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Mmm! Good enough to blog

Five delicious must-read food blogs

Rhubarb tart with lemon verbena. Kohlrabi salad. Baby barracuda. Mouth-watering recipes are just a mouse click away thanks to the blogosphere. Once the domain of cooks sequestered in their kitchens with a laptop, a camera and raw ingredients, independent food blogging has gone mainstream, leading to book deals and the 2009 hit movie “Julie & Julia.”

“With food blogging, we get an intimate view of people’s eating lives every day of their lives,” said Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine. “When you see all the interest in the food blogging of individuals who just pop up and follow their passions, mainstream media also joins the fray.”

Indeed, the quick, easy and informal blog format has taken hold on the websites for national publications like The New York Times, Bon Appétit and GQ.

“We’re all food bloggers now,” said Pete Wells, dining editor of The New York Times. “Almost everybody who writes about food now blogs.”

The Times blogroll casts an unofficial seal of approval on independent bloggers such as Clotilde Dusoulier, the Parisian gourmand behind Chocolate and Zucchini, and Luisa Weiss, mastermind of The Wednesday Chef. These women engage their readership with food-related narratives and storytelling techniques, garnering comment counts in the triple digits and cultivating a community of loyal fans.

Although the majority of bloggers write in relative anonymity, independent bloggers can develop huge followings leading to guest columns (like Molly Wizenberg’s “The Cooking Life” for Bon Appétit) and even publishing contracts for a lucky few. Dusoulier has several books in print and Weiss has inked a book deal with Viking Press for a food-infused memoir of her life in Berlin.

Cowin emphasized that success is often predicated on the blogger’s individual approach.

“The level of credibility depends on the level of expertise of the individual,” Cowin pointed out. That said, “The sheer enthusiasm from the food bloggers and their deep interest means that they know a huge amount about the subject, so I think the food bloggers deserve a lot of respect.”

“We exist at this nexus of community and authority,” said Ed Levine of Serious Eats. “Old media bestows information on its readers. We tend to think that our opinion is valuable and should be valued as such, but it’s also not the final opinion.”

Need to Know checked in with Levine, Dusoulier and Weiss, in addition to two more food aficionados who have established unique, creative voices online:

Ed Levine

Ed Levine

Ed Levine
Blog: Serious Eats
Blogging since: 2006
Location: New York
About: Recipes, reviews and how-to techniques, plus an aggregation of posts from popular food blogs like Slice, A Hamburger Today, Serious Eats: New York, and Photograzing

What first inspired you to start your blog and how has it evolved?

“That voice I had developed in books and magazine articles and newspaper features was sort of made-to-order for the web and blogs because I was starting conversations with those stories and those books before people even understood what a food blog was. I thought if we sort of took that conversation writ large and created the biggest food enthusiasts’ cocktail party you’ve ever gone to, that you could expand and sustain the conversation in an online publishing model.”

What was the transition from print to online like for you?

“It was an entirely liberating experience because I will never run out of ideas for things I want to write about … What I brought to Serious Eats was the discipline and the reporting experience and the reporter’s chops that I had developed at the Times and at Gourmet [Ed. RIP] and in writing my books, and the authority that resulted from writing for those publications. I sort of married that with the community aspects of blogging and starting conversations on the Web.”

How do you think blogging will continue to evolve?

“I think what you’re going to see is a blurring of the lines between the food media … My own personal hard drive is filled with ideas for what I would like to do with Serious Eats. It’s going to include other media besides a blog post, beside text and a photo … The blogosphere is not going away. It doesn’t mean that every blog will continue to exist and flourish … but I do think you’re going to see more publishing vehicles with blogs at their center.”

Clotilde DuSoulier

Clotilde Dusoulier
Blog: Chocolate and Zucchini
Blogging since: September 2003
Location: Paris
About: Recipes, reviews and bon mots from Paris

What first inspired you to start your blog and how has it evolved?

