Do Newer Recipe Writers Put the Pros Out of Work?

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Amy Reiley started a wildfire on an IACP blog post recently, when she said hobby food bloggers who don’t test recipes thoroughly and don’t charge enough are sidelining professionals like herself.

Here’s a sample:

“…We, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.”

Enraged food writers — mostly bloggers — piled on in the comments, which led to closed comments and a new post trying to explain the old one, which led to more irritated comments. In other words, two excellent reads.

But this argument is nothing new. The old guard always competes with newer, hungrier people with less experience who charge less. Reilly thinks it’s not just the old guard that gets hurt, but readers who try published recipes by the less experienced and get a dud.

I’m not sure. Decades ago, I was a less-experienced recipe writer too. I got my break when a publishing company promoted a young editor to editor of a new food magazine Sunset Custom Publishing created for Safeway. I called the editor to congratulate her and pitch stories. She accepted a bunch of features, then said she wanted recipes. I had never written a recipe before. But I said yes.

Did I know what I was doing? That’s a complicated answer. I cooked each dish twice or three times and made small adjustments to improve the flavor. I guess I faked it well enough, or the editor would not have continued to hire me. To develop my recipes, I read several others and arrived at my own version. Sunset’s test kitchen cooks made each one, and they passed muster. I freelanced for that magazine for years, and the editor paid me well. I even had a regular recipe column.

Did I sideline a more experienced recipe writer ? No idea. I wasn’t stopping anyone else from pitching the editor, and others wrote recipes for the magazine as well.

Just who are these newcomer recipe writers Reiley mentions? I’m calling them emerging professionals. They might have been hobby bloggers who posted for pleasure. Now these bloggers have decided that because they’re enjoying the process, and because it’s so much work, they’d like to get paid.

Professional recipe developers, on the other hand, already get paid to write recipes for companies and publications. Companies expect them to come up with clearly written recipes that are not adapted from pre-existing ones. They also expect that the professionals test them so that they work every time for a mainstream audience. Companies hire these professionals because they have confidence in the recipes. These recipe writers may also be published cookbook authors, which only adds to their credibility.

Professional recipe writers arrive from many paths. In the past, women with degrees in home economics became recipe developers. Now chefs, journalists and cooking teachers write recipes. Nutritionists and dietitians write recipes. So do owners of food businesses and restaurants, cooking school graduates, and graduates of food studies programs. And bloggers. Lots of bloggers.

I’m wondering about Reiley’s argument. Does quality suffer when the less experienced write recipes? Does that mean they shouldn’t? Or can newbies do a decent job if they work hard and learn their craft? Isn’t that how professional recipe writers got there?



  1. says

    What a great post, and it’s a free country, and we can all try our hand at writing recipes, and I don’t care how grammatically atrocious the recipe is; what I care about is does the recipe work? Especially in baking! There are VERY few blogs that a. bake something I’d want to bake and b. I trust their measurements but then there’s c. if they made it on their blog, I can’t very well make it and post about it on mine. I need original content anyway :) In all seriousness, there is nothing worse than a recipe failure and it can happen no matter who writes the recipe, a pro, an amateur, or someone in between.

    • diannejacob says

      Well! This one really got you going, Averie. I have to agree. The bottom line is whether the recipe is successful. I suppose the author’s point is that the more junior the writer, the more risk there is that it will not work. Not sure that is always true, but I suppose in general, it is.

  2. says

    Can newbies do a decent job if they work hard and learn their craft? Of course. But that applies to anything, not just recipe writing.

    Does the quality suffer when the less experienced write recipes? I guess that depends on the person. Some amateurs are pretty darned good. Some professionals are less than impressive (I have a certain recipe calendar in mind when I write this). The proof really is in the pudding (or cake, or stew…)

    • diannejacob says

      I agree that there are “professionals” who are not very good recipe writers, and amateurs who know what they’re doing, but they’re probably the exceptions on both ends.

  3. says

    The major problem with Reiley’s essay is that she basis her entire argument upon vague and unsubstantiated assumptions. According to her article, she assumed that a blogger some else talked about didn’t test their recipes. She bases this assumption on the fact that they got paid an amount Reiley considers to be too low. Then, she jumps to the conclusion that all bloggers don’t test their recipes.

    In addition, she admits that she has a blog and yet says she chooses not to be considered a blogger. Instead, she calls herself a professional journalist. Yet everyone else who has a blog she categorizes as a blogger. And she uses unkind language to put down said bloggers, calling them stay-at-home moms and accountants with too much time on their hands.

    I think the real question is: what makes a professional? If I get paid to test recipes, then that makes me a professional recipe tester, right? Also, if I get a cookbook published, that makes me a professional cookbook writer, right? Just because I haven’t gone the route Reiley has doesn’t mean that I’m not a professional or that my work is bad.

    I think a lot of her essay is actually about the new paradigm versus the old paradigm. The old ways are not working anymore, which makes those who consider themselves to be old timers scared and mad. They seem to feel like the newer folks are jumping ahead in line and getting work that they somehow “should” have gotten. But, I would say that if this is true, it’s what the market demands. To me, it’s about being able to adapt to your profession’s shifting climate.

    • diannejacob says

      Well said, Jeanne. Now, if you are already a writer and then you start a blog, you’re not likely to call yourself a blogger, so I can’t blame her for that. Blogger implies someone who starts their writing career with a blog.

      If someone pays you to write a recipe, then you are a professional, in my book. Of course, getting $25 to post a recipe on a website isn’t the same as getting a cover story in Food & Wine, but there’s lots of room for all kinds of recipe developers.

      Those of us who are older have had to figure out how to make career shifts if we want to stay relevant and keep our incomes up. There’s no point being pejorative about the younger folks. The good ones will make their mark, just as we did.

    • says

      This is a really interesting topic to me. I’ve been making up new recipes, and adapting old ones, for years. I didn’t go to school to learn how to cook – I learned it the “normal” way, by trial and error at various scales. In my case, this included home kitchens, working with friends, working for professional chefs at occasional catering jobs, and working in a couple of commercial kitchens. I also learned about cooking by asking questions of friends and family when I tasted something which I found particularly delectable. Furthermore, I have learned a LOT about cooking by paying attention to ingredients, learning how to garden and hunt, etc., and reading cookbooks like some people watch TV.

      I have been writing a blog for over a year, and have yet to make a direct dollar from it. The blog touches on various aspects of my lifestyle – ecology, sustainable food considerations, community engagement, etc…so is not probably 100% in the category referred to by Ms. Reilly. Although I don’t make money of the blog, I derive great satisfaction from the creative process associated with it. Additionally, I have been writing, and working as a professional communications consultant for several years (also not in my direct degree field), including a current position as a writer and photographer for what is arguably the oldest newspaper in North America (the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph). I consider myself a developing professional writer, and I can’t imagine how I would get any further in this effort, or in cooking, if I didn’t a) start somewhere, b) put myself and my work out there, and c) accept critique and suggestions from others (whether they are paid or not for the work they do).

      Whether it is recipe development or the development of any career or hobby, you have to start somewhere. It is probable that “entry level” recipe developers (or any other individual being paid for work) will be paid at a lower rate than a celebrity in that field. It is also possible, though not very likely, that they will be “discovered” or “get a lucky break” which instantly advances them to the higher paying levels of their field. If this were the case, would Ms. Rielly then consider them legit and acceptable, just because of their pay scale?

      On top of all this, I have posted recipes to my blog, liberally adapted from credited originals, because I made them several times (or maybe only once) and they turned out great! In my perspective, a recipe is a starting point, so that’s what I figure my descriptions of my cooking and dining experiences offer to my readers. If someone is lookinf for formulaic cooking, I may not be the best source for them.

      What I am particularly intrigued by are the occasions when a go-to, “fool-proof” recipe which I swear by FAILS for someone else. There is still a cake recipe I am trying to figure out, as this exact thing happened. Every time I make it, it is scrumptious. Each time a particular reader has tried it, she reports “epic fail.” I don’t pass judgement on her, nor she on me. We are just puzzling over how she can make it as tasty as it is in my experience.

      Particularly in the culinary arts, as in other arts, trial and error are part of the process. At least on a personal level, I learn a great deal from recipes that fail. Without failed recipes, and the ensuing motivation to “solve” them, one is essentially reduced to a kitchen robot – following instructions to the tee, never experimenting, never problem-solving – and what fun would that be? Furthermore, the learning that accompanies failure, or at least the occasional underwhelming home cooking experience, is a fundamental part of the process.

      • says

        My apologies if I misspelled Ms. Reiley’s name. It appears to be written in more than one way in the above post, and throughout the comments.

  4. Margaret says

    First of all, may I just say: I am so happy I found this blog, I think you pose some amazing questions. I found the blog yesterday at work and had a hard time concentrating because I was reading through posts! I’m so excited to comment, I’ve been trying not to comment on posts from months ago, so I’m ecstatic to post on this one!Thank you for this lovely blog.

    My only concern about this issue is that, as you kind of pointed out: At one point, each and every writer, whether cookbook writers, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, etc were all “emerging”. Everyone hones their craft, not just food writers. If you write about food, you are a food writer, technically. And I think that is where Ms. Amanda loses me. That would be like saying new lawyers put the “pro” lawyers out of work. Or freshly graduated culinary students put the “pros” out of work. Lord knows that Emeril Lagasse stared someone, as did Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. While it may been seen as a “hobby” if a blog owner is not selling cookbooks and making massive amounts of money off the traffic their blog brings in, in that person’s mind, this may be considered the stepping stone to a professional career in the food industry which tends to be both notoriously easy to get into but hard to survive in. But just because one is considered a professional, does not mean they, and the like, are the only people who should be making money from what they do. No one has the monopoly on working recipes and posting them. Someone had success with that recipe, whether it be the blog post originator or the 50 people who saw the beautiful pictures and attempted to recreate it. One failed attempt at making a recipe does not a recipe failure make, trust me, I’ve ruined enough macarons to know this ahaha.

