Food blogger Chrissie Nelson Rotko’s new cookbook offers stress-free tips for entertaining at home.
by Michelle Boudin
When criminal defense attorney Chrissie Nelson Rotko moved to Charlotte in 2012 to take a job in the public defender’s office, she didn’t know anyone, and she didn’t know much about the city. She thought trying new restaurants would be a good way to explore her new hometown.
“I’ve always loved eating, and I’ve always loved writing, so I figured [writing a blog] about Charlotte restaurants would be a great way to combine those two interests,” says Nelson Rotko, who had moved from Madison, Wis. She started Off the Eaten Path in 2013 but worried people would think it was weird, so she kept it on the down-low, even from her now husband.
“Blogging was still new then. Online dating was still new. We met the same summer I started my blog. He would go to the bathroom and I would sneak photos of his food.” She eventually got past that, expanding the concept to include food-centric travel guides and recipes for easy entertaining. An editor at New York City’s Skyhorse Publishing spotted one of Nelson Rotko’s recipes on Pinterest and suggested turning the blog into a book.
“They were looking for someone to do a cookbook about entertaining with cheese boards, dips and fondues, and she found me,” Nelson Rotko says. “After that I had to submit a book proposal — a working title and table of contents, some sample photos and recipes — and about a month later they accepted it and I started writing.”
Still working in the public defender’s office, Nelson Rotko spent three nights a week working at a neighborhood coffee shop. An admitted Type A spreadsheet junkie, she mapped out exactly how many recipes she’d have to create, test and photograph each week to make her deadline.
The result: Stunning Spreads: Easy Entertaining with Cheese, Charcuterie, Fondue & Other Shared Fare, which was released in June.The 33-year-old developed all the recipes, testing them in the kitchen of her Starmount home, and even shot the photography as well. The 75 recipes range from dips and appetizers to cocktails and fondues. Many of them are designed to work together for the same meal.
“What I wanted to do with this cookbook was to show people that entertaining doesn’t have to be fussy or overwhelming, and to give people the confidence to create easy, delicious food for their family and friends,” Nelson Rotko says.
Some of her favorite things in the book are the summer-ready drink recipes. “Things like beer floats, watermelon frose and prosecco-pop cocktails will surely help you cool off!”
Nelson Rotko had intended to throw a book launch party, but COVID-19 shelved those plans. Still, when a giant pallet of her books showed up on her doorstep this spring, she admits there was plenty of reason to celebrate.
“I knew that it was going to be an actual physical book, but there’s nothing like holding it and flipping through it in person,” she says. “I like that it feels heavy and smells like a new book and sometimes can’t believe everything inside is my hard work.”
Stunning Spreads: Easy Entertaining with Cheese, Charcuterie, Fondue & Other Shared Fare is available through Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble and at offtheeatenpathblog.com.