IACP Blog » A Brief Bit of Context for Faking It

A Brief Bit of Context for Faking It

May 16th, 2012Posted by: admin

Some perspective on the "Faking It" blog post from IACP headquarters

Yesterday, IACP posted the work of a member guest blogger, Amy Reiley, in which she expressed her personal opinions about a session that she attended at the Annual Conference in New York. Several members have expressed their frustrations and, in some cases, their indignation about the post (in case you missed it, here is the original post).

We just wanted to take a moment to clarify that this is the work of one person, and doesn’t express the views of IACP.

We believe in bringing people together to give them the information and network of contacts to help them achieve as a culinary professional regardless of where they fall in the ever-changing culinary spectrum, whether it’s teaching, writing, developing recipes, publishing books, styling photos, taking photos, or the hundreds of other things that our members do as part of their work. The increasing ranks and varying needs of people who publish online led to the creation of the New Media section and a whole new slate of awards to recognize their work.

At the end day, it isn’t really the medium that matters, but the work itself. That’s why we changed our journalism awards a few years ago to eradicate whether a piece had appeared in traditional or new media. Good writing is good writing, whether it appears in a magazine or a blog, and whether you get a paycheck for it from someone else or not. Same thing with other areas of the culinary field.

The decision to publish this piece came about when some members read an original piece the author posted on her site and brought it to the attention of the team that runs the IACP site. The reason? It brings up issues in the ever-changing and evolving world of food writing that are worth discussing, even if the resulting discussion might be uncomfortable. It was part of the reason we held that panel, too, to create a forum for the debate and to provide information to help individuals succeed on a variety of business models.

The author’s viewpoint on the issue of marketers working with online writers and publishers is just one slice of a wider story. As has been stated here many times, we invite all members to contribute to the IACP Blog. Please email communications@iacp.com if you would like to write a post in response.

We closed the comments on the other article in order to shift them here, hopefully now with more context.

Your Comments

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Do you plan to publish all of the excellent posts that were submitted after you closed the comments section? I continued to receive them because I had posted a comment earlier this morning and checked the box to be notified when others posted.

Given your statement above, specifically “As has been stated here many times, we invite all members to contribute to the IACP Blog” it would be disingenuous not to post all of those comments.

I posted a comment to Ms. Reilly’s response that yes indeed, one of the bloggers on the panel had said she did not test her recipes. I asked her to add some specifics (which blogger? what was the context?) She clarified what she meant by the “no testing” remark: the blogger (she said she cannot remember which one of the 2 bloggers—odd since this was her “aha!” moment) had mentioned that “she makes a recipe 2 or 3 times until she gets it right.”

From this statement Ms Reilly made the monumental leap that she does not “test” her recipes: she does not “test” because she did not mention whether she makes it several more times after getting it right. Did Ms Reilly confirm this? No. She assumed this. Should she have before launching into this diatribe? At the very minimum. Could the IACP staff have asked Ms Reilly about her facts (e.g., what exactly was said and by whom to constitute the fakery claims) before publishing this piece? At the very minimum. Call me picky, but if an author is unable to identify a source from a pool of 2 (whose names and blogs are conveniently published in the iacp schedule), I would think twice about publishing the piece. It’s not just food content that requires adequate testing.

Thanks. I look forward to seeing those restricted comments reappear. If not, I’m happy to send or post for anyone interested in reading the excellent responses.

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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We’re investigating the comments issue. Camilla, if you want to send them, we will most certainly post. They weren’t monitored or deleted for content reasons or anything. Getting discussion going is the whole point, after all!

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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If one of your editors read this and still let it be published, then you as a company are still at fault.

You’re organization must have a very low opinion of food bloggers to think that we would actually believe that you had no part in this article, and that you are as innocent as freshly fallen snow…...comon’ man, give us a little credit.

 

Posted by: Chef Dennis05.16.2012
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I’m thinking a better title for this piece is “Stages of Grief: A Food Professional Faces Reality.” I see denial and anger. I look forward to the follow up on bargaining.

Can we agree that most brand managers aren’t incompetent? Neither are consumers. If the recipes are bad, commenters will share their disdain. And brand managers will move on to other bloggers. The quality check is built into the relationship between blogger, reader, and marketer.

A handful of bloggers who are sloppy and don’t test their recipes does not an argument make. Nor does it mean the recipes are carelessly slapped together Let’s have faith in the people who read blogs and make dinner from the recipes they find.

And, perhaps most importantly, let’s make sure we have our facts straight about who said what and who has too much time on his or her hands before we write and publish a piece that damages the reputation of a blogger who participated in the panel discussion. I’m trusting that fact checking occurred this time, but if not, several additional reputations are likely to see some damage.

Now let me get back to our little food blog as we attempt to destroy the entire food writing industry.

Posted by: Chris Thornton05.16.2012
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I started a Facebook food page last October after several friends asked for my recipes, and my blog on April 4th of this year. I write my own recipes, or share a recipe I have made on my blog, plus write about issues that are important to me involving food, diet,and phenylketonuria (though I doubt any of your editors know what that is.) I do not claim to know everything about the food industry whether it be cooking, presentation, writing, etc. My goal is not to destroy the works of others, or even pretend to be on the level of some of the more professional ones. I am a stay at home mom, but that is really something I feel I shouldn’t have to defend, and I could have just as easily ran a food blog while working outside the home. I also do not have “too much time on my hands.” Get real, obviously the author is either not a mother or had all day childcare for her kids, and didn’t have to clean her house while taking care of her children either. I do not post any recipes that are junk, I make them and if they are good I post them. If not they don’t get published. I take offense to both statements.
As far as the issue she was originally addressing before she went off on her rampage, I don’t work with any companies or get paid to blog but if I did it would be a company I felt was worth my time, and I wouldn’t do it for just any reason.
I am discussing the orginal article on my blog that will be posted later tonight and already mentioned on my Facebook page. Feel free to read it.