    Just like any field, there will be people out there who will greatly under-price their work to make a quick buck and yes, that means many qualified, established professionals will lose out to the money. This is not a food-field problem, this is a life problem in general. There are people out there willing to work for next to nothing and unfortunately, I think it is something that needs to be adapted to. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, especially not in this current market.


    • diannejacob says

      Very wise, Margaret. I hope you will be a commenter from here on. I am happy you discovered my blog as well.

      Food writing is something most people do for fun, actually. Very few make a living at it. This past weekend I met a blogger who was asked to submit a recipe to a major daily newspaper. She got no pay when it was published. I bet they wouldn’t have done that to a “professional,” but she didn’t know any better. There is lots of snobbery in the business, and lots of educating to do.

  5. says

    Sure, there’s probably a little “danger” involved when companies/brands ask newbies (aka food bloggers) to create recipes for them. Professional Recipe Development, after all, isn’t truly their profession by- trade. I do believe though that there are some pretty creative food bloggers out there who know how to create, write and test a recipe. Years of practice certainly helps. “Does quality suffer?”- I don’t really think so (in most cases). I worked for 3 years on my blog before I was contacted to professionally develop a recipe. I worked my butt off for that brand, and the outcome was more than I ever could have hoped for. The recipes were a hit and the brand was thrilled. I think it’s great that companies are utilizing bloggers to write for them. If a blogger isn’t any good at writing recipes, then they probably don’t have a very good following, do they? And if they don’t have a good following… well then the company probably won’t be contacting them in the 1st place.

    As far as “professionals” being upset that bloggers are taking their jobs… I’m sure there’s still a lot of work out there for the professional recipe developer or food writer- it just depends what the client is looking for. Many bloggers have the ability to reach a large audience and use their social media savvy, and that’s appealing to a lot of companies/ brands.

    • diannejacob says

      You are living proof, Lori, that if you’re willing to work your butt off, it’s just like any other career. You’re going to get somewhere.

      I hope you’re right, that there’s lots of work out there, but actually, I’ve heard from both new recipe developers and old that there isn’t. There’s work, but not enough to pay a mortgage. Such is the nature of recipe writing.

      And then as you say, not everyone has a huge online platform, and that’s what is attracting many brands to bloggers these days. In the old days, that was not an issue, but other preferential forces have always been at work — whom you know, where you went to school, etc.

  6. says

    Dianne, thank you once again for hitting the nail right on the head. A lot of the comments/posts flying around about Amy’s IACP post miss the point: everybody, including ‘the professionals’ got their start somewhere.

    I was recently on the Tasting Australia media famil with a bunch of international
    journos and writers. Some had come from a writing background, others from a food background. As the newbie in the group due to my gig, I was heartened to learn that yes, some of them just fell into it e.g. the journalist who was given the food section because she was the only older one on staff with kids. Of course along the way they all studied and learned about food and writing – on the job if you like – so that they could write with authority about food.

    I think all this hooha about food bloggers vs food writers is similarly missing the point. Surely it’s about the level of professionalism that one subscribes to, not what your job title is. There is excellent quality work (and not-so-great work) being produced on both side of the fence by people who love what they do, work damn hard and only publish pieces they would be proud to have their name next to. And these people absolutely deserve their success.

    What Amy’s piece was really about, I think, was fear of change. It seemed like she was hating the lack of control she had over what was happening in the industry and the fact that food writers were no longer the exclusive voice of authority. But life is all about change and those who do well learn to adapt to and embrace the new order.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, those of us who are older have to keep reinventing ourselves.

      I was talking to a recipe developer in her 50s about this the other day. A long-time client is no longer hiring her to write recipes. Instead, the company hired a p.r. firm to post generic recipes on the company Facebook page, and now it’s all about how many Likes they get. hen the pr firm can access recipes at no charge, my colleague is not going to be paid to develop recipes again. She has to come up with a new way that her expertise will be valued.

  7. says

    If I never have paid good money for a well established author’s cookbook and never found a mistake within it, I would buy Amanda’s argument, but I have found mistakes or ill-written recipes. If we are paid top dollar and have a lot of experience, we are still human. Thanks for your views, yet again, Dianne. Fun to read.

    • diannejacob says

      Oh yes, that has happened to me as well. Not everyone can be Ina Garten. I bet she agonizes over her recipes too.

  8. says

    Hi Dianne,
    I opted not to comment on Amanda’s post (when comments were still open) for a couple of reasons. I am not a member of IACP, in part because I don’t consider myself a “culinary professional.” Now I know I could join IACP, but I really feel that it is for people who went to culinary school, or are a food journalist, or at least have worked seriously in a restaurant. My getting fired from a waitressing job in 1984 does not qualify me in my mind.

    However, am I a professional? Yes. I have a master’s degree in public health and nutrition education. Did I start my blog as a hobby? Not really. I started it after watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and being flat-out horrified at what Americans were eating. I hoped that I could help at least one family by posting my healthy recipes.

    Having been a blogger for six years prior in another field, I did my research, studied other food blogs, worked to choose a good name, attended conferences (including your workshop), and have worked hard on my photography and my writing. I would post more but alas, having too little time on my hands, I can only manage one quality recipe/photo per week right now.

    But I take what I do very seriously, and I am working to set professional goals and develop income through my hard work. Will I someday take a job from Amanda? No. But will I potentially create income through my hard work, possibly with brands I love? I do hope so.

    Thanks for always being a great place to talk.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Stephanie. I guess you don’t consider yourself a “culinary professional” because at the moment, you are not being paid to blog or do other culinary work? I hoe that changes soon.

      • says

        Actually, Dianne, the distinction is mine, but I feel that a “culinary professional” is someone who either has major experience in a restaurant or as a chef and has gone to culinary school or has a degree in it. But I am working hard on developing this side of my professional life. As a note, I made up my title in my first professional: visitor experience consultant. Not sure what I will call myself once I start getting paid on this side. :)

  9. says

    There’s a lot to say about all of this and much has been said here and on those 2 articles’ comments. So the one thing I have to say is that the second I read that first article (last week?), I knew I’d see an interesting discussion on Dianne Jacob’s blog!

    And just another thing to add, I do personally find myself more accountable for the recipes that I teach vs the ones I blog, but if my readership were huge, I would probably feel the opposite or equal. Regardless, I thoroughly test for both in my kitchen and even in my classes, and I use testers sometimes as well as surveys I pass out with recipes, and the testing is never enough. A recipe can be worked on and edited a million times.

  10. says

    So glad to read your perspective on this one, Diane. It bothered me so much, and I couldn’t sort it out enough to write yet. But you bring it right on home in a way that opens it up. All those of us with a shingle out there signifying pro-status were once newbies and emerging whatever-we-are-now. The writer presented an ‘us vs. them’, deifying the mistake-free pros and vilifying the cavalier reckless new kids. Christina @ The Hungry Australian gets it right, the way I see it. The subject is fear of change, and longing to build a fortress around the spot we’re on, rather than moving forward and sideward into the new territory and learning to work in it, just as this old-timer once learned to do what now is the daily work of my established career.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes indeed. We old war horses know that tune, and it is easy enough to fall into it. But what is the point? We’re all trying to do the work we love and get paid for it. Fear is no way to move forward.

  11. says

    Nancy and Dianne – thanks for your responses.

    I do sympathise with older writers who feel that they are being pushed aside for untrained talent who will work for cheaper rates. I am sure your recipe developer’s experience is not unique. As you say, she will need to work to reinvent herself, or at least demonstrate why potential clients should pay more for her expertise.

    Although I am personally coming at this from a different angle – i.e. I am an emerging food writer and blogger – I left a high-flying not for profit CEO job when I had kids. I’ve recently returned to work on a freelance basis and I am facing the same challenge of having to reinvent myself and find out how I can sell my skills in this new marketplace.

    And you know what? It’s not a bad thing. Yes, it’s a bit scary and exciting but the best adventures are always like this. It’s forcing me stretch and grow and that’s exactly what we are designed to do.

    To sum up: we might as well embrace change because it’s going to occur whether we like it or not.

    • diannejacob says

      Beautiful, Christina. Reinvention is scary sometimes, and maddening, but as you say, the alternative is worse!

  12. says

    Excellent read Dianne and, as usual, the comments are educational too.

    If you work hard at your craft, be it writing recipes or anything else, you will eventually be rewarded for your efforts. When I started college three years ago as a mature student, half of our teachers told us ‘never ever write/contribute for free’. The other half told us to ‘write and contribute freely and frequently’ in order to get our names out there and to hone our skills as writers.

    No matter what ones chosen profession is, it is best to start at the bottom.
    I believe that if you are worth your salt in the industry you will make it to the top and earn your keep – eventually.

    • diannejacob says

      How fascinating, Mona, that the students received this mixed message. From the same instructor? I’m wondering why. Was it an experiment?

      I have hated starting at the bottom, to be honest with you. It’s a humbling experience, and hard on the ego.

      • says

        No. This was not an experiment. Half of the teachers – who are also writers – believed that you should never ever write for free. The other half – lecturers first – believed you should just keep writing … and eventually someone would pay you if you were good enough. I have to say that the second option has paid off for me ten fold. It is very humbling to start at the bottom, especially if you are like me and have already had a great career and managed to climb to the top. But there is nothing wrong with learning a new skill and honing a craft from the ground up.

  13. says

    Diane, you hit a great topic again! I have been seeing this a lot lately, for the past year or so I have met several great professional food writers and their major complaint was the same thing: If a new blogger is willing to write for free for an online magazine or charge much less, how were they supposed to get paid, compete with that and make a decent living.But I agree with comments above, yes, it is everywhere, we better get used to it and think outside the box and how we can improve ourselves constantly instead of doing the same thing over and over again without challenging ourselves.

