As what can be described as barely functioning in the kitchen, we are in awe of those with any discernible cooking talent, something Merrill Stubbs has in spades. The co-founder of Food52, a recipe hub for newbie cooks and seasoned chefs alike, Merrill brings her training from London's prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and her years as a food writer and editor for the likes of T magazine and Cook's Illustrated to the site. She is an absolute whiz with the stove and handles a knife with the skill and precision of a master painter with a brush.
She also happens to be as meticulous about her beauty routine as she is about her mise en place. We sat down to chat with her about how she cares for her skin and hair, her go-to products, and the beauty advice that changed her skin.
You know we couldn't let her go without talking cooking, so we asked her to share some tips for new cooks to help hone our skills. And, if you're looking for an easy recipe to solve the neverending saga of "what should I make for dinner tonight", she's got a simple and fast recipe for weeknight Bolognese that will knock your socks off. Keep reading to learn all her beauty and cooking secrets.
Name: Merrill Stubbs
Profession: Co-founder of Food52
Skin type: Sensitive and slightly dry
Hair type: Thick, wavy, and prone to tangles
Duration of beauty routine: My morning skin-care routine typically takes less than 10 minutes because I usually don't wear much makeup. If I have an important meeting or a video shoot or something, it takes me more like 25 minutes.
Walk us through your daily beauty routine:
In the morning, I wash my face with Alpyn Beauty's Creamy Bubbling Cleanser and then follow with a treatment essence. I also use Alpyn Beauty's Plant Genius Line-Filling Eye Balm for daytime. Then I gently pat two drops of a jojoba oil serum all over my face, which adds hydration without making my skin look greasy. Then I use one pump of Mun Protect + Revive Moisturizer. I love this moisturizer because it makes my skin feel really silky and it's a great primer for makeup.
After that, I pat a pea-sized amount of a matte SPF 40 sunscreen all over my face and use a Beautyblender to apply a tinted moisturizer. I love Ilia's True Skin Serum Concealer for dark or red spots around my eyes and in other areas of my face, and I use Westman Atelier's Face Trace Contour Stick and Lit Up Highlighter Stick together to add some dimension to my face. Then I add a light dusting of translucent loose powder to set everything, followed by a rosy or peach-colored blush on the apples of my cheeks. When I take the time to really do my eyes, I love the Roén 52 Cool Palette; there's a plummy shade that I use as both a shadow and a liner, applied in different intensities. My eyebrows are pale to the point of being invisible, so I typically use a brow gel to create more volume and add color. For thick, perfectly curly, jet black lashes, I love Westman Atelier's Eye Love You Mascara. I usually finish up with a nude or light pink lip tint or gloss, like Roen Kiss My...Liquid Lip Balm in Charlie.
When it's time to take it all off at night, I wash my face twice — once with a cleansing balm and a linen cloth, and then with the Alpyn Beauty face wash. Then it's time for some Dr. Barbara Sturm Eye Cream (a splurge), a few drops of May Lindstrom's The Youth Dew serum, which smells and feels absolutely amazing, and Augustinus Bader's The Cream to seal in all that moisture. Once or twice a week, I use a gentle exfoliator like Goop Glow or Lernberger Stafsing's AHA/BHA Peel Gel Mask, followed by January Labs Moisture Renew Mask.
I only wash my hair once or twice a week because it's such a production, and I swear by Oribe's products. I use the Bright Blonde Shampoo and the Radiance and Repair Treatment, and the Run Through Detangling Primer before I brush out my wet hair.
What is your philosophy on beauty?
Less is more. I like my makeup to look pretty natural, even for a night out, and I try to keep my routine simple.
What is your best beauty advice?
Play up your favorite features (skin, eyes, hair, whatever) instead of focusing on correcting or compensating for the ones you don't like as much.
What is the best beauty advice you've ever been given?
When your skin is oily and/or breaking out, odds are you need more moisture rather than less. When a facialist first told me this I was blown away, but now I know from experience that if my face seems greasy or oily it's usually because my skin is actually too dry and trying to correct itself. Drinking lots of water and using a seriously hydrating moisturizer are both key.
What are your three must-have products?
Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum is a wonderful face oil that has a cult following, and for good reason: It's intensely moisturizing, balances my skin really nicely, and smells incredible. Love + Sage lip balms are silky, lightly aromatic lip balms made with beeswax and coconut oil — the tinted versions (violet, pink, and red) use subtle, mineral based color. I've tried a lot of body washes in my day, but Nécessaire The Body Wash may be my favorite. This ultra-moisturizing gel body wash comes in three scents (Eucalyptus, Bergamot and Sandalwood), and I can't decide which I like best!
Do you have any special tips or techniques for how you apply a product to get the best results?
Beautyblenders work well for applying tinted moisturizer and foundation, but since concealer is typically a bit thicker I find that a brush (specifically designed for this purpose) does the best job of blending and creating an even, natural look.
What do you love most about your job?
I get such pleasure from connecting with like-minded people all over the world who, like all of us at Food52, believe that food is at the center of a well-lived life.
What's the absolute best thing you've ever eaten?
This is impossible to answer definitively, so I'm going to go with something that has a lot of meaning to me personally and evokes fond childhood memories of holiday baking: my mother's Secret Cookies.
Can you share a quick and easy favorite recipe with us?
During the fall, we eat a lot of simple, hearty pasta dishes at home. This Bolognese is one of my go-tos in fall, winter and even spring:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef (85% lean) or sausage meat
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and smashed
28 ounces chopped tomatoes (canned, or fresh if they're in season)
2 sprigs fresh thyme and/or oregano
1. Set a deep, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the meat and a large pinch of salt. Brown the meat well, breaking it up with a spoon, about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Turn the heat to medium-low, create a well in the center of the pan by pushing the meat to the sides, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant and begins to turn golden.
3. Add the tomatoes, herbs and a few more pinches of salt and stir everything to combine. When the sauce starts to bubble, lower the heat so it's just simmering and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, the tomatoes have broken down, and the sauce has thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the herb stems, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with a short pasta like fusilli or penne.
With more people cooking at home than ever before, what's one piece of advice you think every at-home cook should know?
Try not to let cooking stress you out too much. If something doesn't end up exactly as you'd hoped, there's always the next meal to prepare for and look forward to.