Posted by: Bernadette Martin05.16.2012
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(Please note: This was a comment to the original article noted above.)

f the blogger panelists on the session in question, I would like to clear up any misunderstanding that may have come as a result of this post.

While it may have said that a recipe is made 2, 3 or more times before it feels right, the assumption that recipes are not “tested” is incorrect. Recipes in my kitchen are prepared additional times as I see fit until I am satisfied that it can be replicated with no problems.

Though I cannot speak for how my fellow food bloggers work in their kitchens, I can in good conscience say that due diligence is done on my part when developing recipes for my blog – whether they are for my personal use or a brand contract.
Additionally, the “stay at home mom,” “hobbyist,” and “too much time on their hands” comments are uncalled for. Most bloggers don’t have enough time on their hands. Many juggle full time jobs and/or families in addition to the work they do as a blogger. And while cooking may be a passion and hobby for many of us that does not mean a person can’t make a job out of doing something they love.

I am disappointed that this article was published before any of the statements that lead to the author’s opinion of food bloggers and how they test their recipes were substantiated. Assumptions don’t make facts. (May 16, 2012)

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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We retrieved some comments we received on the original post. You can find them via the link below. An inelegant solution, but you can see what others had to say:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0ByjHUle_yU5HemFCYVcwTWlnOE0

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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To clarify, the comment about the panelist was not my comment, but by Katie. Her full comment is in the PDF that I posted. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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Kathleen, thank you for the educated response. I have no disrespect for culinary professionals who maintain blogs and as I mentioned in the piece there are exceptions to every rule. But I do not approve of untested work and I think that those of us who are professionals in the industry need to be concerned about/open a dialog about this matter. I have met plenty of bloggers who are people with too much time on their hands. I was not disparaging anyone who chooses to work in their home. But I want my culinary resources to be people with a background in the field. I clearly stated in the article it could come from experience, apprenticeship or formal education.

If you are a former culinary professional who now stays home to take care of the family and can use blogging as an outlet to stay in the field, I think that’s great. But I have personally seen too much poorly written and misinformed work as well as poorly conceived recipes out there to stay silent on the matter.

I saw the response from the blogger in question from the seminar and I fully acknowledge and apologize for misinterpreting her description of how she produces recipes. But know that I double checked with several other attendees of that seminar to make sure I understood correctly her process of creating a recipe before I wrote what I did. And the understanding I had that her recipes were published untested was confirmed by four other attendees. So no, as someone who commented earlier accused, I did not go off and write this piece without discussion with other professionals and contemplation of the situation. I’ve spoken with many individuals who share my sentiments.

It seems that what has flared up tempers is my description of the blogger with which I am finding objection. I wrote what I did to clearly delineate the type of amateur with whom I am taking issue.—And it isn’t, in fact, that I take issue with them. My concern is with a trend of replacing those with an education and a craft with potentially inferior work. Heck, it happens within the professional ranks, too! The skilled writer gets replaced by the cheaper writer and who ultimately suffers?—the industry as a whole as the quality of work declines.

I think it is a shame that the words I have chosen to use to specify the type of amateur about which I spoke has overshadowed the entire issue about which this post was meant to address. My concern is about the preservation of quality in our industry. But it seems most people out there would rather attack me for questioning quality than discuss what was the true heart of the article.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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Since some people couldn’t open the doc, I’m going to post the few comments that were posted on the original article here as well. Please note: This a comment from another person posted to the original article:

The day when one could paint all bloggers as amateurish with one brushstroke has long disappeared. What started as a highly personal medium is now widely embraces by an entire spectrum ranging from infrequent hobbyists to full-time professionals.

As just an everyday guy who draws from a fair number of food bloggers for my own cooking habits, I have little idea about the full scope of experience or credentials of the bloggers I follow. It’s their recipes that matter. If they work, they continue to get my attention. If they don’t, I’m out of there.

What traditional media often laments (and this posts seems to be in similar spirit) as they once held readers/viewers hostage and we had nowhere else to turn. That’s obviously no longer the case. So rely less on your credentials and more on your quality, curation, and contribution to those whose attention
you want. All the other worrying and protectionist attitude are unlikely to pay dividends.
- Jeffrey, May 16, 2012

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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Amy, what people are frustrated by is your lack of a coherent argument coupled with cheap shots that are more than a little hack. But thank god you’re ringing the bell on quality. Because no one knows quality better than you. You’ve had training after all. And are a professional. So that means something. Right?

You wrote a self-serving piece that attacked the credibility of a panelist without having all the facts. You formed a takedown attack of a fellow foodblogger without giving the person the right to respond or present his/her side of the very issue you are addressing - that of quality (and I would add integrity). Asking a couple of people that were in the audience does not equal decent and just intention on your part. Asking other people if they heard the same thing is not the same as asking the person who said it. Your behavior is offensive, your argument is lacking a clear line of logic, and you’re going to see people react to what they see as inappropriate and unfair behavior.

