Welcome to Marissa Makes
I was born in Berkeley, California, the city that sits across the Bay facing San Francisco. Both of my parents have a background in food– they met working in the kitchens of the Berkeley Ashram, a type of spiritual center. My dad always referred to himself as a “short order chef” because he got so good at crafting interesting snacks and meals for me every time I announced I was hungry as a kid. The Bay Area has a deep, rich food culture, that focuses on seasonable ingredients, celebration of diverse cuisine, and the importance of our farmers and sustainable farming practices. Constantly surrounded by new and exciting tastes and smells, I was always fascinated by food– one of my favorite places was (and still is) the farmer’s market. The simple beauty of fresh fruits and veggies always struck me, even as a young child. My first cookbook was “Fanny at Chez Panisse” by Alice Waters, which tells Fanny’s stories about growing up at her mother’s restaurant. It was in the pages of this book that I discovered the magic of food, and an appreciation for the journey from farm to table. It was also with this book that I began to understand the emotional aspect of food, and all of the ways a meal can bring people together with full hearts and full bellies. But despite its beauty, cooking was always shrouded in mystery for me, and baking even more so; something I longly appreciated from a distance. So despite my deep appreciation for food, I didn’t begin to cook regularly until 2015.
My love of cooking began when I lived in Rome in 2015, and quickly grew from there when I returned to the states. Living in an apartment on my own for the first time, I began to cook mostly out of necessity, fueled by the excitement of learning real Italian recipes. It’s no secret that Italians cherish their recipes and techniques, and while living in Rome, I was constantly surrounded by people who celebrated the magic of food, and the importance of a lovingly made meal. The mystery that surrounded cooking began to slowly fade as I gained confidence in the kitchen, but I still had a complicated relationship with baking.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2016, and I got more and more comfortable in the kitchen. Despite my gains that I made in cooking, I still always swore that I hated baking, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my opinions on that quickly changed. Like many others, I was rattled by the panic buying at the outset of the pandemic, and hastily decided to learn to bake my own bread. While I loved cooking, I considered myself a terrible baker, that would never be capable of producing masterful bakes. But because of the panic buying at the outset of the pandemic, I started to wonder if maybe I COULD learn to bake. I secured myself a dehydrated sourdough starter culture, sourced out some flour, and hunkered down, determined to produce one edible loaf of bread during lockdown if nothing else. I am now an avid homebaker, and I especially love making sourdough. Being from the Bay, we have some very strong opinions on what constitutes proper sourdough, and making loaves at home in LA makes me feel like I’m back in the foggy hills where I grew up. From bread, I began to branch out to all forms of baked items, and I now love experimenting with new types of pastries and bakes.
I began my food blogging journey in January 2020– I was just taking quick snapshots of the food I made and posting it to my instagram to share with my friends and coworkers. Honestly, I didn’t give it much thought. I really only made my instagram account at the request of several of my friends. It became a visual diary of the meals I made myself, but remained untapped in terms of its true potential. Then COVID-19 hit. Like many foodbloggers, my instagram had now become my main focus and way to keep myself sane during lockdown.
As lockdown wore on, I found myself falling more and more in love with baking– I had always knocked myself down by attributing my struggles to a decisive lack of ability, when it ultimately was just a lack of fundamental understanding and patience. Now, faced with more time on my hands than I had ever had before, I was able to sit down and learn the intuitive side of baking that always came easily to me in cooking. Once I started to understand what things should look like and feel like, recipes became a lot simpler for me to understand, and I began to understand how to “listen” to my bakes. Once I understood the fundamental process, I knew what to do if my batter was a little too wet, or my dough a little too sticky. I wasn’t locked in by my recipes, and I let my bakes tell me if I needed to make an adjustment.
It’s easy to say that baking is chemistry, but learning to understand the nuances allows for not only a better result, but a more enjoyable process. While recipes are important, they can sometimes be restrictive when studded by too many specific times or temperatures, rather than teaching what things should look like, feel like, and smell like. Despite many baking fails (I cannot tell you how many flat sourdough UFO loaves I’ve made in my journey), I gained confidence and finesse, and now consider myself a baker before a home cook, a switch I never would have seen coming. Something about making something start to finish, with nothing but my hands and simple ingredients like flour, water, and yeast is truly humbling and beautiful to experience.
With my new love of baking came an interest in food photography. With no end to lockdown in sight, I began investing my time and energy into learning the fundamentals of food photography. Before the pandemic, I worked for three years as the manager of an art store, and have a strong fine arts education, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Art History, with a primary focus on the Italian Renaissance. My passions were starting to collide– my love of food became immeshed with my creative background, and I quickly realized that this was not only a creative outlet, but something I wanted to pursue professionally.
I aim to highlight the magic and beauty of food in all of my photography– not only is it important for me to showcase beautiful food in a beautiful way, but I also strive to share the story behind the dish, the meal that is being shared, and the emotion that is felt at the table. I see my work as sharing food stories, rather than simply food photos. It’s such a curious and wonderful thing that food can pull out so many emotions. And maybe that’s why even just a photo of the food you love is so important. An image can recall memories and nostalgic emotions, and I always try to make those human connections with every click of my shutter.
With Marissa Makes, I hope to teach intuitive strategies to home cooking and baking, as well as share my working knowledge and advice for food photography and content creation. Being self-taught in cooking, baking, and photography has allowed me to view learning to do these things through a different lens, and it is my goal to teach solid foundations that allow for confidence and finesse.
I hope that my passion and love of food comes through on each page, and inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and try making something new. This is the next stage of my journey, and I am so happy to be sharing it with you!