Bestselling cookbook authors Julie Albert (right) and Lisa Gnat


Culinary business keeps sisters cooking and laughing

Julie Albert, BA’92, and her sister Lisa Gnat have three bestselling cookbooks under their belt, with a fourth book on the way. (And that’s only part of their culinary business.) “It’s been a really amazing journey,” says Albert.

Story by Brenda Branswell

October 2018

Once a month, cookbook authors Julie Albert, BA’92, and her sister Lisa Gnat get together to film four recipe videos. Hilarity ensues.

“That’s our favourite day because we cry. We are laughing behind the scenes, like mascara down our faces,” says Albert.

The Toronto sisters have parlayed their complementary skills into three cookbooks, all Canadian bestsellers, and a food website ( that boasts more than 700 recipes and their entertaining videos.

Their fourth cookbook is in the works and due out from Random House in 2020. They also run a digital and creative agency that specializes in food and beverage.

“It’s been a really amazing journey and we’ve been so lucky to be on it together because we make each other laugh,” Albert says.

Growing up, Gnat would follow their mother – “a great cook” – around the kitchen and later obtained her pastry papers from George Brown College. “My sister does all the recipe development. And she has an absolute bionic palate.

“I do the writing and the look of everything that we do, which speaks to my skill set,” says Albert, who has a master’s in journalism from Ryerson. “That’s really why we work so well together is we don’t kind of play in each other’s backyard.”

They self-published their first cookbook, Bite Me, and followed it up with Bite Me Too and Lick Your Plate: A Lip-Smackin’ Book for Every Home Cook. They dedicated the latter to their parents, Larry and Judy Tanenbaum, “the best thing since sliced bread.”

Humour plays a big role in their approach, and Albert says they’ve been lucky because their slightly cheeky books appeal to both a younger and older demographic. “And we get everything in the middle, the ‘what’s for dinner crowd’ who wants to feed their family.”

Albert majored in East Asian studies at McGill and enjoyed being in a small community at the University. With a concentration in Japanese, she studied the language, culture, and history. “I absolutely loved it, and it set me up for the next stage in my life,” says Albert, who went to Tokyo for a year after she graduated and studied Japanese intensively.

She went on to graduate school at Ryerson, and did freelance writing while raising her three young children.

How did the culinary venture come about?

“When it came time to feed my own kids, I didn’t have the skill set. I had hundreds of cookbooks, but I felt like nothing worked,” says Albert.

“My sister set about teaching me how to cook and feeding my family, feeding my friends. That was the genesis of Bite Me.”

The first recipe for their initial cookbook was their popular chunky white chocolate and cranberry cookies, which they brought to all their book signings.

Oprah magazine featured their recipes twice – “Apparently Gayle (King) loved our cookies,” Albert says, of the TV host who is Oprah’s best friend. Ditto for rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

“I believe our mother now owns every copy of those Oprah magazines.”

The sisters started their ad agency,, in earnest about two years ago. With a team of eight women, Albert says the agency does a lot of professional photography, videos, content creation and social media management. They also have more than 450 bloggers across Canada who have signed up to be part of the bitmecreative network, Albert says. “We can amplify a brand’s message in a very effective, authentic and widespread way.”

The agency seemed like the natural evolution for them, Albert says. “We really do understand the needs, the wants. Most of these brands’ demographics are the ones that we speak to as well.”

Albert acknowledges the learning curve has been steep in their culinary journey.

“We’ve been authors, we’ve been publishers, we’ve been distributors. And now we have another side of our business … We’ve gone in many different directions, but the core of it, it all comes back to eating, feeding, making it easy for people.”

They take a healthy approach to their recipes, although their desserts are just that – “there’s no broccoli hidden in our dessert,” says Albert. “We use butter.”

For their next cookbook, the sisters are thinking of it being a book that “balances off the healthy everyday eats and the very kind of decadent occasional treat.”

She says she and her sister strongly believe in sticking to who they are and being real.

“We’re going to stay in our lane,” Albert says.

“We know what we like, we know who we are, and we’re not going to be putting out a book with 365 quinoa recipes … We’re soup to nuts, baby. We like it all.”

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