VIP Interview: Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes


Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a Mrs. Fields Cookie at home? What about a Starbucks Mocha Coconut Frappaccino or KFC fried chicken? Well, expert chef and food cloner Todd Wilbur figured it out. Yep, that’s right. Todd Wilbur, of Top Secret Recipes, has hacked some of America’s favorite “secret recipes” so that we not-so-expert chefs can recreate the foods we love in the comfort of our own homes. Over the course of my lifetime, Todd has written nine cookbooks and sold over five million copies. Wowza! How awesome is Todd, y’all?! Pretty freaking fabulous. *wink*

At the 2014 Birmingham Home and Remodeling Show, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview THE one and THE only Todd Wilbur backstage before his live demonstration. And NOW I have the fabulous pleasure of sharing all of that fun with y’all! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the VIP’s interview with “food hacker” Todd Wilbur.


VIP: If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Todd: *answers without hesitation* Chicken wings. Yes, chicken wings! I’ve had the smoked wings at Todd’s English Pub everyday!

VIP: I cannot blame you! Chicken wings are great!

Todd: I think I may be turning into a chicken wing…

VIP: What was it like hosting your own television show?

Todd: Oh, it was such a great experience. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of stress because it was a reality show, and a lot of reality shows are “set up”…mine wasn’t. They [the producers] would set up situations going into say P.F. Changs where I would go in as a waiter [given, this was set up with headquarters] where the employees at that specific chain location did not know who I was. Sometimes, they did not even tell ME what was going on, which was pretty interesting. Turning “secret” iconic American foods into recipes in just three days was very stressful, but I really enjoyed the challenge.


VIP: You’re synonymously called a “food hacker”. For someone who does not know what that is, how would you explain it?

Todd: Well, I actually coined the term, and I’m pretty proud of it. But a “food hacker” is someone who “dissects” or reverse engineers food to see how it’s made and turns it into a recipe that you can make at home. Often, I am deconstructing foods and then reconstructing them with common ingredients so that anyone can do it.

VIP: It’s really such a cool process, and I am sure difficult. So, what would you say was your inspiration to start hacking foods?

Todd: The Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie recipe that was floating around in 1987, which was before email, and I’m sure before your time. I mean, do you even remember a time before email? *laughs*

VIP: No *laughs* I do not, but I do know the time period in which you are talking about *laughs*

Todd: So, during this time, chain mail was a big deal. Someone would create a letter, send it to five of their friends, then those five friends would send it to five of their friends, and so on and so forth. Snail mail–that’s what it was *laughs* Well, one day I got this chain letter that was “supposedly” for a Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie, but it wasn’t. It was completely bogus. This fake and horrible recipe had spread all over the country, and Mrs. Fields chains had to put notes on the front doors of their stores debunking this recipe so people wouldn’t think their cookies were terrible. Seeing this happen, I could not help but think, “Wow! People really love secret recipes. I wonder if I could make a book of secret recipes?” So, I made that recipe [the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie recipe] better, and I learned how to better my cooking skills. Over the next five years, I hacked a lot of different foods and built my first recipe book, Top Secret Recipes, which published in 1993. Now, here we are ten books later, and I just finished writing book number eleven.

VIP: That is all so very cool!

Todd: Thank you. My eleventh book will be a little bit different–usually I do blueprint illustrations, but I will have about a thousand pictures in this one. Actually, I have one of my last books for you.

VIP: Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much. Now, I can go home and make all of the Starbucks drinks I want *laughs*


VIP: What color would you say best describes you and why?

Todd: Uh…Uh…I really don’t know. This is an interesting question–you’ve gone all “Barbara Walters” on me like “What kind of tree are you?”

VIP: Ah! I love Barbara Walters!

Todd: Okay–can I be rainbow? Wait…no. I don’t want to be rainbow. Let’s see…

After much debate and lots of laughs, Todd finally decided on a color.

