How to Become a Recipe Developer

How Claudia Sidoti went from NYC's youngest female restaurant owner to HelloFresh's recipe developer.

Claudia Sidoti
Photo: Sue Kwon

When Claudia Sidoti was coming of age, so was New York's Chelsea. It was, Sidoti says now, a time when "you really did know who your neighbors were and who owned the restaurant across the street." In Sidoti's case, the restaurant owner across the street from where she worked at a specialty food store was the man who would become the father of her first child, a man with whom she quickly shared ownership of that little restaurant—making her the youngest female owner and chef of a restaurant in the city at that time. Sidoti was just 19.

And though that marriage didn't last, Sidoti's commitment to the food industry did. From that restaurant experience, Sidoti built Beauty & the Feast, a catering company with clients that included small coffee bars and even Barnes & Noble. But Sidoti was ready for a change.

She landed at Food Network at a time when the TV channel was launching its magazine by the same name. "I was there from issue one to issue 77," Sidoti says of her eight years as the magazine's test kitchen director.

She wrote more than 3,000 recipes for the new publication.

"It was very exciting to see everything come to life, and to know your recipes were reaching such a large audience," Sidoti says.

"Every single thing I've done has been super exciting, very challenging, and a little scary," Sidoti says, and her next job, helming the kitchen of HelloFresh as the home food-delivery brand's head chef and head of recipe development, is no exception. In addition to creating new recipes, Sidoti also focuses on recipe performance and customers' changing tastes.

"I think that wearing a lot of hats was just something that happened naturally," Sidoti says now, reflecting on her varied resume. "When you're an entrepreneur—let alone a young one, where you don't have a lot of funding and can't hire a lot of people—you kind of have no choice but to do it all. It's like, 'OK, today I am the bottle washer, tomorrow I am the chef, and the next day I'm going to be the marketing person.' You just get used to fluidly moving through all of these things. but ultimately I find you lean into something more than another thing—and when you're finally fortunate enough to surround yourself with people who can support the areas you may not be as strong at, then you're finally working at your best."

Here, Sidoti shares how you can conquer any—and every—job you can dream of having.

1. Embrace change.

When Sidoti sold her catering business, she admits she was terrified. "I was like, what on earth am I going to do?" she says. "I've been working for myself since I was old enough to work, so how am I going to work for someone else—take direction from someone else?" She turned to a book for the answer. That book was Who Moved My Cheese. "I honestly still refer to that book and I give it to people because it's all about change—how to see it coming and how to prepare yourself for it and how to get in front of it," Sidoti says. "The world changes—everything changes, all the time. And the more you can see it and adapt to it and actually, even better, get in front of it, the more successful you can be."

2. Use fear as a motivator.

"I would encourage people to not run from their fear but to use it as a springboard into action—to get yourself into a mode where you use it," Sidoti says. "It's a force, just like any other kind of really visceral emotion, and if you can use it to push yourself to work harder or overcome the things you're not comfortable with," you can reap the benefits of that feeling, she says, rather than allow it to hold you back. "Fear has helped me overcome a fear of flying," Sidoti says. "I don't love flying, but I will get on a plane any day because I'm not going to not travel and see the world." To harness fear, rather than let it control you, Sidoti recommends repeating the Serenity Prayer. Sidoti says it "when I'm afraid," she says, "to remind myself I only really have control over one thing and that's me."

3. Hone your listening skills.

It's all too easy to think we all have the best idea in the room (or the industry). "But I prefer more often than not to listen to what other people have to say before I say anything," Sidoti says, "and listen to what is not being said. I think there is a lot being said in silence. I've walked into collaborative work environments where I think I've got the best idea and I'm about to share it, but then I wait and someone says something else and all of a sudden, my idea might not be as good or be better. Listening can be a tool to help you develop your thought process, and [so that] you could change your position."

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