    I think it is not new or old recipe writer issue, it is your work ethic and how detailed-oriented you are. Because recipes are the perfect way to show it: Do you do your homework and catch all the missing points where the reader might fall into, or do you just slap the ingredients together and say “mix it, bake it”? I am working very hard to make my family recipes clear for everyone because in Turkey, they dont even give the amount of the ingredient correctly, and I grew up with “touchy-feely” kinda recipe givers (“add flour until the dough reaches earlobe consistency” – have fun with that! :))
    When I am in the kitchen, there is a scale, a ruler, a calculator next to my measuring cups. That is the only way I can assure that I am writing down the right measures and steps. We migth be “emerging” but we care about our “hobbies” and the readers we reach and make every effort to be accountable. If a blogger or recipe developer does not do that, it does not bother me that much because sooner or later, they will lose the credibility.

  14. says

    I remember thinking when I read Reiley’s column that she was probably unaware of the circumstances of most food writers even before the blogosphere emerged. I have been writing about food professionally for almost 20 years. I write mostly for newspapers. I’m sorry to say that I’ve probably never been paid $500 for a recipe. I still love the work. What other profession can be related to so many aspects of life, and in what other profession can you deduct a lot of your groceries? Most of us have always been paid poorly, although it IS getting worse. Food writing is confusing but also rich because, as BG points out above, just about everybody cooks so the lines of professionalism can be blurred. Food writing is as much participation in folk culture as it is science.

  15. says

    While it may be true that many home-based cooks post untested recipes on their blogs that consequently don’t work, I don’t think that it’s only recipe writers who embark on projects that they’re not practiced in. People have been starting their own little businesses for a very long time and more often than not, they didn’t know what they were doing when they started. Some of them got better at it (whatever “it” was) and some of them didn’t make it.It’s not something new–it’s just that blogs have given “amateurs” a new forum in which to offer their crafts.

    I have a food blog as well, and when I post my own original recipes, I make sure they work (sometimes they’re from my cookbook, so they’ve been tested several times). But sometimes I post others’ recipes (with proper credit, of course!) or post links to recipes and, honestly, I don’t have time to try them first. When I write about a topic, it’s usually for immediate posting and I go around looking for accompanying recipes when I don’t have my own to offer. Ultimately, if you keep offering recipes that don’t work, people will stop coming.

  16. says

    “Does quality suffer when the less experienced write recipes?”
    Of course, but it is a forgiving field, this isn’t brain surgery. Everyone has to start somewhere. Readership/work will follow quality.

    The marketplace will have the final say. If blogs do not offer a consistent, quality product, readership will suffer. If a “professional” doesn’t write copy that appeals to an editor, they lose work. Not charging enough? Undercutting the big guy? Such is life in every sector of the market where the up-start is trying to catch a break. I’m sure YouTube how-to videos have made an impact on cooking instructors.

    “aced out of much needed work” — Work isn’t provided based on need, it is earned. In every facet of the market there are examples of no-name, inexperienced, unqualified, unproved individuals making a way for themselves through hard work.

    Thanks for posing great questions and stirring conversation here. I’ve learned a lot from your posts and those commenting.

    • says

      Wish there was a “like” button on comments :) Judy, I agree with you that readership will follow quality … eventually. I say eventually, because sometimes at first, a big name might attract people more than anything.

      We all have to start somewhere. And I completely agree that in any field, work and respect are two things that are earned through hard work, consistent great outcomes and with your ethic.

  17. says

    Fascinating topic–it speaks to the larger issue of the “professionalization” of food in the USA, as well as electronic media’s pressure on traditional publishing & public relations. Isn’t it the height of hubris to think that “unprofessional” recipe development somehow undercuts one’s ability to work profitably? Puh-leeze. The market for food writing evolves; either evolve with it, or find another line of work.

    Frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air (to me, anyway) to see so many people thinking about food, documenting their own recipes, and sharing their thoughts about food through so many different channels. I see such activity as an important counterbalance to the “chef” trend–so many home cooking traditions are being displaced by restaurant-driven techniques & trends, driven by the omnipresence of restaurant professionals on TV and in print/e-media.

    Last time I checked, recipe development was not equivalent to the practice of law. You don’t need a license to eat, to be creative in the kitchen, or to develop recipes and share them with the world. Food culture belongs to ALL cooks & eaters, not just those who want to profit from such essential cultural practices.

  18. says

    I too, did not comment on the original post that was shared in so many of my facebook feeds. I am not a member of the IACP, I think I will move forward and join next year and possibly attend the conference in San Francisco. The heart of Amy’s communication (in my opinion) was angry and fearful. We have all been there, the fact this was made so public, and the issue is so polarizing, was the literal icing on the cake. I am “older”, I have had to negotiate change in order to survive. I had a complete and abrupt career change, and I blog to add value to my brand and to build a following of engaged and loyal friends and customers. I am on the fringe looking in at a new field for me, but the motions are the same, do you know what I mean? I would love to create an additional revenue stream for my company–whether that is a book, a series of books, a store with products and experiences, a marriage with a “brand” or brands, I am so open and I believe that I have the talent and experience to be successful. Will it happen? Does working hard always beget success? I have learned to put my blinders on emotionally, and focus on what it is that I am doing to create my abundance and stablity–not to focus on what others are doing and to place judgements on whether they are worthy of success, fame, and financial abundance.

  19. Howard Baldwin says

    I’ve been a professional writer for 35 years now (not including work on my school newspapers). When I read what young writers — especially those working in India, even though English is their native language — have produced, I know I have absolutely nothing to fear. Unlike football players and ballerinas, writers only get better as they get older. This is one industry where, thank goodness, experience counts.

  20. says

    This is an incredibly interesting topic. Thank you for approaching it from a position that is seeking open dialogue rather than stereotyping.

    One point that I think is missing in this entire debate is the fact that plenty of professional recipe writers turn out recipes that just plain don’t work. I like to experiment a lot in the kitchen and am constantly trying recipes from magazines (I’m assuming these are professionals). I come across at least one recipe a week that’s a total fail. The seasonings are off or the cooking time isn’t right or the meal is just downright gross.

    The tone of the orignal posts supposes that bloggers are turning out subpar recipes. Does that happen? Sure. But I don’t think we should hold them to a standard that even professional recipe writers can’t meet consistently.

    • diannejacob says

      Absolutely, Heather. The pros are supposed to be at the top of their game, and yet so many recipes fail. Why is that? It’s a question I still don’t have an answer to. And certainly bloggers can’t be held to higher standard. We can all only do our best!

  21. says

    Amy Reiley sounded elitist and frightened, as I’m sure she either already realizes or will at one point realize. It’s easy to fall into those traps when you perceive something at which you considered yourself proficient to be slipping away. There are only a few professions for which a certain pedigreed training is essential (lawyer, doctor), and there are plenty of hacks in those professions, too.

    Many of the commenters to her post who shot from the hip sounded as scared as she is. Being motivated by fear, on either side of the equation, doesn’t tend to lead to good results. I feel for her, actually (and I’m as surprised by that as anyone!).

    Ms. Reiley might have done better to complain to her friends over some good wine, rather than posting her thoughts for the world to read. Many years ago, a friend of mine used to send some of us his “unsent responses.” They were his responses to nasty emails he had received from one superior or another at work, but rather than responding directly to the offending sender, he would send his “fantasy” response to us instead. And we would read it, laugh and commiserate, and then delete it.


    • diannejacob says

      I see your point, Nicole. But then on the other hand, we wouldn’t all be having this discussion, so maybe we have to commend Reiley for having the guts to bring up what many are only willing to discuss privately.

  22. says

    I do want to say, though, that the “charging less” thing is another matter. Food writing aside, many writers are accepting assignments from content mills, where the pay is literally pennies–the more hits you get on your article, the more money you get. In some cases, you don’t get paid until you reach a minumum, which could be $25 or $100 or more. We’re talking about articles that required hours of research, writing, and revising. The problem with this is that it drives the price structure down for all writers. Why would a website (it’s usually websites, though print pubs have been known to jump into the fray) pay a writer standard industry pay to a professional writer when they can get other writers who are desperate to get their names out there practically for free?

    This is a problem in the general publishing industry and no one’s come up with a solution yet.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, this is a topic I’ve written about quite a bit. It’s never going to go away. We can get all indignant, but all we can do is our own work, to the highest quality possible, and decide how much we’re going to take for it. Newbies who are good don’t know what they’re worth. I hope eventually they figure it out. As for those content mills, I hope my readership is not interested.

      • says

        I didn’t mention this is in my first comment, but it’s all the Internet’s fault. :) By that I mean, the entire structure of communication and idea production has changed, forever. With the biggest problem for content producers being how to figure out how to make money from content, because so much on the internet is free. The shift started with Napster and music, is now in film/tv, and publishing/journalism is happening now. No one knows how it will all work out, which is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.

        • diannejacob says

          Good point. I know that magazines and newspapers charge a fraction for their online ads compared to their print ones.

    • diannejacob says

      If you are talking about Reiley, I misspelled her name! That is a serious rookie error. I fixed it in the blog post.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Elizabeth. Since I’m part of the gold guard, it’s a good one for when I get in one of those moods and need an attitude adjustment.

  23. says

    Recently, I decided to put the spotlight on a food blogger in each issue of the Yummy Report. What I’ve found is a a resistance to any editing from said bloggers. “It’s the way I write,” and “people like it.” :–)
    Sorry, there are rules in recipe writing and rules in writing in English. Get used to it, if you want to be taken seriously.
    I have also had new writers pitch a story/recipe to me and then not do a spell check before sending it.
    If they are the competition, Dianne and I have no problem.

  24. says

    In any vocation, career, etc. that doesn’t have a barrier to entry, (i.e. specific credentials), you will find people of different levels and expertise. A barrier to entry doesn’t exist for food writing. Hence, everyone and their brother-in-law can take a stab at it. Judging from the lack of air in the food blogging world, I’d say that’s pretty much what’s happening. It’s crowded. A distinct parallel exists in the culinary universe, also. There are some who have become food celebrities without the benefit of formal training much to the chagrin of many who are formally trained.

