Wrinkled Aprons

Emma ChapmanIf you've ever wondered what I wear when I work on recipes for this site, well, here it is. I'm usually in jeans, flat shoes, and a wrinkled apron. Ha! I used to own a small catering business, and this outfit would not have worked well. Mainly open-toe shoes are not as acceptable in the commercial cooking world; also I'd need something to cover my hair (hair net, hat, etc.). I actually never minded wearing a bandanna to work every day, but sandals are my jam. So I'm glad I get to take advantage of that these days. 🙂

AR5A6487AR5A6498I keep three or four aprons at our studio and use them until one gets too dirty. Then I take it home and wash it. So, that's how they all get wrinkly over time. I don't take time to iron aprons that basically no one ever sees. 

I love all our mismatched dishes! So many fun options to choose from when styling final food for photos. It also makes washing dishes more interesting, as every dish is different.

I got a new cameraIn the last month I finally upgraded to a new camera and I love it! Getting a new camera is always SO exciting. Before this Canon 5D Mark III, I had a Canon 60D. I love them both, and I'm slowly getting used to some of the subtle differences that the 5D has. It's always fun trying to change settings on a new camera; really throws you off for the first week or so (or maybe it's just me).

Cooking notesHere's what my cooking notes typically look like before I begin. For my original recipes I've typically already cooked the dish a time (or two or three) and made flavor changes or big updates. For example, here you see my notes for the vegan gravy recipe (posted yesterday). I already knew what flavors were going to be present and a loose idea of measurements, but there is room for changing things and making more exact notes to share with readers.

You can also see I was trying out a vegan biscuit recipe from Minimalist Baker. As I mentioned in the post, I am not at all an expert in vegan baking, so I wanted to showcase a resource that I think is awesome to our readers. I did end up needing to change it some from the original recipe, but I have a feeling it may have been because it was an extremely humid day when I was baking, and moisture changes can sometimes alter baked goods in a big way.

Also, I very likely have a typo in these notes. I am about the WORST at spelling, and my handwriting is just awful. But hey, we can't all have beautiful handwriting like my sister, right?

Cooking notes Here's what my notes typically look like afterward. Lots of little changes and tweaks to try and make it perfect and also notes that might help me to explain how to recreate the dish better. Cooking is a bit more laid-back (as far as recipe development goes) because you can pretty easily adjust as you cook, make notes, and come out with something you're proud of. Baking, on the other hand, tends to take a lot more trials before I end up with the final recipe and am ready to photograph. Once you make a batter and pop it in the oven (be it cake, cookies, muffins, whatever), you just have to see how it turns out. If it's too dry, bland, didn't rise properly, etc., it's back to the drawing board. You can't as easily adjust as you work for baking in most cases, so it takes a little longer. But in the end, a good cookie is worth the effort, if you ask me. 🙂

Emma Chapman Here's me pretending to juggle. I don't know how to juggle. I'm just a weirdo. Thanks for letting me share a bit more about how I work in the kitchen. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have in the comments. Also, if you food blog or write cookbooks, I'm sure everyone would love to hear more about your process, so please share! Or if you have questions about food photography, just let me know. I'm not an expert, but I do my thing and am happy to share. xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions. Emma's wearing: shoes and top/F21, jeans/James Jeans, apron/Anthropologie, and headwrap c/o ModCloth.

  • i can relate to many of your kitchen methods, but there are things i can definitely learn from you. wishing all the best as you continue to grow into a more brilliant chef!

  • You look BEAUTIFUL with your hair away from your face (I’m sorry if that’s not how you say it in English, but I hope you get the meaning!) You always wear it down, but you should wear it up more! You have a pretty face, show it!!!

  • I love the look of open cabinets, they’re so fun and accesible. How do you keep up with the dusting and cleaning? Do you have a specific routine?

  • I love the look of open cabinets, they’re so fun and accesible. How do you keep up with the dusting and cleaning? Do you have a specific routine?

  • Love the color in these photos! The vegan recipes are right up my alley, I will definitely be trying those. I’ve been plant based for 2 1/2 years now and mushroom gravy is one of my very favorite things. 🙂

  • “I don’t take time to iron aprons that basically no one ever sees.”
    Ha! Only about a million viewers 😉 Just iron it. Linen is a
    non-negotiable. Wish I looked this cute in the kitchen! I’m usually
    in skivvies and a tank top with a rat nest for hair. I keep it up because
    my kids may not recognize me otherwise 😛

  • Emma you are adorable! Loving that bandana on you. Fun getting a peek into your recipe + cooking process. It’s obvious that you love what you do and that’s one of my favorite things about your whole team.