Todd: I am going to have to say blue, but why…I have no idea why. I just feel like we are surrounded by blue–the sky is blue, these [pointing to rubber-maid containers] are blue, my pants are blue. Blue–I’m going with blue. I feel confident with that choice *laughs*


VIP: What is your favorite food hack you have done and why?

Todd: I like the chicken wings, of course, but picking my favorite food hack is kind of like choosing a favorite child *laughs* I really love the barbecue hacks and junk food ones though. But as far as a specific one, I really have a special place in my art for the Mrs. Fields cookie recipe because it is what started it all. 


Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn


VIP Interview: Ahmed Hassan, DIY Network’s Yard Crashers Host


Have you ever watched Yard Crashers, the show with the really cute landscaping host, on the DIY network? I have a lot…especially during the reno.

During our year-long renovation, my family and I lived the DIY network. We were surrounded by things that needed to be done everywhere–even the yard was a hot mess. 

Every time we went to the home improvement store, I kept hoping that Ahmed Hassan with his camera crew would pop out and ask to go crash our yard. Sadly, our landscaper in shinning armor never came to our house in Birmingham; however, he did come to the Birmingham Home and Garden Show 2014 where the VIP got to interview the expert yard crasher, who is also a contributor to the CBS Early Show and NBC’s Today Show

Okay, that is enough chit chat for now. Are y’all ready for the VIP’s interview with Ahmed Hassan of DIY network’s Yard Crashers? *drum roll* 


VIP: What is your favorite part about being a TV host?

Ahmed: My favorite part about being a TV host is that because I host reality-based TV shows, I get to just be me–I get to do what I want to do and build off of my own inspiration. Landscaping is something I have spent most of my life doing, and it has always been interesting to me even when I was a little kid. Now, it is really cool to see other people being interested in what I love doing–which is landscaping. To be able to share my passion for landscaping on TV, to be in the limelight, and to get paid TV dollars is a heck of a lot better than just being your average gardener!

VIP: And you get to be you!

Ahmed: Yes, I get to be me, and it works–that’s the best part about it!

VIP: Exactly! If you weren’t Ahmed Hassan, playing Ahmed Hassan, it would not be nearly as entertaining to watch.

Ahmed: I do not think I am the best actor–I can act like Ahmed everyday, all day long, and I know all the lines! I can even put on a little extra for TV because as a host, you have to learn how to spice up things. You are always slightly amused, and you have to come in with a lot of energy at the beginning of the show–things like that are a little bit of a stretch, but not so much that it pulls me away from my authentic self.


VIP: Who inspired you to start landscaping?

Ahmed: My inspiration was really my dad. He was a landscaper, and I grew up watching him work. He soon moved on to do construction and truck driving. I grew up around blue-collar work and around learning to work with your hands. Through that, I sort of evolved into that type of work too…I had a wake up call that people who work a lot with their hands typically do not make a lot of money–and I knew that I wanted to make good money and be highly respected. I knew that I did not want to just be a lawn jokey. So, that’s when I decided that I needed to become more educated in the field. I have been able to build a career where I am interacting with people, problem solving, and creating beautiful spaces, and I love doing all of those things. I never imagined that doing the things I loved would have developed into the career that it is now.

VIP: Absolutely! You have to do what you love–if you don’t, you will never be truly happy!

Ahmed: I agree. I am seeing if I can prove this in my lifetime…if you love what you do, you create such an energy and such a passion around what you do that people want you and want to be around you. It’s not so much what you’re doing that attracts them, but it is the love and the passion behind what you are doing. That’s how I went from being a gardener to being a television host and probably the country’s most popular landscape expert.


VIP: When it comes to landscaping a yard, what would you say is the most important element?