    It’s no doubt that formal training enhances your credentials. However, you can become credible in your own right by demonstrating your talent, likability and genuineness. The bottom line is that if you are able to build an audience and keep them interested, the credentials become less of a factor.

    Now to address Reiley’s concern that “hobby food bloggers who don’t test recipes thoroughly and don’t charge enough are sidelining professionals like herself”. If a food writer/blogger consistently post poor quality content, they will lose their audience. That applies to the “hobbyist” as well as the “professional”. Poor quality will soon cause them to fizzle out. That’s the way it is and nothing’s going to change that. New writers are competition for the seasoned writers. That’s the way it is and nothing’s going to change that. Ms. Reiley may need to dust off her copy of “The Serenity Prayer”.

    • diannejacob says

      Ha, Jackie. What a sensible comment.

      Now, I think she does have a point where newbies don’t know what to charge and undercharge for quality content. But actually, old guards don’t always know what to charge either. An established cookbook author emailed me yesterday to ask what she should charge for a guest post and recipe on a product site. There is no definitive answer. We’re all trying to figure this out. The bottom line, however, is that whether the pay is $25 or $400, it’s not enough to pay the bills.

  25. says

    Younger writers who have better mastery of the internet market have leveled the playing field. There is plenty of terrific new talent in the world of blogging, but also an awful lot of trash that would have never been published before. For established food writers, surviving requires flexibility and learning new skills, as in so many other professions. Still, thanks for airing your frustration, Amy–you certainly aren’t alone.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, I have had this conversation with other people of my age, Julia. She is definitely not alone.

      Re a lot of crappy food writing on the Internet, there are plenty of cookbooks with recipes that don’t work well, as well as lots of other books that are not worth reading but somehow they got published. All those kinds of writers are not our competitors, though — at least I hope not.

  26. says

    I have been a professional food writer (magazines) and photographer for over 20 years. I have been blogging for 7 years and in January launched a new blog. I believe that a story or a recipe is only as good as the market will bear or what a publisher will pay. A writer, even a blogger that puts out poor quality material is not going to succeed. It won’t take long for the quality of the work to sink or swim. We all started somewhere and because of your book and your track record many people are following in your footsteps. This may expand the already crowded food writing world, but again, the cream will rise to the top. Everyone with the passion deserves a chance.

    • diannejacob says

      Nice. Sadly, the market seems to be bearing less for many established food writers, who blame food bloggers for bringing down prices. I really don’t know if that’s true or just one factor in a complicated market with too many players.

  27. says

    I never met a recipe that I couldn’t botch, Dianne! That’s why I take photos of each and every step because I am usually doing them in the chaotic kitchen atmosphere. I can’t tell you how many times I have to magnify one of these photos 300 percent to see if that was a tablespoon or teaspoon I have in my hand, or have to copy the recipe from an olive oil soaked peice of paper. Thanks to you, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons in recipe writing, all of which are followed by at least three re-reads.

    This person didn’t really open a can of worms, its just the other end of the can. Professional writers and photographers are just the latest persons to have taken a huge hit because of the internet and technology. The immergence of yelp and urban spoon for years have not been kind to any small restaurant with an ex-employee with a grudge or a psychotic, critic-wanna-be. This is serious career-ending stuff and I see why the article writer sounds like she’s squeezing sour grapes.

    In the pizza blog world, almost all the blogs are from self-described “pizza fanatics” who have no experience in writing or making pizzas. These blogs sometimes spin very vitrial and condecending critiques (or hit the “approve” button for other horrible comments) about pizza places. These appear on web pages that ironically also include banner ads for disgusting corporate chains. Luckily, crappy blogs and shoddy recipe writers can be spotted in seconds and don’t really last that long.

    I guess that excelling in any profession is alot like life. The ones who succeed are positive, flexible, productive, nice and charge a helluva alot of money!

    BTW my finger hurts from scrolling so far down the comment page!

    • diannejacob says

      Hi John! Great to hear from you. The step-by-step aspect with photos is a valuable part of food blogging. I’d like to believe it makes it easier for readers to have a good outcome, but I suppose if the blogger has posted a crummy recipe, though, it won’t matter.

      As a restauranteur, it must be hard to not take it personally when all this vitriol you’re talking about is directed at your business. I suspect you’re very good at taking it with a grain of salt and persevering.

      Re excelling in any profession, I agree with you about the ones who succeed, except for the part about making a helluva lot of money. For most food writers, that’s not possible, no matter how hard we work. I hope the perks make up for it.

  28. says

    I happened to have been on the IACP web site the day Reiley’s article was published and have been keeping an eye on the discussions ever since.

    What disappointed me most about her article was that she made no attempt to step back, take a breath, and write (more or less) objectively about the issues she raises. It’s an old, old song: new guard undercuts old guard; new guard elbows out old guard. (Remember Chris Kimball’s rant about bloggers when Gourmet shuttered?) I was not at the IACP conference in question, but I couldn’t help but feel that she was exercising a good bit of emotional hearsay, claiming to sense negative ripples and general feelings of shock and discomfort to defend her views. Unless her fellow attendees were gasping aloud and clutching their pearls for all to see, I’m not certain that her interpretations can be trusted being that, by her own admission, she was doing her own negative rippling for three hours. It’s easy to see discomfort all around when you are feeling tense yourself.

    Honestly, I think it’s okay to ask the question, “Are bloggers deserving of the gigs they land?” But it’s how she asked the question. Or rather, the fact that she didn’t ask the question at all, but instead jumped ahead to the conclusion that bloggers do not deserve the work that “professionals” should be getting.

    (It also made me wonder whether Reiley is even pursuing this type of work. Is she pitching to the brands and receiving rejections, aced out by bloggers? There is no hint in the article that she’s doing any such thing – her credentials imply that she wouldn’t be particularly interested in writing a recipe for the back of a Barilla pasta box – so it seems that she’s upset over lost job opportunities that she’s not even seeking.)

    And the nail on the coffin was to refer to bloggers as hobbyists “with too much time on their hands.” An unnecessary emotional outburst, bordering on name-calling. Not what you’d expect from a pro who should be leading a worthy discussion. (In a similar vein, I’m certain Ms. Reiley would not appreciate me (very inappropriately) attributing her outburst to pregnancy hormone hysteria or whatnot.)

    For a time last year, I was baffled by the sheer number of bloggers receiving cookbook contracts. But after reading the deets of one deal between a fairly novice blogger/baker and a publisher I used to work for (as an employee, not an author), the reason finally dawned on me: this blogger has a huge following of fans who will readily pre-order her book. Having access to this blogger’s built-in marketing base – her blog’s unique visitor count and social media reach – will be well worth whatever hand-holding she’ll need during book and recipe development.

    In book sales for an untested author, book launch is everything, and based on the concrete numbers of visitor traffic and social reach, marketing can do a decent job of sales projection (unlike that of Unknown Joe, who submits his unsolicited manuscript – which may or may not be the next Harry Potter – on a hope and prayer and the promise of only wife and parents purchasing copies should it reach print). Her editors will make sure the book achieves editorial standards. Then, her blogging charisma will carry the book forward through those challenging marketing waters. Will her recipes pass public muster? Only time will tell.

    Professional food writers like Reiley would do well to follow Dorie Greenspan’s lead: Dorie’s writing and recipe development credentials are impeccable, but nevertheless, she’s still out there building her social media base, staying ahead of the next gen. (Compare Reiley’s FB likes (1,000+) and Twitter followers (14,000+) to the novice blogger’s FB likes (6,000+) and Twitter followers (10,000+) to Dorie’s FB likes (7,000+) and Twitter followers (102,000+)).

    At the end of the day, I don’t know whether this follow-the-marketing-base trend by brands and publishers is healthy for the industry. But it is what it is. You adapt, carve out a niche, affect change, or die.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, Karen, what a thoughtful reply. Yes, it seems that these days, it’s not enough to be a good writer and recipe developer, if you want to work for brands or launch a cookbook. You also need a serious media presence. I deal with that issue all the time as a book proposal coach, and have written about it here. It’s just part of having a platform. And we’re all running as fast as we can…

  29. says

    I read the original article after Lori tweeted it and I was so cross I didn’t even waste time fuming over a a reply. I am sick of people who pick the “right” career choices early in life looking down on those of us who find our path later on and have to scrabble our way up the ladder to get even on the bottom few rungs.
    We have a big trend in the UK of celebrities, mostly has-been actors putting out cookery books when they’ve had no previous pedigree doing so. At least food bloggers have been proving their passion for what they do instead of just popping up and deciding write recipes because it will get them back in the limelight again.
    Reiley just sounded bitter and twisted to me. How dare she condescend people carving out new careers for themselves. And I’ve tried dozens of cookbook recipes by famous writers that don’t work either.

    • diannejacob says

      Even those who picked the right career choices early on have had to scramble in this new economy, Sarah. I’ve heard lots of tales of woe. Some of it is reinvention, some of it is this new economy where prices for work have come down.

      Oh yes, we have that trend here in the US too — celebrity cookbooks. The celebrities don’t write the recipes. They hire ghostwriters to do so.

    • amy reiley says

      I would just like to take a moment to say how truly shocked I am that people can feel free to attack someone for having an opinion. As I have stated earlier in comments here, many people have made assumptions about my original post that are not anywhere near the truth–and then they have run with some pretty hefty misunderstandings as a platform to defend the professional writer’s distaste for bloggers. As I have said both here and on the original, this is not an issue of “us” vs “them.” I have identified a trend in the food industry that I personally do not like and think is unhealthy for the industry as a whole. Anyone is free to object and I’m happy to entertain an opposing opinion, which is what a healthy discussion is all about but to call me names like “bitter and twisted” because I am bold enough to say that I don’t like a trend I’ve identified as unfair to professional and amateur writers and most particularly to the end user is incredibly far from productive and extremely hurtful.

      • diannejacob says

        It’s a complicated issue, Amy, and tempers get flared. The trend of new writers taking less pay truly exists in food writing, as it does in other industries.

        Almost all of the comments here have been productive. Just ignore the rest.

