Jul 242012

Three figs, divided. Will your readers get it?

Food blogger friend Stephanie Stiavetti, who’s working on a cookbook, likes to use “divided” when listing ingredients in receipes. Then she got this email from her editor, shooting down its use:

Recipes into Type advises against using ‘divided’ in ingredient lists. These kinds of instructions belong in the recipe steps below ’97 where it will be clear HOW the ingredient is to be divided.”

“I’ve always used “divided,” she emailed me. “What do you think?”

Sorry. I don’t like divided either. Here’s why it doesn’t work:

1. People don’t know what it means. “Divided” is some kind of code that is left unexplained. When readers see “3 tablespoons honey, divided,” they might think it means cut in half, which is not necessarily so.

2. They have to read the method to find out. When they continue on to the method, it gets complicated. It says to use 2/3 now, and the remaining amount later, or gives Continue reading »

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May 222012

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 Continue reading »

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Apr 102012

Twenty years of perfecting recipes. That’s how long America’s Test Kitchen has cooked, baked and obsessed over the results. Based in Brookline, MA, it’s the test kitchen for a PBS television show of the same name, where the staffs of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines work out their recipes.

How does the staff create a recipe that works every time? I asked John “Doc” Willoughby, the company’s executive editor for magazines. The Harvard grad began his career at Cook’s Illustrated when Chris Kimball founded the magazine in 1993. In 2001, he left to become executive editor at Gourmet magazine, then returned to America’s Test Kitchen in 2010. Willoughby, who writes cookbooks with co-author Chris Schlesinger, a chef, has written nine, including the award-winning The Thrill of the Grill.

Lori Galvin, executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen and a reader of this blog, sent me the company’s latest cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes of 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine, and suggested I talk with Willoughby about the company’s process of developing and testing recipes:

Q. What do you do as executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen?

A. I’m in charge of the two magazines plus 24 special issues for newsstands. I follow along the process for each magazine, starting with ideas like, “Do readers want another roast beef recipe? If so, which kind?” Then we survey readers before doing an article.

Q. How much do you rely on readers for your content?

A. Once we decide what we want to do, we Continue reading »

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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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Feb 142012

I do a lot of recipe editing in Microsoft Word, both for individuals and publishers. The number one mistake I find is when ingredients are listed out of order, compared to how they’re used in the method.

Before I learned this tip, I drove myself nuts scrolling up and down in Word to check: Did she put the olive oil first? Scroll up, then scroll down. Does the garlic come before or after the Herbs de Provence? Scroll down, then scroll up.

The "Split" feature in MS-Word lets you see two parts of the same file.

Now I use Word’s Split feature so I can see both the ingredients list and the method on my screen. That way I can check the order of ingredients without scrolling like a maniac.

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Open an MS-Word file that has a recipe in it.

2. Under Window in the Toolbar, select Split. You’ll see two parts of one file Continue reading »

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Nov 082011

In preparation for a recent recipe writing panel for the International Food Blogger Conference, I decided I wanted to know more about career recipe developers and how they work.

So I spoke and emailed with professional recipe developers who work for retail food manufacturers, growers, commodity boards, and commissions such as the California Walnut Commission. My goal was to get more information about corporate recipe writing, and also to understand what kinds of opportunities exist for food writers.

Here’s the first thing I learned: The culinary experts who get these jobs are not necessarily food writers or cookbook authors. These professionals might have backgrounds in nutrition, or they’re dieticians, or they have a degree in home economics or food science. While they may not have been to culinary school, they are skilled cooks who can write recipes using a variety of techniques and styles. They also might be members of IACP‘s Test Kitchen Professionals Special Section.

When coming up with ideas, these recipe developers Continue reading »

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Oct 252011

Jenny McGruther quit her job as an office manager last year to devote herself to her online cooking business, Nourished Kitchen. (Photo by Kevin McGruther)

Do you dream of making enough money from food writing online to quit your day job? Do you want more income as a self-employed writer and educator?

Jennifer McGruther started down a path to lucrative self-employment in 2006, when she switched to a traditional foods diet. She defines this style of eating as “the foods that your ancestors ate prior to the industrial revolution in the 19th Century and the green revolution in the mid-20th Century.” The focus is on raw dairy, cultured and fermented foods, broth, offal, and grains and beans that have been soaked, fermented or sprouted. Protein sources must be grass fed, pastured or wild-caught.

She had trouble finding enough information about traditional foods (Sally Fallon’s Weston A. Price Foundation and her book, Nourishing Traditions, are pioneers). So in 2007, McGruther started a blog as a way to track the recipes she developed.

Based on the amount of interest in her blog and her newsletter (begun in 2009), she launched an online business of teaching people to cook traditional foods. She charges by the month and by the class for her online cooking classes and healthy meal plans. Hundreds of people sign up. Last year, she quit her day job as a Colorado office manager to work full time at her business, Nourished Kitchen.

Today, her newsletter has more than 21,000 subscribers. (Her Facebook fan page has more than 22,000 Likes.) Now she has a full website that sells two kinds of products: meal plans and recipes ($10 per month/ $85 per year) and video cooking classes ($149 for 13 installments), all aimed at an audience interested in pursuing the traditional foods diet.

We spoke recently about how her online business evolved and how it works:

Q. What’s interesting is that your readers are willing to pay for recipes, even though the web — and your blog — offer so many recipes for free.

A. When you develop a relationship with your readers, they are wiling to pay something more. I have solid, well-tested recipes that can be reproduced easily, and people value that.

When I decided to branch into premium content, I had about 2000 newsletter subscribers, and about 80 ended up making purchases. Their feedback was excellent and it gave me the confidence to continue providing premium content in addition to the free content offered on the site.

Q. That’s a good number, as a start. What came next?

A. In February, 2010 I launched free daily emails based on giving up processed food for a month. I increased my newsletter subscriptions by 1500 subscribers and was featured on CNN. That taught me people were interested in getting more involved. They kept emailing me with questions. I realized they didn’t know how to cook unprocessed food.

The daily emails were my pilot program for unveiling cooking classes. I worked with several other bloggers to Continue reading »

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