Erika Council is the charismatic writer and photographer behind Southern Soufflé, the blog that takes a southern-focused journey through the impact food has on community. Many of her recipes offer a twist on traditional soul food recipes. Erika has been featured in Food & Wine, The New York Times, The Local Palate Magazine, Food 52, Complex Magazine, Yahoo, Huffington Post, The Kitchn, and Yahoo, among others. She is currently working on a proposal for her debut cookbook, and we are thrilled to represent her. Erika, who runs Atlanta biscuit pop-up Bomb Biscuits, was recently on The Splendid Table to chat with Francis Lam about her secrets to making world-class biscuits. You can hear that interview here: https://www.splendidtable.org/episode/676
Originally from North Carolina, Erika currently resides in Atlanta. She attributes her passion for food and community to her grandmothers. One, affectionately called Dinnie, was a community champion. The other, Mildred (Dip), was a southern cooking icon and owner of Mama’s Dips Kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Erika is inspired by her heritage and the many contributions and achievements made by African Americans, such as those highlighted during Black History Month. “Black History is American History,” she said, “Those achievements help to weave the very fabric of the foundation this country sits on, and to me that should be recognized every day.”
Erika shares with us her recipe for Warm Molasses Bread, a dish that is adapted from her grandmother’s handwritten notes and that she feels best represents her because it is “a recipe with a story, one rooted in the history of North Carolina.”
Though our office in New England hasn’t seen much snow this winter, there’s been a flurry of activity as we head into Spring, and the release of the TLEG Spring Catalog! Here’s a glimpse of some of the books getting 2016 off to a mouth-watering start.
** Attention media: if you would like to request a copy of one of our titles for review, please contact the publicist for each book directly (contact information is listed under the “request a copy” tab in each entry).
“After 35 years of promoting others, I’m stepping very much out there with this interview. I hope it encourages others to follow their heart and stay true to whatever their next act brings.” – Lisa Ekus
When Lisa was approached to be Virginia’s agent, she was married to her second husband and had never been attracted to women. Little did she know that her business partnership with Virginia would develop into a deep friendship and, eventually, a committed and loving relationship.
Tell us a little about your background…I grew up as the oldest of three sisters. My father was a radiologist and my mom was his bookkeeper and owned two tennis boutiques in the tennis heyday. I graduated from Barnard College in New York City as an English major and knew I’d always work with books.I made my career in publishing, working at a literary agency, then as a publicist at Random House and Crown Books. I was married (for the first time) in 1981 to the father of my two daughters. We were married for 14 years. I left NYC and my job when my husband was offered a position in western Massachusetts. There were no publishing options where we lived and so I decided to launch my own company doing what I loved—public relations and working with books and authors.I established the first culinary PR agency in the country, Lisa Ekus Public Relations. Over the last 33 years, that business has grown tremendously and morphed intoThe Lisa Ekus Group, “Representing a World of Culinary Talent.” We have multiple divisions: Literary Agenting, Media Training, Talent Agenting, Literary à la Carte services, and PR/Marketing Consulting.After my divorce, I raised my two daughters as a single mother with a full-time business, until I met my second husband. I was married to him for 9 years.
When did your love life change? I first met Virginia Willis, a chef, cookbook writer, and culinary TV producer in 2006, when she submitted her book proposal to my literary agency. Virginia was the Kitchen Director for Nathalie Dupree, Bobby Flay, and Martha Stewart, as well as being a Producer for Epicurious Television and Turner Studios.I had never been with a woman or considered, a relationship with a woman. She was in a long-term relationship and I was married to my second husband; I had no inkling I would fall in love with her.
In the beginning, my relationship with Virginia was all business. Because I work in the culinary field, representing cookbook authors, food writers, and chefs, Virginia sent me her first book proposal for Bon Appetit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking. It was the cleanest proposal for a cookbook I had ever received. We were both going to the Greenbrier Food Writers’ Conference that year and I made an appointment to meet with her. Virginia’s initial appeal to me was that she is an extraordinary food writer. She is beautiful as well: Chanel red lipstick, pearls, and a way with a sentence that made me determined to represent her on the spot. She told me clearly that my agency was her first choice to represent her and she never approached another agent. Our work together grew into a friendship, which deepened over the years. And, like a slow-cooked dish, a deliciously meaningful partnership started simmering.