But by all means, keep holding on to your role as arbiter of quality. And attack some more stay-at-home moms while you’re at it. You seem really good at that.

Posted by: Chris Thornton05.16.2012
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Again, please note this is one of the “lost” messages from the original post. We’re investigating what happened. - KF

“Food writing isn’t a “profession.” Neither is journalism. You don’t need a degree or any credentials to do either. You just need talent and practice—the same things you need to become a good blogger. You seriously expect us to agree that “food stylist” is a *profession”? Oy.

Amy’s furiously trying to spoon water out of a flooded boat, methinks. - Blargo, May 16, 2012”

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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Another comment from the original story.

“I don’t know how or why I followed you on twitter, or why I clicked over - but I thought I’d comment as a reader who is not a food blogger but reads them. I never would have subscribed to Gourmet but frequently find new, accessible yummy recipes from blogs that I trust (and that I believe test their recipes). Frankly, I see this more as a problem of the larger industry to adapt and evolve to the upcoming generations. Furthermore, your tone comes off as petulant and condescending. I’m happy to find bloggers with ‘too much time on their hands’ who are able to make a living, part-time or full-time, by sharing recipes with me.

Companies would be stupid not to recognize this trend and shift their marketing dollars accordingly.
- Stephanie, May 16, 2012”

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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Another comment from the earlier post:

“While I appreciate your intent in writing this piece as a call for more thorough recipe testing before publication, I can’t seem to get past the following statement because I find it so offensive:

‘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.’

Are you serious?

Any person- man, woman, with or without children, not technically “working”, working in the home, working outside the home, hobbyist cook or professional cook- can start a food blog. And if one of said people works hard and gets to the point that their talents are recognized and they happen to land a job instead of one of the “we” you refer to above, than I believe they should be celebrated, not denigrated, as you’ve chosen to do here.

A dear friend who is an off the charts incredible home cook but who has none of the credentials that you list above - she is, gasp, “just” a blogger! - had a piece published on the front page of the New York Times Dining Section today. Why is that? It’s because she is talented and has worked her ass off to make a name for herself. And I can think of many other bloggers whoare fantastic writers, photographers, and
recipe developers who’ve landed gigs as cookbook authors, food writers, and food photographers because of the talents they’ve honed through blogging. I can also think of many bloggers who haven’t necessary landed these types of jobs but who are indeed working with brands and/or are finding ways to fashion a paying career for themselves by way of their blogs. I assure you that in every case the bloggers all have a strong work ethic….they are far from “hobbyists” with “too much time on their hands.”

Publishing a high quality food blog is a ton of work, I assure you. As a stay at home mom with a cooking hobby who also happens to be a blogger, I know this first hand.

Please do us all a favor and do some further research on bloggers before publishing a statement like this again.
Winnie, May 16, 2012”

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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Kathleen:

I have just emailed the unpublished comments to you (at your info AT kathleenflinn DOT com address.

Cheers,

Camilla

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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This is the last of the comments that were submitted via the other original post. PLEASE do not try to post there, but instead put your post here. Thanks - KF

“I am the author of a small food blog but not professionally trained in culinary arts. I am that novice “stay-at-home father” that you write about so passionately.

Ms. Reiley, I think what might help your argument is to define the difference between “professionals” and “hobbyists” because if the corporations such as Folgers Coffee or Sara Lee pays a food blogger (with no formal culinary training) to develop recipes using their products, are they still amateurs? If I am Dannon Yogurt, I’m not going to hire any idiot that set up a free website last Saturday afternoon on a whim. I do agree that it’s utterly foolish not to test the recipes these home cooks produce, but each business must find what works best for them. Conversely, I’ve seen numerous challengers compete on Iron Chef America that have had no formal culinary training and went to “the school of hard knocks”. Should we still call them professionals?

The other issue you fail to discuss is the prospective each food blogger contributes. I clearly state on my website that I am not a professional, yet I attempt dishes with difficult preparation, uncommon cooking methods, or items that are taken for granted (and can easily be bought at any local supermarket) in an endeavor to learn something with my audience. If anything, I’m trying to prove the point that the crap pushed at consumers by corporations is prepared better at home and any schmuck can replicate it.

Most bloggers share similar points of view and see it more as an educational experience. Are we “dumbing down” the culinary profession or are we making our audiences smarter by learning from our experiences? I’m not proficient enough to develop my own recipes yet, so if anything, I’m payingprofessional publishers to test their recipes for them by buying their cookbooks or watching their television shows. If I ever get to that point, I wouldn’t publish anything I wouldn’t be proud of or publish my mistakes with notes to my audience how to avoid my failures.

