Difficult Second Album syndrome isn’t a phenomenon unique to pop stars. Following the release of her hit debut, Cook This Book, “I felt like I had no ideas left inside me,” says American chef and author Molly Baz. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I gave everything to the first book,’ and I really had this crisis of like, ‘What more is there to say?’”
Plenty, as it turns out. The former Bon Appétit Test Kitchen star recently released the follow-up to her 2021 New York Times bestseller, Cook This Book. Inspiration took about six months to strike –arriving, as Baz explains in the book’s introduction, with a plate of “perfectly fine and absolutely forgettable” fried calamari.
Faced with the sad snack, Baz asked her server for a side of mayo and combined it with lemon wedges from her Bloody Mary, along with hot sauce, flaky sea salt and pepper, to create a zingy dipping sauce. This was the "'Aha!' moment" that led to the concept for book two: the dish only needed “a little more” to make it sing.
“Where Cook This Book is very much about learning good technique and proper seasoning and the fundamentals of cooking, More Is More is about being able to evaluate your food and know how to kick it into full gear … to tweak and zhoosh and make sure you land somewhere delicious,” Baz tells Broadsheet, Zooming in from the California dream house she shares with husband, designer Ben Willett.
“You’ve got all of the technique from book one, presumably, and now it’s like, ‘Let’s learn to really cook with intuition and with our palettes, and get in touch with ourselves as cooks.’”
According to Baz, one recipe that really encapsulates her mission is the Mollz Ballz: red sauce meatballs made light and fluffy with a combination of Italian sausage, ground beef, anchovies and ricotta, served sans-spaghetti and topped with torn mint. (See her cook a version of the recipe on her Youtube channel).
Visually, More Is More – which was designed by Los Angeles-based studio Playlab – takes cues from 1960s and ’70s Italian design and old Marini & Rossi posters. “We’re not in Italy, so it was like, ‘Where’s the crossover between that and California?’” What they came up with is full of “big, bold and colourful LA energy”.
Baz says the food in book two is more colourful and playful than her first title, and credits this change to the influence of moving from New York to California. “The LA palette to me – fashion and food and landscape – is so rich and vibrant and lush, and I feel like my food has followed that trend.”
The strong visual emphasis is not surprising given Baz studied art history before pursuing a career in food. After graduation, she started a catering company, and in 2015 broke into food media after landing a job as a recipe tester for Condé Nast’s Epicurious. Eventually, she made her way to the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen.
Her time at Bon Appétit coincided with Condé Nast’s push towards video. Baz became one of the stars of the magazine’s personality-driven Youtube cooking demos. The videos were a phenomenon, turning her into a food-world sensation.
Since then, Baz has been busy growing her audience (already significant, thanks to her work at Bon Appétit) and building her brand. The opportunity to take control of her career has provided intense motivation and drive. “There can be a sort of paralysis of decision making and what to pursue, but I actually really enjoy the challenge of like, ‘What is everything I’m going to build here, and what are the paths I’m going to take to get there?”
So far those paths have led to a wine brand; a Youtube channel called Hit the Kitchen; The Club, a membership program that gives subscribers access to weekly recipes, giveaways and photos of Baz’s dog, Tuna; virtual cooking classes; Molly merch, including prints, T-shirts, tote bags, caps and mugs, plus a homewares line in collaboration with US retailer Crate & Barrel. She also frequently collaborates with venues – including the Melrose iteration of Aussie-owned and -inspired cafe Great White.
“I think I’m actually the most satisfied internally right now as a human because I feel like I’m steering my own ship, writing my story and strategically planning my career. It’s such an amazing opportunity to have.”
More Is More: Get Loose in the Kitchen – A Cookbook (RRP $59.99) by Molly Baz is out now with Murdoch Books. You can order your copy online or buy it from your local bookstore.