Aug 302011

Chef John has a reason to smile.

Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes figured out where the web was going, way ahead of the rest of us.

It’s not print, sadly. It’s not even photos. The web is going to video.

Four years ago, Mitzewich, a former cooking teacher and chef based in San Francisco, started his food blog, focusing on video. Then he put his how-to cooking videos on You Tube. To this day, it’s just him, his tripod, and a $35 mic with a men’s sock over it. He makes two to three videos a week.

Now almost 40 million people have uploaded his more than 600 elegant cooking shows with friendly instructions and upbeat jazz notes. Know who was paying attention? Allrecipes. They entered negotiations, and bought his content.

“Food Wishes’ content will [be] brought to Allrecipes’ global audience of 20 million home cooks through Allrecipes sites, mobile apps and, a video-focused website launched inJune 2010,” announced the company in a press release about the acquisition.

John won’t reveal the terms of the agreement, but let’s just say he won the lottery. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Here’s more about his enormous success:

Q. Why was Allrecipes interested in your blog?

A. I don’t think it was so much the blog as it was the YouTube channel and video library.

Q. Why is that?

A. Companies pay YouTube money to have their ads run over or next to videos on the site. If you have a content partnership with them (only a fraction of users do), YouTube shares a percentage of this money with you. The more views you get, the more money you make. Simple as that.

Having said that, I think the blog showed that I wasn’t just a one trick pony. Besides doing the recipe videos, I also did a ton of traveling, covering food shows and blogger festivals, which showed that I had reach above and beyond teaching someone how to make a Hollandaise.

Also, our brands align really well. Allrecipes is all about user generated content, which means home cooks submit recipes to the site. These are recipes for practical, everyday cooking, which is what I focus a lot of my content on as well. I think Allrecipes saw this in my videos, and thought it would be a great fit for their audience.

Q. Was it your goal to create a website that could be acquired?

A. I’ve never really had any kind of plan for Food Wishes. I was so absorbed with creating the videos and writing the posts, I didn’t think of much else.

That’s why it’s very exciting for me to partner with Allrecipes, because they’re experts at the business side of things. I get to keep creating the content I love, and they get to focus on making sure my site is user friendly and optimized for SEO.

Q. Will you keep doing your blog the way you’ve always done it?

A. Yes, for the most part. I wouldn’t have agreed to this deal if it meant significantly changing what I do and how I teach. Allrecipes proposed this partnership because what I was doing was working very well, so to change that formula wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

I’ve continued to grow and improve my content over time. I mean, when I started I was taping a webcam to a spice rack, so I’ve already come a long way from that! This new partnership should only help me continue to grow, as I’ll have new tools, and more support.

Q. What is the secret of excellent how-to videos?

A. Here are my top three tips:

1. Keep the video between 3 and 5 minutes. This seems to be the sweet spot as far as an online foodie’s attention span. Shorter seems rushed, and longer starts to drag.

2. Create videos about things you love, not what you think your viewers will love. People will feel your passion, and be drawn to it. If they don’t like what you’re cooking, chances are they are not visiting your blog anyway.

3. Stay out of the video. When the video is just about the food and the recipe, viewers are cooking WITH you. As soon as you enter the frame, they are watching you cook, not cooking with you.

(I’d add a fourth: Tie your videos to an event. His How to Eat a Chicken Wing, tied to the Super Bowl and appearing on YouTube’s home page that day, got more than a million hits.)

Q. What message can you give other food bloggers who might want a deal like this?

A. There really are no secret formulas. It definitely helps to have lots of quality content, and a ton of traffic. I’ve been so fortunate that what I enjoy doing the most turned into a full-time job.

If you love what you do, you’ll do it better, and the better you are at your job the more success you’ll have in the end. Companies want to work with people who connect with others on a very personal level, and you can’t do that without being authentic.

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 Posted by on August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

  40 Responses to “Chef John Strikes Gold with Allrecipes Acquisition”

  1. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Congrats John!

  2. Congrats to John – what a fantastic success story!

    • It is definitely fantastic, Kathy. He’s a hard worker and a perfectionist, even though he seems like an easy-going guy in his videos.

  3. Diane, Thank you so much for the interview, and the kind words!! Great seeing you in NOLA!
    Cheers! John

  4. John and I had a conversation about this whole thing (or maybe a couple of conversations). I’m so excited for and proud of him. I love what he’s done and now, what’s happening to him as a result of his wonderful videos. He deserves the success.