Ultimately, and with all decisions at the corporate level in this day and age, it comes down to a business decision. Each professional chef has developed their own styles and preferences of preparing food so professional publications must appeal to the home cook because it’s a much wider audience. Recipes contained in Gourmet Magazine might sound daunting (in the name itself) to a mom who’s worked a full eight hour day and must feed 2 screaming kids and a hungry husband dinner. I’m not a fan of Rachel Ray’s food, but I can see the appeal because she’s relatable. Am I correct to assume that your concern lies solely with those corporations that outsource recipe development to people with no formal training and then fail to test the recipe production? Then please direct your concern towards food journalists and food manufacturers and leave us passionate home cooks and food bloggers alone.
- DB, May 16, 2012”

Posted by: Kathleen Flinn05.16.2012
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I would like to state, I am one of the “amateurs” Amy refers to in her original article and even in her “defense comment”  above. I’m a SAHM and proud of it. I state this in my about me page on my blog. While I have no formal training, I have recipes that work for my family and that is what I like to share. There is a niche for everyone out there. If someone is looking to try their hand at gourmet cooking, they won’t spend time at my blog. If they’re just trying to change up the same old chicken or chocolate cake then I might be what they need.
Obviously the advertisers recognize the need for both from the buying public. It’s the same reason in any large city you’ll find five star restaurants, pizza joints and McDonald’s.
I think, personally, getting more people back in the kitchen and sitting down to the family dinner table will make this world a better place for everyone, no matter where they found the inspiration to get the pan out of the cabinet.

Posted by: Joan Hayes05.16.2012
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Dear Amy:

If you stand by what you wrote, please stop defending yourself - those should have been considerations BEFORE the article was published. It’s available to be printed now for anybody who chooses to. You are entitled to your opinion, and we are entitled not to like it. There is nothing wrong with a healthy discussion.

The emphasis being on “healthy”, I am unsure why you maintain a food blog of your own if you seem to despise the field to the point where you felt you had to throw us all into the same vile generalizing article. I had a look and frankly, I wouldn’t bookmark it.

And you don’t have to bookmark mine. That’s how it is out there, you have choices. I simply don’t read the blogs with bad writing and/or bad photography. The way I see it, a culinary, photography or journalism degree doesn’t automatically make you a good food blogger, nor do they automatically elevate you above the likes of me.

If somebody chooses to work with a small food blogger b/c that generates buzz for them while you prefer to sit on the sidelines and lament the bygone days of “real” food journalism, so be it. Life goes on, things change.

“Wake up and smell the coffee.” wink

Best wishes,

S.

Posted by: Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie05.16.2012
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I find it disappointing that you are censoring the comments we’ve all taken the time to leave. In your pdf you have my name with someone else’s comment. Mine seems to have vanished into thin air. If you are going to post inflammatory content at least have the courage to allow people to respond without censorship.

Posted by: Kim Beaulieu05.16.2012
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I think an article (series of articles) and/or forums about what constitutes a culinary professional is a wise idea for IACP. Arguments over legitimacy and the meaning of “amateur” and “professional” is nonsensical without clearly defined parameters.

Amy: As for the following comment, “But know that I double checked with several other attendees of that seminar to make sure I understood correctly her process of creating a recipe before I wrote what I did. And the understanding I had that her recipes were published untested was confirmed by four other attendees. So no, as someone who commented earlier accused, I did not go off and write this piece without discussion with other professionals and contemplation of the situation. I’ve spoken with many individuals who share my sentiments.”

My comments specifically questioned your presentation of supposition as fact, and the lack of professionalism in checking with the primary source (Katie) to make sure you understood her statements, since, as I noted in my previous comments, you use this supposed “discovery” as the launching pad of your “faking it” commentary. Asking four other attendees if they drew the same conclusions as you, self-contemplation, and speaking with others who share your sentiments (!) as a form of fact checking is ridiculous at best, unethical at worst.

 

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Hi Amy,

I am writing to add my voice to this discussion, both as the moderator of the IACP panel in question and as an active advocate for food bloggers. While there are many inconsistencies in your post that I could address, in an effort to streamline a bit, I’ll jump right to the salient points.

The reason I proposed an IACP session focused on how and why brands can and should work with food bloggers is due to the misconceptions I discovered at last year’s IACP conference, many of which you’ve reiterated here. While it’s natural (though perhaps a bit lazy) to want to lump food bloggers into categories that already exist and feel comfortable to us (journalists, food writers, recipe developers, etc.), that doesn’t create an accurate picture.

Food bloggers are interesting to brands in large part because of the engaged communities they have carefully worked to build, stemming from their fluency with (and willingness to embrace) social media. While the work of a food blogger usually includes creating recipes, I personally have never approached a food blogger solely for recipe development. Rather, I partner with bloggers to have them create posts (and yes, recipes) that share their experience with a particular product or ingredient, just as they do on a regular basis on their blogs. The recipe is only one part of that journey. Imagine a prominent blogger recounting her first culinary adventure with goji berries, or another blogger who found a way to introduce her kids to endive by turning the leaves into the base for ham and cheese nachos. These are stories, connections—much more than you would expect from a recipe developer. And let’s not forget that in many cases the accompanying photographs are mouth-watering as well.

As for the issue of testing recipes, I feel that there is an apples-to-oranges comparison taking place. It is probably rare that a blogger seeks outside counsel to test a recipe before publishing it. However, bloggers who are interested in growing as professionals will take the necessary steps to ensure their recipes are quality products by testing those recipes in-house until they are satisfied. This is certainly the case with the bloggers on the IACP panel, and I for one feel comfortable with this paradigm when advocating that brands work with bloggers.

