A Cupful of Sun

A room lights up when Marju Randmer-Nellis (27) walks in. It’s hard not to notice her golden brown locks nor her mustard yellow blazer but what strikes out the most is her shining personality. She’s just glowing positive energy (although she herself claims to be an introvert).

If I ask her what she most likes about California, the first thing she blurts out is “The sun!”. And then she gives a list of other meaningful things: new career options, an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, different places to eat, food festivals, farmer markets etc.

To make things clear: Marju is a foodie – a food blogger and photographer. “To be honest I can’t really say it’s my job because I really just love it,” she tells me with a blissful sigh.

Work as Passion

Marju who is originally from Pärnu – known to be the “summer capital of Estonia” – hasn’t had a 9-to-5 job for four years now. After graduating from Tallinn University as an editor-reviewer she worked for United Dogs and Cats, dubbed as the Facebook for cats and dogs, and a social media agency called Social Fox Media but then decided to quit and take time off. While pondering what to do with her life, she started blogging.

Her blog “A Cup with Double Cream” was first dedicated to home improvement and gardening ideas. But soon enough she took a turn to sharing easy-to-make recipes accompanied by delicious-looking photos. She had been toying with an old Canon camera she had inherited from her grandpa who was a sports photographer but now she discovered a whole new passion: food photography.

Thanks to her blog which looks and feels very Scandinavian Marju a.k.a A Cup quickly became a household name on Estonian foodie-scene. She was asked to write and take pictures for several magazines and books and since then she has published a long list. She keeps working from afar, yet another cook book is about to be published this fall, called “Fresh from the Oven”, a joint venture with well-known Estonian chef Angeelika Kang.

New Challenges in California

When she first came to visit California a few years ago she was fascinated by the powerful nature she saw everywhere. But even here she could notice things from your everyday kitchen: “Those big bushes of rosemary and thyme that smelled so good and were cut into proper shapes… Just awesome!”

After spending the past summer in Estonia she just got back to Califronia and felt like she returned home. Unlike the previous encounters she now has a place to stay and good friends to welcome her back. Marju’s husband Elar works as a developer for Pipedrive, a CRM company of Estonian origin, and they did not consider it long when he was offered a job in Pipedrive’s new office in Menlo Park, California. This seemed like yet another fun experience after they had survived a summer in an old farm house on the island of Saaremaa, and it did not take the newlyweds too long to pack all their belongings and move across the ocean.

Marju is ready to mount new challenges. “I did not leave anything really big behind in Estonia but it feels more like a natural flow of things,” she summarizes the whole topic of new beginnings.

“The job of a food photographer is perceived as something more serious here as compared to Estonia,” Marju explains. “All of these projects that I’ve done so far have somehow found their way to me, I’ve never actually had to “market” myself in Estonia. But here you have to work really hard for anyone to even notice you or start talking to you.” She has already set up a list of well-known food photographers she’s determined to network with.

By getting settled in the Bay Area she’s not even considering tearing herself apart from her Estonian roots. In her recipes she still prefers the good old simple Estonian tastes. Being really down-to-earth she always notices not only the differences but also the similarities in Estonian and Californian lifestyles.

Therefore it’s also very symbolic that Marju will from now on share her wonderful recipes with the readers of Eesti by the Bay website. Look for Marju’s recipes here!

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