Ahmed:  It’s like most things, it is a lot of conscientious planning. If you want to build something, you really need to take the time to think about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Planning and doing research in today’s day and age is really easy because we have Google right at our fingertips, and we can find out everything we need to know right on our mobile phones….If you do not want to do the research, pay the right people who have the knowledge to assist you with what you want to do before you go out and waste a bunch of money on something you do not know how to do.


VIP: What landscaping advice do you have for homeowners that are looking to spruce up their yards for spring?

Ahmed: Sprucing up your yard is really no different than sprucing up your house. You have to clean it up–mow the lawn, trim the shrubs, rake the leaves, put some fresh mulch in the flower beds, plant some new flowers, and add other things that make your yard work for you. A lot of times, I joke how I am like a glorified outdoor janitor because we always clean up people’s yards before getting started with the “crashing,” and they are amazed at how such a simple task really makes their lawn look amazing.

VIP: What color best describes you?

Ahmed: Oh, Lord…ahh!

VIP: I know, what color best describes you…crazy question *wink*

Ahmed: Well, I going to go with burnt-orange, and the reason I say that is because it is a color you will find in nature, and I am mostly a natural guy. That burnt-orange/rust color has a little bit of bling and a little bit of interest–it is a natural pop of color–and I think that color best describes me because I have a little pop of this and a little pop of that, but when it comes down to it, I am just an average guy like everyone else.

Special thanks to Nature's Edge, LLC for letting the VIP hold the interview with Ahmed Hassan at your beautiful display at the Birmingham Home and Garden Show 2014. You guys are awesome!
Shout out to Nature’s Edge, LLC, where the VIP held the interview with Ahmed Hassan– your display was absolutely beautiful!

Stay tuned for more of this interview in an upcoming Abby In the City column on!

Also, stay tuned for the VIP Interview with Retro Rad diva Emily Ellyn coming this Friday. Yay!

Look! Ahmed and the VIP matched! Did we plan it? Nope. Great minds think alike *wink*
Look! Ahmed and the VIP matched! Did we plan it? Nope. Great minds think alike *wink*

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: Celebrity Handbag Designer Mary Frances at Belk Phipps Plaza Atlanta, Georgia

IMG_3910Glamorous, playful, and unique are three words that describe the handcrafted accessories designed by Mary Frances. As I chatted with Mary at her special appearance at Belk Phipps in Atlanta, Georgia, I was blown away with her love of the craft and her customers. “I do not come out to personal appearances very often, but when I do, I love hearing all of the feedback from my fans….It is so interesting to hear the stories about who gave them their handbags, what they wear with it, how they collect the handbags, and so forth. It is always a pleasure seeing a smile on a customer’s face when she talk about my bags. It is always so much fun and so inspiring,” explained Frances during the VIP interview.


Mary Frances, a fun-spirited woman with a keen eye for perfect details, started her home-based business 23 years ago. Since then, she has become an international leader in the world of fashion. From the arms of some of Hollywood’s hottest stars to the everyday woman, Mary Frances’s handmade designs are available in over 3,000 boutiques and department stores worldwide at an affordable price point. “When I am designing handbags, I try to think of things to appeal to everyone. When I hold it [the handbag], I always think about what kind of person would carry that handbag. It is all about creating a variety of pieces so that there is a handbag for anyone and everyone,” stated Mary Frances.

Now, without further ado, I introduce to y’all the magnificent VIP interview with Mary Frances! Come on, y’all! Let’s get fabulous!


VIP: Who or what inspired you to start designing handbags and accessories?

Mary Frances: My inner desire was to do something creative. I wanted to be able to mix work and business with my love of traveling, while getting to be super creative. So, I found this tiny venue of creating embellished jewelry and handbags. The thing I would say that really got me going was, as the business grew, not only was I creating a livelihood for close to a thousand people, but I was also being able to provide a product that was pretty that truly made people feel happy!

VIP: What color best describes you?

Mary Frances:I would have to say green because I love all of the different shades of green…I wear green…my house has a lot of green in it…I just love green!