On a related note, to bluntly state that “the recipes aren’t tested (by bloggers)” is not only misleading, it totally misses the point. You arrived at this conclusion in your attempt to answer the following : “I (wondered) how, depending on the ingredients, you could possibly develop and test a recipe and still make enough money for the hours of work to be worthwhile for much less. …”

What should have occurred to you is that food bloggers, by and large, are woefully underpaid for the time, resources, labor and, yes, expertise they put into their blogs. As your cohort remarked, after hearing that some bloggers might earn $500 per sponsored post: “That’s not exactly a lot.” My sense is that if bloggers were valued more and compensated fairly across the board, rather than threaten your professional opportunities, their success would be reflected in your own. A rising tide floats all boats after all.

Finally, I’m wondering why you didn’t take the time to express your concerns during the panel itself. We had assembled a group of bright, engaging professionals who work with a multitude of food industry veterans every day, including, increasingly, food bloggers. You had the best “think tank” available to you, and you (from what I can recall) remained silent. We could have not only sifted through these issues and intelligently addressed any misgivings, but more importantly, we could have guided you on the journey that brought you to our panel in the first place: monetizing your well-established online magazine.

Posted by: Casey Benedict05.16.2012
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I don’t need to repeat what so many have already stated so eloquently about Amy’s disrespectful description of stay-at-home moms with too much time on their hands so let me move on to another point: Evolution of an industry is not the same as the demise of it. I had another successful career before I became a stay-at-home-mom out of necessity and then a food blogger out of passion.

In my former profession as a trained marketing communications executive with a degree from a prestigious business school, I came upon a similar “quality” issue when desktop publishing was born. Suddenly, people with no training at design but who were technically competent became designers and those of us who could manage complicated multi-stage strategic and tactical product roll-outs were expected to produce the newsletter ourselves because after all, it’s so easy with desktop publishing. Did I really go to business school to layout text and print newsletters? But in the end, I decided that my professionalism, strategic thinking, commitment to quality, customer service and superior project mgmt skills would be recognized by enough smart companies to conquer this bump in the road. And that there might be some value in learning to lay out the newsletter. The industry was changing and I was going to have to change with it, but not by denigrating others or changing my standards, but by reinventing how my value paid off for my bosses and my clients and educating others about what quality of content and design was, regardless of whether we arrived at it on a computer or an old-fashioned layout board.

As a first time attendee to IACP, I chose not to attend that session despite a keen desire to earn money again and a strong background in marketing that might make me a perfect fit to work with brands. But my passion is sharing food stories and recipes that get people excited about food and into the kitchen cooking or out to restaurants eating with friends and family. How is that anything but beneficial to the food world as a whole?

Amy cannot control the quality that a brand is willing to settle for any more than she can control the quality of each blog or trained culinary professional out there. What she can do is set an example of professionalism and inclusiveness to advance the culinary world to the next generation, which will and already does include bloggers.

Posted by: Beth Lee (OMG! Yummy)05.16.2012
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Dear Amy,

Let me introduce you to the Internet, a place with which you seem unacquainted. It is a wondrous land, wherein one might find anything one can imagine: honey badgers and football scores, late-breaking scientific breakthroughs and cures for the common cold, the name of that song from your sophomore year in high school, and yes, discussions about food.

I am the “type of amateur with whom you are taking issue.” I write a food blog. I have no background or training in the culinary profession (unless you count those years of waitressing while in college. I’m guessing you don’t.) I work from home (but being neither a mom nor an accountant, I can’t lay claim to “too much time on my hands.” In fact, my days are quite full, to the point that I can’t imagine how any stay at home mom manages to find time to blog. But I digress.) I publish recipes: often, I’ve made them only once. Sometimes that very day: I cook it, I photograph it, I write about it. Imagine my shock and dismay to discover that my “hobby,” the personal journal of my life experiences, told through the lens of food, is destroying the very business of food: writing about it, cooking it, eating it. It’s a bit of a rush, to tell you the truth: I had no idea that little ‘ole amateur me could bring down the food publishing industry simply by telling you about my latest rhubarb jam.

Your opinion piece was insulting: I’m not naïve enough to think that it was not deliberately so. After all, nothing garners page views like a little controversy. But enough is enough. Your defenses are petulant and scattered, your facts unsubstantiated, your opinions unsupported. If you truly aren’t aware, let me explain something to you: there are way more stay at home moms in the world than there are culinary professionals (especially by your rigorous definition of the term). There are way more “amateur” food bloggers than there are “professional journalists, recipe developers, publishers, home economists, and editors.” And unless you are bringing something special to the table, they will all end up getting more paid work than you, because they love what they do and it shows.

Certainly a finely crafted and well-tested recipe is a thing of beauty: not so easily found today, but was it 20 years ago? I think you are remembering a halcyon past that doesn’t exist: I have plenty of cookbooks & magazines from the 80’s and 90’s that contain ill-conceived and poorly executed recipes. And yet on the wondrous internet, today I can, within minutes, find a rigorously tested and evaluated chewy brownie recipe, with a treasure trove of valuable comments & feedback from home cooks (just like me!). Yet even more important than the latest brownie recipe, no matter how rigorously it was tested, I can find inspiration, connection, community: all of the things that I, and readers like me, crave from our favorite food bloggers, whether amateur or professional. All of the things you’ve just thrown under the bus in the name of training, education and professional experience.

Perhaps what is really bothering you is not the “dumbing down” of the American culinary landscape, but the burgeoning of a new food reality: a fast-paced, exciting, and entirely new frontier of innovative American cuisine; one that, sadly for you, is leaving traditional food professionals such as yourself in the dust.

