They say you can’t go home again, but apparently you can go back to your old job and shoot a TV episode with Martha Stewart.
Before I moved to Philadelphia in March 2018, I worked for Martha Stewart Living in New York City for almost four years. The city exposed me to a lot, but nothing expanded my horizons more than the endlessly creative people I worked with, overseen by the woman who has defined American home cooking and living for the better part of three decades. I learned about design from art directors, food styling and photography from the test kitchen team, and effective marketing from my manager Rachel, a natural-born entrepreneur.
But while I was quick to pick up on marketing techniques for the Martha Stewart brand, I was slower to apply those lessons to my own. I’d started bringing some of my baking into work – in my experience there’s no better way to make friends, and the office prop library and sun-drenched studios made for great photos – but it was Rachel who ultimately convinced me to show my baking to the test kitchen, to the social media team, to Executive Design Director Kevin Sharkey, and, ultimately, to Martha herself.
The upshot of which was that – over three and a half years – my cookies were featured on the Martha Stewart Living instagram and Martha’s personal account, I was called crazy by the test kitchen team at least once for the intricacy of my decorations (honestly one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received), and I became known at the office as The Girl Who Bakes – a title that somehow catches up with me wherever I go.
All of this came to a head at a company breakfast during my last week of work, when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard Martha’s voice telling me she’d heard I was leaving but that I had to come back and appear on Martha Bakes, her PBS TV show. Missing from this record will be my response, which I don’t remember – I’ve heard that happens with shell shock.
What I do remember is thinking that this was definitely not real. I continued to think that even as a producer got in touch shortly after I moved to Philadelphia, as we traded emails about potential concepts for my segment, as I created prototypes of Delft-inspired cupcake toppers, and even as we set a date in April for the taping.
I arrived back in NYC almost a month to the day since my last week at Martha Stewart Living. After spending countless hours in the test kitchens and studios assisting on photoshoots, it was surreal to be prepping for an appearance in front of the camera rather than supporting from behind the scenes. Martha swept through the kitchen with a breezy “Emily’s here!” (see “surreal” above), and I was given an area to assemble the cupcakes for my segment. After receiving a light dusting of powder on my face (dashing my hopes of receiving a full makeup treatment) – it was time to head to the set.
…And 20 minutes later, we were wrapped. It was over in a flash – I was gently reminded a minute into filming to not look directly at the camera, but otherwise the taping went smoothly. Martha was (unsurprisingly) a consummate professional, funny and humble by turns, one moment squeezing an eye dropper of vodka straight into her mouth (as I cringed at the thought that I’d only bought cheap Absolut) and the next graciously conceding that her cupcake topper looked “extremely handmade”. By comparison, I, the consummate newbie, still managed to sneak a look at the camera and shared my childhood ineptitude at math with the world.
After a brief photo-op with Martha, I left the building for the last time with a grateful heart and a light step, relieved I’d made it through the taping and looking forward to seeing the episode later that summer.
My step wasn’t the only thing that was light: I also left with a bottle of vodka that was given back to me suspiciously emptier than when I arrived.
…But I’m not pointing any
eye droppers fingers.
Huge thanks to Martha Stewart, Kevin Sharkey, Rachel Stewart, Thomas Joseph, Blaze Pennington, Kim Miller, Paul Delmiche, Jane Sweeney, and the rest of the Martha Bakes crew for this incredible opportunity.
Photos by Mike Krautter. (thanks, Mike!)