Blogger Finds Famous Cookbook Recipe Doesn’t Work, but He’s Happy

When a high-end cookbook recipe doesn’t work, how can this story have a happy ending? Somehow, it does.

First, a little backstory. Remember when Julie Powell started her career-changing food blog, The Julie/Julia Project, in 2002? It was about a government drone who makes every recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over a one-year period. Her blog led to the first blog-to-book deal and a subsequent movie.

After that, a whole bunch of people started blogs about [Read more…]

How 80 People Tested our Cookbook Recipes for Free

Melt_Turkey and Robusto
Every recipe in Melt was tested four times by our band of recipe testers, including this one for Turkey and Robusto Mac and Cheeselets.

A guest post by Garrett McCord, co-author of Melt

One of the greatest fears of cookbook writers is that their readers — the people who have dedicated time, money, and ingredients –- will be unable to successfully execute the recipes. When Stephanie Stiavetti and I started working on Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, we resolved that recipes would be properly tested and that every single one would work flawlessly.

So how to go about this? Years ago I tested recipes for Jaden Hair’s first cookbook. Stephanie and I discussed the process and decided that the best way to test the book was with our blog readers. We put out a call on our [Read more…]

Q&A: Doc Willoughby on Perfecting Recipes in America's Test Kitchen

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 [Read more…]

Trouble for Two Recipe Adapters

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 [Read more…]

Who Gets Paid to Write Recipes?

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 [Read more…]

Outrageous Blogger Request, and the Outcome

Food blogger Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy

First I just Tweeted about this offer because it was so outrageous. Then I decided no, it’s worth sharing with you.

Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy sent me an unsolicited email she received from a company that wants her to feature its product on her blog. That’s not unusual, right? But read on, and you’ll find some crazy requests. Here’s how the email begins:

“The event is at a culinary trade show in Italy. You would be picked up at the airport  for the event, lasting two days. We would put you up in a hotel and cover all meal expenses for the 2 days of the show. “

Sounds reasonable so far.

The Request

But now it gets suspicious [Read more…]