Ali discovered the spiralizer in March 2013 and since has created Inspiralized, which is a blog, a community, a product, and a book. She lost 30 pounds by eating Inspiralized and she aims to inspire others to always feel their best, in part, by helping turn vegetables into healthy, creative, and satisfying meals. Ali wants to show that eating healthy is fun and doesn’t have to be boring.
I am so pumped to have Ali Maffucci of Inspiralized here on the show today.
*(All photos below are Ali’s.)
On What a Spiralizer Is:
A spiralizer is a small kitchen tool that turns vegetables and fruits into noodles. So, at its most basic level, that’s what it does. And then, what you decide to do with those noodles afterwards is where the fun begins. But it’s just a basic kitchen tool.
My mother is actually a type 1 diabetic. She had gestational diabetes with her pregnancy and it stuck. She was trying raw veganism as a way to help manage her blood sugars. And she discovered zucchini noodles in a restaurant, and then did her own research and discovered the spiralizer; and found out that the spiralizer can make zucchini noodles. She bought one on Amazon and she loved it. And it was really, really helping with her health. And her knowing that I love healthy cooking and I love pasta, she said, “Come over one night. I’ll make you dinner so you can test the spiralizer out.” I was like, “Mom, what is this veggie noodle stuff?” Months later, I went over. It was sort of like a light, Asian vinaigrette on it, just a total raw noodle dish. And I took one bite – and I still remember that bite, it was just like, “Wow, this tastes like pasta.”
I was blown away. I was like, “How have I not heard about this?” So, I asked her that night if I could take her spiralizer. My poor mother was so excited about hers and I took it. That was on a Sunday and the next night was a Monday. I made dinner for my husband and he had the exact same reaction. He was blown away. It was such an easy way to make dinner and I had never used it before, and it just came so naturally. So it’s definitely great for a basic chef. I was blown away, so that’s how I first discovered it. And then obviously, once I got my husband’s approval, that was the big moment.
On Starting Her Blog:
What happened was I found myself in my desk job, sitting there writing recipes on napkins at lunchtime, and typing on my phone things to test out. “So, oh, can I spiralize this?” I was finding that at work I was dreaming of spiralizing, which kind of sounds corny, but it was the truth. I just felt so creative. And I was looking online at night searching spiralizer recipes and resources for spiralizing and there was absolutely nothing. There was no community. There were a couple of recipes. One was a simple pesto recipe in the New York Times and very basic vegan, vegetarian, raw vegan sort of recipes. There was just no community.
I was looking at the hashtag for spiralizer and there was really nothing. So basically, overall, I was so blown away by spiralizing that I wanted to tell everyone about it. And now, it being 2015, the best way to get out there is to launch something online and be on social media. So, I basically walked into my boss’s office one day, after like, two months of trying to build up the courage to quit and start this dream. So I walked into my boss’s office and quit. The next day I went to a Starbucks near my apartment here in Jersey City, and I just started from scratch. I just wanted to build a community. That’s really what I wanted to do at first and build this buzz around spiralizing.
On Being Conscious of What She Eats:
It sounds bad to say, but like any other girl in her early to mid-20s, I was very conscious of my body and being healthy. I think I always grew up with, sort of, healthy intentions, because, as I mentioned, my mother was diabetic. So, a lot of the things we had in the household were diabetic-friendly whether it’s obviously, low sugar, low carb. We always ate whole wheat everything. We weren’t allowed soda. I was just very interested, but I never actually started cooking until my senior year of college when I decided to become a vegan. Veganism was starting to be trendy and I was, like, “You know what, I really need a reboot. Let me try this.”
I was vegan for about two years and ever since then, I would say, “I’m an omnivore now. I eat everything. But I’m an omnivore with a vegan mindset.” I think it really helps you balance everything.
