist for the Today Show, has been adjusting to a new 'normal' of working outside of the Manhattan studio while also finding new ways to put her talents to use to prevent herself from going stir crazy.
Over the past seven months, Stilo has joined forces with colleagues to launch a well-followed social media cooking site and published a digital cookbook to benefit restaurants affected by the government shutdowns. Most recently, Stilo has joined force with colleagues to launch Kitchen Hits, an original cooking series on YouTube.
"With all the uncertainty and change happening, it's been a great creative outlet and welcome distraction to focus on this personal project," Stilo said. "While it may seem like the world has slowed down, mine has become busier than ever. I'm a go-getter and have taken this extra time to pursue projects I have side barred for too long."
Set to premier its pilot episode on Food ADKT TV at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, Kitchen Hits is a collaborative effort between Stilo (@katie.stilo), and fellow culinary producers/food stylists Anthony Contrino (@anthonyissaucy) and Tina DeGraff (@the_saltgypsy), along with chef Dawn Miller (@dinnerbydawn). The channel will also air DeGraff's monthly series From the Inside Out.
"We are a team of Emmy Award-winning producers, food stylists and chefs who are creating top-notch food and lifestyle content for our audience," said Stilo. "Myself and team at Food ADKT have been having fun producing some exciting and fun content."
Through the Kitchen Hits series, Stilo said the goal is to 'continue her passion for teaching people how to cook.' "The 'hits' in Kitchen Hits stands for 'highlighting ingredients and techniques' and, in each episode, we will be highlighting an ingredient and technique to make the perfect dish and teach people how to be comfortable in the kitchen," she said.
The plan, said Stilo, is to highlight a different ingredient each month; for the premier episode, the focus will be on red cabbage. "It may seem like a random ingredient but I feel it is under-utilized in the kitchen but, in the episode, I teach people how to use it in several different ways," she said, noting that in between episodes, videos, recipes, and more detailed information on that month's ingredient will be showcased for followers on the 'Food ADKTs' (@food_adkts) Instagram page; the 'ADKT' in the social media site's and Youtube channel's name is a play on the word 'addicts' as well as a combination of its founders first initials.
The '@Food ADKTs' page was originally launched as '@the_quarantine_collective' back in March with the goal of bringing culinary professionals – and amateur cooks – together, virtually during the pandemic. Earlier this month, however, the name was changed and the site rebranded to benefit its followers 'beyond the pandemic' and quarantine.
Currently '@Food ADKTs' has over 5,500 followers on Instagram and, since late June, sales from 'The_Quarantine_Collective' digital cookbook have raised over $5,000 for the James Beard Foundation to help restaurants affected by the government shutdowns. Copies of the book can be purchased through www.thequarantinecollective.org or through the link in the bio of the @food_adkts Instagram page; a donation of $5 or more will secure a PDF download of the book.
"We are immensely grateful to all who have donated and shared our excitement and joy for this book," she said. It's a true testament to the community we have built that we were able to raise over $5,000 and counting. I speak for myself and the entire Quarantine Collective community when I say thank you for all of the continued support."
In addition to launching 'Kitchen Hits,' Stilo, who has been working from home for the Today Show since March, also recently transferred departments to help rapidly expanding Today All Day platform on Peacock, serving as a culinary producer for the NBC streaming service. Although she misses being on set and 'working with her hands,' Stilo said she is glad to have a 'creative outlet and still be in the kitchen' doing something she loves.
"I've always been passionate about cooking, baking and all things food related since I can remember," Stilo said, noting that the idea to turn something she loves into a career first 'sparked' when she took a 'foods and you class' at South Plainfield High School. "If it wasn’t for that class, I am not sure if I would be where I am now."
Stilo added that her love of cooking 'really stems from the joy of sharing the experience with others.' "Whether that be teaching someone a new skill in the kitchen, exploring new ingredients or sharing a meal at a restaurant," she said. "This industry has given me endless opportunities I could have never imagined possible for myself. Food is an open-door, one-size fits all community and an ever growing one at that."
Kitchen Hits premieres on 'Food ADTK TV' today, Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 11 a.m. and can be viewed online at .
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