  5. Yea! A “non-celebrity” makes it!

    • I guess it depends how you define the term. Anyone I know who is actually making a living from their blog is a celebrity to me!

  6. First of all I want to congratulate Chef John for this awesome achievement. Producing video is not easy and to stick with it and produce as many has he has is no small feat. Then to win the “lottery” by selling to AllRecipes is wonderful. It’s great to see someone in this business get recognized monetarily. We all know that’s quite rare.

    I do want to take issue however with the three points he made on producing excellent how-to videos. While those points suggest a way to do it that clearly works, from our data it isn’t the only way and may not even be the most optimum way in 2011. I can say this because at we started producing HD demonstration videos in January of 2011 and now have 109 videos with over 2 million views in just 8 months. We also are a partner with YouTube and they provide a lot of data that we can use to understand how well we are doing with our model. In addition we have over 82,000 Facebook fans that provide us constant feedback on how we are doing with our videos. Every video is rolled out on Facebook and we get tons of comments within minutes.

    Point 1: Keep the videos to 3 to 5 minutes. As we all know it’s almost impossible to make anything in 5 minutes, especially baking. So that means the video must be so concise the you have to skip a lot of important points. To do a frosted cake video in under 5 minutes means you must give a brief overview. Stephanie’s passion is to help people bake well and she has found that there is no way to compress this into a 5 minute video. We are finding that unless we do a comprehensive video that covers it all, people are not satisfied. This is the feedback we get on Facebook. Also YouTube provides data on viewer engagement and even we were surprised to find that our longer more detailed videos are viewed through by most people according to the data. But even if they don’t view it through, are you going to make those visitors that are hungry for detailed information suffer because of a few that get bored easily?

    Point 2: Create videos on what you love, not what you think your viewers will love. If you do a video on something that few people are interested in, very few people will watch it. In our case Stephanie’s passion is teaching people how to bake well, not so much what they bake. So she gets charged up by having lots of people being excited about learning to bake something THEY want to bake. Hearing the excitement of someone telling her on Facebook how her family was wowed by the dessert she made is what charges her up, not so much what it was. I believe most bloggers also feel this way. It’s the ability to connect with their audience that charges up many bloggers up and to do this you are better off giving visitors what they want rather than what you want.

    Point 3: Stay out of the video. We actually tried that first and after no end of comments on our Facebook page how they wanted to see Stephanie we switched and redid those videos. Our experience is people want to connect with the person. People say that they feel like they are in the kitchen baking with Stephanie. They tell us they want to bake with Stephanie, the opposite of what Chef John is saying. Also with all the talk about personal branding these days don’t people want to show their face? If a blogger starts producing videos for visitors that have been following them for years, don’t you think they are going to want to see that person? That’s what we found.

    In conclusion I can see how AllRecipes felt this was a good fit for them. As Chef John mentions AllRecipes isn’t about an individual, it’s about user submitted generic recipes. With their model they wouldn’t want to personalize the video because when you search for a recipe on their site its about the recipe, not the person. Bloggers and sites like ours on the other hand are trying to develop their personal brand and connect with visitors on a personal basis and are not about generic recipes. So my advice to bloggers is to keep that in mind if they decide to do video on their blog. But don’t take my word for it, read what people are saying on our Facebook page.

    If anyone is interested I’d be happy to share more of our experience with video offline.

    Rick Jaworski
    CEO iFood Media LLC

    • What a backhanded way to take advantage of this guys success in order to promote your own videos. I don’t think you’re winning any fans, here.

      • This is not about winning fans and/or promoting our videos. We have more then enough traffic though other means. I only mention our stats to support my argument that their are alternate approaches to this. If I hadn’t mentioned our stats you would dismiss my argument as unsubstantiated. In any debate you have to back your rebuttal with facts. I don’t have any other facts from any site other than my own so I have to talk about our stats. Just how is that spam? Why don’t you say who you are? Spammers never say their real name.

    • What’s interesting to me is that John’s method has worked for him, and your and Stephanie’s method works for your site. I like that you’ve listened to reader feedback and made your videos longer, with Stephanie in them, as a result. Obviously viewers identify with Stephanie and respond to the personal touch. For Allrecipes, a more generic video works better for them, because the website not branded on the strength of an individual.

      Seems like you agree with John’s point about passion — it comes across in video, just as it does in writing, and your viewers love getting that from Stephanie.

      • Thanks Dianne. We would encourage all bloggers to give video a try to extend their personal brand. For us the response have been overwhelming. Blogs have always been about the personal approach and we believe there is no reason to change that with video. Our data supports that contention.

