It’s a blindingly sunny day in northeast Los Angeles, and Molly Baz and I are going grocery shopping. First, though: coffee. After picking up a nitro cold brew from Cafe de Leche, Molly Baz is backing her sleek black Tesla out of a parking space when we hear the unmistakable thwunk of car on car. The motor is silent, and so are we. At first, Baz doesn’t notice, or at least pretends not to, but eventually, when she realizes she’s made contact with the car behind us, she jumps out for a look at both bumpers. “Totally no damage, thankfully,” she exclaims, relieved, but she seems displeased with her own car. “The car didn’t beep! It’s supposed to beep! It failed me.”
Not that this most minor of collisions could stop Baz on her quest to create the pickle-laden grilled cheese sandwich that she’s been envisioning in her head for weeks for her subscription-based recipe club. We make a more uneventful drive to Altadena Beverage & Market, a cute little shop owned by Baz’s friends, for the sesame loaf she needs for the sandwich, then walk across the street to Armen Market, where Baz fills her basket with bunches of dill and cilantro, plus a bag of the spongy dried apples she loves to snack on. Shortly after, we’re speeding off toward her much-envied, oft-Instagrammed home just a short drive away, whence Baz brings her distinct brand of assertive, unapologetic cooking to the masses.
Bazland, the home Baz shares with her husband, Ben Willett, is an oasis of lushly landscaped palms surrounding a midcentury facade against the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains. It feels like the embodiment of the hashtag #aesthetic. Standing guard is Baz’s (also internet-famous) dog Tuna, a miniature dachshund, or in Baz parlance, a weenie dog. Beyond Tuna lives the recipe world’s brightest star.
There is no denying the outsize influence that Baz has at this moment. Her 723,000-strong Instagram following may be smaller than Gordon Ramsay’s or Ree Drummond’s, but Bazheads are especially enthusiastic. Her followers want to make all of her recipes as soon as they’re posted online, and they can’t wait to boast about them on their own Instagram accounts. And thus, right now, they’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of her new cookbook, More Is More, which she’s discussing on a Zoom call with her team as I take in her monochromatic, butter-yellow kitchen.
More Is More is the follow-up to Baz’s best-selling 2021 debut, Cook This Book. It coalesces the brash, herbaceous, acidic, salt-loving ethos that she’s been building over the past decade into a collection of recipes that, she believes, fully embraces the grandiosity of the book’s title. “It embodies a mentality of throwing yourself into something wholeheartedly and with confidence,” she says. “Just, like, taking the world by storm. Or taking your kitchen by storm. And that’s kind of the way I live my life. People always reflect back to me that I’m kind of a manifester and a doer, and I carry that mentality into the kitchen.”
While studying art history at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the mid-aughts, Baz decided that she wanted to learn how to cook professionally, and spent time as a line cook at a number of New York City establishments, including now-shuttered Lincoln Square staple Picholine. “I wanted to try something totally different, and I worked on the line in this really tightly run, French-brigade-style restaurant,” she says. “But for so long, my identity was wrapped up in the fussiness of that kind of cooking. I was learning all this great technique and how to create these superior flavors, but I don’t really identify with it. I’m not a ‘one chive on top of a piece of halibut’ type of person.”
After leaving restaurants, Baz bounced around the periphery of the hospitality industry. She co-founded a catering company called Rustic Supper in 2013, and worked as a “freelance chef” before joining the staff at Epicurious as a recipe tester in 2015. She then landed at Bon Appetit in 2018, where she began her rise from obscurity to senior associate food editor at one of the country’s top food publications, all while racking up millions of views for videos on the magazine’s popular YouTube channel. In the comments, Bon Appétit fans praised Baz’s casual relatability, her thoroughly explained recipes, and her attention to detail. “I really had to come down to earth and figure out what people are actually willing and likely to cook,” she says. “It was a matter of swallowing my pride as a restaurant-trained chef and humbling myself. And then I really started to love the challenge of making something that was really, really yummy, but also really unfussy.”
