Following a Friday demonstration at the Hotel Jerome, TV celebrity chef, cookbook author and businesswoman Martha Stewart sat down for lunch and an interview with the Aspen Daily News and a writer for Food & Wine magazine.
Her visit to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen and the media interviews coincide with the launch of Martha Stewart Kitchen’s new frozen-food products, which will be available in more than 10,000 retail outlets by November. MSK Foods has partnered with global brand owner and marketer Marquee Brands to introduce more than 40 offerings, from frozen appetizers and desserts to entrées, side dishes and seasonal vegetables.
In a wide-ranging but brief conversation on Friday, Stewart, 80, fielded questions about everything from the frozen-food market to what she does when she’s not wearing one of her many professional hats.
Aspen Daily News: Did you have a hand in the actual creation of the frozen-food products? Are these your recipes?
Martha Stewart: Definitely. My hands are actually in every part of the business. It’s very important to me to pay attention to what we’re choosing.
ADN: How did this come about? I think some people might be surprised to see Martha Stewart delving into the frozen-food market. Is this a new area for you?
Stewart: Not really. A few years ago we partnered with Marley Spoon, a creator of very fine, high-end meal kits. That business has done so well over the last few years that we felt [the importance of] — right now, especially — ease of preparation of food. Frozen entrees and appetizers and desserts play a big part in the cuisine of America right now. People have jobs at home, and they are taking care of the home and the beastly children. (She laughs.)
ADN: Frozen food sometimes gets a bad rap. There are good products and poor ones. What’s your general take on frozen foods?
Stewart: Growing up, we did not eat a lot of frozen stuff. But, my mother allowed me, every now and then, to have LeSueur frozen peas, the little petits pois. And I loved that stuff so much! What fun to be able to pick out a few things in the frozen-food department that would really be good, like Sara Lee cakes — really good! Most vegetables are OK frozen, in my mind. I freeze corn-on-the-cob, I freeze carrots. I don’t think frozen food [has or should get] a bad rap at all. Many people prefer freezing tomato sauces to canning them. I do that now. I have more freezer space than pantry space for cans and jars.
ADN: Aspen has been at the forefront of the recreational marijuana movement. Along with the opening of several retail outlets, we’ve had some infusion of cannabis and THC into food at restaurants [as well as the sale of edibles at dispensaries]. Do you think the marriage of cannabis and food is something that works? Do the two really go together?
Stewart: I’m on the advisory board of Canopy Growth in Canada, which is one of the largest cannabis companies in the world. I also have some fabulous products we have created for Canopy: Martha Stewart Gummies. … I would love you to try my gummies, they are so tasty, they taste like “pate de fruits,” which is a French confection, and I think you are going to find them very different from the usual gummies.
ADN: You’ve worn a lot of hats over the years: model, TV personality, author, stockbroker, home décor innovator. Do you have a favorite hat that you like to wear?
Stewart: I really enjoy the writing part. That, I will get up early for and stay up late for. But in terms of being a creative person, with lots of ideas on a daily basis, it’s kind of fun for me to interact with the people who are with me at the Martha Stewart Living brand, and make things happen.
ADN: What do you do to relax when you’re not being Martha, the professional?
Stewart: I garden, I horseback ride, I walk my dogs, I hike. I have a beautiful spot on the coast of Maine [near Acadia National Park]. I like to spend my time up there doing outdoor things. …I also have a farm in Bedford, New York, within commuting distance of New York City. I have four dogs, three cats, three horses, five donkeys, 147 laying hens, 37 roosters, 17 peacocks, 20 geese and something like 40 pigeons.
ADN: It goes without saying there are millions of people who kind of idolize you and they wish they had your knack and expertise in the realm of food and home décor. What do you say to those who strive to emulate your skills and your style, and they try to pass it along to others, but they just can’t quite “get there.” Do you have any kind of message for them?
Stewart: I really believe that if you haven’t learned, you can’t be a good teacher. Studying and practicing and following specific kinds of instruction will really get you far in authenticity. It all comes down to becoming authentic in what you do.
ADN: You have a lot of drive. A lot of people with your record of accomplishments might retire. What keeps you going?
Stewart: Tomorrow. And the next day. I’m a very forward-thinking person. That’s why I plant small trees, at my age, because I like to see them grow. It gives me incentive.
ADN: Is there anything that you want to accomplish that you haven’t already accomplished?
Stewart: I would like to see many, many more places on Earth and I’ve already seen a lot. I love traveling and exploring and seeing new things.