Hellen Die: Sci-Fi and Horror Themed Food
I’m excited to share with you a Succes Story interview with Hellen Die. Hellen uses her experience as a prop and costume designer to make disgustingly delicious food dishes, everything from Alien Facehugger Chicken to Zombie Arm Meatloaf.
About Hellen Die
Hellen Die is an international award-winning food and lifestyle writer with an extensive background in Hollywood. Following a 15-year career in film and television as a screenwriter, prop and costume designer, and DGA Assistant Director working on projects like Z Nation, Sharknado, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Sons of Anarchy, she decided to take the skills and techniques she learned on set and move them into the kitchen.
Hellen Die is a prolific and full-time content creator, with regular contributions to Syfy.com, Shudder.com, Fangoria.com and her own personal website, The Necro Nomnomnomicon, incorporating the very techniques and skills she learned on set to seamlessly blend food and special effects into mind-bending dishes ripped straight from science fiction and horror.
Hellen Die is a 2017 Saveur Blogging award winner, and her Alien’s inspired recipe “Facehugger Roasted Chicken” went viral internationally, garnering over 4 million views in 5 days and has resulted in a feature in the 2018 Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Century of Strange book and a joint project with 20th Century Fox in celebration of the Alien Franchise this past April.
From Alien Facehugger Chicken to Z Nation Inspired Meatloaf
How did you get started with Horror and Sci-Fi themed foods?
Prior to destroying the kitchen with disgustingly delicious food, I worked in film and television. I spent over 15 years with the majority of that time spent working on low budget horror films. While working on those projects, I got the opportunity to work hands-on with props and practical effects teams.
I’ve built props and slung blood for horror films like “Hatchet,” and “Hansel vs Gretel.” One of my tasks was to create an edible human heart for an actress to eat on screen. I had such a good time making it and it turned out so realistic that I got excited to see what I could make next. I’ve always loved the dark and slightly macabre, so taking what I learned in props and practical effects and translating it into horror inspired food was a natural transition.
What does a typical day look like?
Unfortunately, I’ve not gotten to the point in my career where I can do the “Nom” full time, which means I’m still behind a desk for 40 hours a week working at my “day job.” I’m a marketing associate at an internet startup during the week so my Monday through Friday is pretty boring.
The weekends, however, are when I get to really flex my dark little wings. I’ll spend all week planning a project and Saturday is spent making sure I have all the ingredients and supplies I need with Sunday being fully dedicated to making my macabre ideas come to life. The dream is to someday have the ability to work the Nom 24/7 as a fully functional, full-time career (and since we’re dreaming, let’s throw a successful television show and holiday specials into that mix as well!)
What is one thing you have learned from being successful?
I don’t know if I consider myself successful, just because I have so many more things I want to do and achieve. I think I’m in progress…and I don’t know if I’ll ever be “successful” in my head…which means I’ll always want to grow and improve.
I think that’s what my ultimate “learning” takeaway is…I’ve learned that I’m never ready to settle and that I’m constantly going to push myself to be more…
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
For the love of all that is unholy, I really wish I’d taken some business classes and web design classes in school. I know my website has some serious issues but they’re beyond my ability to fix and it frustrates me not to be able to tackle them on my own just because I’m not sure exactly what to do to make them right.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Be prepared for both the ups and the downs. Not everyone is going to like you and you have to learn to accept that. Don’t take the negativity personally.
I’ve been lucky in the fact that for every sour grape I’ve met online, I’ve got 10 amazing fans who are champions. Tune out the bad and embrace the good and always remember to keep your life in perspective and balance.
What are you most proud of?
That I’ve stuck it out as long as I have. You have to be persistent and really dig in and not let people push you into doing something you don’t want to do. I’m also proud of my flexibility.
You have to be ready to change quickly these days. Technology and life travel so quickly that if you’re not ready to adapt (or at least willing to try) you’ll get left behind.
Is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
How many people assume I’m a guy because the stuff I’m doing is so gory. I guess having a girl in horror is a bit of a stretch for some people, so it’s been kind of funny to see people talking about “that Nom guy,” and “his disgusting food.” When people find out I’m a girl the first question I usually get is “What’s wrong with you?” Answer: nothing. I just like what I like!
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers or people launching a brand?
Be true to yourself and what you want to do, but also be aware that the first path you see might not end up being the one you take to your dream. There are lots of doors in life and some of the best adventures come from trying new things and seeing where life takes you. Just don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal…but at the same time, don’t get so caught up in the destination that you ignore the trip.
If it’s something you really really want, don’t let anything stand in your way of making it happen. Don’t listen to the naysayers and don’t let the opinions of those around you make you change anything you don’t feel comfortable changing.