Then came the Great Food Media Implosion of 2020. Following the stepping down of then-Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport after a photo of him in a racially insensitive costume resurfaced, Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna, and Rick Martinez (all then Bon Appétit employees) alleged a culture rife with unequal pay and opportunity. Baz, and other Bon Appétit video stars, resigned in solidarity.
She is pretty tight-lipped on her split from Bon Appétit — “that dead horse has been thoroughly beaten,” she says — but it did offer Baz the opportunity to reinvent herself as America’s Next Top Food Influencer amid the chaos of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “I am so terrified of creating content that feels like it’s being made in a white box,” she says. “That’s why it took me so long to get on YouTube after leaving Bon Appétit, because I didn’t know how I would re-create that conviviality. The BA test kitchen was special, because there was, like, a family of really close friends, cooks, colleagues, whatever you want to call them. How do I convey who I really think I am at my core, and what I surround myself with, when I’m just cooking for my friends and my family? How do I convey that online?”
Baz’s brand of cooking — and her on-camera presence — came together over those five years at Bon Appétit. Her food is informed by her restaurant experience, but it is intentionally never overwhelming or overly fussy. It runs the gamut of cuisines; Italian and Indian and Mediterranean influences abound. It’s flashy, saucy, salty, lemony, herby, and always doused in olive oil (though sometimes butter or ghee). It’s roast chicken and pastas intended to look beautiful on the table while you brag about how easy it was to make. Above all, it is always adaptable to a new moment, flexible enough to accommodate any of Baz’s whims.
But if her style might be infinitely adaptable, her confidence in her own opinions, and own cooking, is decidedly more distinct. She’s sure that her food is really good, and isn’t afraid to tell you which method for, say, toasting a sandwich she thinks is best. In her videos, Baz displays her own brand of swagger, one that’s different from the chef-bros you see all over YouTube, but no less self-assured. “I remember filming my first video in the [Bon Appétit] test kitchen, and I was just so scared. I was trying to will my hands to stop shaking, because if people on the internet see me shaking, they’re never going to trust me, they’re going to take me down,” she says. “After five minutes on camera, I kind of got lost in the cooking, and it just felt natural. I’m not an actress. I’m actually really bad at it. So doing this wouldn’t be sustainable if I’m putting on some kind of airs or trying to be someone that I’m not. I just want to, like, be me, and whoever’s down for it, great.”
More Is More is a response to the kind of cooking she did as a line cook in restaurants: aggressively restrained and composed plates that are both easy to make at home and look beautiful in photos. “I don’t want one chive, or a fucking tablespoon of chives,” she says. “I’m going to chop the whole fuckin’ batch and throw them all in, and it’s going to be chive-y and great.” She’s almost annoyed with the way that restraint has made its way into the home kitchen, a place where many inexperienced cooks are terrified to do anything that even slightly deviates from the instructions in a recipe. “People are afraid to turn up the heat or throw in some salt, and it’s just not that big of a deal,” she says emphatically. “Yeah, you might fuck it up, but you might also make something delicious. Actually, you’ll probably make something delicious.”
The same year she left Bon Appétit, Baz moved from New York City to Los Angeles with her husband, designer Ben Willett. The couple bought their home in Altadena, an up-and-coming neighborhood northeast of Los Angeles, for $1.2 million, according to Zillow, and immediately set out renovating it. That was a bigger task than they’d expected. Baz and Willett purchased the home from a flipper, who didn’t mention that the 1950s-era home had been owned for years by a cat hoarder. Cat urine had soaked into pretty much every surface of the home, which meant that the original four-to-six-month timeline for the renovations stretched on longer than a year. “Every once in a while when I open the pantry, I swear to God I still smell the pee,” Baz says, though Willett insists it’s all in her head.
