Martha Stewart is an American businesswoman, writer, and television personality. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures. TFS visited with the icon at the recent Tri-State Foodservice Show in New Jersey.
Stewart rose to prominence as the author of over 130 books on cooking, entertaining and decorating. She has come to be known and revered for her advice on living well, and beautifully. As many homemakers think when starting out on a project, “What would Martha do?”
Is there any style left in the world today?
Of course. It’s everywhere. There are wonderful designers, wonderful style. There’s certainly a lot of innovation going on in food — the more, in my opinion, the better! Mass food merchants like a Chipotle has really turned the world of fast food topsy-turvy, and now everyone else is following, too, because they have captured a huge, huge portion of the marketplace.
What did they do to accomplish that?
They made sense. They care about people’s health and they make a big point of it. They care where their food comes from and where their ingredients are made and how they’re made and how the animals they serve are raised. All of that to me makes a huge difference in the way people eat.
Everyone knows you as a leader in design and style, but you started out as a babysitter for the New York Yankees.
That’s right. It was one of my many jobs in junior high and high school. I happened to be in a community in Englewood, NJ, close to Yankee Stadium, and so one of my friends got the gig and we all joined in. I mostly babysat for Yogi Berra’s kids, and Gil MCDougla’s kids.
Looking at entrepreneurial style, what’s different today? What makes an entrepreneur successful today? How has it evolved through the years?
It hasn’t changed at all. Its just now, what field are you in, what are you doing, is that going to make a big difference or a modest difference? The people who make the big differences are the Zuckerbergs, the Google guys, those are the transformative differences. I’m transformative but not in a monster way. I help American homemakers in a very large way and transform their opinion of themselves, that homemaking is good and can be beautiful. It’s important but it’s just advice. it’s not like making up a word.
You’re best known as building an iconic brand. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Work, work, work, work and work. Be creative. Follow your instincts. Make sure you’re satisfying the needs and wants of the people.
How do you read the needs and wants of the people?
You have to know. You’re the entrepreneur. You have to figure it out. What’s new, different, transformative, clever, useful, practical? It’s all part of the program.
Is it always about building a better mousetrap?
No, you can alter or fix something that is already there. But if it’s better, more useful, and more people can use it, obviously it will be successful.
You are a prolific writer, with many, many books under your belt. What role does book-writing fill for you?
Books are very important, because they are not only important in the U.S., but my books are published in many other places, too. They establish great credibility for a brand like mine — recipes that are well-tested, they work perfectly, nobody makes any mistakes, advice and how-to’s in other areas like weddings and wedding cakes and gardening and homemaking. All those things are very important to the table of living. I’ve stuck to living but it ‘s a very, very expansive subject matter.
Are printed books going to continue?
They are challenged in terms of the digitization of printed words, but people still like opening a book, looking at picture books, pictures in a magazine or book format. But we ‘re going to run out of trees and we’re going to run out of paper, run out of a lot of things and if we can improve the appearance of the books on the computer screen or iPad screen, then I think we will have a digital future. But it’s just taking much longer than we thought. When we first set up our lifestyle digital magazine on the iPad 2 1/2 years ago, we had to work really hard. We had to learn Adobe and apple. The only place you could see it was on the Hearst website! And that was a long time ago. The first year we got up to 4.9% of our subscribers to subscribe to digital, and we thought, the next year it will be 9. We never got to 9. It hovers around 4 or 5%. It’s still slow, even with the latest generation of software tools.
What advice do you have for restaurateurs wanting to run a successful restaurant?
Restaurants, the good ones, for the most part, are paying attention to more healthy ingredients, more healthy foods, slightly smaller portions. Better-prepared foods. Thank God for former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and his push to get trans fats and sugars out of our diet. Yes, the soda ban was overturned in court but these are very important steps in the right direction for being a healthier populace. We’re sick, we’re fat, we have a lot of problems and good food in restaurants may help us begin to solve that.
Can cooking be taught, or is it God-given?
You can teach a lot. I think the stars are born.
How can your new book, One Pot, 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More, help restaurateurs?
When you leave the restaurant, you just want to go home. You’re really tired and want to go home, and make something delicious in a short period of time in one pot. These are all great recipes. This is for you.