Feb 282012
 

Food Network fired star Anne Thornton for adapting recipes a little too closely. (Photo: Food Network)

Yes, one of my favorite subjects was in the news again recently: the perils of adapting recipes. Here are two recent developments that affected a cooking show host and a food blogger:

1. Show cancelled because of adapting recipes. The Food Network cancelled the show of TV Chef Anne Thornton because she adapted recipes based on making small tweaks to the recipes of others, apparently.

Media outlets went crazy when the news hit that her show, Dessert First, was not renewed because many of her recipes were “plagiarized” from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten, specifically a German chocolate frosting and lemon bars.

“You take what you learn from them and then you riff on that,”she said in her defense in a story in the UK Daily Mail. “As for lemon squares, there’s only so many ways you can make them, so of course there will be similarities.”

Her comment sounds similar to those I’ve received on this blog. And I don’t necessarily disagree with Continue reading »

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Jan 312012
 

Increasingly, recipe writers are finding their own content appearing somewhere else.

Part of the problem is how ridiculously simple it is to lift work verbatim. On the net, just copy and paste. Some online companies write code that does it. In print, just retype a recipe verbatim, and present it as yours.

Here’s what Gwen from Bunky Cooks said in the comments of a previous post here in Will Write for Food:

“I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me after I spoke on a panel on ethics at IFBC in New Orleans last year. They said they had no idea that there were ethics they should be adhering to when writing their blogs.

“Isn’t some of this just common sense? Aren’t we responsible for our words and actions just as you would be in a job or at school? Why do some people think the internet is a place where everything is free and anything is yours just for the taking?”

Good questions. At least she and I got the opportunity to educate. I also spoke on an ethics panel for IFBC last year, and talked for 50 minutes on the subject last weekend at Food Blog South in Birmingham, AL.

Here are some new developments from last week where both individuals and companies are involved:

1. Recipes ripped off as an e-book. Elise Bauer got Amazon to shut down a page where someone in Bangkok scraped the content of Simply Recipes into an e-book and sold it on Kindle. A reader of her site Continue reading »

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Jan 242012
 

Has anyone not heard of David Lebovitz? He’s a super successful American food writer blogger living in Paris. He’s also a gorgeous photographer, author of five cookbooks and one memoir, and author and co-author of two apps.

I first met him on email in 2005, when he endorsed my book, Will Write for Food. Recently we spoke about his success and philosophy on food blogging, writing cookbooks, social media, and how he finds the time to get it all done:

Q. Why do so many people adore your blog? What is it about you and your subject matter?

A. It’s a combination of things. Part of it is I started a long time ago so I’ve had a long time to practice, to learn about blogging and build a site. Part of it is I live in Paris and that interests people. Plus I worked as a professional chef, which is part of the mix. People say they feel my blog is very personal; they know the person behind it.

My blog is largely about cultural differences because I’m a foreigner living abroad, and the longer you live somewhere, the more it gives you more credibility. And perhaps people can relate to being an “outsider.” Years ago I was more of a critic of certain aspects of French culture, but now I’m more of an observer and I try to be more neutral. The longer you live somewhere, the more you understand how people are and I’ve become more integrated, too, and understand the culture better.

Q. How has your blog changed since you started your website in 1999? What kinds of posts do you no longer do?

A. Now I microblog on Twitter (105,000+ followers) and Facebook (26,000+ followers). I used to do Continue reading »

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Nov 012011
 

How often do you think about farm workers when you choose your food, cook it, or write about food? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

Last week I went to a talk about agriculture and social justice by writer Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation; Greg Asbed, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW); and Lucas Benitez, co-director of the coalition.

Schlosser spoke plainly about how conditions for farm workers have not improved since he took a year to write about the servitude of strawberry pickers for the Atlantic in 1995. In fact, he said, it’s worse now. Minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is now one-third less than pay in the 1960s and 1970s. And on top of poor working conditions and pay, some states have passed draconian anti-immigration bills that have terrorized farm workers and cost farmers money.

What struck me most about what Schlosser said is how the food movement does not seem to care. As food writers, we’re part of the food movement too. We write about food, farmers, even animals, but we don’t write about who supplies our food. Yet we should be grateful to farm workers for making it possible for us to eat healthy food every single day, he argued, and help them earn a living wage, with decent working conditions.

So as food writers, how likely are we to cover this topic, and how does it fit in with the writing we already do? Granted, most of us aren’t going to choose a career as Continue reading »

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 Posted by on November 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm
Sep 202011
 

Does opinion still matter? Yes. (Photo by Stuart Miles.)

Now that the New York Times’ latest restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, has moved on, the hand wringing begins anew about whether career food critics are doomed because of Yelp and food bloggers.

Let’s ask a different question. How have food bloggers changed restaurant reviewing? Here’s what I see as the biggest shifts:

1. Food bloggers don’t wait to review. In the old days, reviewers waited a month or so for the restaurant to get its groove. Bloggers figure that if they’re open for business, they’re fair game.

I like this approach. It implies there’s no cozy relationship between the two. Except that sometimes, there is. See No. 2.

2. Restaurants have opening events for bloggers. Print reviewers go to restaurants undercover and hope not to be recognized. They have expense accounts or get reimbursed as freelancers, whereas most bloggers write for free, as a hobby. So restaurants pay for them to come sample a meal. The cozy relationship is back.

3. Bloggers are more likely to cover an event than to review the food. Cover means “I went there and this is what I had,” versus. reviewing, which requires opinions Continue reading »

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Jul 192011
 

Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strohmeyer of Virtually Vegan Mama.

What do you do when another blogger copies your recipes, ideas, and even gets the same freelance gig? That’s the situation food blogger Jennifer Strohmeyer of Virtually Vegan Mama found herself in recently, when another blogger took Strohmeyer’s recipe ideas for her own blog, and even got the same freelancing gig at the same website where Strohmeyer contributes.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve had lots of discussions here about adapting recipes. Everyone modifies everyone else’s recipes, it seems. Maybe Strohmeyer was imagining things?

I think not. Let me tell you what happened.

But first, a little background on Strohmeyer. She started her blog in mid-January (full discloser: Strohmeyer is a former client), sending photos to Food Buzz and Continue reading »

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Jun 282011
 

Earlier this year, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl began her consulting gig (rumored to be worth $250,000 annually) at Gilt Taste, a high end web food store that’s paying her to advise on food writing on its website.

Gilt Taste is a new kind of media for Reichl, one that blurs the line between advertising and editorial. That’s a sea change from her days at Gourmet, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. To my surprise, she welcomed the switch.

“The notion of the wall between advertising and editorial,” she begins in an interview with Eater, “If you’re dependent on sales and you only have things you are really proud of, there’s no need for that wall and there’s no reason to be embarrassed by saying a product is great and this is why it’s great.”

Really? My eyes widened. So she’s assigning advertorial now, where a company pays to get an enthusiastic article that looks and smells like regular journalism? And her big name freelancers are going for this? The former magazine editor in me got ready to protest.

No, no, and no. It’s so much tamer than that. Some of the stories have links to products Gilt Taste sells. That’s it. Links.

(Here are two examples. For a recipe by New York Times regular freelancer Melissa Clark on steak and potatoes, the words “boneless ribeye steaks” are hot, and they link to a catalog item for $127.95 for four Continue reading »

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