VIP: What is your favorite era in fashion and why?

Mary Frances: Oh, Gosh…hmm…This is a great question, Abby! I feel like I have switched around a lot, but I would have to say the Great Gatsby–1920s and 30s style–is my favorite. At the very, very beginning of my designs, I was really inspired by the amount of beadwork that went into some of the clothing and bags during that time….Just as people took a lot of time to hand-bead clothing in that era, we do that with Mary Frances bags. In the fashion industry now, so many people want things done quickly, and they are not taking the time to do the hand beadwork. I want to keep that art of hand beading alive with my designs, and there are not many designers out there like myself, willing to go the extra mile to do this kind of labor. Each Mary Frances bag takes about three to four days, minimum, to create because everything is done by hand. I have experimented with different processes trying to make things simpler, but it just does not feel right because I am so trained to want the more detailed work. It honestly bothers me not to put that extra work into a piece!


VIP: How would you describe your personal style?

Mary Frances: I have to be able to move! I would have to say that my personal style can vary from cute and playful to very ornate. I also love to dress boho chic. When it comes down to it, it really depends on what I am doing or where I am going.


VIP: VIP Question. What is one item in your closet you would never toss out and why?

Mary Frances: Hm….What would I not toss out? Hm…I am going to have to go with this really outrageously embellished black velvet jacket that I got overseas. It is all embroidered…it has amazing prints and patterns….and it is completely out there and wild! I do not wear it as much as I used to wear it, but it is so unique I just cannot toss it out! I love it!

BLOOPER: Mary Frances and the VIP laughing in between posed shots. It was so much fun getting to hang out and interview Mary Frances at Belk Phipps in Atlanta!
BLOOPER: Mary Frances and the VIP laughing in between posed shots. Isn’t this picture just too cute?! Check out the VIP cheesing big…dear heavens haha


It was such a delight getting to interview and hang out with Mary at Belk Phipps in Atlanta! Fabulous bags and a celebrity designer all at Belk…Talk about fashionista heaven!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts where I will feature the fabulous Mary Frances handbag I got autographed by the designer.

“Each handbag is like a little piece of art…unique, wearable art.”–Mary Frances

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: Sofie Moukidou Jewellery


Hello, hello, hello, fashionistas and jewelry lovers! Today, y’all are in for a special treat!  Why, you ask?  Well, I have an ever so fabulous interview with amazing jewelry artist Sofi Moukidou!

Sofi creates breathtaking pieces that can easily fit into any girls wardrobe! F rom funky arm candy to spectacular statement necklaces, Sofi Moukidou Jewellery has it all!  So, without further ado, I present to y’all the VIP’s interview with terrific jewelry maker, Sofi Moukidou!


  • Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 27 year old jewelry artisan and fashion blogger living in Thessaloniki, Greece.  I love everything related to art, fashion, crafts, vintage and traveling.  I also love cooking; however, I’m still working on it!  I have studied economics, but I never truly loved it.  I started making jewelry about eight years ago.  The driving force for that occupation [jewelry making] was my love for art and fashion.  For the last two years, making jewelry has been my main job.  I still cannot believe what I was dreaming of as a little girl has actually become reality!


  • How would you describe your personal style?

Mmm…I can’t describe it with only one word…my outfits depend on my mood!  I love retro style, hippie, and sometimes minimal.  I love Aztec prints, geometric prints, polka dots, stripes, colors and bold jewelry.  I really enjoy mixing and matching different styles!


  • When you are not making jewelry, what do you enjoy doing?

Too many things!  First of all, I enjoy going out with my friends for drinks, coffee, and so forth.  I love to write my blog Style En Mi Opinion[]!  I also write for other blogs and magazines.  I am a fashion writer for four blogs in my city.  I enjoy dancing, even alone at home!  I like to go in flea markets and discover little treasures.  Finally, I looove shopping!  Is there anyone who doesn’t?