Posted by: Kaela05.16.2012
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Amy, you wrote:

“I saw the response from the blogger in question from the seminar and I fully acknowledge and apologize for misinterpreting her description of how she produces recipes. But know that I double checked with several other attendees of that seminar [...] I’ve spoken with many individuals who share my sentiments. ”

You’re at a session about blogging. You have the blogger’s name and website. You do realize you could have sent an email directly to the blogger and clarified how she develops her recipes, right? You would have saved yourself at least one headache and maintained a degree of journalistic integrity.

Are there hacks in the blogging world? Of course there are. There are those who steal other blogger’s work and pass it off as their own. So did Cook’s Source Magazine. There are those who don’t have formal training. Neither did Alice Waters before opening Chez Panisse. Personally, I have a degree in culinary arts, a bachelor’s in English Lit, and an M.Ed in Policy, Planning & Development. I have worked in publishing, education, fine dining (yes, on the line), corporate catering (yes, on the line), and culinary education. None of those things will guarantee me success in this highly competitive industry just as not having those things means someone else will fail. I see blogs all the time that are vastly more successful than mine where the blogger’s main skill is photography. I don’t call them out for being fakers. No, instead I created a professional development group (#foodbloggersnetwork) where food bloggers could discuss issues, improve our skills, and have open & frank discussion with others. My skill to improve is photography. Lately, we’ve been discussing your work in this opinion piece. It’s unfortunate you didn’t have a good friend or colleague who could have been a sounding board for this piece and saved you some of the fallout.

Good luck.

Posted by: Jessica | Oh Cake05.17.2012
Debbie Koenig's avatar

I find this whole discussion fascinating, but I agree completely with others who’ve pointed out the major flaw in Amy’s contention: “food blogger” and “professional recipe developer” are entirely different jobs.

I’ve been blogging for 8 years and working as a freelance food writer for 7. I just published my first cookbook, with a major publisher, and finally, after all this time, I just took on my first paid recipe-development gig as a food blogger, from a company I would’ve endorsed without compensation. It’s an entirely different animal from my “real” job, with specifics laid out in the contract for social media engagement, etc. In a million years, it’s not a job that the company in question would’ve hired a “professional” to do, since it requires such a different skill set.

Posted by: Debbie Koenig05.17.2012
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“But know that I double checked with several other attendees of that seminar to make sure I understood correctly her process of creating a recipe before I wrote what I did. “

In reference to the above quote: You heard my process for creating a recipe, not testing a recipe. Those are two very different things. Creating a recipe is coming up with the concept of what you want that recipe to be. And though I remarked that the process sometimes takes 2 or 3 times before I feel it is right (the implication being that I do spend quite a bit of time on my recipes rather than approaching this with abandon), I was never asked if I tested my recipes or not. The answer to that question was completely based on speculation. Unfortunately, you chose to publish it as fact.

If there was confusion about what I meant or clarification needed that should have been asked immediately during the session. If that was not an appropriate time to ask a question, you could have at anytime come to me either in person in NY or via email after the fact.

——

Below is my original comment which Kathleen posted for me because the comment form was giving an error:

As one of the blogger panelists on the session in question, I would like to clear up any misunderstanding that may have come as a result of this post.

While it may have said that a recipe is made 2, 3 or more times before it feels right, the assumption that recipes are not “tested” is incorrect. Recipes in my kitchen are prepared additional times as I see fit until I am satisfied that it can be replicated with no problems.

Though I cannot speak for how my fellow food bloggers work in their kitchens, I can in good conscience say that due diligence is done on my part when developing recipes for my blog – whether they are for my personal use or a brand contract.

Additionally, the “stay at home mom,” “hobbyist,” and “too much time on their hands” comments are uncalled for. Most bloggers don’t have enough time on their hands. Many juggle full time jobs and/or families in addition to the work they do as a blogger. And while cooking may be a passion and hobby for many of us that does not mean a person can’t make a job out of doing something they love.

I am disappointed that this article was published before any of the statements that lead to the author’s opinion of food bloggers and how they test their recipes were substantiated. Assumptions don’t make facts.

Posted by: Katie05.17.2012
Meredith Deeds's avatar

Over the years, Frontburner has addressed a myriad of controversial topics that have prompted the rebuttal of the everyone from nutritionists to sponsors to bloggers who disagree amongst themselves as to the ethics of posting recipes that aren’t their own. We believe bloggers and food writers should all have a voice in the relevant topics that our ever-changing industry tries to grapple with on a daily basis. Now we have a blog that is another vehicle for our membership to use to discuss the topics that we are all talking about, no longer around the water cooler, but in our satellite offices around the world. The blogging community is a strong and intelligent one that is completely capable of expressing its views. We encourage them to do that in the form of a rebuttal piece on IACP’s blog. We are all in the food industry, so let’s talk.

Posted by: Meredith Deeds05.17.2012
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I second Camilla’s suggestion of a series on what constitutes culinary “amateurs” versus “professionals”. I’ve read far too many recipes written by “professionals” that talk about “searing the meat to seal in the juices” or sundry other hackneyed cooking myths to believe that any amount of “professional” training or experience guarantees a true understanding of the craft and science of cooking. I’d be *very* curious to hear where the author of the original piece, as well as others, thinks the line should be drawn.