  30. says

    It’s always an interesting subject, as a blogger, chef, cooking school owner I want to encourage people to try new recipes. I feel blogging has made cooking more accessible to everyone, there is less fear factor when someone tries a recipe a blogger has posted who is not a professional. Bloggers are happy to discuss if the person tries the recipe and it doesn’t work, where they may have gone wrong. Do professional writers have the time?

    My recipes are posted in one of our national news web pages, I don’t get paid for it but they are existing posts, it’s exposure for a budding blogger and photographer. We have to start somewhere and if we are deemed as competition then we must be rather good ;0)

    • diannejacob says

      Are you saying that perhaps people expect less when they try a recipe from a blogger? I hope it’s not the case, but I don’t know.

      As for professional recipe writing, I know that people contact cookbook writers about recipes too. If you write for a corporation, your name probably doesn’t appear on the recipe, so in that case, you don’t get the feedback.

  31. amy reiley says

    Thank you for sharing this post with me, Dianne. I’m still stunned at how great of a response the whole topic has inspired.

    One thing I regret in the original blog post is that I evidently poorly conveyed my thoughts on payment for recipes. When I mentioned the $500 figure, it was talked about as being an extremely high figure to the blogger crowd. I think its a reasonable amount for this kind of work but it sounded to me as though that figure is in a realm only the most elite of bloggers ever receives. From doing a bit of asking around, I’ve learned that a more likely figure is somewhere between $50 and $200. And that’s the payment for creating, writing, testing, styling and photographing a dish. For that kind of money who could afford to properly develop and test the dish? (Not to mention the question of how many home cooks have the ability to test their recipe in multiple ovens or stovetops or ice cream makers, etc. as a professionally tested recipe would typically be tested?)

    I’m with you completely that anyone who can desires and can find a way to transition into a career as a food professional should go for it! I certainly appreciated your story on how you started developing recipes. However, you also point out that the test kitchen at Sunset tested the recipes before they went to publication. If the companies were taking recipes from popular bloggers and testing, styling and photographing them before distributing to consumers, I wouldn’t really have so much of a problem this new practice. However, I do feel like I want the person creating the recipes I’m going to use understands a bit of the history, seasonality, sustainability of an ingredient, the chemistry of how the recipe works, the origins of the recipe if its a variation on a traditional dish. That, perhaps is old fashioned of me and it may be an issue that is all my own. But as far as the bigger picture of this situation, I think its detrimental to the professional food community, to the art of recipe development and that of food photography and to the end consumer. I also see bloggers as being taken advantage of to some degree. There are also issues of ethics and the huge potential for plagiarism. Unfortunately, the whole matter got turned into an “us” vs “them” debate rather than one about the food industry as a whole and where it is vs where it perhaps should be going.

    • Margaret says

      Ms. Reily,
      I do hope it is okay that I am commenting on another commenter’s post. I must say I find it admirable that you are defending your opinion and clearing up any misunderstanding. I must commend writing about something you feel passionate about even if subsequent responses are not as you may have pictured them.

      As a constant, what I like to call blog troll, as I tend to read but rarely get to comment, the blogs that I frequent, and occasionally comment on, do actually feature many of the qualities that you posted about. While pretty pictures and a recipe at the bottom tend to qualify anything on blogger, foodgawker or the like as a quality food blog, please be assured that to me, and hopefully a slew of others, the quality of a food blog and a successful recipe goes far beyond the aesthetics. I live for the story, and I tend to find myself lost in and more impressed by the beautiful prose that can follow the pretty picture than I am by just a picture. This may be the English major in me speaking, but I am far more interested in what a good food writer has to say than what a well-balanced picture can show me. And of course, the proof is in the deliverablity in a recipe. I covet the little bits “of the history, seasonality, sustainability of an ingredient, the chemistry of how the recipe works, the origins of the recipe if its a variation on a traditional dish.” And it is in these ways that I feel that long-time “professionals”, if we must categorize, do have the upper hand, especially seasoned food writers. I feel as if you can see the experience long-time “professional” food writers and bloggers in the writing.

      And while I maintain my opinion that everyone begins somewhere, and just because a blog or blogger is being described as “emerging” does not mean their recipes, and subsequent under-pricing, are detrimental to the culinary world as a whole, there is something to be said for maturity in the culinary world. And it is in that maturity that I do not think professionals are, for lack of a better term, missing out. As yes, your prices may be a bit higher due to your experience in the feild, however; that experience does show in a positive way.

      I must thank you for posing a great debate, that may not have been your intention but a well-placed debate never hurt anyone 😀


    • diannejacob says

      You’re welcome, Amy, and thanks for commenting.

      Re recipe prices, the figures you heard do seem very low. On the other hand, I have priced recipes for cookbooks, and I got a range of between $200 and $500 each for very experienced recipe developers to write all the recipes in the book, so I guess the rates are all over the place.

      Yes, I was put to the fire by having my recipes tested before they were published. That hardly ever happens these days, as most newspapers, magazines and websites do not have test kitchens.

      I agree that some bloggers are taken advantage of. It seems inevitable when they are new to the field and inexperienced. But as they go along, they wise up and get better pay. Some have made enough to quit their day jobs.

      Re ethics and plaguerism, I have written about that plenty of times, and there is always new territory to explore.The issue, however, is not limited to bloggers.

  32. says

    Just wait until Amy hears about some “non-professional” pharmacist starting a food blog, of all things, called Mortar & Pestle. Amy’s article makes me much more determined to reach my goals ’96 after I finally learn how to use WordPress, HTML, CSS, my macro lens, Adobe Light Room, the list continues to grow’85 lol “Dumbed down?” REALLY?

    Amy did not put enough thought into her post. Anyone can find a recipe from Saveur magazine or even look them up on sites like All Recipes. What draws food blog readers is the writer’s voice, their stories, the ability to reach the write one-on-one with questions about the recipe, with comments, human interaction.

    Lisa Fain’s “Homesick Texan” is a perfect example. As a matter of fact, Lisa’s stories were MY inspiration to become a food blogger.

    Also, with food blogs such as Lisa’s, and the way mine will written as well ’96 we are able to scope out foods and recipes UNIQUE to our hometown and our state. Many of these recipes are at high risk of becoming lost arts if they are not researched and written down. My first 4-5 recipes will be things that have NEVER been seen outside of my state. It is my mission and my honor to be able to write about them.

    Thank you for pointing out that piece of inspiration to ALL of us dumbed-down food bloggers and (for me) future food bloggers.

    I enjoy your newsletter very much, by the way. Thank you!

    Warmest Regards,
    Eric Roberg, dumbed-down pharmacist and wannabe slacker food writer

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, the “too much time on your hands” comment doesn’t apply to a lot of food bloggers, since there’s such a steep learning curve with all that software. Not to mentioning the cooking and marketing.

      I think she focused on recipes because there is little paid work for writers to tell first person stories. That same magazine I mentioned published 9 first-person essays per year. I think they had 800 entries per month. I was so thrilled to get one of those spaces.

      How fun that you are researching unique recipes that are tied to place. We’ll see if they’ve never been published before. Often it turns out that they have been. Good luck!

      • amy reiley says

        Oh my, the comment that flared a thousand tempers! Unfortunately it was completely misconstrued, (and I acknowledge that I can understand why). To clarify, by “too much time on their hands I did not mean to imply that amateur bloggers are people with too much time on their hands. I was speaking of a particular subset of bloggers who skyrocket in popularity because of their extreme dedication to and skill in the game of social media. Unfortunately, at the conference I attended, it was indicated that much of the criteria a marketer looks for in selecting a blogger with whom to partner is based on things like facebook likes, twitter activity, Klout scores, etc. rather than the skill as a storyteller and ability as a cook.

        • Eric Roberg says

          Not to worry, Amy. As one of the commenters pointed out above, there’s nothing like a healthy debate. I should have mentioned that I enjoyed your article very much and understood most of the points you were trying to make.

          I do believe, though, that in the end, as several commenters also noted, if you are not a good storyteller and your recipes flop, you will lose your readers.

          Thankfully, I will not be monetizing my blog, nor accepting any advertisers. It will be strictly for fun. I am probably my own worst critic, so until I am sure that I can be a skilled storyteller, I will keep practicing, inspired by all of you great food writers.

  33. says

    Another fantastic post Dianne. I read it when you first posted and thought about it before responding. Pretty deep stuff, as reflected in all of the comments, so many which have made me nod in agreement.

    The excerpt that you highlight from Ms. Reiley is very tart. Not sure what she is going through but she sounds frustrated. Unfortunately, change is the only guarantee in life, and things in food writing with the rise of blogging and new media really push the pace of that change. it is inevitable.

    A many have pointed out, whether established as a paid professional or not paid but working hard as an emerging food writer, blogger or publisher, we all start somewhere.

    In terms of writing recipes that are worthy, there are many book, courses and conferences one can take today on how to write a good recipe. And I know many people are taking them. I took my first recipe writing class 12 years ago in San Francisco at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. What a great memory. I had no idea was was in the future for me – culinary school, my own business, and writing a blog. There were no blogs then!

    I would hope that serious food bloggers do test their recipes. And as many have said, if they don’t, then the quality and trust from your readers won’t be there, you won’t have much of a following and it will stay a hobby vs having a chance to really grow and go somewhere.

    And yes, we have all seen cookbooks and magazines with mistakes in them, or recipes where directions were lacking, or they plain do not work! That for me is almost a crime. People put their time, money, faith, hope and excitement into trying a new recipe. They better work for our readers!

    Love the DJ history on one of your early gigs! Very neat!

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Sally. Yes, these days there are lots of ways to educate yourself on recipe writing — including my book, this blog, other books, and other classes and conferences, including membership in the IACP. To some extent, though, you’ve got to experience it and build up your skills.

      Glad you enjoyed my early history story. That was a pretty nerve-wracking period, writing recipes. I eventually decided it wasn’t my forte.

