The Cooking Ladies, Phyllis Hinz and Lamont Mackay, are a dynamic writer and photographer duo who share an appreciation for culture and cuisine. Their successful food service experiences, along with degrees in English and creative writing, have led them down the road to careers as freelance writers, food and travel bloggers, videographers, restaurant consultants, and authors of nine cookbooks. Their professionalism and high energy make them popular event speakers, food judges, and guests on radio and television. As passionate RVers, Phyllis and Lamont, travel the highways and back roads of North America in a motorhome. Check out The Cooking Ladies’ YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCookingLadies2/feed. You can also access their recipe link on the Guarantee RV Blog: The Cooking Ladies Share Their Recipes.
Note: All copyright photographs on this page and in the sidebar are courtesy of The Cooking Ladies.
Phyllis and Lamont are you currently full-time or part-time RVers?
Presently, we are half-time RVers with a full-time mentality. When we are at our test kitchen, the RV parked in the side yard symbolizes the freedom and adventure we enjoy on the road.
Phyllis and Lamont, can you briefly tell the story of what led up to your life on the road as full-time RVers and why you made the decision?
Ever since we met at the University of British Columbia and spent nine months touring Europe and Morocco in a Volkswagen van, we have shared a desire to travel and write. When our money was depleted, we returned to Canada and plunged ourselves into the restaurant business. We had very little experience in food service but we were always up for a challenge.
In a previous life, Lamont was a high school teacher and Phyllis was a banker. Our first restaurant in St. Jacobs, Ontario, led to three more and a catering company in Kitchener-Waterloo.
One of Lamont’s students, Susan Emmott, visited during our early days as restaurateurs and stayed on to become a business partner. Susan was as energetic and passionate about the business as we were. The future looked bright until Susan died suddenly of an asthma attack. She was only 28. This made us realize that life is too short not to live our dreams.
We sold the company, our houses, and all our possessions. With part of the proceeds, we purchased a 40-foot Newmar Mountain Aire diesel-pusher, turned the key, and headed off to see where the roads would take us.
How did your decision to become full-time RVers lead to spin-off careers? Did your life on the road facilitate these career moves?
Our restaurants and catering company were quite successful. When we sold the businesses, our bank manager asked us if we would consult with a client who had borrowed a lot of the bank’s money to buy a franchise. It wasn’t doing very well and the bank was about ready to close the doors. From this, a new career as restaurant consultants began. With our years of experience, we find it is easy to spot a problem, and fix it. As RVers, we can take our office with us and consult for an hour, a day, or a month, and then move on.
Full-time RVing also facilitates freelance writing. Our home-on-wheels brings us to interesting places, fascinating people, and regional food. What could be more fun than that?
One of the magazines we write for is RV Lifestyle Magazine. We have written a regular culinary travelogue column for them for 16 years.
We also wrote our first cookbook, The Cooking Ladies’ Recipes from the Road, during our early days of full-time RVing. Our RV park neighbours arrived everyday at five o’clock, with chairs and drinks, ready to sample our creations.
When did you switch from being full-time RVers to part-time RVers and why?
Home Hardware stores purchased 12,000 customized copies of our first cookbook. They subsequently requested seven more titles and we partnered with them as their kitchen experts for two years. Creating recipes, photographing finished dishes, dealing with bins of raw material, stacks of dirty pots and pans, and testing small kitchen appliances was not easy in a motorhome. We purchased a tiny cottage on the north shore of Lake Erie and created our test kitchen. It’s an exciting place. On a windy day, the waves splash against the windows.
You have appeared in the media across Canada. Was full-time RVing the catalyst for this exposure?
Yes, absolutely. Full-time RVing was the catalyst for creating our recipes and writing our travel stories. This lead to nine cookbooks and two seasons as the cooking segment on RVTV. To promote our first cookbook, we traveled to bookstores in the RV, with stops along the way at radio and television stations. Then, as a marketing tool for Home Hardware, we wrapped the 40-foot motorhome with The Cooking Ladies’ faces, and sponsorship logos, and traveled from Ontario to British Columbia like rock stars, with a road crew. We performed at 30 Home Hardware charity events and appeared on radio, television, and in newspaper interviews 84 times in 90 days.
