Welcome to The Tastemakers, a series in which we chat with the most talented, connected and influential people in the world of food and drink.
Whether you know Bethenny Frankel as your favorite Real Housewife, the face of Skinnygirl Cocktails or as a high-powered working mom, her charisma and entrepreneurial spirit are undeniable.
Many may not know, however, that Frankel also has a longtime passion for food, having attended the Natural Gourmet Institute after high school and publishing multiple recipe and wellness books in recent years. Since creating the Skinnygirl Cocktail company in 2011, Frankel has also grown the brand to include not only cocktails, wines and liquor, but also protein beverages and bars.
We chatted with Frankel about the inspiration behind her brand, the lessons she's learned from reality television and the meals she cooks for herself and her daughter at home.
How would you describe your relationship with the world of food and drink? After getting your start at the Natural Gourmet Institute, how did you decide where to go from there?
"After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute, I followed my gut and made a commitment to growing my personal brand. I have always been passionate about food and drink, and being so familiar with that realm made me realize a void in the market—a need for practical solutions for female consumers."
What does a typical day look like for you?
"No two days are the same. On any given day, I could be taste-testing new products, hosting a cocktail event, taping for The Real Housewives of New York City or decorating cupcakes with my daughter."
What was your inspiration behind starting Skinnygirl? Which aspect of the company are you most proud of?
"During my time on The Real Housewives, I developed a relationship with the fans, and that trust inspired me to create Skinnygirl Cocktails. I knew I had a good idea, and I was passionate about it. By founding the brand, I wanted to let women know that they can have it all, without compromise.
I'm most proud of how much we've grown. We started out with one margarita and have expanded to more than 20 different wine and spirits options, and are continuously offering new products to meet the needs of consumers."
What's the most memorable meal you've ever made for one of the Housewives?
"You may remember it as 'Brunch-Gate,' but probably the brunch I hosted at my Hamptons house for a few Housewives during last season. Of course, brunch starts off with cocktails, so I set up a Bloody Mary bar. I laid out different garnishes like celery, olives, cucumber and hot sauce for guests to customize their drinks. Brunch food should always be simple, so I made mini muffins with preserves, mini frittatas, bagels, sausage and turkey bacon. Presentation counts, so I served the food on heart-shaped 'love' plates and the drinks in mason jars."
Who is someone you really admire in the food industry?
"I love the work of Quinn Ventura, the head pastry chef at Blossom Bakery. All of their pastry creations are vegan and taste amazing. Their red velvet cupcakes in particular are beyond!"
What's your cocktail of choice?
"I love a dirty martini with three olives. It's simple but so delicious!"
What are a few things you've learned through your experiences in television?
"The show has been a great platform for me to connect with my fans. It's helped me understand what women are looking for and allowed me to offer products they really want. It also taught me that it's important to be honest and be myself."
What's your go-to meal when cooking for yourself at home?
"I like using what I have on hand to mix up a salad. I never eat the same thing twice in a row, so I use whatever greens I have, usually arugula or romaine, and combine it with any other ingredients in my kitchen—grape tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, corn, etc. Then I make a simple dressing out of olive oil, lemon, white balsamic, a dash of agave nectar and a dash of mustard. I might pair it with a turkey burger or whole-wheat pasta with vegetables."
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are just getting their start?
"Don't be afraid to fail and go with your gut. You're going to make mistakes, but you can always learn from them. It's because of these mistakes that you'll understand parts of your business and your life that you may not have before. We all hit roadblocks in life, and the way we handle those situations is what defines us."
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