  34. says

    Amy, you mention you learned that the criteria marketers look for is based more upon facebook likes and twitter followers opposed to actual skill and storytelling ability. But I would think those things go hand in hand? If their recipes are lacking and writing is just mediocre how would they be able to build such a following?
    Personally, it takes a lot for me to follow a blog and a whole lot to like them on fb. I have to had made several (successful) recipes and find myself being directed back there when searching for new ideas and inspiration.

    • amy reiley says

      Natalie, I wish they went hand in hand but it isn’t always the case. I’ve spent the past year learning as much as I can about social media. At one point we hired someone to help us build the facebook audience for our website and the techniques that were employed weren’t particularly related to our content. Absolutely I agree that the fb followers wouldn’t continue to click through on links to the site if the content wasn’t quality but in terms of growing the number of followers, there was a process that was much more about dedication than about the quality of the work on the site. And these marketers were looking for fb pages with quantity of likes. I’ve also been reading about Klout scores. I haven’t investigated the accuracy but I did read one article on how people can manipulate their score to appear much higher than their true influence. (The article was written by a marketing professional on a site I respect.) I also learned some techniques for growing twitter followings that have little to do with an account’s true quality or influence.

      • says

        Interesting. I suppose as a professional in the food industry I am more selective with who(m?) I follow, so I assoicate likes with quality. I know very little about marketing. One thing I have noticed is that more and more blogs seem to be joining the “giveaway” club. (Not just the occasional giveaway but like me, follow me, tweet me, pinterest me, then come back and comment that you liked me, followed me….and you could win a blender!) Perhaps this is an example of a marketing strategy (or coercing?) that does not reflect quality. In situations like this I can see your point.

        • amy reiley says

          Yes, I think you’re right. I haven’t really followed the giveaway tactic too much but another writer was telling me she’s observed a couple of what she deemed sub-par blogs rise to prominence because of their giveaway strategies. Companies have done it for years to get attention for their products so its no surprise that savvy bloggers would adopt the strategy. (Although most companies do it to try to get a new product into the hands of consumers, not just to create buzz…)

      • Rick says

        Amy so how exactly is social media any different than older ways of promotion? Just because a cookbook author (and their publicist) knew how to create buzz by getting written up, book signings, events etc. didn’t mean that the book is any good. There have been many mediocre cookbooks that have made the best seller list. Social media is just another method of promotion that happens to be more effective then the old ways.

        Many excellent cookbooks have sold poorly because they were not promoted very well. That’s just how it is! But just like many mediocre cookbooks were one hit wonders, even though they had huge buzz, so can a blogger’s popularity by short lived if they don’t continue to resonate with their audience.

        You continue to make sweeping generalizations that only prove you aren’t keeping up with the times. This isn’t 1995, it’s 2012, and things are very different now. We won’t be going back to 1995 regardless of how many blog posts like yours are made. I submit that if the old guard were to accept and embrace the way things are in 2012, they could continue to be very successful, because resistance if futile.

        • amy reiley says

          Rick, I totally agree that there have always been products and people in our and any other industry that experience far greater success than their work warrants.

          But the issue here isn’t whether a blog that is popular because of social media remains at the top. Its about a marketer seeing the author’s Klout score and approaching the blogger to create, test, style and photograph a recipe for the company’s promotion at half (or less) of what would have previously been paid to a recipe developer not to mention cutting out the artistry of the stylist and photographer altogether without having the company test the recipe itself before distribution. Then the company asks the blogger to post the recipe on their own site for their audience, potentially putting the blogger in an unethical situation. I don’t think that’s wishing the industry would return to 1995.

          • Rick says

            They have a high Klout score because they have accepted the realities of 2012 and are running with them. If the “old guard” did that they could have a high Klout score as well and enjoy the benefits. The ethics of this is another issue. A strong social media presence can by used for many things, not just attracting marketers. For example it can be used to sell cookbooks which many bloggers do quite successfully without having to endorse products. Its funny though I see a lot of “old guard” authors endorsing products too, presumably because their success attracted their attention. I guess that’s okay though.

          • amy reiley says

            Rick, I responded to someone’s question about social media earlier and said that I’d read an article recently that Klout scores can be manipulated and often don’t reflect the person’s true influence. I’d said I hadn’t looked into the matter further but I definitely see it as an interesting issue.

            Well, I actually can confirm that, at least on a small scale, its true. Yesterday I checked my own score and it had jumped several points in a week because I’d been chatting with friends on facebook about something completely unrelated to the food profession. My jump in score did not at all reflect that I’d suddenly become that much more influential to the food world but that I was spending a lot more time on facebook with my friends.

        • diannejacob says

          Rick, I love it when you post on my blog. You made me laugh out loud. And those are good points.

  35. says

    I read the original article that sparked off the debate in the first place and then came back to yours. Ms. Reiley’s article reflects poor judgement and immaturity. Someone who has had much success and experience in the Industry seems to be completely cut off from the reality that is engulfing the food industry like a tsunami. Food bloggers are here to stay because they are ones that are able to connect with a larger audience. They are normal people, with or without jobs, trying their best to get their creative juices flowing through their photographs, writing and recipes. People go the the food blogs and comment because something in it resonates with them. This the corporates understand and want to tap into understandably. If Ms. Reiley is feeling all lost, she should try to spend sometime looking at the food blogs and understand, the energy, emotion, time and monetary reserves that these food bloggers put into every single post of theirs. NO wonder more and more food bloggers are getting book deals these days. Ms. Reiley has to pull her socks up (instead of wasting her time on a wasteful rant) and see if she can differentiate herself in other anyway,else she is going to see a lot of her work going away to fresh , talented rookies / food bloggers.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, Anita. All your points are well taken, but from my standpoint, the discussion is about “who gets the money?” And it seems like the answer is: neither group is getting a heck of a lot. Bloggers are naive about how much to charge, and the more experienced recipe developers are getting less work because they do not have a big audience.

      • says

        These are changing times – attributes to economic recession, so many people have lost jobs, change in mindsets about pursuing your true passion- when the dynamics are changing there is bound to be that flux-like state when the industry is figuring out what it must do to have a more sustainable future.

        • diannejacob says

          Yes, all true. We have not discussed the economy as a factor and what effect it has on our work. I met an “old guard” writer and recipe developer at an event last week who said she had the worst year ever last year. Many in our industry are struggling.

  36. says

    At last, I think we’re getting closer to the heart of this topic.

    To clarify my own situation, I’m actually a part of the “old guard” of professional writers, just not in the food industry. For years and years, I made an excellent living as a freelance tech writer, until the interwebs came along and obliterated my particular niche. It was hard – I was stunned more than angry, at the speed with which the print pubs came tumbling down – but I picked myself up, stumbled onto a new and interesting opportunity and moved on. I still work in the publishing industry, just on the new media side of things. I’m not convinced that bloggers should be getting cookbook deals at the rate they’re being handed out, but (1) that’s my protectiveness of the old book publishing industry speaking, (2) my own industry is the one handing out these contracts, driven by tiny marketing and pr budgets and impossibly tight editorial calendars, and (3) I can hardly blame a blogger for jumping on such an offer – there’s probably no one among us that hasn’t dreamed of getting published, whether a cookbook or the Great American Novel.

    I think the food industry old guard needs to understand something: full-time-earning bloggers aren’t necessarily stealing work from you [the old guard in general, not Amy in particular]. There’s an entirely new realm of paying jobs that didn’t exist 3 years ago, and it’s work that the old guard isn’t automatically qualified to do, regardless of sterling writing creds.

    Marketing managers and advertising people at the various brands are not writers or editors. Their job is not to critically evaluate the writing of the bloggers they seek to partner with. A marketer is not an editor. A marketer has a budget she needs to meet strangled by an expense cap. That’s all, nothing else. A commenter above said something about “caring about the story,” the details, the background. Yes, you the blog follower, might care about that stuff. Marketers don’t. Period. (And the marketer – not an editor, not a reader – is the one writing the check to the food blogger.)

    The only thing a marketer cares about is whether the blogger is doing what it takes to capture and retain her audience, whether it’s by writing sappy personal stories, or taking highly stylized food photographs, or posting over-the-top, attention-getting recipes. In fact, the marketer doesn’t care about the blogger at all – they care about the blogger’s audience, the eyeballs that will potentially be looking at the brand’s promotional collateral and making the decision whether to buy the brand’s products.

    Product reviews, the ever-popular blog post advertorials, product giveaways (for the which the blogger usually receives additional compensation just for holding the giveaway), ad serving, recipe writing in conjunction with posting a product review and/or advertorial, twitter and facebook touting. (Oh, and one absolutely fascinating blogger deal with KitchenAid: KA is completely outfitting several prominent bloggers’ kitchens with new appliances, while those lucky ladies write about it on their blogs and tout it on social media. An entire kitchen of appliances. This is 100% the result of each blogger having a large, loyal readership who will drool over the latest refrigerator model, and has absolutely nothing to do with the blogger’s writing skills.)

    None of these money-making opps have anything to do with how the old guard used to earn its money. And none of it has to do with quality writing.

    Yes, for some bloggers, they are able to establish deeper brand relationships and take over work that, say, a professional recipe developer or copywriter is perfectly qualified to do (i.e., where an enormous social media presence is not required to this work). Same with photography and food styling. Although on that front, I have to say, I have seen the work of some photographer/food bloggers (and I’m thinking of three in particular), whose work is so outstanding, it shames any cover hero that Bon Appetit has put out in the last couple of years. In those cases, they deserve to be edging out the old guard – that’s just straight-up competition. Their blogs have large followings, but they have the skills to walk the walk.

    But, by and large, the old guard is losing work because the internet *in general* – not just food bloggers – is competing quite successfully against the old world, changing the rules as it goes. And the interwebs – unlike Gourmet (RIP) – is not going to shutter any time soon.

    • Rick says

      Excellent Karen!!! I really hope the “old guard” reads your posting because you have nailed it. Publishing on the net or print in 2012 is far more complicated then just good writing or good recipes.

