Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Marie Saba, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Marie Saba is a cookbook author and content creator. Her playful feed on Instagram earned her spot on Country Living Magazine's list of the Top 100 Most Creative People in the Country. Her creations have been featured in numerous media, including Bon Appetit, InStyle, and Food & Wine Magazine, as well as on The Rachel Ray Show and The Martha Stewart Show. Marie lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, John, and their two young children, Jack and Elle. She is currently working on her second book. Visit Marie's website for more info and some seriously good recipes, and be sure to follow her stunning Instagram account while you're at it.
February 10, 2020
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Walk us through the story behind Cocina Marie. Have you always been passionate about food and cooking?
I’ve been passionate about food and cooking since I was a kid. When I was 10 years old, my older brother, Jim, and I created a cooking show called “Kids Cooking!” Jim filmed, and I hosted. I made kid-friendly food from an old Betty Crocker cookbook, and although it was very unsophisticated, people enjoyed it! The show aired on our local public access channel in Austin for over a decade, and it even got a feature on Good Morning America. So I’ve been playing around in the kitchen since then.
You’re known for the unique and playful ways you plate food, from cute lunches for your kids to portraits of celebrities. How did that start?
The food art started about four or five years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom for our kids (2 and 5 at the time), and we were always looking for something fun to do. So we played with ingredients like art supplies and eventually started sharing our creations on Instagram. The first few were a mess, but then we made some that were really magical. As far as the celebrity portraits, I think a follower asked me to make Ellen DeGeneres. She turned out well, and after that, the requests for famous faces just kept coming in!
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Tell us about that time Blake Lively basically commissioned you for a portrait via Instagram. Were you nervous?
At first, I thought it was a joke! Yes, I was totally nervous. I remember working on it late into the evening one night, and my husband kept joking that I needed to “lighten up” about it. Easy for him to say. ;)
What’s your best advice for people who claim they can’t cook?
It’s easier than you think! Come to one of my classes, and we’ll make a chef out of you in no time.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration throughout your career?
My biggest inspiration is my mama. Wherever she is in life, she savors it. When I used to complain about the kids waking me up at 6:00 a.m. on weekends, she’d respond, “But they’re waking you up to life!” I love her outlook.
What are your ride-or-die kitchen essentials?
White balsamic vinegar, All-Clad pots and pans, a cast iron pan, convection oven, white platters and bowls for serving, a good knife, cutting boards of various sizes, and most importantly, music, wine, and family or friends. :)
What restaurants would you recommend to someone visiting Austin for the first time?
My favorite restaurant is Clark’s Oyster Bar. I love the quaint atmosphere and delicious food. I also recommend Fabi & Rosi (date night with German-European cuisine), Taco Deli (casually hip spot for some of the best tacos in town), Sway Thai (their Tom Kha Gai is my favorite soup in town), and Loro (sit at the bar and order whatever the bartender suggests).
What’s your go-to recipe for busy weeknights?
For busy weeknights, I love a quick bolognese sauce made with grass-fed ground beef and a jar of Organic Bello Marinara Sauce. The kids put it on pasta, and my husband and I usually have it on zucchini noodles.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s an impossible question! I adore these crab cakes, but how could I survive without roasted veggies? Or chocolate? Or french fries?
What’s next for Cocina Marie? Do you have any new cookbooks works or celeb portraits you hope to master?
I have a few projects I’m really excited about this year, most involving my food puns. First up is a line of kitchen supplies with my food puns printed on them. We’ve worked so hard on these and can’t wait to see them in stores! I’m also working on a coffee table book of my food puns. The puns have been so fun to share on social media—we can’t wait to compile them into a book! And although it’s probably a long shot, we’re pitching a few different cooking shows to networks, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, visit me on YouTube—I’m starting a new channel with all my favorite recipes!