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Spartan Profiles: Emily Wilson

  • Author:
    Paula M. Davenport
  • Published:
    Fall 2014

Don't Know a Simmer from a Sauté? Wilson, ’99, Aims to Help

            Chef Emily Wilson spends all day in the kitchen so you don’t have to. She toils at simplifying her culinary creations so you can recreate them with just as much flair—but far less fuss.

            Wilson is the executive culinary director, aka “Resident Food Wizard,” for Cooking Planit, a free cooking website with the potential to transform even the most kitchen-averse folks into foodies. Launched in 2012, Cooking Planit helps with everything but the dishes.

            “It’s like having a GPS for your kitchen,” says Wilson, who writes recipes and meal plans, photographs her creations, appears in quick how-to videos and collaborates with a web team from her Birmingham home kitchen.

            More than 20,000 unique visitors use the website monthly, and the app has been downloaded 250,000 times. Invisible digital tools and software make Cooking Planitrise above its competitors, Wilson says.

            Here’s the skinny: Users visit the website and pick a recipe or a meal, then easy, step-by-step instructions pop up, along with a list of necessary ingredients.Think you’re too busy? Not so fast. Just select a day and time when you wish to serve your dish. Then sign up for reminders—sent by e-mail or text. Voila! Cooking Planit will let you know when to shop, what to buy, when to prep and,finally, when to light the fires so your tasty dishes are done on time, all on your schedule.

            You can slice and dice your searches by dietary restrictions, ethnic influences, preparation time and ingredients, search fo rentrées, side dishes, saladsor appetizers, plus browse ever-changing categories like Meatless Mondays, Family Fun and Emily’s Favorites.

            The important thing to remember, says Wilson, is that this is about much more than pasta alfredo.

            “Food can be so many things—comfort, entertainment, celebration, familiarity and adventure.The beauty of food is that it’s best when shared with others. When (it) brings us together…not only do we nourish our bodies, but we also nourish our relationships, families and communities,” Wilson says.

            She experienced that right out of college. A big five Chicago accounting firm had scooped her up. She began throwing dinner parties on the weekends. It was so fulfilling, she parlayed her accounting degree into catering jobs for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.

            “I’m certain my accounting degree helped me secure my very first catering job. I knew my financial background would help me understand menu costing and event profitability. I was eventually promoted to director of the department,” Wilson says.

            Her advice for novice chefs? “Don’t take cooking so seriously. And don’t let all those competitive cooking shows get in your head. Have fun with it. Cook from your heart and you can’t go wrong,” Wilson says.

            Wilson says she’s always drawn on an important lesson she learned on campus.

            “My time at MSU taught me that even when I have no idea where I am going or what’s ahead, I can find a way to be successful in the moment. Plus, it’s a great feeling to share pride in my alma mater with 500,000 people across all generations. Once a Spartan, always a Spartan,” she says.