  • Hey Emma, loved this post it shows how really happens the process of developing a recipe.. I was thinking if you could do a post or two about food styling and your evolution throw the years of photographing food. This topic always make me a little nervous, because inanimate objects are so much harder to photograph, at least for me.


  • Honestly we use everything so often that there’s not a lot of time for dust to collect. Luckily! Otherwise there would probably be a picture of me with a slightly damp rag getting at the top corners (the least used items typically). 🙂


  • I’m too forgetful. Plus, if things change and I don’t make a note and forget an exact measurement or what order I did something that worked well then I’ll have to make the dish again to be sure. Which, not so bad in that you get to eat the goods again, but it can slow things down if I constantly have to repeat finished work bc I didn’t take good notes. (Which I’ve done before, don’t hear me say I never have as that’s just not true!)


  • Thank you! I wear my hair down most days but sometimes its good to get it out of my face when I work in the kitchen. I appreciate your kind words!


  • Go you Jennifer! I’m working to become more plant based too. I love all good food but eating fresh, especially in season, is so yummy and good for you.


  • I think if you look closely my hair is a little rats nest-y too. 🙂 I’d like to say I wash and curl my hair everyday, along with always ironing clothes and have perfectly organized cabinets… but I don’t. 🙂


  • Love that idea, thank you for the suggestion! You know, it’s funny but I actually love food photography best. I think it’s because food never blinks or makes a weird face. 🙂 I’d love to post more about food styling and photography sometime. I’ll have to see if I can recruit Sarah too as I love how she does it as well.


  • Thank you Kelly Jo. I truly love food. If anyone ever walks in the kitchen while I’m working and asks what I’m doing they usually get a long winded answer about some tiny detail or new flavor combo I’m super excited about and why and what it reminds me of, etc.

    I also must say that getting the whole ABM team to taste test for me most of the time has really helped my kitchen confidence. I’ve always tasted my own cooking, of course, but I’m also my own biggest critic. It’s hard to really think your work is good when I feel like we’ve been so trained to (or I am anyway) to deflect compliments and constantly downgrade my accomplishments. Having others around to say how much they like a particular dish really makes a world of difference. I also get more perspectives on if something is too spicy, salty, sweet, etc. and that helps a lot too as I have my own preferences but this doesn’t necessarily reflect a wide array of opinions.


  • I love a good apron! I use mine to paint in, so they can get pretty…decorative, you might say. Your apron looks cute AND durable! It’s fun to get a peek into your process (and your wrinkles). I always look forward to the creative combinations you come up with!

  • I seriously look forward to your posts so much. You are gorgeous and I love your personality.

  • thx for the insight! this is such a cute post!

    (like your handwriting btw, i prefer “edgy” to “girly”)

  • Love this look at your behind the scenes cooking… I’m always interested to see the process that bloggers who make such beautiful dishes take.


  • I love your outfit! I didn’t think your apron looked that wrinkly and yeah, why iron when nobody’s going to see? Thanks for sharing your process, this was really cool to see! PS: I have horrible handwriting.

    Regarding your photos: Do you use white/black paper to reflect light? All natural lighting? Photographing food is so hard!

  • Hey girl!

    So i just did a test spot on my countertops to test drive the concrete countertop with the Ardex Featherfinish. I’m wondering how your countertop has held up as you do a ton of baking/cooking in your kitchen? any tips or tricks for maintaining the look-other than using cutting boards all the time?! how has it fared so far?

    So far it’s looking great and a friend is considering also trying it on her lminate countertops! I sent her straight to your tut!

  • *Camera envy!* I love that my mom has kept my apron but as an adult I never seem to wear one which has resulted in many disasters! It is the little things (like you wearing sandals) which makes working from home all the more enjoyable!

  • You’re such a cutie Emma! The whole idea of making up recipes is so foreign and amazing to me. I don’t know how anyone does it. But I sure am grateful they do!

  • I love this post! I don’t know why, but it’s so cool to see your handwriting. Normally we just see type, so it’s fun to see someone’s actual writing.

    And I love the bandanna!

    xo, Erica

  • I photograph near a window and use a white (foam) board to bounce light to eliminate harsh shadows or to just add a little more light. I’ve always used natural light but I’d love to learn more about studio lights in the future as they can be really useful on dark (rainy) days or when you have to work in the evenings.


