Don’t call it a comeback because Lori Baltazar never left. Dessert Comes First (DCF) just celebrated its 12th anniversary this past May without a lot of noise or fanfare. Its founder, Lori Baltazar, was still in the midst of getting her groove back. The malady that put both her and DCF on hiatus was creeping towards becoming a distant memory. Blog posts were being put up slowly but surely. Public consciousness regarding the comeback was reaching its tipping point – the one and only Dessert Diva was back, and, to the surprise of almost everyone she brought a team!
Today, we sit down with Lori and ask her 11 intimate questions tackling everything her loyal fanbase would want to know – the recovery, the people behind the new DCF contributing team, and the future of the blog.
Lori, could you talk about the hiatus and how has your recovery been both for you physically and the blog?
So I was sick in 2015, and 2016 was all about learning how to live again. I only had ten blog posts [last year] because I was re-learning everything, travelling, and honestly thinking about turning off the lights on DCF and just calling it a day. Then, last Christmas, Bal, (a good friend and DCF’s web management advisor) suggested opening DCF to contributors so that I could concentrate on the other topics I wanted to write about.
You’re currently working with a pool of writers, a strong group of blog post contributors. How is it different working with a team compared to writing everything on your own?
With some members of the DCF team
It’s true that I do a lot of my work by myself, but it’s been fun working with a group of like-minded people because it allows me a chance to interact. Believe it or not, I get lonely sometimes and I do enjoy the company! Working with contributors really gives me that chance to interact on a limited level and that’s just great! Plus the whole group is just SUPER; and, handpicked by me mostly! I’ve really chosen people who are friends and those who write really well.
Will your health dictate the articles that you will write?
chia parfait with coconut yogurt topped with pomegranate seeds and goji berries
Yes. I am not the same person that I was before I got sick. That reality informs who I am health-wise and personally. While I still love to go out and eat, I would rather have the contributors do the food reviews and I would rather concentrate on my travel pieces and long-form stories – both food and personal. I’d also like to focus on my “80-20”, 80% healthy and 20% devilishly delicious recipes!
How different is the food scene now from a couple of years ago during the height/peak of DCF?
I would say there’s a lot more competition now. The variety is immense; however, the attention span of the eating public is shorter than ever before. So, if restaurants want to have even a hope of being able to survive, they need a gimmick, something to give them the edge.
What things will you do now that the industry has changed, especially when social media sites are preferred over blogs?
I do agree that social media sites are now more preferred over blogs because it takes less effort to go to them, but DCF, and other sites like it are there for people who would want to consume content that matters; content that provokes thought and conversation. Blogs are there for the intelligent food lover. Blogs such as DCF are now considered “long-form” because anything over 500 words is categorized as such.
Your family has been really supportive of you. But who are the other key people behind the scenes who have been helpful to you during your recovery?
Marge Alcordo-Carlson (above), a treasured friend, who accompanied me to almost all of my 16 chemo sessions. We’ve known each other since the 4th grade. Couldn’t have done it without her. Anna, (DCF’s head editor) of course, and Bal. They both visited me in the hospital and they were the ones whom I celebrated DCF’s tenth anniversary (May 2, 2015) with (photo below).
With Bal and Anna.
I had just finished my first chemo session and we had lunch at Azuthai. Of course you (the author), were there along with Kirt and Him (Uy de Baron). Remember when you all came over and cooked lamb chops for me? I still had a head-wrap on then and everything. So yeah, definitely all of you and some other key friends.
Boo used to be a constant guest in your posts. Now that she’s a teenager, is she still open to appear in your next articles?
NO! Noooo. First of all, she would not want to be in a photo in any of my posts, although she will allow her hands to be seen in my food photos.
I have to say though that she doesn’t figure in my blog posts anymore because she’s so private as a teenager – she’s already 15 – and I have to respect that.
In London last June 2016.
But Boo is a part of my food life and I am still there on the side watching her bloom into a full-fledged food lover.
Bindoy, your “Bin”, has seen your progress over the years. You have written about him and he has even contributed from time to time. What are the milestones you both have hit along the way and would want to reach in the immediate future?
May 2015 – matching bald heads.
This was taken just this month, September 2017. Goofing around in an optical shop. I loved the grey frames but my Bin hated them on me.
I don’t think that any husband should have to see his wife go through cancer. Cancer really strips you down and brings you close to death, in all senses of the word. There’s the suffering of the patient, and the suffering of the one taking care of the patient, so that’s definitely a milestone because that was a very, very difficult time in our marriage and just for us individually. There have been many milestones but Bin taking me through cancer was huge. The next milestone that I’m really looking forward to is celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary this coming December 26th! We’re going to New York. We’re celebrating Christmas with Boo in New York! Also, getting older has presented new challenges for my Bin and I, and I’ll leave it at that — because this is a wholesome site!
Now that you have a renewed lease on life, what’s the one non-food thing that you want to try? Care to talk about the new ear piercing you just got?
I don’t have many pictures of my piercings, I realize, but this gives you an idea.
I got my (ear) cartilage pierced earlier this year. You would think that having been previously pierced and poked at least 50 times in 2015, that I’d be absolutely done with needles. You know what though, I don’t know. I guess it’s true what they say that when you hit mid-life, it’s like a rebellious part of you comes out! And I have always been sort of rebellious! So after I recovered, I just had this sudden urge to have my cartilage pierced. I almost got it done when I was in Germany last year. I was outside a tattoo and piercing studio, and I went in, and I waited for five minutes in the studio surrounded by all these pictures of tattoos and pictures of people with multiple piercings — but no one came out! So I guess that was a sign by God that I shouldn’t have it done… yet!
I don’t know if I told you this, but when I got sick, I was surprised to realize that I had ticked off everything on my bucket list. So by the time that I got sick, I would have been okay to die because I had done everything that I had wanted to do. As far as I’m concerned, everything that I have now is bonus. This is now how I live my life — one day at a time, and very grateful. But I’m not done with the ear piercings!
What would you want to see in the Manila food scene now?
I would want to see more bakery cafés. It’s really just because for people like myself, who are morning or day people, I would want to see more places that serve quality food and coffee. Most places open at 10am while I have breakfast at 7 or 8am so that’s really what I want to see more of.
If dessert comes first for Lori, what comes next?
Bindoy. I don’t even have to think about that. (laughs) Frankly though, and not for me anymore, but I’m surrounded by really great people and I would really love for my contributors to feel that they have found a creative home at Dessert Comes First. I would like more contributors. The platform is really for them. I’m really there to guide and to mentor because I’ve already done everything that I want to do creatively.