Libbie Summers, formerly a yacht chef on several private yachts, has first-hand knowledge about building a flourishing lifestyle brand. Not only is she the author of three cookbooks, such as Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude, but her fourth is in the works. Summers is the creator and artistic director of her food and lifestyle website, A Food-Inspired Life.
In addition to cooking for two U.S. presidents, her work has been featured on Paramount Pictures, The OWN Network, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Vogue, Food Network Magazine, and more. She even did a pilot with the Martha Stewart brand about cooking on a boat — well before Below Deck came along. In fact, Summers credits that first job in television as the one that propelled her into becoming a food stylist. From there, she took a lot of jobs for free, which she strongly recommends newcomers do. “Like anything I could do to get in the door to style some food or be part of a shoot … I did everything I possibly could for somebody. I would beg to work,” she says.
Summers recommends shadowing, interning, or working for someone you admire. “Why wouldn’t you ask? Research what other people are doing that you’re interested in. Do you want to make something?” she asks, urging budding entrepreneurs to “work with someone who is five steps down the road, or a hundred steps, or forty miles in front of you, just to garner as much knowledge as you possibly can from them.”
While in the yachting industry, Summers preferred working on boats in the 100-foot range because it let her get more involved. “I was throwing parties three meals a day, and people liked what I did,” she says. From there, she decided to take it further. “I always thought, this is something you can parlay off the boat.” Summers says it was the artistry and story behind the food, not just the flavor, that inspired her. That desire and drive led her to create her website, A Food-Inspired Life. In November 2018, she launched the Yum Yum Smile Shop. Not only can you buy clothing and cookies, but you can also stock up on stickers, patches, and a subscription tin of “smiles.”
“I just think that we’re living in a very serious world,” she says, which is why she sends personalized cards in each package. “It’s recognizing that these very simple things bring joy in our life and finding those little smiles that bring us joy because we’re so focused on the negative right now.” This “joy journal” is her way of spreading smiles because “people take s#1t too seriously.”
As for things people should take seriously, it’s stepping off a boat, because too many leave yachting without plans. “I think that people that work on boats are entrepreneurs at heart anyway,” she says. It’s just about taking that same mentality off the boat and making things happen for yourself.