An Interview with Food Network Magazine Editor in Chief Maile Carpenter

by Alice Knisley Matthias

What can we learn from cooking? We need reading skills to go through a recipe and follow instructions and a sequence of steps. Math skills help us measure ingredients with cups and different sizes of spoons. We can learn about the history of a country, cultures and traditions from reading recipes and trying new ingredients and food. Cooking also helps us learn where our food comes from to understand the conversation about how ingredients travel from the farm to our tables.

Let’s make a food calendar and try new recipes together. Maybe you will come across an ingredient you have never eaten before or discover a new food. How do empanadas with a flaky pastry stuffed with beans and cheese sound? Do you think you can roll ingredients like a master sushi chef?

Join us for “Cook the Calendar!” and let’s share our delicious and sometimes messy experiences! Get ready to practice skills, taste new ingredients and become better chefs in the kitchen. Look for new recipes to try every month.

Do you think you could be the next Food Network Kids Baking Champion or Chopped Junior winner?

We are excited to talk to Editor in Chief of Food Network Magazine, Maile Carpenter, and learn about how she and her team created “The Recipe-A-Day Kids Cookbook” that features 365 fun, easy-to-make recipes for kids to create and enjoy. (That’s a recipe for every day of the year including one more for leap year!)

There are recipes for Mac and Cheese with Eggs, Emoji Pancakes, Mini Queso Pots, Flavored Ketchups, Edible Sand Art, and Cookie Gift Tags.

What was the inspiration for the fun idea for “The Recipe-A-Day Kids Cookbook?” 

The simple answer is that we think every day is a good day to cook or bake! We shouldn’t have to wait for birthdays and major holidays to make cupcakes and colorful snacks and all the other things we love, right? We sat down with a calendar and realized that we could easily dream up a quick, easy recipe for every day of the year, and the book is filled with fun facts that tie into those picks: We made Shirley Temples for Shirley Temple’s birthday on April 23; galaxy cupcakes on the anniversary of the first American spacewalk on June 3; and Philly cheesesteak pizzas on September 17, the day the Constitution was signed in 1787. And of course we made something special for your birthday too—check the date!

Where do the recipe ideas come from for the cookbook?

Our ideas come from all sorts of places. Sometimes we mash together two things we love (like French Fry Pizza), sometimes we put a savory twist on something sweet (like PB & Bacon Waffles) or a sweet twist on something savory (like Strawberry Nachos). Sometimes a holiday inspires us to dream up something new, like Popcorn Hearts for Valentine’s Day or Banana Mummies for Halloween. We also love putting twists on foods we already know and love: We turned Tater Tots into miniature cheeseburgers and switched up Ants on a Log with new spreads and toppings. The main goal is to make sure every recipe is FUN!

How do you approach a cookbook for kids differently than one for adults?

The big difference is in the instructions: We want to make sure kids get the help they need with any part of the recipe that involves hot burners, sharp knives, or anything else in the kitchen that might require a little assistance. Oh and we save the most fun, most colorful recipes for our kids cookbooks :).

How do you decide what pictures are used in a cookbook?

Photos are super important in any cookbook: We want the finished dishes to look amazing and we want you to know just how everything will look when you’re done, so we make sure the food stylists follow the recipe exactly as it’s written—no cheating for the photos! We photograph most of our food on white plates with simple backgrounds, so there aren’t too many distractions. You might notice that a lot of the food in this cookbook is shown without any plate at all, it’s just a popsicle, cupcake, cookie or other piece of food on a totally white background. We call this a “silo” (as in silhouette), meaning it’s just an object and nothing else.

How do you come up with the titles of the recipes?

This is one of the best parts of the job—we love naming recipes! In fact we have a column in our magazine called “Name This Dish” where readers try to come up with the most creative name for a recipe, and the winner gets $500! For this book, some of the recipe names are straightforward and simple, like Mini Peach Pies or Honey Cereal Bars but others are a little more fun, like Ruby Slipper Strawberries (they’re sparkly!) or Creepy-Crawly Cookies for Halloween.

How should kids approach new ingredients in a recipe?

New ingredients can be a little intimidating sometimes, for kids or adults. When you see something you don’t recognize in an ingredient list, you might be tempted to just skip the recipe altogether, but it’s actually a great chance to learn something new! Just like you might look up the meaning of a word you don’t know (or ask Siri or Google what it means), you should do the same for an unfamiliar ingredient.

What can kids learn from cooking?

So many things! I think every school should offer cooking classes, from kindergarten up to college! Imagine how great a cook you’d be if you started learning when you were super young. Cooking of course teaches you about math and science, but you’ll also learn about nutrition, time management, kitchen safety, and most of all, the importance of following directions. Cooking also teaches to be creative: Once you become comfortable in the kitchen you can start putting your own twist on recipes, and dreaming up new ones.

How did you get involved in cooking?

I have two sisters, and when we were kids, I was always the one who went grocery shopping with my mom. In the beginning I volunteered to go because I liked having the time by myself with her, but soon I realized that if I went shopping, I could pick out all the things I wanted! I started learning about different foods that way, and soon I was in charge of making dessert: I’d go to the public library and read food magazines to find new ones to try. When I left for college I had a tough time because I no longer had a kitchen: I tried to cook Thanksgiving dinner one year in my dorm room with nothing but a microwave and a toaster oven and it was a total disaster!

Favorite recipes your family likes to make?

We make a lot of pizza in our house! My husband is a chef, and during the pandemic he found an old pizza oven in our basement and started making pizza every Friday night. He became obsessed with perfecting the dough and now, three years later, he has a pizza restaurant near our apartment in New York City. Meanwhile, because homemade pizza has become so popular, we decided to publish a pizza cookbook at Food Network Magazine, so I’ve been surrounded by pizza at home and at work!

Buy: The Big Book of Pizza

Maile Carpenter is the founding editor in chief of Food Network Magazine, the best-selling monthly magazine in the U.S., and The Pioneer Woman Magazine. Maile is an expert in kids cooking and she has two daughters who love experimenting in the kitchen.

Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, gardening, family, and education. Her work appears in The New York Times for Kids, TIME for Kids, Washington Post Kids, Highlights and Food Network. She is a regular contributor for Allrecipes, Taste of Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Birds and Blooms and Family Handyman. Her work for kids has covered subjects like a Master Chef Junior finalist, music and theatre kids at work, how to make food from kitchen scraps and the science of yeast. Alice has a book published with Scholastic titled, “Tasty Snacks in a Snap!” about healthy snacks for kids.


Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, garden, family and education. Her work appears in The New York Times, Allrecipes, Taste of Home, Food Network, Washington Post, Eating Well, The Kitchn, Delish, Birds and Blooms, Woman's Day, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, America's Test Kitchen, Boys' Life and Parade. Her book, "Tasty Snacks in a Snap!" is published by Scholastic for young readers. You can read her work at Home / Alice Knisley Matthias ( and follow her at Alice Knisley Matthias (@aliceknisleymatthias) • Instagram photos and videos and @AKnisleyMatth ( / Twitter (