How Ayesha Curry Built a Legendary Culinary Empire


(Image credit: Russie Denay)

Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to stay tuned.

Ayesha Curry is, without a doubt, meant to be in the food world. From a young age, she found pleasure in gathering her loved ones around a table and indulging their taste buds with her creations. Nowadays, that vocation is fully realized. Curry has three International Smoke restaurants; a community of over nine million followers that she creates culinary content for; a charity, Eat Learn Play, which has fed thousands of families since the pandemic hit (and beyond); and two hit cookbooks—the latest, The Full Plate, hits shelves September 22. And with so many irons in the fire, somehow Curry still seems to just be getting started. Her successful and multifaceted career is admirable for anyone in the food world and, frankly, extraordinary for someone who didn't start in the food world but rather pivoted into it.


(Image credit: Eva Kolenko)

When Curry was just 17, she moved from North Carolina to L.A., where she worked as an actress. Though she had been in commercials, print ads, and the like since she was just 3 years old, Hollywood was a new world entirely. "I quickly realized that there was more to it than the actual craft and that there are a lot of hoops and hurdles,” she says. Though she faced the difficult reality that acting wasn’t the right fit, the experience taught her invaluable lessons that she'd draw upon later in her career. "I learned resilience, and I learned how to fend for myself,” she says. "I learned how to take no very easily, and I think it's made a lot of things more manageable for me in my adulthood.”


(Image credit: Eva Kolenko)

Life kept moving fast for Curry. Just a few short years later, she had a new full-time job: being a mother. "You just don't realize how much you can really accomplish at once until you have kiddos,” she says. In recalibrating to her new life, she also began to see her career in a new light. "I knew that there was something else on top of being a mom that I should be doing,” she says. "When I really take a step back and look at how everything went through the course of my life, it was staring me in my face, and it was food.”


(Image credit: Eva Kolenko)

With a new perspective on her career, Curry started a new-mom lifestyle blog, in large part centered around food. She soon expanded it to a YouTube channel, where she was better able to serve her following with step-by-step recipe instruction and culinary tips. Her platform grew fast. Two years later, she signed her first cookbook deal, secured her own show on Food Network, and began working with her International Smoke business partner, renowned chef Michael Mina—all in 2016. Curry’s content has continued to evolve just as fast as her winding career. Her new cookbook—which contains perhaps the most leveled-up "family” recipes you’ve ever encountered, all while remaining incredibly approachable—is just one example.


(Image credit: Eva Kolenko)

Curry’s career has always contained many parts, each added layer equipping her with confidence to tackle the next. Her advice to a younger, less-assured version of herself? "I would tell myself not to quit and to just press forward but, most importantly, not to let the noise of the world and the negativity that comes from it change who I am, what I love, or what I sought out to do,” she says.

Hear how Curry went from actress to mom of three to chef, best-selling cookbook author, and culinary entrepreneur on the latest episode of Second Life, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen so you don't miss an episode. To order your new favorite cookbooks, keep scrolling.

Next up, hear how Lesley Thornton built her botanical eco-inclusive skincare line Klur.