Photography by Jocelyn Mesiti of Lemonjam Photography
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am Ashley and I have lived in Rochester for my entire life. I started my food and travel blog called Wishes and Dishes in 2011. I am a recipe developer, content creator, and food photographer. I post primarily easy recipes that are accessible for any level of cook. I didn’t become interested in food and cooking until my early 20’s. I grew up with an Italian father and he taught me how to appreciate the love of making Italian food. His sauce and meatballs was the first thing I ever learned how to cook, and still to this day what I think I do best.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Growing up and through my teens I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher like my aunt or a special education teacher. It’s funny the completely different direction my life took but I am happy with where I ended up. I love what I do with being my own boss and working from my home on my own schedule. I feel insanely grateful that I am able to do what I love every single day, but I worked my butt off for it and continue to do so.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I started my blog when I was laid off from my job in the medical field. I had unexpected extra time to myself and was newly married, so decided to work on improving my cooking and baking skills. I started my blog as just a way to have all of my recipes and photos in one place with no intention of anyone reading it besides my mom and husband. I started it as a hobby and it turned into a business once I started gaining followers quickly. There was so much to learn about running a website and it continues to be a learning process on a daily basis because things change all the time. You always have to be on your toes, innovating and creating relevant content, especially with social media.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up?
I definitely fell into the comparison trap in the beginning when it comes to other bloggers. I remind myself that being myself and being consistent is the most important thing. For some people, gaining a following comes quickly, while for others it takes years. I also remind myself of where I started and how far I’ve come. I never expected to have millions of people each year reading what I write!
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Don’t try to be anybody other than yourself. Your voice, your point of view, your true personality is what will make you and your readers stick around. Don’t be afraid to be real and open in your writing, as people tend to follow personalities, not just blogs. Stay true to yourself. If you’re really writing about something you love, success will come. Work harder than everybody else. Only blog because you 100% love it. Do not expect to make any money from it in the beginning, even if others are. It took me almost 2 years to see any sort of real income.
What inspires you?
I love to look at food photos on the internet that make me react emotionally. After experimenting a lot with my lighting, I found that photographing very bright food does the best for my audience. I like taking my photos and the ability to create a specific mood and atmosphere that evokes an emotional response in the viewer.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
Cooking and baking tends to be relaxing for me because it’s a time where I don’t have a million distractions. I blog about what I actually cook at home (the dishes that turn out good enough to share, anyway!). Blogging my food gives me that extra push in the kitchen to keep trying new things, keeps me experimenting, and is a great excuse to continually challenge myself and learn!
What do you find most challenging?
My least favorite part of blogging is dealing with all of the technical stuff that comes along with running/maintaining a website and frequently feeling overwhelmed by social media. I can easily say I’ve never taken one day off from my job… and that’s okay. Owning your own business can be difficult and stressful work, but it also has many benefits. I love being my own boss and having the freedom to work from anywhere and on my own schedule, so I am willing to do what it takes to succeed. I don’t believe that anything worth having comes easy.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
Definitely Linh from Sir Rocha Says. I love her passion for our city and her appreciation for good food. Even though I’m not a purely local blogger and my blog has a national and international audience, I have a ton of love for Rochester first and foremost. The food scene here is amazing and continues to get better with time, and that makes me so proud. I love to support local businesses on my social media pages whenever I can.