  • Tell us about your blog, Style En Mi Opinion.

My blog, Style En Mi Opinion, recently turned three years old.  It’s a way for me to express my style, personality, and passion about style and fashion.  My blog is also a way to promote my creations.  I wish I could shoot better photos and have more time to write consistently.  What I love about blogging is being able to meet people from all over the world that have my same interests…I love having that connection with so many different people!  Oh!  Last, but not least, I know it sounds silly…but I LOVE WHEN I GET AWARDS! :)

  • Describe your typical day.

My typical day starts when I wake up at 10:00.  Then, I eat my breakfast, which is usually toast.  Next, I drink my coffee and smoke the first cigarette while I am blogging.  If I have a jewelry order, I go to my workshop and get to work!  If there is no order, I usually go out for several other obligations.  During the afternoon, I go to the coffee shop with one of my friends to chat and hang out.  When I return home, I go back to my PC.


  • Where are some of your favorite places to shop?

Oh, sooo many!  Let’s start with…hmm…Pull & Bear, Anthropologie, and Forever 21.   I also shop at many local boutiques and vintage bazaars.


  • Who or what inspired you to become a jewelry maker and fashion blogger?

Since my childhood, I have read fashion magazines–Vogue, Elle, and so forth.

I have always believed that style is what matters…not just being a fashion victim.  I have always experimented on my outfits.
As for jewelry, I am and have been obsessed with it.  I was constantly admiring all the jewelry designers…so when I was about 20 years old…with a whole closet full of accessories, I realized that is something that I really love! So,  I started making jewelry.  I am self-taught  because I believe that institutes limit the imagination.
  • Who or what inspires your jewelry pieces?

Oh! Inspiration is everywhere!

…from various cultures from all over the world.  For example, my summer 2012 collection was African-style inspired.

People are also a great source of inspiration!  Frida Kahlo, Iris Apfel, as also every day people’s street style.
I can also be inspired by the material itself.
  • VIP QUESTION: What is one item in your closet you could never get rid of and why?

Mmm…there are many items that I can’t rid of…

One is my Henrik Vibskov cashmere black and white coat.  It’s super stylish, comfortable and soft.  I bought it last Christmas from a wonderful boutique in Amsterdam.
  • What else would you like my readers to know about you and your jewelry?

My latest obsession is the Japanese culture.  I would love to make a trip to Tokyo!


Oh, my goodness!  Don’t you just love learning more about jewelry artisans…I know I do!  It makes their pieces that much more fabulous and interesting!  Sofi creates such spectacular pieces of jewelry art…colorful, unique, and absolutely awesome!  Oh, aren’t y’all super ready to shop Sofi Moukidou Jewellery right now?!


Connect with Sofi Moukidou!




Shop Sofi Moukidou Jewellery!



Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for a peek inside my life.


Twitter: @Abbysauce_

Instagram: @VintagePassionista


Check out more of my writings and photo shoot styling here:

Latest Real Media (Real Story Publishing) Article:

Town and Gown Magazine April Issue:

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

VIP Interview: Jeana Lee Fleming


Jeana Lee Fleming is a fashion savvy, Alabama native married to Wes Fleming.  She graduated from the University of Alabama with a major in advertising and a minor in political science. Jeana is the co-founder of Birmingham Fashion Week, and she also co-owns Belle Bridesmaid with her sister, Charlotte Thompson.

Jeana has a talent for styling magnificent ensembles and  rocks at accessorizing! “I have always loved fashion…I am so happy to have a profession in it,” states Jeana. So, without further ado, I present the fabulous interview with the tremendous Southern fashionista, Jeana Lee Fleming!

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
  • How would you describe your personal style?

“My style varies from day to day, and accessories can make or break an outfit.” –Jeana Lee Fleming

After several minutes chatting with Jeana  about her personal style it became obvious that she adores colorful outfits that can be spiced up with snazzy accessories.