But now, three years later, the cat-pee-soaked floors have been replaced with eco-friendly cork flooring, and the dumpy, flipper-grade fixtures discarded in favor of warm woods and streamlined Scandinavian cabinets. The monochromatic kitchen is all done in Baz’s favorite color, a pale yellow she calls butter, and the custom corduroy couch is the same royal blue as the cover of Cook This Book. Her kitchen, which is also the set of her YouTube series Hit the Kitch, is outfitted with pretty much everything from her recent, smash-hit tableware collaboration with Crate & Barrel. The stainless steel ice bucket from the collab holds bunches of fresh herbs in her refrigerator, the blue-lidded salt cellar is on the counter, and the set of bamboo-melamine mixing bowls is always within reach.
The way that Baz infuses herself, her lingo, and her lifestyle into every single recipe makes what would otherwise be a pretty basic approach to cooking worthy of a cult following on Instagram. If the title involves abbreviations (see: “Cae Sal,” “Umam Lasagn”), it’s probably a Baz recipe. You can generally expect bunches of dill, flourishes of flaky salt, glugs of olive oil, and big gloops of Kewpie mayo alongside charred proteins and hearty, saucy pastas. There are multiple iterations of Caesar salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. The recipes in More Is More are, mostly, classics turned up to 11: cacio e pepe is boozed up with “full-bodied red wine,” and meatloaf is stuffed with whole-milk mozzarella. There are entire lemons, fistfuls of herbs, stems and all, and full instructions for making your own tableside steak tartare.
“My food is fun, it’s irreverent, it’s whimsical, it’s intentional,” she says. “The intention is and always has been to make cooking fun, because I wholeheartedly believe that it’s the only way that people are going to adapt cooking into their normal daily life, doing it multiple times a week. I believe people are fun seekers, and I just have so much fucking fun cooking. If I can be infectious, and that means people will cook more, I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s something our generation might lose otherwise.”
On a hot Tuesday in August, it’s recipe development day in Baz’s home kitchen. Her iPhone is stuck somewhere in a drawer while Dolly Parton blares out through an invisible speaker system and Baz works on her new recipe for her recipe club’s subscribers. The grilled cheese sandwich is inspired by a Gilda, a skewered Spanish snack that involves an olive, a pickled pepper, and an anchovy. With Swiss cheese, shaved manchego, and the loaf of bread she bought that morning, Baz is planning a sandwich with “big San Sebastian energy,” she says, as she pulls the various ingredients from her butter-yellow refrigerator. Meanwhile, we snack on a real “girl dinner” spread — those dried apples Baz bought at Armen Market shortly after our fender bender, plus a container of leftover fennel tzatziki from the equally well-branded Kismet Rotisserie, corn chips and spicy popcorn.
In her home kitchen, Baz is eminently comfortable as she pries oil-preserved anchovies from a jar and stirs together the Gilda-inspired topping with cilantro and dill and plenty of olive oil before schlepping a cast-iron skillet out of a cabinet. Not content with the typical grilled cheese preparation style, in which only one side of each slice of bread is toasted, Baz toasts her bread on both sides. More is more, after all. “Who doesn’t love a little double-crunch action?” she asks. The resulting sandwich smells good but is apparently not quite gooey enough for the ’gram, so Baz sticks it inside her microwave, an appliance carefully cached behind a sleek Douglas fir panel near her cocktail bar.
But though the cheese is now properly gooey, the light just doesn’t hit right. So Baz takes the sandwich and her iPhone, and her assistant, Becky, who’s shooting video for Instagram, and traipses around the house, past the $500 barstools and potted monsteras until she finds the right spot in the backyard. “Perfect,” she says. Finally, it’s time to eat the sandwich. She cuts it into quarters — a piece for me, one for her, one for Ben, and one for Becky — and we all crunch into our sandwiches while nodding in assent. The sandwich is good, but Baz thinks it can be better with Gruyere instead of the Swiss cheese she used today. (The post has gone on to earn nearly 16,000 likes.)
