Heather Johnson Cooks the Book

”The Food Hussy” website owner’s first book of recipes comes out this winter.

Heather Johnson’s cookbook Air Fryer Cooking for One comes out in January. We spoke with the owner of The Food Hussy website about her blogging career, her recent win on Guy’s Grocery Games, and what she thinks the future holds for her recipe creations.

Illustration by Chris Danger

How did you get into food blogging?

I’ve been blogging since 2008. I have a journalism degree, and I was single and going out to eat a lot, so I started doing restaurant reviews. That gets pricey and fattening so I moved to recipe creation. Last July, I was able to quit my job and now I’m doing my blog full time.

Tell us about your cookbook, Air Fryer Cooking for One.

I was approached by a publishing house to create that specific topic cookbook. My air fryer expertise is why they approached me.

Speaking of cookbooks, you’re in Brian Baumgartner’s Seriously Good Chili Cookbook: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World.

Yes, I have five recipes in the cookbook. I’m a huge fan of The Office and saw a call for chili recipes online. I submitted five recipes, and they were all accepted. I have two Cincinnati Chili recipes as well as three others.

How does it feel to follow in the footsteps of great local chefs like Christian Gill and Kayla Robison and appear on Guy’s Grocery Games?

Humbling. I’m not a chef, I’m a home cook, so to be able to say that I was on the same show as them, it’s amazing! I know Christian and Kayla. I respect them so much. I’m also thrilled I wasn’t competing against them. They’d wipe the floor with me!

What makes you such a big fan of Guy Fieri?

I have watched Guy since he was on Food Network Star in 2006 and have followed his career ever since. He’s a big personality (and so am I) but he’s also such a down to earth guy and he really has made it a mission to help chefs further their careers and get recognized. And duh, he has the coolest hair!

What was it like to be on the set of GGG? What was the most exciting part?

Wild! Surreal! To be walking through Flavor Town and seeing the store—the groceries are all real! The most exciting part was having these chefs I’ve watched for years eat my food. I mean, GUY FIERI ATE MY FOOD! It was crazy! I was bursting all day!

On your website it says “ready for my future on The Food Network (someday)…” Do you feel like you’ve achieved that goal with this appearance?

I have bigger goals, but I can definitely check the box for the appearance. I still want more though.

What lessons did you learn from your appearance on the show?

I learned to be confident in my cooking. I was so intimidated by my competitors, but we were all in the same boat—TERRIFIED! But I have some skills and I can cook. It also helped me realize that I should just always be me—I’m a big personality and sometimes feel like I need to hide that—but I’m best when I’m 100 percent Hussy!

What was it about your cooking that you think put you over the top?

I think I played the game. For the first challenge, I actually had a burger that was falling apart, but that reminded me of Iowa’s famous loose meat sandwiches, so I leaned into that and said I did it on purpose for my “spin” on his recipe. Game play and leaning into the challenge is just as important as how good the food is, so that worked to my advantage.

What are your plans for the money you won?

Well, I said a beach vacation but, more than likely, I’ll use it to redo my bathroom in my house. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. That said, I might also treat myself to a quickie trip to Gulf Shores.

What are your future plans for your Food Hussy website?

Keep cooking! The great thing about having a website for all the recipes is that it’s “evergreen” content. A recipe I created 10 years ago is still one of my highest traffic posts (my Mom’s Peach Cobbler). I really focus on three types of recipes—air fryer, copycat restaurant, and Traeger/smoker—so I lean into that a lot. And the more content I have, the more people come.

What would you say is the best recipe you’ve created?

I can’t say it’s the fanciest by any means but my Maid Rite Sliders are so delicious and that’s something I came up with. A lot of my recipes are copycats from restaurants—so I can’t completely take credit there. The sliders start with the Maid Rite meat recipe—but then I put a spin on them to add the cheese and bake them. I even know some other bloggers have copied them! I did also create something for an appearance on Local 12 that was pretty fun. It’s called a “Castle of Gold.” Put White Castle burgers in a baking dish, cover them in Gold Star Chili and cheddar cheese, and bake them. Very Cincinnati.

What’s your ultimate dream for your career?

I would love to have my own show. I have an idea for it and if I ever get the chance, I’ll sell it hard! Hey, it could even be something a local station does. TV appearances are my favorite thing to do. I have a theater/comedy background and love combining that with my love of cooking.

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