Posted by: Nancy05.17.2012
Judith Klinger's avatar

Kim, no one is censoring comments. I’m not sure why your comment vanished. Methinks a computer gremlin is playing with us! And we are trying to find and eradicate that gremlin.

As has been stated upthread, IACP is the perfect place for a civilized dialogue to be happening. We are in the trenches together and will all benefit from a constructive dialogue.

Posted by: Judith Klinger05.17.2012
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Kim, I’m sorry. That was my mistake made in haste to get stray comments online and I apologize. IACP is definitely not censoring or attempting to censor any comments. We were experiencing a technical glitch with comments. It is worth noting that I wasn’t involved in the decision to publish this piece, I just was trying to help get the comments that went missing online since Camilla and another member mailed them to me. I genuinely and sincerely apologize for making the mistake.

Here’s your comment:

Amy I find your view on stay at homes so offensive. I have been home with my children for 23 years. It started by choice then became necessary due to one of my children having medical issues. Regardless of why us mothers make the decision to stay home let me make one thing clear, we do not appreciate people demeaning our jobs. What we do is difficult and worthwhile. Having someone like you devalue it is uncalled for.

I am a blogger and take pride in that. I enjoy having an outlet for my passion. I own that. Unlike you who claims you do not consider yourself a blogger but felt free to plug your blog in the article. How’s that for irony?

Also I recently tried a recipe from a very famous culinary professional.

After multiple tries at her recipe it has become clear the recipe was not tested and should not have published. This happens often. For me trying it 4 times with it failing every time I feel like writing her to ask for my money back. I am now going to rework it until it is right. I will test it myself at least 3 or 4 times minimum before it goes on my site. No one is paying me to do this. I just have integrity and would never publish work that is substandard. So while some bloggers do publish without testing, the same can be said for some professionals as well.

I wish before you published this you had interviewed other professionals to get their views. Perhaps interviewed other bloggers you do not count yourself among. If we want our recipes fact checked should that not apply to articles about recipes as well?

- Kim Beaulieu, May 16, 2012

Posted by: kathleen flinn05.17.2012
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Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.17.2012
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Here’s the crux of the issue: would you go to a SAHM mom to set your broken leg or would you go to a doctor? There are some savvy moms (and some scary doctors), but the smart money goes with the professional - the doctor. Or, in this case, the professional recipe tester and writer.

But as long as SAHMs and other food bloggers are cheap, or even free, people and companies who are driven by cost, not quality, will go to them.

Work is siphoned away from food professionals. SAHMs are paid insultingly low rates - rates which have become industry standard, damn them. And consumes are getting cheap recipes.

We all lose.

Posted by: Biggest loser05.17.2012
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I mentioned yesterday that I was going to be giving my opinion on this on my blog post last night, and I did. If anyone is interested in reading it ( including Amy) you can find it at http://rantsfrommycrazykitchen.com I wrote it before Amy responded on here, and before the moderator of the seminar also responded. I stand by what I said on my blog.

Posted by: Bernadette Martin05.17.2012
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As a member of this “controversial” panel, I feel like I need to jump in too.  Like others, I find Ms. Reiley’s post disrespectful and unfair To call the work of the talented bloggers on the panel “faking it” is mean-spirited, and it’s so far from the truth.
She calls the bloggers “amateurs” who are producing “potentially inferior work”  compared to true “professionals.” But do you know why marketers want to work with bloggers?  It’s because they’ve built a community…large numbers of people who trust them. The bloggers have won over the community’s trust because of the QUALITY they see every day on the blog they follow. 
Yes, maybe this is all part of the democratization of information today, but bloggers have built a following for a reason—and it’s not inferior work.
I also question Ms. Reiley’s reaction of the audience.  We sure didn’t see a “negative current ripple through the audience” or “shock, discomfort and jaw-dropping” as she describes.  After each of our two-part sessions, our panel was surrounded by audience members who were inspired and excited about some new avenues to explore.  These “home cooks” wanted to learn more about how they could partner with brands to get paid for what they love to do…and what they do so well.

Posted by: Janet Helm05.17.2012
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Kathleen I wanted to take a minute to say thank you for the apology. I appreciate that the original comment has been posted. I also appreciate you taking the time to address me.

Judith I am all for constructive and civilized dialogue. Which is why I posted my thoughts to begin with.

I would also like to say that when the economic climate shifts you have to shift with it. My husband worked in the auto industry and we all know what happened there. When he got laid off we were faced with choices. We could sit around and be bitter, complain, and become indignant about our circumstances. Or we could take the constructive route and change our lives. We made the decision for him to go back to school to get his degree. After a long and trying time he is working again making twice what he made before. That’s how you problem solve. No one said change is easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

We all need to find a way to work together, respect each other and stop tearing each other down. The consumers are telling the industry they want more down to earth recipes. Listen to them and you will find a solution that works for you. People want recipes with ingredients they can find easily. They want recipes that use tools they already own. They want instructions they don’t have to pull up wiki to research. And finally they want food that tastes good in minimal time as they have busy lives. If you give them what they want they will read. It’s just that simple.

Posted by: Kim Beaulieu05.17.2012
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I think sometimes it’s easier to shift the focus on others when in reality the bitterness and jealousy (your word) stems from within your own self. 

One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.”

Posted by: Natalie05.17.2012
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Comment reposted from the original post:

As a professional marketer with a food hobby who’s transitioned to a food professional with a marketing hobby, I believe I have a unique perspective on this situation. While I did find the tone of this piece offensive, I think Amy raises some excellent points. The most serious of which is the falling price of recipe development.

