Meet The Women Behind “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” (Part I)

Several months ago, I discovered the website “Cooking with Trader Joe’s“.  Created by two California moms, Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, CWTJ’s has become something of a sensation among Trader Joe’s fans and foodies alike.  The website, which features their first cookbook, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s, a monthly newsletter, and companion blog (plus lots of other things like substitution lists, gift basket ideas, etc.), is a find for anyone who loves to cook, but is too busy to spend hours and hours in the kitchen.

I recently spoke with Deana and Wona about what led them to the world where Trader Joe’s reigns.

STT: How long have you been doing “Cooking with Trader Joe’s”?

Deana: I discovered Trader Joe’s when I moved to California about 12 years ago, and I used to shop at the original store in Pasadena.  True to form, it had a tiny parking lot with a long line of cars!  It was always an adventure going there and all the foods were so interesting, high quality, and affordable.  Over the years, my recipes began to center more and more around Trader Joe’s products – not only was it exciting food, but it was a snap to make.
Wona: I used to cook from scratch, and I remember 10+ years ago having to make trips to 3 places when I wanted to throw a dinner party: Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and the farmers’ market.  Trader Joe’s was my favorite store, but I couldn’t get everything I needed there, so I had to supplement with pantry items at Safeway, and produce at the farmers’ market.  As Trader Joe’s expanded their selection of goods, it suddenly became possible to do ALL my shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Also, as soon as kids came into the picture, I couldn’t make multiple trips to get food anyway, so “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” quickly became my preferred way to cook. 

 STT: How did the two of you team up?
Wona: Deana and I went to college together, and that’s where I learned to appreciate her quick wit, humor, and sharp intellect.  When she called me in January 2007 with her idea for a Trader Joe’s cookbook, it was immediately obvious to me what a great idea it was.  Brilliant!  Absolute genius!  We decided right then and there to become business partners and start our own publishing company to make this idea a reality.

STT:  What did you do prior to this?  How’d you make the transition to the recipe-business?Deana:  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate TJ’s… but that’s what I was: a rocket scientist.  I led optics research teams at high-tech start-up companies.  I’ve always loved to cook, but I think it was during the long work days of the tech boom that I really began to appreciate efficient home cooking.  I was busy, but I still wanted to eat healthy, I wanted to enjoy great meals with my husband, and we loved to have big dinner parties.  I realized that I wanted to join the party and enjoy the company, not stand over the stove the whole time.  So my recipes began to evolve to include the best of all worlds.

Wona: My professional career didn’t necessarily prepare me for writing a cookbook; I was working in high-tech marketing at the time.  However, I love to cook and grew up helping my mother cook for huge dinner parties that literally took the entire day to prepare for.  Watching my mom slave over a hot stove for hours at a time made me realize I had to find a better way to entertain.  Over the years, I kept a binder of all my favorite recipes.  As I got busier, I noticed the really time-consuming recipes sat collecting dust, and the recipes I came back to again and again were the simple ones that didn’t require too much time in the kitchen.

STT: Do you still work in your former careers?

Deana: No, we no longer work in our previous jobs.  Between our publishing company, new recipes, and our kids, there aren’t enough hours in the day for anything else! 

On Friday, I’ll continue my conversation with Deana and Wona, and they’ll share one of their favorite recipes your whole family will love.

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One Response to “Meet The Women Behind “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” (Part I)”

  1. obrian patrick Says:

    I loved both the pot pie and mac and cheese recipes. I can’t wait to make both of them.

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