SANTA MONICA, Calif. Claire Thomas is by the window, photographing the strawberries for her food blog, The Kitchy Kitchen. Hers is a site that should serve as a template to all those who would like to use the Internet as a springboard for a next-career move. Kitchy Kitchen isnt one of the most widely read places to catch up on recipes or food reviews, but in its short existence, it has been seen by the right people.
The commercial production company Green Dot Films liked her take on food videos so much it hired her to direct a staff of 40 for a McDonalds TV commercial in 2011, a gig that has since expanded with spots for General Mills, Del Taco and others.
Litton, the production company behind ABCs Food for Thought Saturday-morning cooking show, found her online videos so charming it plucked her to host the show.
Publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster just signed Thomas to write her first cookbook, for publication in 2014.
And Thomas is only 26.
She said shes floored by having so many good things happen so fast: Im so lucky.
Darren Foldes, an executive producer with Green Dot Films, said Thomas is an inspiration in the office. Shes a rarity, he said, turning a blog into a TV-directing and TV-hosting career.
It was Foldes who after seeing her online food videos thought of pitching her for commercial work.
There were no old-school tricks of the trade, like fake smoke and lots of gloss, he said of her online work. The videos ... just showed a real passion and love for food.
Unlike online videos that can be produced for hundreds of dollars (after the initial equipment is purchased), TV ads can cost from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. At home, its just her and a friend making the online food videos, using a Canon 5D Mark II camera and two lenses. On the set, shes working with a crew of 40, and a big expensive $60,000 Alexa video camera.
Commercial production is a collaborative experience, she said. Im more hands-on with my online videos.
Thomas grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California and began working as a hostess for a restaurant chain after school. She soon began blogging on the side and learning about food photography.
She still churns out about one or two new food videos monthly for the blog, (which draws visits of between 40,000 and 60,000, Thomas said) and has been busy photographing dishes for her upcoming cookbook.
She works out of her home here, where the kitchen is her studio. She specializes in natural light food photography, which means no lighting just what shines through the window, accentuated with a reflector to shape the light.
The key to her videos is making them short.
I operate in a 30-second format, she said. I thought how much fun it would be to take a recipe and show it in 30 seconds ... just the broad strokes. The videos became popular because of the instant accessibility.
Her advice to bloggers who want to quit their day jobs and forge a new career: You need to be OK with working for free for a very long time, and just stick with it. The Web can open so many doors.
© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.