Baking Boldly with Professional Chef Gemma Stafford

Gemma Stafford holds up her new cookbook during a visit to the Pacific Northwest. Photo by Michael Nunes.

You may recognize professional baker Gemma Stafford as the face of the digital empire, Bigger Bolder Baking. This viral YouTube channel has more than 5 million fans worldwide who tune in to watch Stafford share recipes that are accessible and delicious for aspiring bakers of every skill level. The brand has been thriving for five years now, and the combination of her contagious confidence in baking and diverse variety of treats have created a diehard digital community of baking aficionados.

Now, departing from the digital world, Stafford has authored her very own cookbook: Bigger Bolder Baking: A Fearless Approach to Baking Anytime, Anywhere. We caught up with the entrepreneurial chef during a visit to the Puget Sound area while promoting her latest endeavor, and — let us tell you — Stafford takes the term “foodie” to a whole new level. 

“Honestly, food is really in all different aspects of my life. It encompasses everything,” Stafford said. “When I’m not cooking, I’m eating. Or I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat. Or I’m coming up with recipes. I would say obsessive is the right word. Absolutely obsessive.”

We totally get you, Gemma.

In her earliest memories, Stafford was taking over her mother’s kitchen in Wexford, Ireland. She tore through her mother’s cookbooks over and over, creating and recreating traditional Irish recipes. 

Staffords dog, Waffles, enjoys some sprinkles. Photo by Carla Choy.

She quickly realized that she was not only passionate about baking, but gifted at it as well. Stafford went on to study professional cookery in college and used her culinary education as a passport to travel around the world; working as a private chef in Italy, running a kitchen at a ski resort in Australia, and eventually making her way to U.S., where she worked at a Michelin-star restaurant and began her own catering company. Now, Stafford lives in Santa Monica with husband, Kevin, and dog, Waffles, working full-time on Bigger Bolder Baking.

You might be wondering, “What does it mean to bake boldly?”

“Bold baking is about taking risks,” Stafford said. “It’s about being fearless and just going for it.”

That’s exactly what Stafford and her husband did when launching the YouTube channel. He had a background in entertainment and marketing, while she had a background in professional baking. All of the pieces were there for the couple to create a successful digital platform, so they took the leap.

“We went all in.” Stafford said as she recounted how the couple quit their jobs and spent every waking moment mastering their new cooking show. They dedicated every ounce of energy they had into making Bigger Bolder Baking a success because, as Stafford put it, “We weren’t just starting a YouTube channel, we were starting a business.”

In the first few months, Bigger Bolder Baking had garnered the attention of a few thousand viewers. By 5 months in, the channel had 10,000 subscribers. Now, after five years of quality content and viral videos, the baking brand has more than 5 million fans across the world.

Stafford’s favorite recipe in the book: Meringue roulade with bananas, whipped cream, and salted caramel sauce. Photo by Carla Choy.

After conquering the digital world, Stafford decided to return to her roots by creating her own cookbook. “I’m a collector of cook books, I’ve used them my entire life,” she said. “I really treasure them, and I know a lot of people out there feel the same.”

The process took about 2 years from start to finish; in curating the list of more than 100 highly-tested recipes, writing blurbs for each entry, preparing and photographing each dish, or working with the publisher on the finished product. That laborious process resulted in a perfectly polished, 320-page cookbook, which released in September.

The book is organized by which cooking utensils are needed to complete each recipe, such as “Wooden Spoon and Bowl” or “Pots and Pans.” This was a deliberate design that Stafford initiated with the intention of making it as easy as possible for the reader to navigate their way around the book.

“That’s what Bigger Bolder Baking is about: It’s really about accessible recipes,” Stafford said. “No matter your kitchen size, whether you have an oven, whatever it is; There’s something in Bigger Bolder Baking for everybody.”

We spoke to Stafford at about a month after her book was released, and it already had more than 300 five-star reviews. She said, “I wanted my book to be people’s go-to baking bible,” but the response has exceeded her wildest expectations.

For the next few months, Stafford will be traveling around the country promoting her book, currently available at retailers like Target and Barnes & Noble. That tour may be cut short, though, because she’s due with her first child in February. We can’t wait to see the little one make an appearance in future videos and fall in love with baking, just like Mom.

Photo by Carla Choy.

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