Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer are cousins, but looking at them snuggled up next to each other on the leather couch in the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel’s Chairman’s Suite (aka the Rock Star Suite), it’s easy to see that they are practically sisters.
Harris, a beloved TV personality and lifestyle influencer, and Wesszer, a registered dietician and founder of Fraiche Nutrition, are on the tail-end of a jam-packed cookbook tour that’s taken them across the country talking all things food.
It’s just after 9 am and the duo is tired – yet neither have a hair out a place and look nothing less than energized from the outside – they are heading back home to Kelowna to reunite with their husbands, children, and dogs the next day, but all the travelling has undoubtedly been worth it – Fraiche Food, Full Hearts is the #1 book on Amazon.ca, and it’s already a bestseller.
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The cousins always knew the cookbook, which was created to be a family heirloom, would be a hit – but it took Harris some time to fully get on board with the project.
The former Bachelorette is a busy woman – just one glance at her website and it’s easy to see why.
In addition to Harris’ numerous brand collaborations (Etsy, Smash + Tess, Joe Fresh, and more), a YouTube channel, a hugely-followed Instagram account (1 million followers and counting), and travelling for work to film Love It or List It, both ladies were in the midst of a house build/renovation and both had brand new babies when they decided to start the book project.
Despite having a hearty helping of both work and life on their metaphorical plates (and Harris navigating a very trying second pregnancy with her daughter Annie), the duo embarked on the ambitious task of creating a cookbook.
“I was begrudgingly like, OK, fine, let’s do it!” says Harris. “The process after that was very, very long – different parts we hated and different parts we loved. I think that’s any big project.”
“The biggest obstacle was the content – not aesthetically how things would look because I think we are pretty damn aligned,” added Wesszer. “But the type of recipes, that changed along the way.”
Wesszer has consistently been on a sustainable and healthy diet since the get-go, or as Harris put it she has always had a “stable relationship with food,” while Harris admits she started feeling more strongly about the book being vegan as time went on.
The ladies landed on a direction they felt would truly stand the test of time for the cookbook: healthy, uncomplicated, approachable, wholesome food made from scratch that was most importantly, flexible.
From there, Harris and Wesszer developed 100 plant-forward recipes that can almost all be made gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan.
“A lot of families are a lot like ours where somebody’s celiac, somebody’s trying plant-based, somebody’s doing the keto – so we were like, let’s make the book really flexible because maybe one day I won’t be on the whole vegan thing and I’ll want to use whipping cream, and I can still use our cookbook,” says Harris.
With over 150 recipes tested, the cousins had to narrow it down for the final edit, but both agree there was one dish that was a shoo-in – Grandma’s Beet Rolls – something their big Ukranian family fought over every single special occasion.
“We’d literally fight over them as a family, not joking. There have been tears,” says Harris.
“Sometimes even before we’d get to the table the whole roaster would be gone and that’s when it got serious,” Wesszer laughs.
As an ode to all of the big, fun family dinners the duo experienced growing up, Harris and Wesszer made their cookbook with holidays and celebrations in mind.
Fraiche Food, Full Heats is sectioned off in traditional categories like breakfast, appetizers, dinner, desserts, and cocktails, and the book is sprinkled with stories and anecdotes about the pair’s all-time favourites like Harris’ Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese, and the Chili Tofu, which is a veggie adaptation of their favourite dish at Cactus Club.
While these two love them some Cactus Club (and really, we all do), there are some other local spots they enjoy chowing down at when they are in town too.
Other places mentioned included vegetarian eatery Heirloom Vegetarian, Indian spot Vij’s, plant-blase Hey Kokomo, and downtown hangout Joe Forte’s (mostly for its sunny patio).
“We actually also used to hang out all the time at Rodney’s Oyster Bar, we used to park ourselves on the bar and order a sauvignon blanc,” says Wesszer.
“…And flirt with all the bartenders,” adds Harris as they both chuckle.
The pair prefaced that list by admitting they haven’t really been eating out all that often these days, which isn’t surprising considering they’ve developed such a great number of incredible recipes.
The busy moms and businesswomen couldn’t be happier about the response they’ve gotten since Fraiche Food, Full Hearts dropped. They set out to create a book that will be used for years to come, and we certainly think they’ve succeeded.