“I created Chocolate & Zucchini seven years ago as a place where I could document my culinary pursuits, and share my passion with like-minded cooks. It has quickly become a very important part of my life, and now I couldn’t imagine cooking without the possibility of writing about it and discussing it with my readers.”

Have you found an international food blogging community? Within Europe?

“Yes, the food blogging community is very active in Europe as well. Because I only speak English and French, I mostly follow the British and French food blogging communities, but I know the scene is just as vibrant in Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands …”

As a published author, can you talk about the difference between writing a blog and writing your books?

“A blog is strongly linked to the instant: you write about something you’re interested in right now, it gets published very quickly, and you can get feedback within minutes. A book needs to be written in a more timeless manner, it needs to feel current whether it’s read now or in 10 years, so you can’t be writing about that dish you cooked last week: it has to have more significance.”

Luisa Weiss

Luisa Weiss

Luisa Weiss
Blog: The Wednesday Chef
Blogging since: 2005
Location: Originally New York, now Berlin
About: Testing recipes from the dining sections of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times (hence the title), plus a glimpse into the author’s seemingly charm-filled life

What first inspired you to start your blog?

“I was first inspired to start my blog because I needed a challenge. I needed more creativity in my everyday life. Since I’d had this weird obsession with clipping recipes from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times for years, I had a huge stack of recipes to cook from. But I never did anything with them. I just made the same old salad and spaghetti for dinner every night. Starting the blog was, at first, the way I wanted to work through that pile. It gave me structure and a sense of responsibility.”

How has it evolved?

“At first I just worked my way methodically through recipes. But I couldn’t just write about what I ate clinically. It was inevitable that bits of my life slipped in to those posts. And I saw, in their responses, that my readers really responded to those little slivers of life they saw in the blog. So as time went on and I became more comfortable, the blog went from being a sort of (attempted) tongue-in-cheek face-off between the food sections and became more of a personal cooking journal of sorts, filled with memories and thoughts and impressions of my life over the past five years.”

On blogging:

“Blogging is so immediate for me – I cook something, I have an idea, I sit down at my desk, upload photos, that idea is a trigger for another idea and 30 minutes later I have my post. The feedback is immediate and there’s an ease and simplicity to it all that is so appealing.”

Jeannette Ordas

Jeannette Ordas

Jeannette Ordas
Blog: Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Blogging since: 2005
Location: Vancouver, Canada
About: Original and adapted recipes with an emphasis on fresh food and affordable ingredients, with a dash of commentary mixed in

Why do you think people are drawn in to your blog?

“I think I make very approachable food. Nothing is too fancy and I don’t have complicated instructions or ingredients. I also write in a personal kind of way – nothing too clinical, so people don’t just get my recipes but they get to know a bit of the person behind the blog too.”

What’s the food blogging community like?

“I’ve found the community to be super supportive and friendly. When I’ve traveled to new cities, people are always eager to share their favorite food haunts and I’ve met up with a lot of bloggers and have even stayed in their homes. You get to know a person through their blog so when you meet with them in real life it’s not much different.

Do you follow other bloggers?

“I get inspired from other bloggers all the time…it’s like having the world’s most perfect cookbook at my fingers!”

Kajal Tejsinghani

Kajal Tejsinghani

Kajal Tejsinghani
Blog: Aapplemint
Blogging since: 2007
Location: Originally Ghana, now Mumbai
About: Original recipes and updated takes on an eclectic mix of favorites with a regional flavor

What do you think makes a food blog successful?

“A good recipe, not too difficult, great pictures … [People] just want to see good food, know how to make it, and yes, a little bit of info is always welcome.”

How important are the photographs?

“I’d have to say very important. You see one eats with his eyes first, then with his mouth. Your visual treat has to entice the reader.”

What sort of feedback do you get?

“I get lovely mail from fans/readers from all across the world who thank me for sharing a good recipe. I even get mail from people asking me to cater their weddings, make cakes for baby showers, and supply sweets for Ramadan.”

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