What type of RVs have you owned and what kind of recreational vehicle do you own now?
Our first RV was a Volkswagen van in Europe. It didn’t have a pop-up roof so, after living in it for nine months, we didn’t know if we would ever stand up straight again. We bought our next RV when we owned our first restaurant in St. Jacobs, Ontario. It was a Funcraft van conversion. From that we progressed to a 19-foot Roadtrek, and then to the Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher.
We purchased the Newmar when we became full-time RVers. We wanted a floor plan with a big kitchen. We did not intend to purchase a unit over 30 feet. Our chosen floor plan only came in 40 feet, so we bought it. We towed a Ford Explorer so that added another 20 feet when the tow bar was included in the calculations.
We both wanted to drive. In order to prevent discussion, as to whose turn it was, we made a rule. Whoever drove into an RV Park, the other one got to drive out. For nine years, the 40-foot motorhome was our home and office on wheels.
In 2010, we downsized the Class A to a 24-foot Four Winds Siesta Class C on a Sprinter chassis, and the towed to a Smart car. A smaller RV allows us to pull over spontaneously when an event, a photograph, or a story catches our eyes. And, we don’t have to worry about being caught between two cars in a parking lot ever again because the Sprinter and Smart car fit perfectly in two end-to-end parking spaces.
When you were traveling, how much money per month did you need approximately to stay on the road as full-time RVers?
The cost per month depends on how often we eat at restaurants. Some RVers rarely eat out, others never dirty the kitchen or touch the appliances. We love to cook outside on the barbecue. However, it is our business to eat out. Sometimes we have the opportunity to wine and dine with internationally known chefs. Eating out is our research. We gather new recipe ideas, meet new people, and experience new things when we are out and about.
The cost per month to stay on the road depends upon the particular lifestyle that full-time RVers choose to maintain. We all have expenses in common, like vehicle maintenance and insurance and the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar, but when it comes to lifestyle that’s where there can be a noticeable difference. Some RVers like to boondock, some like basic facilities, and others prefer more expensive resorts with a ton of amenities.
Cameras, laptops, printers, memberships, an online presence, and our test kitchen are our costs of doing business. With that in mind, we budget approximately $3,500 per month, everything included, knowing it will be less if we schedule ourselves to stay in the RV, work on our writing, and cook for ourselves.
Should potential full-time RVers have a back-up financial plan to sustain a lifestyle on the road? How would a serious full-time RVer stay on the road for any great length of time without a financial plan? Do you have any suggestions?
We keep track of all our expenses so we can compare from one month to the next as well as year to year. It helps us calculate how much money we will need over the long haul and keep track of any expenses that get out of line.
We were self-employed for all those years in the restaurant business so we don’t have a company pension. On the other hand, some RVers don’t need to think about money. Their pensions become their budgets. For the rest of us, it takes time to discover a personal niche that will create an income or at least supplement retirement income.
As restaurant consultants, we recommend to anyone who is considering the purchase of a restaurant that they should have sufficient funds to live without a pay cheque for at least six months or a year. Anyone who is considering an income while full-timing should think the same way.
We find that monthly expenses do not vary very much whether we are on or off the road.
We suggest that everyone should have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Just like anyone with a stick house, full-timer RVers have to consider the “what ifs.” What if I can’t drive anymore? What if I get sick? What if my income decreases? What if there are expensive repairs?
The freedom of the road is an awesome experience but like everything else, it does require money.
What is it about The Cooking Ladies that attracts so much attention? What is unique about you?
We received a lot of attention as two women living full-time on the road, driving a motorhome the size of a city bus. People noticed when we drove into a campsite or squeezed between vehicles at a Flying J. The women gave us the thumbs up; the men jumped out of their vehicles thinking they should move their mirrors, if not their entire RVs, out of our way. “All we need is an inch,” we’d say.
We travel with our website (www.thecookingladies.com) on the motorhome and towed car. That also gets a lot of attention. People drop by to chat because they have seen us on television, attended one of our speaking events, own one of our cookbooks, have read our magazine articles, or spotted our recipes in the KOA directory and website.
