Their culinary partnership was built in the kitchen of a small apartment in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.
Julien Levesque and Kenzie Swanhart had just graduated from Northeastern. They were trying the Paleo diet for the first time, a nutrition plan based on lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. And Swanhart was recording the recipes they were making on a blog.
One day, she received an offer from Callisto Media to compile the recipes she posted online into a cookbook.
“When I got the first request to do a cookbook, I screenshotted it and sent it to Julien saying, ‘LOL, wouldn’t it be funny if I wrote a cookbook,’ Swanhart recalls. “Then in eight months, I did it. I had Paleo in 28, my first cookbook, in Barnes and Noble.”
Swanhart found herself a new career, leaving public relations for the culinary industry. And since then, she’s released four other cookbooks.
Now, Swanhart and Levesque, who met at Northeastern and recently got married, are about to release their first cookbook together. Swanhart says The New Newlywed Cookbook: 100 Recipes for Every Couple to Cook Together promotes the joy that comes from cooking with the people who are closest to you. Each recipe, she says, is tailored to be made by two people.
“We got married last September and we thought it’d be cool to do a newlywed cookbook,” says Swanhart, who graduated from Northeastern in 2013 with degrees in communication and journalism. “There are a lot of newlyweds cookbooks out there, but they don’t celebrate the partnership of cooking. They’re more one-dimensional. The idea just evolved and what’s better than if you’re actual newlyweds cooking together?”
Swanhart, who started cooking in college, brings the culinary experience. Levesque, who comes from a family of Italian chefs, taste-tests the recipes, edits drafts of the cookbooks, and cleans up the kitchen after Swanhart makes each recipe.
“I jokingly say that I cook and Julien cleans,” Swanhart quips, eliciting laughter from the two. “I’m generally the one taking the lead, but Julien is always in the kitchen with me and he’s been my number one taste tester. My name has been on the books, but I make sure to mention in the acknowledgement sections how much help Julien gave me.”
You might have seen Swanhart on QVC, a TV shopping network, where she’s shared recipes she’s compiled in her cookbooks. Levesque says what keeps them going is the fun they have together in the kitchen and the feedback they receive from people who have enjoyed their recipes.
“We graduated seven years ago, but even now that fun feeling is still there,” says Levesque, who also graduated from Northeastern in 2013 with a business degree. “It’s still fun to partner up, make something happen in the kitchen, and have an end result that’s edible. And some of the Facebook messages we get from people who are excited over our recipes, whether it’s from a friend or someone we don’t know, there’s no better feeling than that.”
The New Newlywed Cookbook will be released on Sept. 17. Swanhart and Levesque attribute much of their success to Northeastern, both for bringing them together and providing the curiosity to explore the world of food, back when they were in that small Fenway apartment.
“Northeastern holds a special place for both of us,” Swanhart says. “It was where we realized we loved sharing food with others. It’s why we are together and why we are where we are in our careers.”