It was in the fall of 2008 when I realized I was falling in love with her. I have always loved the wisdom and friendship of women, but never considered that I was gay. I still believe and feel that it is who Virginia is as an individual that made me fall in love with her. And, I have to say, we laugh that I “took to it like a duck to water.” My comfort level with this woman is far greater than I have ever felt with the men in my life. My “aha” moment came the first time we kissed. I refer to this as my midlife epiphany! We currently commute between Atlanta and Massachusetts, as we both have important home bases in our respective parts of the country. We share Virginia’s town home in Atlanta and my long-time country farmhouse in Massachusetts.
Why do you think you fell in love with a woman in midlife? I didn’t intentionally choose to fall in love with a woman. I feel as if I’ve lived five lifetimes—all of them very different, all of them with enormous joys and some sadness. I sure didn’t see this next actcoming.After divorcing my second husband, I didn’t say, “gee now I’ll be a lesbian.” Both Virginia and I were in emotionally unsatisfying long-term relationships. Neither of us specifically left our partners for each other, but the realization of what we were missing hit both of us pretty hard over the course of our years working together. We both wanted the proverbial “more” in life and from a partner.I fell in love with a wonderful, smart, beautiful woman and am enjoying every minute of our deepening relationship and love. She met my intellectual and emotional needs. We are very different in terms of our backgrounds. I’m from the liberal North and Virginia from a more traditional Southern background.We both fly a great deal for work and both of us are used to the aisle seat (leading/control). When we began flying together, we realized it didn’t have to be one or the other of us getting the aisle seat. There was room for both of us. We could sit across the aisle from each other, close while having independence. That became our joke of “aisle/aisle.” We have each met our match; we complement one another. Virginia and I each nurtured a close and respectful friendship that evolved into love and a full-blown relationship.
How difficult was it to come out? Did you have to “prepare”? There were two levels of “preparation,” the personal and the professional. Since my girlfriend was also a client of our agency, I had to weigh the impact on and response from my other clients, as well as my family. In the end, I knew this relationship was serious and for long term and “came out” to all.
I told my mom first, who high fived me! My immediate family was 100% supportive. They love me. They trust me and they had known Virginia for some years. They could see we had a deep respect and love for each other. My two grown daughters have welcomed Virginia into our family. She has a special and different relationship with each of them.My yearbook quote in high school was “Everything I do, I do with everything I’ve got.” At this point in my life, not a lot I do surprises my family! I have always been a woman of passion and commitment. They accepted the woman I love into all our lives. Remember I come from a very liberal family. I also have a very loving and trusting family.Virginia’s Mama and sister (and relatives) also welcomed me. I am very close to them and, like my family, they are happy that Virginia is in a loving, nurturing relationship of true partnership and support. All our friends have embraced our relationship. I have to chuckle because many of my female friends openly expressed how not surprised they were to hear this and how lucky I was to be with a woman. A few even commented wistfully “men age so badly!”
What challenges did you encounter? Over the course of the next few years, we both extricated ourselves from our relationships. The decisions were hard and painful for both of us. But we were determined to be together and had enormous patience.The greatest challenge was in my work life. Some clients had an issue with my being in a relationship with a client. I have to wonder if they would have had the same issue if I had fallen in love with a male client. Most, however, were genuinely happy for, and fully supportive of, me.A few clients left our agency and my position is that if they couldn’t trust my ethics and commitment to each of them, then it was appropriate they move on. It’s a shame that there was this judgment, but such is life. My business continues to thrive, along with my personal life.
Is it a challenge to represent your partner as her agent?Virginia is the creative and in-front person, and I’m the business and behind-the-scenes person; this works brilliantly for us. The mutual respect we have for each other’s strengths and skills, and our willingness to discuss opportunities and challenges, makes us a power couple. We have each other’s best interests at heart.My biggest piece of advice is to set clear parameters on life and work. Virginia has two expressions: “I need to talk to my Agent Lady,” or “I need to talk to my Girlfriend.” That clues us both in as to the type of conversation and the results needed. Agent Lady is about business, and Girlfriend is “Hear me out and comfort me. Don’t try to solve it or charge it.”Not every challenge has the resolution you want or hope for, but so many do. Focus on that. Kiss each other good morning and good night each and every day.
