Do Newer Recipe Writers Put the Pros Out of Work?

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 [Read more…]

7 Things I Learned at the IACP Annual Conference

Four days of networking, learning and fun in New York at hotels, offices and cooking schools. (Photo by Damian Brandon)

I’m back from a packed schedule of classes, meetings, cooking demos, expos and parties at the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference, held in New York.

I taught at a class beforehand, zoomed around the city, saw friends and colleagues, met new people, learned about our industry, ate too much, and laughed with my roomies. Here are my seven takeaways:

1. Yes, you can make money as a food blogger. While the panelists refused to say how much, public relations people and marketing folks said they hire food bloggers and cookbook writers as brand ambassadors, recipe developers, event planners — and to write [Read more…]

Friends, Food and Fun: What's Not to Love?

IACP 2010 Conf Web Banner Large

I’m happy and tired, just back from attending this conference. I’ve been going to International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conferences for around 10 years. Every year I know more people, and much hugging and kissing and laughter ensues.

There are the  people I only seem to see at this event. There are the people I want to get to know better, including book editors, magazine editors, and  authors. There are the new friends I’m thrilled to see again. There’s the Bay Area contingency, always large. And for the first time, there are the people I’ve got to know here on the blog and on social media. Put them all together and it’s an ever-expanding party, [Read more…]

What Makes a Book Good Enough to Win Awards?

While reading Garret McCord’s post on writing a book review, I thought about the criteria I apply while judging a book for the James Beard awards or for the International Association of Culinary Professional’s (IACP’s) annual cookbook awards. I’ve judged books for years, and the  system between these two groups is  different.

james-beard-awardJames Beard is a little more fluid than IACP.  The committee sometimes creates new categories if necessary. One year a photo book was the overall winner. Judges look at the publication as a whole, including the graphic and typographical presentation, the research, the writing style, and the reliability, but there aren’t a ton of guidelines.

I emailed Kathleen Purvis, head of the Charlotte Observer’s food section, who handles the awards, and asked her what constitutes the most important criteria. She hesitated to say. “You should write the best book you can, not the one you think will please judges,” she suggested I advise. “In my years of working with books,” she continued, ” the books that come from the heart, the ones where you can tell the writer has something he or she really, really wants to share, are the ones that always stand out. Passion shows. Look at a Julia or a James Beard or a Laurie Colwin or a Richard Saxe and that’s what stands out every time: One person’s voice, one person’s mission to share something.”

Now that’s good news, because it’s the nature of blogging: your thoughts on a subject that obsesses and delights you.

imagesIACP, on the other hand, uses written guidelines to help judges decide. I looked up the criteria from the last time I judged, a few years ago. It might have changed, but here’s what I have for writing cookbooks: Is the choice of subject meaningful? Is the perspective or point of view noteworthy, original or distinctive? Is the research thorough and accurate? Is the information presented in a way that is easy to follow? Is the writing clear and direct? Is the writing voice distinctive? Are the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used? Does the recipe tell you everyting you need to know to make the recipe successfully? Are there hints about timing, variations, do-ahead steps or substitutions? If there are headnotes and tips, do they enhance the recipes? Does the book speak meaningfully to its intended audience? Does the book deliver what it promises?

There’s another section on judging design, which authors don’t control. Then overall: Consider the quality of the book in comparison to other books of its type. Does it accomplish its goals? Does it have major flaws? Would you buy the book for your own library or recommend it to friends? Does it make a major contribution to the subject?

Now of course you’re not going to write a book simply to win an award, because that’s not a sustainable proposition. Writing a book is too hard. But the next time you come up with an idea, apply this criteria and see if it stands up. For more on what constitutes a good idea for a book, see this piece on my website.