        Like Janet says in the comment below, her new camera has HD video built in. That’s what we use. Two Nikon cameras that we originally used for food photography and the quality is great. So many bloggers that are into food photography already have the HD video camera.

    • You know, making videos is like blogging: do what works for you and fits both your personality and your passion. And one must also listen to one’s readers/viewers, not so much to change your style but simply to adapt. I mean, one does not blog or post videos simply for oneself but rather for those viewing. I think it makes sense that what works for Chef John may not work for you and vice versa. This way there is something for everyone.

      • I totally agree with you Jamie. That was my point. There are alternate ways to approach this. In fact there are likely many ways besides Chef John’s and ours. The reason for my comment is I did not want bloggers to think that the the above tips were the only way.. They are not.

        Having personally been involved with acquisitions in the past I know that the new owners typically dictate what is to be said publicly after the transaction. In my view those “tips” seem to favor the non personal recipe model of AllRecipes rather than the personalization model of bloggers.

    • You do realize, Chef John connects with people through the way he sounds on the mic right? It’s his personality that rings through in the audio that makes it work for him.

  7. John definitely had to exercise a lot of patience as this deal came together and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy — at a better time. Another big congrats, my friend! I can’t wait to see how very far you go.

    • Sounds like you got some insider dirt on the acquisition as it progressed. I love how John calls Allrecipes his “corporate overlord.”

  8. First of all, I really enjoyed every minute of your Recipe Writing & Development Class at IFBC. Having heard you speak in the past (after reading “Will Write For Food”) I knew I was in for a treat. I have to tell you, I wasn’t expecting to be so inspired by the Video Production Class. John has such a great easy-going style. It doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly funny as well. All 3 of the gentleman who spoke about video production have inspired me to take my blogging to a whole different level.

    I spent 6 hours in flight to get home to Seattle and I barely set my pen down. I now have about 40 pages of video ideas in my Composition Book. Now what I need to do is go from the Pre-Production/Planning stage to Production…and beyond!

    Thank you for this post Dianne. Fascinating subject, as usual. Fun spending a little time with you in New Orleans too.

    • You too, Brook. I didn’t mean this to be a post about New Orleans, but it was fun to see you and John there. Maybe I’ll write something about the conference next. Thanks for the kind words.

  9. This is a great post. I just bought a camera that also shoots HD video but it never occured to me to make videos for my blog. The possibilities are endless. Congrats Chef John.

    • I think there’s a huge learning curve, but John did it, and he’s encouraging other bloggers to do the same.

  10. A huge congratulations to Chef John and well deserved! I had the great good luck to have dinner with him in New Orleans and his passion and enthusiasm just bubble up and over and it is both infectious and inspiring! He talked about his videos (and his deal) and encouraged us to follow in his footsteps. He is a truly generous and talented man. My husband and son have been urging me to do videos for a long time but it was Chef John who may have pushed me over the edge. And now I’m excited!

    It was so great finally meeting you, Dianne, and I so enjoyed our afternoon together! Hope the next visit will be soon…. and maybe in Europe!

    • The guy gets around! I had dinner with him in New Orleans as well. Hey, why not try some videos? You’ve got nothing to lose, Jamie. Okay maybe a little dignity. Just kidding.

      Would love to join you at a food blogger event in Europe. Please keep me posted.

      • Ha ha ha I think I often risk the loss of dignity just doing what I do everyday… just being my silly self. But then what is life without risks, right? Look what happened to Chef John! And yes, he did make a point of getting around which is just his generosity. And I will definitely let you know about any food blogger events in Europe! I have IACP NYC on my radar, too…

  11. & what a nice tripod :)))) I’m sooo proud of you John!!!! XO

  12. What a great thing for someone who sounds really nice and deserving. This also reinforces an old saying (I’m into old sayings this week!) – “build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door!” He had a great idea, acted on it and executed it well.

    • Yes. I think he’s a perfectionist too. I heard him say something about taking every second of dead air out his video when he’s editing.

  13. just little old lady trying to get chef jons recipie for no knead beer bread, for my husband been married almost 61 years saw video & would love to try & make it havent come up with recipie amounts can you help please?

  14. I love watching his video on the All Recipes Channel on my ROKU. I have used several of his recipes, and I have become a better cook.

  15. Your article has done a lot for us little guys who enjoy making cooking videos. Thank you very, very much! -dave-

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