  • I always use cutting boards as our surface isn’t as food safe as we’d like. If you check the post where Laura shared about the counters you’ll see she does recommend some food-safe options, but at the time we did ours we were told that there weren’t any food safe sealing options. So, anyway, I have to use cutting boards always but if you do use a food safe sealer I’m not sure how well it would hold up since I haven’t tired it that way. I will say the concrete is as strong as you’d like and I LOVE these counter tops. I have stainless steel counter tops in my home and I love those as well but they cost quite a bit more to install (professionally) than these concrete ones and I actually think the concrete ones look a little prettier. But the stainless steel is awesome bc you can cut on it, place hot things one it, really you can use and abuse it and it holds up so I like that since I cook so much. 🙂


  • So far I am REALLY loving the 5D. I think any DSLR model that fits your budget is great, as I realize this one isn’t always in everyone’s budget (it certainly hasn’t always been in mine). But, I have noticed that I’m getting a lot more compliments on my food photography lately and the main difference has been the camera upgrade, as I’m setting it similar and doing a similar set up as I was before (same lens too).


  • Yes please share food photography tips! I somehow make the yummiest sandwich look like McDonald’s.

  • Absolutely loving this new feature! It’s fun to learn about your work style(s)! :))

  • You look adorable! I just love that bandana. Did you make it, by chance? If so, that’d be an idea for a cute sewing tutorial!! I’m not much in the kitchen, but I always love a good photography lesson – and food photography is something I could be better at!! And p.s. I love your handwriting!! Imperfectly perfect, I’d say. 😉

  • The food recipes on ABM are seriously some of my favorite posts! They are approachable and (mostly) easy to make. If possible, I’d LOVE to see you throw in some crock pot cooking recipes. Maybe they aren’t as photogenic, but they are great for summer when you don’t want to turn on a hot oven or great for busy working parents or basically ANY time. Keep up the awesome work!

  • This is so cool! Thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes. And I agree with you, baking can take several tries to get it right, but it is always worth it when you do!!!

  • ‘Cos I cook with a lot of foraged ingredients which are only available at one time during the year, I tend to write recipes which say things like, ‘I made a vat of this but if you want to make it in more modest proportions then divide by 12.’ I made 40 litres of elderflower cordial this year and I was then too tired to blog about it. Oh well. I suspect that the next thing might have to be courgettes… “If you have accidentally grown 800 courgettes and have no idea what to do with them…”

  • Thanks for sharing! I was looking for a good gravy recipe! And that seems pretty straight forward (I’m a student so I 1. don’t have a lot of time to cook and 2. am pretty new to the whole ‘survive on your own’ thing!). Also just generally love this blog!
    <3 http://www.littlemissfresh.net

  • Love this post!! Its easy to forget all the steps that go behind creating a food post. Especially the fails! The very first recipe I attempted to make for our first blog post was your very own cauliflower pizza…i failed…THREE times!! I wanted to cry. but i reminded myself that not all food recipes will be the same experience and I will have some bad ones. I carried on and we are well into our second month of our new blog 🙂 So far I have been using my iPhone for my blog photos, while i save money for a DSLR. I manage with as much natural lighting and some editing, but I cannot wait to own my own DSLR!!

  • You are adorable! Your notes look a lot like mine. My grandma, who is also an avid baker, chef, and cookbook-reader, always taught me to write in my cookbooks whenever I make a recipe. That way, if there is something I want to change or remember for next time, it’s right there! She even makes notes if she has an idea for another recipe! Obviously, things are a bit different with the online world of recipes, but I usually write or print them off just like you do.


  • “It also makes washing dishes more interesting, as every dish is different.” haha, this made me giggle! that’s a very positive way to think about washing dishes 😉
    keep up the wonderful work, emma (and the rest of the gang)! you guys are simply brilliant and all your photos are glorious. <3

  • your cooking skills are always on point, i’ve made lots of things from your posts on a beautiful mess as well as food coma. most recently baked a successful batch of english muffins (or muffs, as i like to call them) that i was pretty stoked about because i had tried bread before and failed.

    BUT ANYWAY the real purpose of my comment is to say daaang girl, you be killin’ em! i don’t know if it is that shade of lipstick or like another commenter said, your hair style, but whatever it is you’re wearing it well. maybe it’s just the sweet glow of success. 😉 cheers!

    xo, toolie.