On Her New York Times Best-Selling Book, Inspiralized:
It’s actually a funny story. I self-published the first year that I was starting Inspiralized. I was getting a lot of emails and notes about it and people were asking, “I want a little something to include with the spiralizer I’m gifting to my friend, because of you. Do you have anything, do you have a recipe card I can include, or something like that?” And I was emailing people, “Oh, just print this out.” And I wanted something to hold onto and so people could spread the word that way. So I self-published just a small little cookbook and it was really, really successful and people loved it. People were sharing it over the Holidays. I actually got approached by a publisher who made a publishing offer to me. And I was like, “Wow, this is real. Wow, this is real.” So, I got a literary agent and then she took me on that journey and I finally selected Random House.
That felt like I finally made it. I got a cookbook deal. It’s like every food blogger or foodie’s dream to really have a cookbook. It’s like your first big milestone. I was saving my best recipes I wanted to post my blog, I’m like, “I’m saving it for the book.” But that was just an incredible experience. I learned so much as a cook. I became a better cook. My recipes on my blog are now better because of it. I learned different things about the spiralizer that I incorporate in the book. New vegetables I discovered along the way of writing the book I included.
It was a big discovery and a big proud moment in my life to write that book, and I put everything into it. I wrote it during the summer, so I didn’t go to the beach that year. I just wrote the cookbook, but I’m so proud of it. It’s an amazing book.
On Her First Product, The Inspiralizer:
The Inspiralizer is obviously my own branded product. And I wanted to make something that people could use on a daily basis like I do. So if you really love spiralizing, you’re probably spiralizing like three to four times a week, if not more. I wanted to make something that people could display proudly on their countertops that sort of have that effectiveness where you could use it constantly. You wouldn’t have issues with it; make something more sturdy.
I was spiralizing every single day. The product that I was using, I was noticing, like, “Well, if this was just a little different, and this was that…” So I basically went to the drawing board and sketched my own design for what I imagined to be the perfect spiralizer. I got a business partner, obviously. He guided me through the process based on my design of what I wanted. And then when it came time to name what it was, obviously, Inspiralizer sounds pretty good.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I love Molly Yeh. She is out in North Dakota, I think. She’s sort of mostly recipes. Her photography is beautiful. Her cooking methods are really fun. I really love her. And then if we’re thinking about healthy blogs, I love Gina from Skinnytaste. She’s a friend of mine and she just has the most reliably, healthy, tasty recipes.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I follow a lot of people on Instagram. I like NomYourself. She is a vegan blogger. RobinNYC. She is a spin instructor and a running coach. She started an urban running community, and she has great Instagrams, super motivational, and my favorite way to exercise is spinning. I spin with Peloton Cycle and she’s a head instructor there. All of her images are just very raw and gritty, but she shows her hustle and she shows it out there for people. I’m really inspired by her, especially in a fitness element. She’s an entrepreneur as well, but the fitness element, she always gets me in the gym.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I actually have a good one for this. So, my first day of college, my father said, “Oh, you know one of the fun things you can do is have your friends over and watch movies and make popcorn.” And I was like, “Dad, I want to go to parties and have fun. I’m not just going to sit in my dorm and eat popcorn. But, of course, I did. I sat in my dorm room and ate popcorn, and he gave me this bowl. It’s like a ceramic bowl and it has the emblem of the college I went to, Wake Forest. I got it my freshman year of college and I’ve lived in five different apartments since then, and I still have it. And I still use it every single day. Not for popcorn…well, I do use it for popcorn, but I actually use it when I cook, as like a mixing bowl.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Broccoli rabe. I used to think it was really bitter, but I learned how to cook it and now I love it.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I have to say, I don’t cook from cookbooks. A goal of mine is to cook more from cookbooks, but I don’t cook from any cookbooks.
Except for my own. I’m too busy developing recipes. When I was vegan, I definitely used…I liked The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. I used to cook from her book, but other than that, I don’t really.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Well, I’ll say this. My husband is very good with curating music and he curates a playlist on Spotify. My name’s Ali. He named it Ali’s Mix, and he updates my music all the time. So, that’s what I put on every single day when I cook. And it just makes me happy.