Everyone is going to have advice for what you need to do, but you have to ultimately stay true to yourself and your own goals for your future. I ran into a lot of resistance at first when I started my site with people approaching me and asking me why a girl would want to do so much creepy stuff. “Don’t you want to make pretty cakes?” No. I don’t. If I did, I’d be doing that. Don’t let other people define you. It’s your dream, not theirs.
If you could recommend one book to help people be more successful what would it be, and why.
The Ultimate Calvin and Hobbes Collection. So many of life’s questions are answered in there. It’s what I read when I need to clear my mind and remind myself to laugh a bit.
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
2019 is the year I’m hoping to finally get off my butt and get a solid cookbook done. I have all the recipes planned out and am ready, at least on paper, to make the leap…but I have to be honest, there’s a lot of fear involved with putting yourself out there on a platform like Kickstarter.
Guess I just have to pull up my big girl pants and get over my insecurities and at least give it a shot!
I’m also looking to try to take my website and corporate partnerships to the next level through collaborations so if you know anyone who wants a creepy recipe developed, let me know!
What does your social media strategy look like, any tips?
My social media is a bit like dynamite fishing and I’m the last person you should be asking for advice. I’m really good about updating my Instagram but confess my Twitter is horrible. At this point, I think part of my success with my engagement is the fact that I post things I find interesting and I’ve been lucky that I have a lot of followers who share those interests.
I could definitely do a lot more to increase my followers and improve my numbers, but at the same time, I will always treasure the original core followers who are with me now even at this small beginning stage. They’re the true supporters!
Any mistakes you see people routinely make with social media?
If you’re talking about my personal social media…all the time! My posting hours are all over the board, I suck at being consistent, I really need to slow down and double check my spelling…yeah, maybe this isn’t the right question for me to answer because I really shouldn’t judge others when my own social media is really messy!
Where can people connect with you online?
You can find me on my blog (www.eatthedead.com) and of course on Instagram (@necro_nomnomnomicon). Facebook is also good (@necronomnomnomicon) and if you really really need to email me, it’s [email protected]
Do have any apps, books or tips that you use to be more productive?
For apps and software, I’m an Adobe Photoshop junkie. I love Pinterest for inspiration. I’m a huge believer in Trello boards for organizing and other than that, I’m pretty old school and find myself spending a lot of time on Excel.
I don’t have many books that I read for productivity tips, most of my reading is done for fun.
How do you manage time?
Right now, that’s a bit of a challenge. I’m working 40 hours a week, so that really kills my ability to do much Monday through Friday. I do spend a little time each week coming up with my weekend game plan where I really figure out what I’m going to get done and when I can do it. Usually Saturday is my day to spend time with family which really leaves me Sunday to tackle anything I want to get done for the week. It’s a bit hectic, but I really like working under pressure and with a good deadline, I find it makes me more focused and driven to get my work done.
What is the best advice you have received?
Don’t let the haters get you down. Yes, it’s important to create things you think others will like if your goal is to achieve any sort of professional success as a business, but you also have to keep in mind that not everyone is going to like you. I know a lot of my stuff on my blog can be a bit polarizing and rather than take the complaints personally, I just focus instead on the good things people say.
Do you have any advice for people that may feel discouraged about reaching their goals?
If you’re discouraged because you feel like it’s taking too long, take a step back and really look at the big picture. Are you discouraged because your goal feels too far away?
Break the journey down into small bites and celebrate each milestone as you complete them. They’ll add up and before you know it, you’ll have reached your goal! I’m nowhere near as close as I thought I’d be to my goal with my life, but I’m realizing now that the journey makes me appreciate each success, I achieve so much more than if I got everything I wanted all at once. Just enjoy the ride, take it day by day, and it’s not a mark of failure to change your goals or how you achieve them.
How import is fitness to success?
I gave up the gym for Lent 10 years ago and never looked back.
Do you enjoy working out? If not how do you get motivated
Do you have anything you would like to promote or tell us about?
Just keep your eye on my blog (https://www.eatthedead.com). I keep pushing forward with it and am really hoping to make 2019 the year we do some amazing things!
Also, I can’t talk too much about another project I’m working on right now, but I’ll take all the cosmic good luck I can get in the hopes that my writing partner and I get a series we’ve been working on into the right hands.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?
That healthy competition is a way to improve yourself and that there’s room enough in this world for us all. Too many times I’ve seen people tearing down others they see as competition, but to me, rather than seeing an enemy, I look at them and see what they are doing and then look at my stuff and say “Okay, now, how can I improve what I’m doing?” I’ve also reached out to my “competition” before and offered to team up on projects which is a win-win. It doubles my audience size, I get to work with like-minded individuals, and so far, every experience I’ve had has been amazing! Don’t look at others as competition…look at them as resources. 😊
Thank you, Helen, for this great interview! Please take a moment to follow Helen on social media, and check out her Etsy shop.