  • All of those pretty plates are making me jealous! Go to Ikea and pick up mixed plates for food photos has been on my to do list for ages.
    Also it only just occurred to me recently that I should keep notes as I bake instead of trying to keep track in my head.

  • I’m really enjoying the “behind the scenes” posts here…it’s so resourceful and brings an even more personal touch to your blog. I think that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back again and again – you really connect with your readers. You really create a community. So cool.

    As far as food blogging, I am so, so, so very new at it. I’m doing my best, but still have a long way to go. Below is a link to a post where I spent a great amount of time trying to set up and shoot some melon ice I made and my first round ended up looking like rice. RICE. So I tried again. I included the rice-look-alike in my post because I think it’s important that my readers see my realness too…if that makes sense.


    Thanks for sharing! You guys are great!

  • Love this behind the scenes peek! Also, I’ve tried several of your soup recipes – NOM. I haven’t tried anything that requires yeast yet (although I’ve pinned them) because yeast is a beast of a different color. Also, I think it has a vendetta against me. lol Maybe if you’re stuck for a topic tips & tricks for using yeast? Just a thought… Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. 🙂

  • I am loving this work wear series…you guys look so pretty in your work wear, especially this look with the apron is cute.. I have always loved all your dishes, so colorful and different, each one.. someday i will have a variety and collection too.. keep up the good work that you always do 🙂



  • i shouldn’t even be saying this because you ladies are sneaky sneaky but ive said it before so ill say it again…..you need your own cook book! or at least a downloadable file to sell in your online shop!!!!

    (fast forward to a year from now…..book release!!!)

    if i ever get the courage to step in to the kitchen it will solely because of you!

    love the look!
    beautiful as always! (:


  • Thanks for sharing Emma! I feel so fortunate to live in the age of the internet – I don’t have a baking-crazy Grandma or other family member to learn cooking from but you and other food bloggers have been my surrogate family teachers. I am SO grateful! You and others have inspired such a passion for food in my life.

    I would love love love to hear more about how you develop recipes and style/shoot food. xxx

  • So cool to see a behind-the-scenes of your cooking/photography process! And thanks again for the mention. You’re too kind!

  • Love that you share this Emma. I also make food posts and know how messy that can get 😀 I sometimes (ok all of the time) have to deal with a sticky camera, because when I take shots in the process I’m way to lazy to always wash my hands … hahaha.

    Also love that you incorporate all those vegetarian and vegan dishes, as I’m a vegan for over a year now it’s nice to get some cooking ideas from others.

    Thanks for the post! xo Elisa

  • I love these more behind the scenes posts, I find it so inspiring how you guys can make a living out of blogging.

  • I love your wrinkled apron Emma 🙂 Looks great! I also have a similar recipe development process where I write down a general recipe and then go to the kitchen to experiment with it. My notebook also ends up pretty messy with lots of sidenotes and stains! I love that process! A little while ago, I wrote an article about my recipe development process, you can check it out here:

  • Hi Emma!

    I love your recipes! I’m also into the idea of a cook book from you! I would totally buy it!!
    I struggel sometimes with ingredients I don’t know or I can’t find here in France but I always try to adjust the recipe to what I can find!

    Also, I love your hair!

    Ester 🙂

  • Hi Emma thanks for this great post. Question about your new toy. Have you noticed a big difference in quality of photos between your old 60d and 5d? I have a 60d and am considering buying 5d or 7d. Thanks

  • I haven’t been following for that long so this is the first post I have seen that features you so strongly on your own.

    Love it! Your handwriting is great and I loved hearing you distinct voices. I’m really looking forward to your next post.

  • Your handwriting is very similar to mine! haha.

    On a very slightly related note, I had to learn to juggle in high school for a production of My Fair Lady. It was great, and I really enjoyed it, but I juggled with lacrosse balls (the weight is really awesome) and one night I accidentally got bumped and dropped one. It bounced right off the stage and hit the violinist in the head. They were okay (I checked during intermission), but I felt really bad. I was thankful no one bumped me on any of the other nights.

  • Emma you are such a cutie!
    I’m a total trainwreck in the kitchen but I still enjoy your food and cooking posts- they’re always so inventive!

  • It’s so funny to me that you wear shoes indoors. I live in Hawaii where there are always a pile of flip flops outside everyone’s front door. I can promise I never look that cute when I’m working on a recipe for a post, but my aprons are definitely always wrinkled. And I’m usually covered in flour.

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