Were there times when you thought about not going through with coming out? Absolutely not. I never looked back. It is seven years since that first kiss and neither Virginia nor I have ever had any regrets.My only frustration, and we laugh at this a lot, is that I’m Northern and speak quickly and without filtering much of anything I say. Virginia is Southern, far more thoughtful, and edits her words before she speaks. I still bite my tongue and try desperately to not interrupt her long thought process. And I’ve benefited from learning to be far more patient! Do we have differences of opinions sometimes? Sure. Do we work it out? Always. She slows me down and I speed her up! I LOVE this journey together.
What have you learned about yourself through this new chapter? I’ve learned to continue to trust myself, my instincts, and my commitments. Change is the only constant and life is truly short. It turns on a dime. I want to and am embracing my joy. I have a true partner in life. That is incredible!
What advice do you have for women considering coming out later in life? Be kind to yourself. Be fearless and trust yourself. If you need to get the support of a professional therapist and tap into your most trusted friends, then do that. Some friends (and possibly family) will choose to take the low road. So be it. Embrace your happiness. Don’t postpone joy!Look to your friends or a therapist. I confided in close friends, a lesbian couple, one of whom had left her traditional marriage for a woman. She had children and completely understood what I was going through. Having that support and sounding board was invaluable.I’m very comfortable in my own skin so I did not doubt my choice or direction. The harder part was not choosing to be in a lesbian relationship, but to realize my marriage was over. I was raised traditionally and having been divorced once I had some moments of what’s wrong with me that I can’t sustain a relationship? What I had to realize was that I can—with the right person, with the right partner.
What resources do you recommend? I don’t lean specifically towards lesbian vs. straight resources. I approach life as, how can I learn and grow? I’m interested in business books and conferences with brilliant inspirational speakers. I belong to the Women President’s Organization, which has been one of the single best learning organizations in the world to be a member of. The support of so many incredibly successful entrepreneurial women in both my personal and professional life has truly been priceless. I also have a long time therapist who has known me for almost three decades (and many acts); her insight and support has been invaluable.
What’s next for you? Cookbooks and chefs are sizzling hot and I plan on continuing to build their careers and my business. I love every aspect of discovering new talent and cultivating good writing.Hopefully I have many next acts. Life is a big adventure and I fully intend to participate. What I do know is whatever comes next, Virginia will be at my side—aisle/aisle.
I had to go to a holiday party at my former workspace in NYC to meet the woman who would e-introduce me to Sally Ekus – friend, philanthropist and literary agent for chefs, cookbook authors, and culinary personalities. Good thing for that introduction. (Thanks, Jenna!) While Sally’s home base is here in bucolic Western MA, she’s a tough woman to pin down, often jet-setting to NYC to meet with publishers, to conferences all over the place, and to Boston to support LLS. It was her story of cancer survival and her nomination that helped me remember a childhood friend last year. It’s also what made her a friend. Introducing Fabulous Femme Sally Ekus.
Q + A
How would you define being a modern woman in 2015? Well, we are an active bunch who aren’t afraid to speak up and act out. Being a woman today means being strong and vulnerable at the same time. Granting ourselves permission to carve out a world we not only want, but are leading.
At least for me, being a modern woman means making a conscious effort to be mindful of what I want in life and going after it all. I have the women of the past to thank for this luxury. And I have the women who I call my friends and family today to thank for the confidence in my voice.
What would you like modern women to give more of a shit about? Each other. The planet. The insides of our bodies. And tacos – fresh piping hot tortillas with the fillings of our dreams.
Conversely, what would you like modern women to give less of a shit about? Feeling the need to be “right” before we speak up; what our bodies look like rather than feel like; being too “nice”, childrearing as a universal must do; and our fears.
What is your superpower? In other words, what can you do on a rockstar-level without even thinking about it? Connect people. I absolutely love to be a matchmaker. This desire to connect people whether it is in love, life, work, or play. I am lucky to have a community of people around me who inspire me each day. One of the ways I show how much people mean to me is by introducing them to others. Connecting people is one of the reasons I love my job so much. I am a professional matchmaker. I get to work with people who are passionate in their own special way, and then figure out which editor and publisher would make the most sense for them. I also love matchmaking out in the social world. Whenever I go to an event, meet new friends, or have an idea—I do so with other people in mind. I ask myself, and often unconsciously, “who would this person love to meet?” “who in my community needs to know what x person is doing?” etc. I love it! My mind is always racing with a web of who I know and want to introduce to one another. What better way to show someone how much you care than by the act of connecting—it says “I want people to know how cool you are!”