There isn’t any one party to blame here. Young bloggers with some early success can’t be blamed for jumping at the chance to get paid for their work (regardless of how small the amount). Marketers on the other hand are obviously trying to cut costs which makes a lot of short-term business sense. The trouble is that when an amateur takes on a project for recognition (or some small amount of money), they are not only doing themselves a disservice, they’re doing the whole ecosystem a disservice. Once a company has a taste of recipes developed for $20, they’re going to be hesitant to pay more for recipes even if that person is more qualified. Secondly for $20 it’s just not feasible to properly test a recipe. Lastly the consumer suffers because a $20 recipe is going to be…well…. a $20 recipe.

As for blogging, and the quality of content out there it’s not that the quality of work is degrading, it’s a dilution issue. While in the past, credentials and editors acted as gatekeepers to what got published, blogging has enabled anyone to produce and publish content.  This provides an opportunity for some amazing creative minds to have their work seen, but it also opens up the door for amateurs to flood the space. The new challenge is going to be to filter this flood of content. Sites like Tastespotting and Pinterest filter the good photographers from the bad, but they don’t necessarily filter the good recipes from the bad. Eventually someone will figure this part out and in the end, there will be a lot more good content available than when only a few gatekeepers who held the keys.

On a personal note,  I started blogging because I really hate the direction that many cookbooks have gone these days. They’re written for people without a lot of time, and so they tell you what to do, but they don’t tell why you do it. They’re like a set of instructions for on Ikea desk. They teach you how to put together that particular desk, but they don’t teach you how to BUILD a desk.

As a self-taught cook who generally doesn’t use recipes, my goal is to teach people how to cook. That way people can make adjustments to seasonings and ingredients to suit their tastes and to what’s available locally in that season. That’s why my blog is less about sharing exact recipes and more about sharing techniques as well as my inspiration for creating a dish so that home-cooks can use it as a template to create a recipe that works for them.

Posted by: Marc @ NoRecipes05.18.2012
Selena Darrow's avatar

I originally posted my response on the IACP Test Kitchen Professionals Facebook page…..
I have no problem with bloggers who have the skills, passion and determination to contribute to the food world as professionals. More power to them! If marketeers choose to use a blogger with a well established folllowing it is their financial decision to make. Simple as that. I will also say that corporations in the long run may,in turn, lose out on this approach. How do we grom the next generation of Test Kitchen Leaders? Recipe development is just one piece of the puzzle. The test kitchen professional brings an arsenal of skills that only comes from working cross functionally with a multi faceted team.When the decision is made to outsource, some of that expertise is lost. Unfortunately, in this day in age, it might not matter to the corporate decision makers. One thing is for certain. If you’re not actively challenging yourself, saying yes instead of no and really pushing yourself to learn something new, will fiind yourself left behind. My two cents.

Posted by: Selena Darrow05.18.2012
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As a “professional” and a food blogger, I wanted to add my two cents. I am a culinary school graduate with years of experience as a caterer, personal chef, food stylist, recipe editor and I am the former assistant test kitchen director of a national women’s magazine. I think I would pass Amy’s idea of what a culinary professional is.

But my joy is found in my food blog. I decided to start a blog after moving back home to Los Angeles from New York and not being able to get a job in a test kitchen. There was Bon Appetit and The Los Angeles Times test kitchens, and no one was leaving! Sadly, we no longer have Bon Appetit here, and the Times has now folded the food section into another section. Food blogs are leveling the playing field in one sense, as you do not have to know someone to get your foot in the door. You can open the door on your own terms.

I started my personal chef business so I could be flexible with my time, and became a WORK at home mother. (and any mother or father who stays at home with their kids is working damn hard too) So, to be able to continue to develop recipes I decided to share them with anyone who wanted to stop by my blog and read them. I have rediscovered my passion for writing and enjoy sharing my love of food with others. Because I am a recipe developer I do test my recipes. But not 10 times, because I know they are good recipes.  I know they work because my readers tell me so, every time they leave me a comment. Bloggers have instant feedback on their work, because if something does not work you WILL be told. And you will also lose your audience.

It saddens me that food bloggers were painted with such narrow brush, SAHM and accountants with too much time on their hands! I wish I had time on my hands! I have a strong culinary background, but having a culinary background does not make you a good cook or recipe developer! There are so many excellent home cooks out there, and I enjoy reading many blogs with excellent recipes by those home cooks.

Test kitchens are closing or relying on freelancers to do the work now. The culinary world is shifting rapidly, and if you do not shift with it you will be left behind. Food blogs are part of the shift, and they are not going anywhere. 

Quality will always shine through, and the blogs with bad content and recipes will fail. Just as a magazine with bad content or recipes would also fail.

Posted by: Cheryl | Black Girl Chef's Whites05.19.2012
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Amy Reiley- I started cooking in my mother’s kitchen in 1970. I would put my skills up against yours in any kitchen, at any time. I am NOT a trained Chef/Cook. I have not been to Culinary School. But I would mop the deck with you, in any kitchen, in any place, cooking anything.
You know what you are? A Snob. An opinionated, ignorant, self important little person, that just realized they weren’t the unique snow flake she thought she was. Enjoy your infamy snob girl.

Posted by: Phill O.05.28.2012

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