  • What is one item in your closet you would never toss out and why?

“South Africa is my heart, and when I visited there, I picked up a bright necklace that can be easily dressed up or down,” says Fleming.

After listening to her passion about South Africa and her beloved necklace, I understood completely why she would always cherish it.

  • Who is your celebrity fashion crush and why?

“Olivia Palmero! Her style is so easy…It is affordable and accessible,” says the extraordinary fashionista, Jeana Fleming.

Heidi Elnora (on left) and Jeana Fleming (on right) at the BFW 2012 Kick Off party at Gus Mayer (Birmingham, Alabama location). PHOTO CREDIT: CHUCK ST. JOHN
Heidi Elnora (on left) and Jeana Fleming (on right) at the BFW 2012 Kick Off party at Gus Mayer (Birmingham, Alabama location). PHOTO CREDIT: CHUCK ST. JOHN
  • What inspired you and Heidi Elnora to start Birmingham Fashion Week?

“We wanted to bring something fresh, new, young and exciting to Birmingham,” states Fleming.

Jeana and Heidi were hoping BFW would catch on, and to their surprise, the first year was a complete success! “We are so blessed with so much community support! We want to show everyone how fashionable Southerners are, and Birmingham Fashion Week does just that,” says Fleming.

  • What influenced BFW to involve Alabama middle and high school students?

“Birmingham Fashion Week wants to help promote and inspire teenagers to follow their dreams….It makes me happy to involve these students in BFW.  We were blown away by the talent of last year’s Rising Design Stars and are so excited about this year’s,” exclaims Jeana.

BFW reaches out to students (grades 6-12) across the state of Alabama encouraging them to create wearable pieces of art to enter into the BFW Rising Design Star Competition. (To learn more about the Rising Design Star competition, click here)

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 Rising Design Star Reception. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 Rising Design Star Reception. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
  • Describe Birmingham Fashion Week in five words.

“This is a tough one because there are so many positive words to describe it.  I am going to pick hard work, exciting, fresh, inspiring, and community-driven.  I think that was more than five, but close enough, ” says Jeana with a smile.

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 Rising Design Star Reception. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 Rising Design Star Reception. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
  • What should people expect from Birmingham Fashion Week 2013?

“Bigger and better!  Expect bigger names, higher designers, and major talent.  We are taking BFW to the next level this year!  So much hard work and time goes into making BFW a fabulous event.  The BFW team works from 8pm to 3am…but we love fashion, and that’s why we do it,” Jeana Lee Fleming declares.

The BFW website and Facebook page updates include the release of headlining and featured designers as well as a schedule of events. To see more, like Birmingham Fashion Week on Facebook and check out their website,

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

“The fan mail is so encouraging! It makes all of us at BFW work even harder.  Designers and out-of-state visitors are always charmed by our fashion and our Southern hospitality,” states Jeana.

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)

Stay tuned for more from this interview with Jeana Fleming by keeping up with me on my blog,, and (read online @!)

To learn more about Birmingham Fashion Week, take a gander at their website: If you are interested in purchasing tickets for Birmingham Fashion Week, click here.

Like BFW on Facebook to keep up with the latest media coverage and runway updates!

Twitter: HASHTAG: BFW2013

(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)
(photo from Birmingham Fashion Week 2012. Photo courtesy of VIP blog)

If you cannot get enough of the VIP, check out my articles in The Real Story! The Adventures of the VIP in the Lifestyle section!

The VIP is also on The Real Story YouTube page! Check out the first Adventures of the VIP video here:

Check out the latest issue of Town and Gown Magazine! You can read online @!

Like the VIP on Facebook to keep up with the latest VIP news and sneak peeks!





Upcoming Blogs this Week:

*How to Look Fabulous at BFW 2013*

*VIP Interview with co-founder of BFW, Heidi Elnora*

*Shopping in Your Own Closet–not on Monday*


Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn