Hallie Gay Walden Bagley is a true Kentuckian, raised in a 4th-generation horse breeding family. A Double Ivy League graduate (Dartmouth, English Major; Columbia School of Law, Juris Doctorate), she learned to appreciate education early, so she started a College Admissions Coaching company 15 years ago, because she recalls her exodus from Kentucky to the Northeast at college age. She remembers lying on the floor at her grandparents’ house trying to write the essays for college all by herself and wishing someone could help her. SmartWriting, her College Admissions essay coaching business, arose from the compassion she feels for aspiring teenagers hoping to make their first launch as well and struggling to write their personal narratives. Ram Dass has said, “We are all just walking each other home.” This is what Hallie Gay tries to do, to walk her students “home” to their own story.
What is your hobby?
I love cooking. I’d say cooking is a hobby of mine.
How did you get started with this hobby? What inspired you?
My grandmother, Lily, was an amazing cook and she always did everything from scratch. Her two daughters, my aunts cook beautifully as well, and I try to follow in their footsteps. I remember from scratch oyster stew at the Thanksgiving luncheon and from scratch jam cake at Christmas and wonderful from scratch orange sorbet made from fresh-squeezed orange juice. Lily used to always say to all of us, “If you love to eat, you’ll learn to cook!”
Tell us what you love about it.
I find cooking very relaxing. It soothes the mind as you go through the steps. I’m not one of those cooks who does things from her head. I’m dependent on recipes so there’s something about the step by step of a recipe that takes every random thought captive and is as good as Savasana at the end of a long yoga session.
Are there any groups you’re a part of or events that you attend related to your hobby?
I’m a full-on subscriber to The New York Times Cooking Subscription and I have a very elaborate “recipe box” saved in their app. I plan to go to Ballymaloe Ireland Cooking School or perhaps The Cordon Bleu in my off season one day.
Have you had to invest in equipment and if so, please share some of the things you’ve bought.
Recently, I bought a spiralizer and a hand wand mixer so that you can do soups inside their pot.
Where do you buy most of your supplies?
Amazon and William Sonoma. Sometimes Sur la Table.
Are there any good books for beginners?
I remember one of the few presents my father gave me (not a sentimental sort, my mother always did all that). It was a Beginning Cookbook that taught me how to roast my first chicken. I still have it to this day.
How has this changed your life?
Cooking is a go to whenever I have a free hour, it makes me happy.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
Get the recipe to Perla Meyers Provencal Dressing. My mother in law gave me a cookbook by Perla Meyers when we first married, and in the back was this wonderful balsamic dressing by the famous Italian chef. And truly, whenever I eat salad (often) that dressing never fails to provoke lots of compliments. In fact I think it pushing 100% compliment rate. If you are in need of a compliment, make this dressing!
Are there any other hobbies you have?
I love tennis and have started that back up. I used to play competitively, at least at the town and state level, when I was young and now, as an elder statesman, I’m picking it up again. I wish I’d had the patience when I was young to learn golf but tennis will have to do.