What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular? I do improv! My whole life I watched people around me bask in the glory of their hobbies and I was always a bit jealous having never found one for myself. Sure, I tried on a bunch for size. I dabbled in photography, I took up running, I have even done a few mosaic classes—all of which I really liked.
But it wasn’t until I found improv that I understood this whole I have a hobby thing. Now I take as many classes as possible, I do workshops, I drop by jams, and I read about improv for pleasure. My spare time is invested in improvisation. There is a fabulous, thriving, and compassionately hilarious community in western mass. Under the direction and care of Pam Victor and the Happier Valley Comedy show, I am proud to be one of the Zen of Improv students.
Improv has helped me find my voice, face my fears, and keep me on my toes. The benefit of letting go of your fear of failure and leaning into a world of laughter is a kind of self-care I never imagined and feel grateful for every day.
Do you predominantly make decisions with your heart, smarts or guts? What’s the process look like for you? Oh, I love this question! I am sure for some people the three operate independently but not for me. My heart, smarts, and guts are all very much intertwined. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to follow my heart or my head first. The reality is there is no way I can feel with my heart without tapping into that little gut feeling. Same goes for smarts. Whenever I am trying to be smart about a decision it is my gut feeling that guides me. From a very early age my guts have led the charge.
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fab?Amelia, my sister. She is the sh*t. She works for a high profile social media company in NYC (think, say it within 140 characters) running their entire food and beverage program to keep their employees happy and well fed. Her management and communication skills are inspiring. Plus, she has impeccable taste in food, art, culture, and fashion. Whenever I am around her I feel jazzed and inspired. Her energy is infectious, powerful, and her wit is off the charts. Laughing to the point of crying is standard when we get together. Fabulous Femme doesn’t even do her justice.
If another woman wants to connect with you, how would you prefer that happens? For professional queries I prefer email at Sally@LisaEkus.com, and for connecting in general, social media is great! Instagram and twitter.
“Food on a Truck is an incredibly powerful POS tool. We switched away from Square and haven’t looked back. It’s custom-built for food trucks.” – Wheelhouse Farm Truck, Springfield, MA
Springfield, MA – Nov. 4, 2015: In an effort to better serve food truck owners and customers alike, Tursus Software has created Food on a Truck (FOAT), an app that brings easy-to-use tools and business protection in the wake of new credit card regulations to an owner’s fingertips.
To battle fraudulent credit card charges, EMV (or Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) systems are rolling out across the U.S., the coupling of an updated POS system with credit cards that contain microchips. As of October 2015, if a charge occurs with a fraudulent credit card through a swipe and sign POS system, the business will be held liable for that charge. As such, an updated POS system is necessary to avoid these charges – and that’s where FOATcomes in.
The app is exclusively available on the Clover POS (Point of sale) system which FOAT sells to food trucks not already using Clover. Clover uses dedicated hardware that was designed specifically as a POS system so it’s more rugged, reliable, and secure. Josh Doyle, software engineer at Tursus says, “Clover has been amazing to work with, they’ve created a very powerful POS in a compact size that’s perfect for food trucks”.
FOAT works to ensure safe card usage for both businesses and customers through hardware that accepts microchipped cards by:
Cards are now “dipped” instead of “swiped” (The POS reads the computer chip in the card)
This eliminates skimming during swiped transactions (which creates a copy of the payment data which is used for fraudulent charges)
Payment data is only valid for one specific transaction
Contactless payments such as Apple Pay are also accepted (and are just as secure)
When food trucks install FOAT, they’ll be armed with even more solutions to their needs. FOAT takes what is already available in the Clover platform and enhances it with features specifically designed for the modern food truck:
Easy-to-use reporting dashboard which provides key metrics that can be used to expand the business, including sales by location
Automatic customer communication through social media so more hungry customers show up at the truck
Easy to reach customer service with 24/7 phone support for the POS and merchant account
More features always being developed
Food trucks already using Clover’s hardware can simply purchase the FOATapp through the Clover App Market. Those who do not have Clover hardware can find it for purchase via the Food on a Truck website: www.foodonatruck.com.
For more information about FOAT, contact Daniel Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (844) FOAT-APP. Daniel Nelson is the founder and CEO of Tursus Software which created Food on a Truck. The company received a grant from Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator Awards earlier this year.
