Allison Robicelli is a person of many talents. She is known for creativity in her cooking, writing, and any other project with which she’s involved. Teaming up with her husband Matt, the two released the bestselling cookbook Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes: With 50 Decidedly Grown-Up Recipes in 2013. The book displayed her baking skills, which she honed throughout her life before opening a bakery with Matt in Brooklyn.
Robicelli’s culinary prowess and personality have led her to appear everywhere from Food Network and VH1 to Eater and Food52. She has displayed a knack for writing as well, earning a James Beard Award nomination for her piece, In Sickness, In Health, In White Castle, which appeared in Food52 in 2016.
Those talents have merged in her latest project. Next month, WWE: The Official Cookbook will be released as part of a collaboration between Robicelli, World Wrestling Entertainment, and publisher Insight Editions (which has published pop culture cookbooks for Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and World of Warcraft, among others). The book features a collection of recipes and dishes inspired by popular WWE Superstars.
These recipes cover appetizers, main dishes, desserts, drinks, and more. Each recipe, carefully crafted by Robicelli, is inspired by a different superstar. For instance, wrestling and comic book movie fans will recognize the Ba-Quiche-Ta, named after former WWE champion and Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista. There are also recipes named after John Cena, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and many others.
Allison Robicelli recently shared with Bake Magazine the story of how she became involved with this unique project, as well as what she loves about the food industry and what she’s working on next.
How did you get involved with the WWE cookbook?
A company called Insight Editions, who specialize in pop culture books and merchandise, was able to purchase the official rights from them to produce this cookbook.
I got this gig because someone tagged me on Facebook! An editor from Insight posted in a food writing group looking for authors, and a few people tagged me thinking I'd be perfect. There's a sense of silliness and fun around everything in the WWE, and I'm primarily known for my humor writing. I reached out to Insight, showed them my previous books and some articles, and they agreed.
Honestly it's not the type of project I ever thought I'd do -- the recipes are supposed to be pretty basic so that anyone can at least attempt them, and I've always written recipes for somewhat experienced cooks. But I realized that it could be really fun, especially since the recipes needed to be easy enough for kids to make, and I've got two sons who are 10 and 11 and always wrestling. Also I figured they'd be super impressed by this, since they aren't impressed with any of the other stuff I do. James Beard nominations mean absolutely nothing to children.
Were you a fan of WWE before you worked on this project?
I absolutely loved the WWE when I was young, and got back into it during the Attitude Era because of Chyna and my lifelong love of soap operas. I'd sort of dipped my toes back into the fandom when my kids started getting interested, especially after seeing wrestlers like Asuka, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks, and realizing how far women have come in the sport. It's gotten ultra competitive and kinda feminist, and you'll see men on the internet discussing these women as serious athletes instead of just eye candy. I absolutely love it.
Was the company very hands-on with the book’s development?
Some of the people from the WWE suggested recipe names, since the book is really pun based. I used a lot of them, because it was important to me for them to be involved. Outside of that, not much.
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
It has to be the Nacho Man Savage. He was my favorite wrestler growing up, AND I made a chili out of Slim Jims. It's one of those things that's both a brilliant and terrible idea. I've promised myself that I'm only allowed to make it once a year, because otherwise I'd make it every day.
Did your previous cookbook experience help you in putting this together?
It actually made some things harder! Like I mentioned earlier I'm used to writing “nicer” recipes, so there were moments I really had to dial it back. For example, there's a recipe for Big Boss Hamsteaks, where we decided to make them look like donuts since his character was a cop. Initially I had this whole complicated thing where you make your own biscuits from scratch, and then remembered that refrigerated biscuits exist and would be a better choice for the audience. Honestly, my kids had a lot of input with these recipes. If they weren't able to follow along, we redid it.
As a former bakery owner, what do you like most about that industry?
My body is way too broken to work in kitchens full time anymore - I got hit by a car about 6 years ago, which has done a serious number on my back. The best part of owning my own bakery was being able to write new recipes all the time, so having the opportunity to continue that sort of output and experimentation has been incredible for me. I love the brainstorming, the trial and error, the multiple taste tests. I even like the failure! For me, I enjoy the journey more than the destination, and intend to keep writing cookbooks and recipes until I can't do it anymore.
Can you tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on, including your podcast?
My husband and I still work together. We've been doing a lot of consulting work, particularly up in NYC where we work with Oaxaca Taqueria and Rip's Malt Shop (we are minority owners in both). I'm back writing humor and recipe developing for a few sites I love, like Taste and Food52. We've been working hard on this super-secret cookbook project . . . And we just launched our podcast! We'd been talking about this forever, and finally found some cool people we like working with. It's called The Robicelli Argument Clinic, and essentially we just have stupid arguments regarding the culture around the things we eat. Matt and I have been together nearly 14 years so we're quite good at arguing, and we get some great perspective from our co-host and adopted “wacky nephew” Noah. He's our 19 year old neighbor who pretty much lives with us. It's been doing very well so far, with a lot of our fans saying it feels like hanging out with your funniest group of friends. We're having a lot of fun.
What trends are you noticing in the food industry?
I'm loving how chefs and writers are doing deep dives into their cultures. Even in neighborhood restaurants where you're used to seeing the same old thing, you're starting to see menu additions and specials that feel a bit more like deep cuts. I feel we've spent many years finally getting to a point where we're recognizing global cuisine instead of being hyperfocused on only a small number of countries, and now that our view has expanded we're now ready to explore even further, and are eager to learn more.