      I’m sure back in the early 1900s the carriage manufacturers complained bitterly at the introduction of the automobile. So how did that complaining work for them? I don’t see too many horse drawn carriages on the road these days. The smart carriage manufacturers reinvented themselves and the complainers went out of business.

    • amy reiley says

      So exceedingly well put, Karen! Rick, a quick response to your response: I didn’t write my original post for the purpose of complaining. It was meant to bring to light to others a trend in our industry that I find disturbing–hopefully as a call to action. Unfortunately, it mostly got turned into a debate on other issues on the original blog (mostly an “us” vs “them” debate on amateur bloggers in general.

      Karen I did acknowledge in my original post that there are exceptions to the rule. There are some wonderful bloggers out there with a true talent and passion for writing. And some whose photography stops me short and makes me ooze jealousy that I can’t create visual images even close to their food fantasies. But in general, its the work of professional stylists that takes my breath away. I have so much admiration for those who can make food such a thing of beauty. However, much of my point all along, and thank you so much for discussing it so intelligently, had been about many bloggers scoring these gigs based solely on eyeballs. I doubt most of them are actually making a living from their blogs, based on the figures I’ve heard quoted that marketers are paying for these recipes. I would be surprised if they’re even able to cover their ingredient cost if they’re actually willing to go the distance and properly test the final product.

      Now, I realize that we could also get into the debate on what is a foolproof recipe and how much testing is enough anyway, since no matter what you do, you cannot write a “perfect” recipe. (I know my original post sparked some debate on this matter among the home economist/recipe testing community.) I do also know that there are often problems with recipes created by amateur bloggers for big food companies as I heard from one professional recipe tester who is actually getting additional work fixing these sorts of recipes after they flop!

      At any rate, I absolutely agree with you both that the professional needs to evolve, however I still object strongly to this trend. It cuts pay rates, lowers standards and has the potential to turn out a product that will never work properly for the end user, the consumer who has spent their hard-earned money, not to mention their time, trying out the recipe.

      I absolutely agree that there’s room for new voices in the food community–we were all new voices once. But I would like to see the new guard uphold a standard and to see the industry improve as the result of changes not to mention allow for them (and us all) to earn a sustainable wage.

      • Rick says

        Amy you can object all you want, but this is Economics 101. Supply and demand. Before the net information was scarce so those in the business could command high pay because their product was rare. Now it is not scarce so the price drops and if a product is abundant enough, the price can and often has gone to zero. The net has reduced the barrier to entry to zero. Objecting is not going to change that. All you can do is accept it and change your business model to take the new realities into account or exit the business. As far as the new guard accepting a standard, who is to say the old guard’s standard is right? The fact is that the primary reason that the market has been saturated is not because of bloggers anyway. The recipe mills and the big corporate sites get most of the traffic on the net. I haven’t heard one person comment on that yet, and they are the majority of the reason the value of content development has dropped to zero, not bloggers. If it was just bloggers we probably wouldn’t be having this debate.

  37. says

    Interesting debate going on here. Reading Amy’s entire post got me thinking about my own blog. I am new to blogging and it just so happens my blog is food related. By having a blog on my website, am I posing a threat to Amy’s lively hood? I think not. In this social media age, blogging, Fb, Twitter, etc, are all a part of business marketing strategy. Do I want to increase traffic to my website? Yes. Do I want to increase traffic to my brick and mortar store? Yes. Will bogging help? Time will tell.

    Do I consider myself a professional writer or recipe developer? No. But, I do have experience in the food industry that gives me a unique voice. I guess my point is that although I am not a professional writer, I do not consider myself a “hobbyist” either.

    By the way- I am a long time lurker, first time commenter!

    • diannejacob says

      Welcome, long-time lurker. So pleased that you have decided to jump in.

      You are not a threat to Amy’s livelihood. At least not yet. You will become a threat if you can write an excellent recipe and get paid half as much as she does by companies that used to hire her.

      • amy reiley says

        Dana, its nice you chose to share your voice on this debate.

        There’s one point about the debate I don’t think most people realize. I do not currently make my living in recipe development and testing. So, no, I am not writing about the trend as a complaint that bloggers are taking away my livelihood. My main focus at present is as a freelance journalist, and speaker. (And believe me, these are fields which have required much adaptation in recent years as well.) II also am at the head of a book publishing company and it is from that perspective that I think on a daily basis about recipe quality. And I am simply passionate about moving our industry forward at a high level. I am happy to see the food business move forward–it is always evolving–but this is a trend I find detrimental to the quality of food professionalism as a whole.

  38. Stephanie says

    I can’t believe that you are a publisher and are bad mouthing the net for it’s quality. As someone that buys a dozen cookbooks a month I can tell you that if you are so concerned about quality you need to first look in your own backyard. Just as there are good and bad blogs, there are equally good and bad cookbooks. I look forward to reading your criticism of your own field because it could use some as well, if that is truly your issue.

    • amy reiley says

      Stephanie, I spoke out about a trend I see as detrimental to the culinary industry. I’m not sure how that boils down to badmouthing the web. As for the cookbook industry, certainly there have been sub-par products throughout the years, I don’t deny it. But my criticism is not of blogs it is of a new practice in the culinary field which I see has having a multitude of problems, many of which have been discussed quite intelligently and thoroughly from both sides in the comments above.

  39. Stephanie says

    What is detrimental to the industry is your non disclosure of your vested interest as a publisher when the article was published on the IACP blog. I also can’t believe the IACP for allowing you to write such an article without fully disclosing exactly who you are. And you talk about ethics? The bottom line is that the net is eroding cookbook sales and you don’t like it. Obviously this has nothing to do with quality on the net.

    • amy reiley says

      Stephanie, I think you and I are talking about different issues here. I’m not really understanding how your comment relates to the issue at hand, however, there is one thing I would like to clarify. In the initial article I refer to my company’s cookbook publishing and IACP also provided a short bio. Neither IACP or I tried to deceive you in any way. I have nothing to hide. I’m pretty googleable.

  40. says

    It seems to me that the “professional” recipe writers were “newbies” at one point too.

    I am a food blogger and have so much fun developing healthy recipes to share with my readers. I take the process seriously and don’t post a recipe until I feel I have all of the measurements right, etc.

    My goal is to encourage my readers to cook for themselves and experiment in the kitchen, so I take it upon myself to blog about my recipe failures from time to time as well so my readers know that it is ok to have some kitchen disasters…it is all part of the process.

    Very thought-provoking post…thanks!

    • diannejacob says

      It sounds like you are a hobby blogger at this point, Gretchen. Maybe soon you’ll be joining the ranks of “emerging professionals,” as the IACP calls them.

  41. Stephanie says

    This is copied an pasted from the IACP blog. I don’t see any reference to the fact you are a publisher.
    Amy Reiley is the creator of and writes The Aphrodisiac Queen. Follow her on Twitter @forkmespoonme.

  42. amy reiley says

    Stephanie, I said above that I referenced my company’s cookbook publishing within the article. And I also mentioned that IACP provided a bio (meaning that they made it easy for you to find more information on me should you so choose) which as you reiterate above, they did. Nobody is trying to deceive you here. If you want to perceive it that way, I can’t change your mind.

  43. says

    I’ve intentionally skirted the recipe development topic because it’s complicated and sticky. Amy, I do agree with you [ducks incoming tomatoes from the onlookers]. And I also agree with some of the counterpoints presented here and on IACP. Basically, it’s hot mess. (Or I’m a hot mess. Or both.)

    Bloggers who accept $150 dollars to produce an original recipe (and worse, take additonal time to blog about it, if that’s part of the brand’s deal) are grossly underpricing the effort, no doubt about it, even at novice levels. But part of the problem is that, to bloggers trying to monetize their blogs, they’re looking at the $150 as a sort of lagniappe – they’ve been writing recipes and blogging about them for free anyway, so $150 is almost like found money – a blogging bonus.

    That, of course, is not the way to think about this business at all (and it is very much a business), but I can’t count the number of tweets I see from folks woot’ing over a new deal they landed for a $200 recipe because the car payment is due. (I know some of the pricing for recipe projects because I’m sometimes invited to pitch to brands, and the brand’s offer is stated upfront.)

    I admit, I don’t know how to combat that. I don’t think a reply tweet saying, hey, yo, you’re selling yourself short, would be well-received. “I know you really need that $200 this month, but you shouldn’t take it!” I can imagine all the finger-gesturing that would accompany the Unfollow.

    Amy sees recipe development as a skill worth paying for, as do I. Dianne does, too (I think :) ) – but to the food bloggers out there who have been doing it uncompensated for X years, the I’ve-been-doing-it-for-free-anyway perspective devalues the effort. And brands are more than happy to slip [a lot less] coinage to that side of the street.

    What’s to be done about it? I honestly have no idea. When a cookbook earns a stinky reputation, people will stop buying it. But when a recipe for a brand falls flat – a recipe that’s free to the consumer – does a person burned by the recipe actually stop buying the brand’s products? And if they do, what percentage of consumers does that actually represent? Do people regularly cook from the back of a box or an advertising insert – is it a huge number? Does a cheapy dud recipe really have a negative impact on sales? Or is it solely a reputation (social media) issue? Maybe the risk to the brand (or to some brands, or to some brands in some situations) is sometimes worth the cheap price for the amateur effort?

    I don’t know! But now I’m really, really curious about these numbers….

    • diannejacob says

      What’s to be done about it? Education and honest discussion, Karen. That’s what we’re providing here. For every newbie who’s “honored” to have one of her recipes published without pay or for very low pay, there’s another one who’s learning that good recipe writing is a skill that should be paid for, and fairly. Maybe she’ll ask for more next time, or not respond. We can always hope.

      Re the questions you ask in the last para, they are good ones. I was discussing similar ones this morning with a friend who’s a recipe developer who is sidelined by bloggers. Perhaps companies are not always interested in quality because a “cheapy dud recipe” has no impact on sales, as you suggest. They are also interested in inexpensive content that is always changing, and growing an audience.

  44. says

    Very much enjoying reading all the comments above.