For Literary Inquiries, Contact: Sally Ekus The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC Sally@LisaEkus.com 413.247.9325
For Talent Inquiries and Appearances, Contact: Jaimee Constantine The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC Jaimee@LisaEkus.com 413.247.9325 For Media Inquiries, Contact: Nicole Kanner, All Heart PR email@example.com 617.718.0586 office 305.984.4496 mobile
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HATFIELD, MA – Nov. 2, 2015 – The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC is pleased to announce that the agency will now represent Boston-based chef Michael Scelfo, owner-operator of Alden & Harlow, for both his literary and talent endeavors.
A graduate of Western Culinary Institute, Chef Scelfo has made an impression on the culinary world from a young age, receiving a 2 ½ star review in The New York Times while at the helm of Long Island’s Blond at the age of 25. He has overseen the kitchens of notable restaurants, including Dedo, North Street Grill, Tea-Tray in the Sky and The Good Life in Boston. In 2009, he took over at Temple Bar, receiving critical praise for his Merguez Sliders as one of The Boston Globe’s “2009 Favorite Things” and was awarded Best Restaurant – Harvard Square by Boston Magazine.
In 2010, Chef Scelfo was selected as the opening Executive Chef of Russell House Tavern, for which he earned a two-star review from The Boston Globe, and was recognized as Best Restaurant – Harvard Square by both Boston Magazine and The Improper Bostonian in 2012. In 2013, he won the American Lamb Board’s Boston Lamb Jam competition and was also crowned the “Prince of Porc” at the multi-city heritage pork competition Cochon 555.
In early 2014, Chef Scelfo brought his own personal culinary perspective to an establishment all his own, Alden & Harlow, located in the iconic Casablanca restaurant space in Harvard Square. Through his restaurant, Chef Scelfo figuratively extends his family’s kitchen table and pays homage to his roots, incorporating elements that have personal meaning while weaving together family recipes with his own and cooking from the heart. Boston Globe restaurant critic Devra First awarded Alden & Harlow a three-star review and the restaurant was named Best New Restaurant by Boston Magazine and The Improper Bostonian, as well as being chosen as “The Best of the New” in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. In 2015, Alden & Harlow was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best New Restaurant category.
Shake Shack, People Magazine, Huffington Post, Prevention – our clients have been extremely busy in capping off the summer! Check out where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing in this month’s Media Mania recap:
The Huffington Post celebrated Meatless Monday with Kathy Hester’s “The Easy Vegan Cookbook,” while Vegan Magazine talked about how the book made healthy home cooking practically effortless.
Wicked Healthy Bros Derek and Chad Sarno Sign with The Lisa Ekus Group
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For Literary Inquiries, Contact:
The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC Sally@LisaEkus.com
HATFIELD, MA – July 1, 2015- The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC is pleased to announce that the agency will now represent Derek and Chad Sarno of Wicked Healthy Food. The brothers are currently working on their first cookbook.
Derek and Chad Sarno are brothers, chefs, and plant pushers. Their brand, Wicked Healthy, centers around the “Wicked Healthy Equation,” which states that you should “shoot for 80% healthy, 20% wicked, to be 100% sexy.” The duo urges their readers to drop their diet plans, buy some vegetables, and get back on the track to wellness.
Coming from two different professional backgrounds, Derek and Chad (more commonly known as the Sarno Bros) have found common ground in the wicked healthy culinary arts. Initially started as an outlet to share their culinary journey, Wicked Healthy has grown into a thriving plant-passionate community. The Sarno Bros’ brotherly banter, genius, plant-based recipes, and infectious personalities have made Wicked Healthy Food a hilarious and quirky, yet essential resource in the health-food community.
Derek Sarno’s experience includes many years as chef/consultant for an international Tibetan Buddhist monastery, restaurateur, vegan organic farmer, food designer, consultant, food writer and educator of vegan, vegetarian and animal-based cuisines. He joined Whole Foods Market in 2009 as a Global Healthy Eating Chef and culinary educator to support the company’s Health Starts Here™ program and is currently the company’s Senior Global Executive Chef of RnD and product development. He has owned several restaurants and catering businesses in the Northeast.
Chad Sarno has brought his unique culinary style to a vast array of projects throughout his career before joining Rouxbe Online Culinary School as VP of Plant Based Wellness. His mission of health inspired plant-based eating has reached all corners of the globe. Chad has been contributing chef to numerous recipe books and featured in many national publications. He has been a guest on dozens of morning shows and food-focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. In 2012, Chad teamed up with best-selling author, Kris Carr to write the New York Times Best Seller, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen.