Faces of AWNY: Erin Clarkson of Cloudy Kitchen

Erin Clarkson is a geologist by trade, but now spends most of her time mucking around in the kitchen creating new recipes inspired by her childhood in New Zealand. Erin tells AWNY about her life in New York and shares how she juggles managing a design studio with her husband, her food blog and her 175k+ Instagram following.

Erin Clarkson Cloudy Kitchen
Erin Clarkson Cloudy Kitchen

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to NYC?

I moved to New York in 2014 to be with my boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband), and we started a design company, and a few years later I got into food photography and now run a food blog called Cloudy Kitchen. I am originally from Nelson, in the South Island of New Zealand.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

We live right on the edge of Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn. My husband was already living in Bushwick when I moved, and we loved the area and everything it has to offer, so we stayed!

What do you like or dislike about living in NY?

I am a bit of a homebody and I stick to myself a little, so it can be a bit full on at times!

What is your ‘only in New York’ moment?

Every now and then when I am going about my day and running errands or something and kind of just stumble upon somewhere like Grand Central Station while I am getting from one place to another, I have a bit of a “holy crap” moment! It’s amazing how this city sucks you in but also you still feel like you’re seeing it for the first time.

Any advice for people moving to NY?

Get yourself a few close friends who you can lean on when things get weird. Having a support network wasn’t something I really had for the first few years, and I had to really make an effort to get out there and meet people because I only knew my husband when I moved here. Having a few people in your corner really really makes a difference. 

Tell us more about what you do for work

I run a small design studio in Brooklyn with my husband, Rich, and then I have a food blog! I used to work on an oil rig in the middle of nowhere in NZ, so literally everything is different! 

About a month after I moved here, a product Rich designed did the rounds on the internet. It was picked up by a bunch of design blogs, which then lead to a whole bunch of sales and our business, Richard Clarkson Studio, started from there! After the original product (a speaker cloud) we now have a whole range of lighting and furniture. I am the director of operations at the design studio but mainly work from home and help with customer service. Rich and I work very closely together so lots of my work is us bouncing ideas off of each other.

The food blog, Cloudy Kitchen, actually came from the homesickness I mentioned earlier. I was making food from home to have something familiar, and taking photos of my food and putting them online, which lead to a whole new venture. Starting a business in New York was HARD at the start, we had no idea what we were doing. We just worked our butts off and went with the flow, made lots of mistakes, and thankfully popped out the other side.

gluten free chocolate cake with salted caramel and mascarpone german buttercream by Cloudy Kitchen’s Erin Clarkson

Tell us more about Cloudy Kitchen and what advice you have for other food bloggers and recipe creators.

Running Cloudy Kitchen has turned into a job for me, and I am forever grateful that I get to do what I love so much.

My advice to someone new to the food blogger field would be to be consistent and to find their niche. What works for someone else may not be what works for you, and it might take a while to settle in to what suits you best and does well for you. That, and establish a Pinterest presence early, as it is amazing for traffic!

The top recipe on my site is these chocolate chip cookies, and I think they would have to be my favorite too. I did just finish working on a Lemon and Passionfruit meringue bar that is so good, and these cinnamon rolls are my forever fave.

What’s it like having such a huge instagram presence?

Sometimes it’s a bit strange knowing that I have a whole world living in my phone, but I am also very grateful that it is just that; it is something that lives in my phone and I can pick and choose what and when I share, which I love! My advice there would just to be yourself! I refuse to censor myself on the internet so what you see is what you get with me. I can’t stand when people have one online personality that isn’t the same as how they are ‘IRL’ and I think that helps. I just treat my Instagram as an extension of me. 

What’s your favourite New York spot?

I love, love, love the Union Square Greenmarket. I go there any chance I get.

Anything you miss about Australia?

My family, cafe food, good coffee! 

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  1. Don’t stay near Times Square
  2. Don’t just eat at places you’ve seen on Instagram. Ask someone who knows New York for some food recs if you can! There’s some amazing places but also some super terrible ones too. 
  3. Give yourself time to just get lost and look around. Don’t structure your visit too much, or you spend your whole time rushing around trying to see everything.

Have you had any hard times in NYC and how did you get through them without your usual support network at home?

I had a bit of a rough few years when I first moved. I didn’t know anyone, and moving to a huge city from NZ was super daunting and the homesickness was pretty bad, which was a weird feeling because it was also coupled with guilt that I wasn’t just totally stoked to be living in New York. I definitely learnt a lot about myself during those times and thankfully made some amazing friends who have become like family and are just the best to have when we need them.

Will you share some of your fave food spots in NYC?

For brunch, I love Lella Alimentari in Williamsburg. Super low key, and they make the most amazing Piadinas. I often work from there – the owners are amazing and the food is the best. Gertie in Williamsburg is also a current favourite – everything there is so good! For drinks, I like the beers and oysters at Lighthouse in Williamsburg.

What was your biggest win this week?

Getting a bunch of shoots done early in the week. It’s been a weird time and I’ve been lacking motivation a little! 

black cocoa brownie ice cream sandwiches with oreo mint chip philadelphia style ice cream from Cloudy Kitchen’s Erin Clarkson

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

Everyone here works their butts off, get used to it! 

Connect with Erin

Her cooking account is @cloudykitchen, and the design studio is @richardclarksonstudio.

You can also find Erin and Cloudy Kitchen on Pinterest at: pinterest.com/cloudy_kitchen

Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York after meeting her husband in a typical New York chance encounter. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

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