People, who don’t know anything about us, go to our website and see we are on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. We also have a blog on our website so they can read about some of our adventures. Strangers often send us “howdy” messages on Facebook when they see us driving through their town or pass us on the highway.
We are always reinventing ourselves. Life is never boring for us. It is all about the journey. The more we speak to people, the more we discover that many want to do what we are doing.
Lately we have been shooting cooking videos and posting them on our website and on The Cooking Ladies YouTube channel.
The Cooking Ladies’ videos and blog will soon appear on RVtravel.com.
We look forward to submitting blog postings and videos to Leisure Travel Vans’ new RV lifestyle blog. Launching soon, “Leisure Life” will be available on the Leisure Travel Vans website. It will be a comprehensive online magazine covering life out on the road.
We are enthusiastic and passionate about everything we do. We like to think this is the first thing people notice about us when we meet them on our travels.
Often we get attention just because we have an interesting story to tell. It is bittersweet in that it took a tragedy for us to realize that life was too short not to live our dreams. People love to hear about how we sold everything – our homes, our business, all our stuff – and changed direction completely.
What are your most popular cooking recipes for RVers and why do you presume they are the most well liked?
The RV lifestyle requires tasty recipes with few ingredients and simple methods. That’s what we take into consideration when creating our recipes, making our recipes popular with RVers, boaters, and campers, as well as homeowners. Our recipes vary from stovetop to grilling to no cooking at all. People don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. They want to be out experiencing life. Some of our favourite recipes are on our website in written format. Our videos show how to prepare them.
What favorite RV stories have you shared with audiences about life on the road that have received the biggest response?
Like most RVers, we’ve had our share of adventures and mishaps on the road. Many of our stories are much funnier later in the retelling than they were at the time. People love to hear how we once put steel-toed boots and a dog chain and big dish outside the motorhome door in order to keep intruders away. Or, how we kept driving on I-75 when passers-by waved, honked, and pointed to the back of the motorhome, signalling we should pull over. We thought they wanted to steal the motorhome when in fact we had lost a tire on the towed vehicle. In Mississippi, the motorhome broke down and two fine gentlemen came to our rescue. In the confusion of the moment, one of us forgot to pull the park brake, and 20,000 pounds of motorhome almost ran over them and their pick-up. At Girls- Night-Out events, we tell the story of cutting and colouring each other’s hair. It wasn’t supposed to come out purple.
Regarding your experience as RVers on the road, how has it changed you personally, professionally, and your outlook on life in general? Would you ever consider going back to your former jobs after you’ve been RVing, why or why not? What do you like the most about RVing?
For us, the RV Lifestyle is liberating. It re-enforces our shared basic nature of independence, of stepping outside the box. We discovered that RVing creates a level playing field. Nobody cares what you were before. What matters is the enjoyment and appreciation of the present.
We learned that women can drive a 40-foot motorhome as well or better than some men; that women can do anything they put their minds to. But, of course, we already knew that. Long before we started RVing, we survived the restaurant business.
We enjoyed our lives prior to being RVers, however, after living the RV lifestyle, it would be impossible to go back.
Would you ever consider becoming full-time RVers again?
Yes, for all the same reasons that we did the first time. Life is simpler. The biggest concerns each day are the weather and which direction to drive next.
Considering at one time you lived a more stationary lifestyle in your previous jobs before RVing and have gained a wealth of information and experiences after being on the road, what is your recipe for success in life?
We enjoy wherever we are. We make it our favourite place on earth while we are there. Then, we make our next stop our favourite place. Life is too short not to bask in the moment. It is important for us to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
One of the most exciting moments is when we turn the key, hear the sound of the engine, and feel the wheels move beneath us.
One of the hardest things about this lifestyle is that we are always leaving. It is often people that make a place special for us. We wrote a poem a few years ago as we were leaving a small town in the Yukon knowing we would never see a particular person again.
We drive into people’s lives
Share the hour
And drive out again
If we will ever see them again
And, if we stayed longer
Would the withdrawal be as intense
Would the sweetness be diluted
We meet by chance
At a moment in time
At a particular place on earth
Glad to have been there
Because after all
For that moment in time
It was our favourite place on earth