    Amy, I do see where you’re coming from, and I also agree that bloggers are sometimes taken advantage of in the sense that they may do a lot of work for not much reward – sometimes even for just free samples – or do not know how to price themselves in terms of recipe development etc.

    However, even this statement is worth examining more closely for two reasons:

    1) Bloggers that are emerging (or even established) will be looking at the exposure presented by any opportunity offered and may well be happier to take a lower fee for an opportunity that helps them build their portfolio and brand. This is the way of the world – it is what ‘professional’ writers and consultants do all the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality of the work they will do will be less than what it would be if they were being paid ‘full’ rate – smart people put their best into every job they do;


    2) How we choose to pitch and price ourselves is entirely a personal decision on what price we think we can command for our skills. Recently, a group of Aussie food bloggers including myself were contacted by a PR agency to develop recipes for an e-book for a food company using their products. In discussing possible fees with a few of the bloggers I found it interesting how differently bloggers came up with their own pricing and what a reasonable fee was. No two bloggers were planning to charge the same for exactly the same gig as each of us valued our skills differently. Again, this occurs when ‘professional’ recipe developers were pitching for the identical job as well.

    It is also worthwhile noting that these types of recipe development jobs did not exist before – they have been created purely because of the blogging practice and the rise of social media. The PR companies looked at what bloggers were doing – creating recipes, writing personal stories, cooking, styling and photographing food – and realised that they could hire these people to create stories for them and create higher levels of engagement with their consumers.

    Interestingly, when I was at a media famil with a bunch of international food journalists and writers, I found that many of the older ones had embraced blogging and social media. They absolutely recognised it as a way to connect with people, build their brand and increase their value to their clients.

    I think one of the reasons your post stirred up so much debate was that your comments about bloggers were a little harsh. The discussion above, where people have just stuck to the issues instead of getting personal, has been much more useful in debating the concerns you sought to raise in your post.

    And yes, it would be nice if everyone was paid a decent and sustainable wage. I am personally very clear about how much I need to be paid to ‘get out of bed’. The more each of us is knowledgable about the value of our services and the going industry rates, the easier it will be for everyone to be paid fairly.

    Perhaps this is the way forward: what if we tried being in alliance with each other instead of in competition?

    • diannejacob says

      Nice, Christina.

      Good point about the creation of new jobs. So the old guard, accustomed to just being good at developing recipes, is not considered, because the job is also about social media platform and photography, which they probably don’t know much about. Re how much to charge, the range is true of any industry — when people bid on a project, everyone has a different rate. It’s never going to be standardized.

  45. Stephanie says

    Amy I stand corrected. You did say this in your article: The test kitchen policy for my cookbook publishing company, Life of Reiley.

  46. says

    Dianne, thanks for thoughtfully weighing in on this issue. I read the original piece, the follow-up piece from IACP, and all the comments to both and found it to be a fascinating dialogue. What I thought was most interesting is that here you have summed up the writer’s main view points and shown that her points aren’t all bad – what everyone was really reacting to was her condescending tone, which continued to play out in her responses to the comments. The other thing that it made very clear is that bloggers are an engaged and powerful group who are here to stay and bring a great deal of value to the food writing, recipe development world.

    • diannejacob says

      That was a ton of reading, Katherine! Thank you. I’m glad you got Amy’s points. She did inflame people, which added to the drama, but still, she was brave to bring up the issue of bloggers not getting paid enough for their work. Certainly a legitimate subject.

  47. says

    Does quality suffer when the less experienced write recipes? Sometimes, but then I’ve cooked duds from published cookbooks, too- some of then very good selling cookbooks.

    As for recipes that are not adapted from pre-existing ones. After reading thousands of recipes over 25-30 years, you realize that most of them are just variations on a theme.

    • says

      Well, everyone knows that there’s nothing new under the sun. Every recipe has been made before in some incarnation, and it’s a matter of personal touches that make each recipe different. But even though a recipe may be an adaptation of another recipe, the slightest change could mean a totally different result and could be the difference between a recipe that succeeds and one that fails. Baking is a perfect example. A cake made with all-purpose flour and one made with whole wheat flour will be two totally different cakes, even though everything else is exactly the same.

      My point is that even if you’re tweaking a pre-existing recipe, it must be tested because that one little difference can change it completely, from flavor to texture to cooking times. And I’ll bet that that’s why so many recipes in “good selling cookbooks” are duds–the writers or recipe developers think that they don’t have to be tested just because they changed one little thing.

      • diannejacob says

        What a great insight, Roberta. Thank you. Re all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, are there really recipe writers who think the outcome will be the same? I hope not.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, agreed. But it still takes skill to make them provide excellent results each time. I’ve cooked many duds too. Bad recipes are not limited to those written by newcomers.

  48. says

    Absolutely, Dianne. Sometimes the worst recipes come from well-known, established chefs/celebrities. Why? Because they often do not write their own material. They hire ghost writers or co-writers to develop recipes in “their style.” After all, how does someone who has 4 shows on TV, does extensive appearances, guest spots, and interviews, has a line of cookware and a magazine have time to write 20 cookbooks?

    I think you know who I’m talking about. :-)

    (I’m not saying the recipes in those books are bad, I’m just making a point.)

    • diannejacob says

      Well, I know some of those ghost writers, and I have been a collaborator myself. I’d like to think I know what I’m doing, and certainly the ghosters I have met are very qualified. So I am not sure there is a connection between celebrities and the quality of their recipes.

      • says

        Don’t misunderstand me–I’m not saying that bad quality recipes are due to ghost writers. On the contrary, they would have to be good to stay in business. What I’m saying is that just because a recipe is “written by” a big name, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work. There are so many variables involved. Good and bad recipes come from well-known chefs and newcomers alike. There are no guarantees either way and you won’t know if something works until you’ve tried it yourself. And let’s not forget that sometimes a recipe may work for one person and not for another.

    • diannejacob says

      What a great story (well sort of — more like a disaster, as you say)! Thanks for sharing it, Eric.

      • says

        I was subscribing to SL when that happened. Since it’s been highly regarded in the South for a long time, it was quite a shocker. I remember when the correction card came. I was relieved that I had not tried to make the rolls. I would have been one of the persons it exploded on. l just know it. lol

      • says

        I think the article’s writer made a very good point, and one similar to what Amy was trying to convey in her article: “I’m not convinced young cooks are getting the same important instruction in our nuke-and-serve culture.” -Heather Mcpherson, Orlando Sentinel

        • says


          I, too, have been a long-time subscriber to SL and had forgotten all about this incident until reading your comment. Because SL is such a trusted source, perhaps even some seasoned cooks may not have questioned that method.

          Thanks for the trot down memory lane!

  49. says

    For me, Amy’s post seems to have been more of a context over content issue. I do agree that Amy has some validity in her points. I have taken a closer look at my own work after these discussions (although I am not a blogger, but a chef that has a blog rather). But regardless, I share recipes with others and have learned a thing or two by it all. So, thanks for that!

    • diannejacob says

      Sure, Natalie. I have tons of posts on recipe writing, if you need any pointers. Thanks for commenting.

  50. says

    I’ve been mulling over this great post, Dianne, for a week before having the chance to sit down and throw in my own two cents. I think iMs. Reily’s article is a case of shooting the messenger. I, in fact, understand Ms. Reily’s frustration: how often do we see food bloggers – and new food bloggers at that – decide that they, too, are “professional” photographers, writers, recipe developers and, no matter their level of expertise, experience or talent, add a portfolio and jump into the fray? Yes, food blogging has allowed many extremely talented people the visibility and a platform to be “discovered” and to begin a professional freelance career and well deserved at that. But we have all seen many with less talent get published, get work, etc. And we scratch our heads – with so many well-seasoned pros and very talented people how are the others getting work, too?

    But don’t blame the bloggers! We all want our chance if this is where our passions lie. And if offered the chance: a job, a cookbook deal, a lucrative partnership with a brand – of course we’ll grab it, and why not? Much of it is a mixture of self-promotion, chutzpah and availability. The problem doesn’t lie here. It is the companies – whether food brands, magazines, or publishing houses that make the choices, offer the work, hand out paychecks or advances, decide between an experienced professional or a less-than-experienced food blogger. And with each choice comes a battery of reasons for that choice – money? A blogger’s built-in audience and platform? a specific talent? Who can tell. One can only hope that the companies make their choices wisely. As for recipe development per se, I have many tried and true cookbooks, recipes made from magazines that work beautifully and that make me return for new recipes from the same book or magazine again and again. Others, not so much. We’ve all made recipes from a cookbook or magazine that have been a big fail. I’ve also made recipes from blogs that were wonderful! But when a magazine or publisher, for whatever reason, chooses one recipe developer or another, I would assume that it is the publisher/editors who are responsible for making sure that all recipes they pay for and publish work.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Jamie. What you say is very rational. Bad recipes can be found just about anywhere, including in the tomes of established cookbook writers.

      One of Amy’s main points was that bloggers are willing to take less money, and that lowers the bar for established food writers. I’ve written on this topic many times, but the bottom line is that every industry has its newcomers who are willing to charge less, or who don’t know what they are worth. As those bloggers mature, others will take their place. It’s inevitable!

      Also it is possible that there is not enough well-paying work to go around. Here, some bloggers have been very creative about how to get paid. They have the advantage of advertising, whereas other food writers do not.

  51. says

    Hi, Dianne,

    Thanks for presenting this touching topic in such a rational framework.
    I can’t help but wonder if couching the issue of fair pay in terms of “them” and “us” is polarizing rather than productive. I am a professional recipe developer/food writer/editor with 30+ years experience. I am also a blogger. Should I be at war with myself?

    • diannejacob says

      Hah. I certainly hope not, Sharon. I don’t think the author meant to put it into an “us” vs. “them” framework, but that’s how it was interpreted. Re the two parts of yourself, because you are a skilled recipe developer, there is no way you’d take the same rate that would be acceptable to a newish blogger . She was concerned them lowering the bar for everyone.


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