The sandwich feels like such an obvious encapsulation of Baz’s culinary identity, all brine and cheese and salt and dripping with oil, and also an explanation of why she’s the millennial Martha Stewart. Baz has an uncanny ability to make her choices feel like the cool choices. Even if you hate olives and anchovies, you still want what she’s making. She’s created her own in-group, one that never seems totally out of grasp. The most uncool among us can still emulate Molly Baz in our cooking, even if we’ll never be able to afford the gorgeous house, or conceptualize our own viral recipes, or look great in a messy bun and apron, or possess a preternatural ability to find the right pose for Instagram every single time.
To be sure, there are plenty of people who are not down for Molly Baz. Reddit threads are replete with trolls making fun of her habit of abbreviating words. Her YouTube comments are filled with unsolicited reviews of her recipes, and even critiquing her “grumpy” husband, Ben, who often makes appearances in Baz’s cooking videos. Others rudely debate whether she is physically attractive and complain about how she wears her hair. Some can’t stop talking about how rich she must be, pointing to her home and lifestyle as evidence of generational wealth. But for Baz, one insult cuts especially deep. “People will say that I’m insufferable, and that’s pretty much the worst thing you can say about someone,” she says. “It’s not a wild thing to say, but it hurts to be told that you’re just the most insufferable woman who has no idea what she’s talking about.”
It seems an especially inevitable consequence when, like Baz, your own personality, your home, and even your dog have become part of a consumable brand. And that’s doubly true when part of that brand involves being an assertive woman with opinions on the internet. “I like to think that I never am saying that everybody else is wrong and I’m right. What I’m saying is that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I can say with certainty that this is the best way I’ve ever made it,” she says. “I hope my brand never comes off as, like, everybody else is a piece of shit and I’m the only one who knows anything. Because I’m learning from people all the time. I don’t want my confidence to come off as bully energy; I want to be somebody you can trust.”
The next day, Baz and I meet up at Bub & Grandma’s, in Glassell Park, a popular, newish sandwich spot, where she’s practically a regular. We sip spiced pineapple tepache and split an antipasti sandwich on impeccably made bread and tomato salad while she talks about the future. She sees the logical evolution of her work as opening a restaurant, but that can’t happen right now. She’s too busy with, well, everything — the upcoming book tour and her brand collabs and her recipe club.
“I’ve given people the ability to cook my food, but I so rarely get the chance to actually make something and feed someone outside of my circle of friends and family,” she says. “But that has to come in a chapter of my life when I have the time to really commit to being in a kitchen and overseeing the output, because I am absolutely terrified of creating a restaurant that’s a great vibe with terrible food. Restaurants are so easy to fuck up, and I haven’t cracked the code on how to do it, so I feel like it’s a down-the-line thing, when I’m in a new phase in my life.”
What does that new phase look like? She has no idea. Molly Baz isn’t the type to write a five-year plan. She really loves the experience of writing cookbooks, and appreciates the luxury of having a year or two to really dive into one project. “The thought of five years is so long, like I will be 40. Oh my God, I don’t know. I’ll have children; I think I need to have kids,” she says. “Maybe I’ll be writing kids’ cookbooks. I believe there’s so much more to learn. Who knows what I’ll want to do in five years? Who knows? Maybe the next book will be called Less Is More. Is Less Is More more More Is More than More Is More? I don’t know.”
Denise Crew is a photographer, mom, horse lover & adventurer. She lives in LA with her family of boys.
Food styling by Ryan Norton
Art direction and production by Nat Belkov
Digital tech operations managed by John Farrell
Operations Management by Lesley Suter
Wardrobe styling by Janelle Miller
Hair & makeup by Jessie Yarborough
Post-production editing by Zach Vitale
Copy edited by Leilah Bernstein
Fact checked by Kelsey Lannin